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- 62. Paul before his Conversion
In the preceding articles we have seen how the Christian community, after the death of the first martyr, extended itself in Palestine and the neighboring countries, and began to shake off its narrow Jewish prejudices respecting the admission of the Gentiles into the church. Soon after the death of Stephen, and before the conversion of Cornelius, God had prepared a powerful instrument, who was destined, though not exclusively, yet preeminently, to carry the word of the cross to the heathen, and at the same time, in his writings, to present Christianity free, and independent of Judaism, as a new creation, and as the absolute religion for the world. The missionary activity of this extraordinary apostle, who, in speaking, writing, and acting, labored more than all the others (1 Cor. 15:10), will be the subject of this third chapter.
Saul (according to the Hebrew form), or Paul (according to the Hellenistic),1 was the son of Jewish parents, of the tribe of Benjamin, (Phil. 3:5. 2 Cor. 11:22). He was born probably but few years after the birth of Christ,1 at Tarsus, the capital of Cilicia in Asia Minor, and one of the most renowned seats of Grecian culture,2 (Acts 9:11. 21:39. 22:3), and was by birth a Roman citizen, (22:28. 16:37). Though destined for a theologian, he nevertheless, according to the Jewish custom, learned a trade, viz., tent-making,3 (18:3), by which he mostly supported himself, with noble self-denial, even after he became an apostle, that he might be no burden to the churches, and might preserve his independence.1 In his native place he had the best opportunity of obtaining an early acquaintance with the Greek language and nationality, which was of great advantage to him in his subsequent calling. On the question whether he received, properly speaking, a classical education, scholars are not agreed. Certain it is that the groundwork of his intellectual and moral training was Jewish. Yet he had at least some knowledge of Greek literature, whether he acquired it in Tarsus, or in Jerusalem under Gamaliel, who himself was not, like most of the Jewish Rabbis, altogether averse to the Hellenistic philosophy, or afterwards in his missionary journeyings and his continual intercourse with Hellenists. This is evinced not only by his quotations from heathen poets, and some of them, too, not much known, Aratus and Cleanthes (Acts 17:28), Menander (1 Cor. 15:32), and Epimenides (Titus 1:12); but still more by his command of the Greek language, his dialectic skill, and his profound insight into the nature and development of the heathen religion and philosophy.
While yet a youth, Saul was sent by his parents to Jerusalem, and there educated under the sage, Gamaliel, (Acts 22:3. 26:4, 5), who was at the head of the rigoristic school of Jewish scriptural learning, founded by his grandfather, Hillel; who, moreover, showed a certain moderation towards Christianity, (5:38 sq.), was in high esteem with all the people, (5:34), and, according to the Talmud, was called “the glory of the law.”
Supported by fine natural talents, gifted with a creative profundity and rare acuteness and energy of thought, he made himself master of the whole Rabbinical system, including jurisprudence as well as theology, and of the various modes of interpreting the Scriptures, allegory, typology, and tradition. This his epistles abundantly prove. It was by this course of theoretical training that he was qualified afterwards to oppose with such convincing power the errors of the Pharisees and Judaizers, and to develope the doctrinal contents of Christianity more extensively and profoundly than all the other apostles. Naturally fiery, resolute, bold and persevering, possessing that mixture of the choleric and melancholy temperament which is peculiar to most religious Reformers, he embraced with his whole soul whatever he thought to be right; but for this very reason was inclined to be harsh, and run to extremes. Hence he was a Pharisee of the strictest sort, and a blind zealot for the law of his fathers, (Phil. 3:6. Gal. 1:13, 14). No doubt, however, he was among the most earnest and noble of this sect; for that the Pharisees were by no means all hypocrites is proved by the examples of Nicodemus, Joseph of Arimathea, and Gamaliel. He aspired most honestly after the ideal of Old Testament piety, as he then conceived it. Bitterly as he afterwards condemned his zeal in persecuting the Christians, and sorrowfully as he looked back upon his former fanaticism, he yet added that he acted “ignorantly,” (1 Tim. 1:13); though he made not his ignorance a palliation of his guilt. Often, in his eagerness for the perfect righteousness of the law, might he have felt the disharmony in his soul, of which he afterwards drew so sad and life-like a picture in the seventh chapter of Romans. This course of practical training it was, which enabled him, after he had found the righteousness of faith, to give so masterly an exhibition of the relation of the gospel to the law, man’s need of redemption, the worthlessness of all the righteousness of the natural man, and the power of faith in the only Redeemer.
Saul, at first, might have been indifferent towards Christianity, or might have proudly ignored it as a contemptible sect.1 But the moment it came into open conflict with Pharisaism, as we have seen that it first did in Stephen, it must have appeared to him, in his fanaticism, as blasphemy against the law of his fathers, and rebellion against the authority of Jehovah. He, therefore, regarded the extermination of the new sect as a solemn duty and an act well pleasing to God. Hence the zealous part he took, while yet young, (about thirty years of age), in the execution of Stephen and the ensuing persecution. He entered houses to find Christians, and dragged off men and women to be tried and thrown into prison, (Acts 8:3. 22:4). Not satisfied with this, “yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord,” he went to the high priest, the president of the Sanhedrim, which had the oversight of all the synagogues and the fixing of all disciplinary punishments for the despisers of the law, and procured from him full power to arrest all Christians. Thus provided, he set out for the Syrian city, Damascus, (9:1 sqq., comp. 22:5), whither many had fled, and where there were many synagogues of the Jews.2 But here the gracious hand of Him, whom he persecuted, interfered to rescue him and change his whole course. The summit of apostasy was for him the turning-point towards salvation.
- . 63. Conversion of Paul. A.D. 37
On the way to Damascus occurred that miracle of grace, which transformed the persecuting Saul into the praying Paul, the self-righteous Pharisee into the humble Christian, the most dangerous enemy of the church into its most powerful apostle, the noble endowments of his nature into the gifts of the Holy Ghost. Paul himself mentions this crisis several times in his epistles, in controversy with his Judaistic opponents, as a credential of his apostolic call, but without going into the particulars, which in these cases were already sufficiently known; since he was writing to believers and acquaintances. In the epistle to the Galatians he lays special emphasis on the fact, that he was called to be an apostle, not through human mediation, not even that of the elder apostles, but by the risen Saviour in person, (1:1); and that he received the gospel, which he was to preach to the Gentiles, not through human instruction, but directly through a revelation of Jesus Christ, (1:11–16). With this agrees 2 Cor. 4:6, where Paul ascribes his Christian knowledge to a creative act of God, which he compares to the calling forth of the natural light out of the darkness of chaos. If these passages leave it undecided, whether this enlightening of the apostle was simply an inward fact, or accompanied by an outward appearance; he more distinctly testifies in 1 Cor. 9:1, that he had “seen Jesus Christ our Lord.” That he here means a real, objective appearance of Christ, is proved by 1 Cor. 15:8, where he associates the manifestation of Christ to himself with the other manifestations of the risen Saviour to the disciples: “Last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time.”
Of the manner of his conversion we have three detailed accounts in the book of Acts; one from the pen of Luke, (9:1–19); and two from the mouth of Paul himself—the first in his discourse to the Jews in Jerusalem, (22:3–16),—the second in his defence before king Agrippa and the procurator Festus during his imprisonment in Caesarea, (26:9–20). They all agree in the main fact, that the conversion was wrought by a personal appearance of the glorified Redeemer. As Paul was approaching Damascus, he and his companions were suddenly surrounded at noon by an extraordinary radiance, more dazzling than the sun, (26:13). In this raiment of light he saw the glorified Saviour,1 and heard his voice saying to him in the Hebrew tongue, (26:14): “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.”1 When Saul, smitten to the earth by the overwhelming power of this appearance, asked: “Who art thou, Lord?” the Redeemer, regarding every persecution of his disciples, by reason of his vital union with them, as a persecution of himself, replied: “I am Jesus, whom thou persecutest. But arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do.” This phenomenon gave Paul a preliminary glimpse of the mystery of the divine nature, and the almighty dominion of Christ, of the union of the Lord with his body, the church, as also of the utter fruitlessness of any assaults upon that church. Thus all his previous doings were condemned, and, as a natural man, he lay powerless in the dust. When he arose, he saw no one. The supernatural splendor had blinded him. His former light, in which he fancied himself able to guide every body else, was extinguished. He had to be led like a child. He now staid in Damascus three days in blindness, fasting all the time, reflecting, and humbly imploring the higher light of grace and faith. In these birth-throes of a new life, well might he feel most intensely the wretchedness of the natural man, the insufferable bondage of the law, and exclaim from his inmost soul: “O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (Rom. 7:24). After this preparation by “godly sorrow,” he was inwardly assured of the approaching deliverance, and directed in a vision to the man, who should be the instrument of his bodily and spiritual restoration, and introduce him into brotherly fellowship with the church, Ananias, an esteemed disciple of Damascus, whom the Lord had likewise prepared by a vision, as he did Peter for the conversion of Cornelius, restored to the praying Saul his bodily sight, according to the divine commission, by laying his hands upon him; baptized him for the forgiveness of sins; imparted to him the gift of the Holy Ghost; and made known to him his divine calling, that, as a chosen vessel, he was to bear the name of Jesus Christ to Gentiles and Jews, and was to be honored by many sufferings for this name’s sake.2
Leaving out of view those theories respecting this momentous conversion, which own no sympathy with Biblical Christianity,1 we still meet the inquiry, whether, while we fully acknowledge the historical fact and the agency of God, we may not suppose a previous psychological preparation in the mind of Paul; for God never works magically on men. With this view some have referred to the lingering influence of the wise counsel of his teacher, Gamaliel, (Acts 5:38, 39), and especially to the impression, which he must have received from the discourse and glorious aspect of the dying Stephen and of other Christians,—an impression, which perhaps he thought to get rid of by persecuting the Christians the more violently. But the account in Acts, and the epistles of Paul give us no more hints of such preparations, than of thunder and lightning. They expressly tell us, rather, that he took pleasure in the death of Stephen, (ἦν συνευδοκῶν, 8:1. 22:20). This hypothesis, moreover, does not suit well the energetic, resolute character of the apostle, who, in his zeal for the law, was firmly convinced, that by persecuting the Christians he was doing God service and working out his own soul’s salvation, and who must be converted suddenly, or never. Upon such proud, heroic natures the Spirit of God comes, not in the still, gentle breeze, but in the earthquake, the fire, and the storm. The suddenness of his transition from fanatical Judaism to enthusiastic faith in the Messiah is characteristic for his position as the apostle of the Gentiles, and the representative of the most liberal and evangelical conception of Christianity. On the other hand, however, it is easy to see that his faith in the Old Testament revelation, his earnestness and energy of will, and his honest, though mistaken efforts after righteousness and the glory of God, furnished a foothold for the operations of grace. For, had he persecuted the Christians not in ignorance, but from wanton malice, like a Nero and Domitian, had he been a frivolous worldling, like Caiaphas or Herod, or a hypocrite, like Judas; no appearance from the spiritual world could have produced such a moral revolution in him, (comp. Luke 16:31). Then again, after he had once been miraculously enlightened by Christ himself, the very discourse of Stephen, with its profound conception of the Old Testament, and of the prophetic, prospective character of the Mosaic law and worship, must have risen before him in a most significant light, and formed a starting-point for the unfolding of his own system of Christian doctrine. We do not mean then to deny at all the powerful influence of the first martyr upon his persecutor; but we suppose that it took effect much more after than before his conversion.
But in what relation did Paul stand to the original college of apostles? He was called by Christ in person, without human intervention, and could testify of the resurrection from what he himself had seen, as well as from the glorious success of his labors; and this fact places his apostolic dignity beyond doubt, as it was also fully acknowledged by the elder apostles, (Acts 15. Gal. 2:9). But this seems to compel us either to regard the choice of Matthias in place of the traitor, (Acts 1:15 sqq.), as null and void, or to give up the necessity and symbolical import of the number twelve. The last we cannot well do; for the number twelve is made particularly prominent by Christ himself, (Matt. 19:28. Luke 22:30), and even in the Apocalypse, (21:14), only twelve “apostles of the Lamb” are mentioned. But if it be said that the number twelve includes only the apostles of the Jews, and that Paul being the thirteenth, stood alone, as the apostle to the Gentile world;1 we see at once that this is not entirely satisfactory. For Paul was commissioned to bear the name of Christ also to the Jews, (comp. Acts 9:15); and in his missionary journeys he went always first to the synagogues, whilst Peter and John, in their later ministry labored, at least partly, among the Gentiles. At all events this hypothesis would leave the passages which speak of twelve apostles, strangely silent respecting Paul. In general, the twelve tribes of Israel typify not a part, but the whole of the Christian church. Others, therefore, have decided for the somewhat hazardous assumption, that the choice of Matthias, though well-meant, was premature. In favor of this it may be adduced, (1) that the choice took place before the outpouring of the Spirit, and therefore before the formal inspiration of the apostles; (2) that it was made without any express command of Christ, simply upon the proposition of Peter and by human means; (3) that Matthias is never afterwards even mentioned, and seems to have disappeared even before his defeated rival candidate Barnabas: while Paul, called immediately by the Lord himself without the foreknowledge or privity of the disciples, labored more than all the other apostles, (1 Cor. 15:10. 2 Cor. 11:23).2 But, however this may be, the whole mode of his call, his position, and his efficiency, have, at all events, something extraordinary about them, which does not fit into the mechanism of fixed order.3 He himself never grounds his apostolic office on the occurrence of a vacancy in the original apostolate, either through the treachery of Judas or the martyrdom of the elder James. He derives it directly from Christ, and, particularly in the epistle to the Galatians, places it over against the authority of the elder apostles, as altogether independent and equal. Hence, too, he has always been the main support and representative of liberal movements in the church.
Finally, as to the chronology of the conversion of Paul; among the various dates proposed, ranging through ten years, (from A.D. 31, adopted by Bengel, to A.D. 41, by Wurm), that seems to have most in its favor, which places this event in the year 37, seven years after the resurrection of Christ.1
- . 64. Paul’s Preparation for his Apostolic Labors
Paul had now reached the point, where, without “conferring with flesh and blood,” he bound himself unconditionally, joyfully, and forever, to the service of the Redeemer; where he counted every thing, which had formerly been his pride and boast, worthless compared with the “excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus his Lord,” (Phil. 3:4–9). Already in the scene on the road to Damascus had he heard his call: “I send thee to the Gentiles,” (Acts 26:17 sq. comp. 9:15). But not till seven years afterwards, A.D. 44, in pursuance of a still plainer revelation in the temple (22:17–21), did he make his formal appearance, with independent authority, as the Apostle of the Gentiles. Meanwhile, he served the Lord, partly in quiet preparation, partly in the subordinate place of a simple “prophet and teacher,” (13:1).
After so violent a convulsion of his inmost being, he must have felt the need, first of all, of silent meditation on the impressions he had received. Having strengthened himself, therefore, by a few days’ intercourse with the Christians in Damascus (9:19), he went into the neighboring part of the desert of Arabia (probably the region now called the Syrian desert), and remained there a considerable time. Paul’s object in this residence in Arabia, which he himself mentions, Gal. 1:17, was not to preach the gospel among the Jews or Gentiles there—at least no information of his having done so has come down to us,—but to enjoy a season of undisturbed preparation for his high and holy calling. This period, therefore, belongs more properly to the history of the apostle’s inward life; and this affords the simplest explanation of the silence of the book of Acts respecting it. It was for him a sort of substitute for the three years’ personal intercourse with the Lord, enjoyed by the other apostles. Without doubt he devoted himself mainly to prayer and meditation, to the study of the Christian tradition, and of the Old Testament, on which he now looked with new eyes, as a continuous and clear prophetic testimony concerning Jesus Christ, the crucified and risen Saviour; and by inward revelation he obtained a deeper insight into the nature and connection of the gospel doctrines of salvation.
From Arabia he returned to Damascus, (Gal. 1:17), to testify of the Messiahship of Jesus of Nazareth first of all in the place where the new light arose within him; to build up the church, where he had formerly sought to raze it to the ground. His preaching enraged the Jews, who had lost in him their most gifted and zealous champion. They stirred up against him the deputy of king Aretas of Arabia, who set a watch over the gates of the city to take Paul. But the believers saved the life of the apostle, who was destined yet to the most important service, and was as far removed from fanatical contempt of death, as from cowardly fear of it. They let him down by night in a basket through some opening in the wall, probably the window of a house built upon it.1
Paul now went, for the first time as a Christian, to Jerusalem, to the mother-church of Christendom, three years, as he himself says,2 after his conversion, and therefore, according to our chronology, in the year 40 His main object was to become personally acquainted with Peter, the great leader of the Jewish mission and of the whole church. He endeavored to approach the brethren with freedom and confidence; but they were at first shy of him, and doubted the genuineness of his conversion (Acts 9:26). Nor can we wonder. His persecution of the saints was still fresh in their memory, and what had since befallen him was probably little known as yet in Jerusalem; he having spent most of the time in retirement in Arabia. Peculiar doubts must have arisen in regard to his apostolic calling. The apostles themselves had filled up the number of the twelve by the election of Matthias; and nothing short of a special revelation (of which, however, we have no account), or intimate personal acquaintance, and particularly the extraordinary results of his subsequent labors, could convince them, that this former enemy of the Christians was called to so distinguished a post.3 This suspicion of the brethren must have been a severe trial for Paul; but his patience under it proved the sincerity of his profession. Barnabas, the liberalminded Hellenist, perhaps also a former acquaintance of Paul’s, acted as mediator; introduced him to Peter, and to James, the brother of the Lord; and told them of the appearance of Christ to him, and of his fearless confession of Jesus in Damascus. Besides these, Paul, at that time, saw no other apostle.1 Perhaps the others were absent on missions in the country. He abode fifteen days with Peter (Gal. 1:18), until the murderous machinations of the Hellenists, with whom he disputed (Acts 9:29), as Stephen had formerly done, made it advisable for him to leave the city.
WHO AUTHORED THE BIBLE BOOK OF HEBREWS: Paul, Luke, James, Priscilla and Aquila, Silas, Apollos, Barnabas, or Clement of Rome?
He no doubt conversed with Peter on the life and teaching of Jesus, on the relation of the gospel to the law, and on the spread of the church. But we know not to what extent they at that time came to an understanding respecting their principles. Perhaps this interview served to prepare Peter, in some degree, for larger views respecting the calling of the Gentiles; for the conversion of Cornelius did not take place till some time after. Peter, on his part, might have been of service to Paul in what pertained to the historical tradition of Christianity. Yet the substance of this was, of course, already known to him, partly through his intercourse with Ananias and other Christians, partly through revelation from above.2 But his peculiar conception of the gospel, as expressed in his epistles, and his conviction of his vocation to be the Apostle of the Gentiles, we must regard as altogether independent of human instruction. In fact, he explicitly assures us, in his epistle to the Galatians (1:11, 12, 16), that he received his doctrine not from men, but by direct revelation of Jesus Christ, for the Gentiles.3 This inward enlightenment by the Holy Ghost we must regard, like that of the other apostles on Pentecost, as referring to the inmost life, the central principle of his being; giving him for the first time the general experimental understanding of Christian truth, especially of the Messiahship of Jesus, as the living fountain of all salvation; and awakening him to a new view of the world and man’s relation to God. This, of course, does not preclude subsequent special disclosures of the Spirit respecting single points of Christian doctrine and practice; for we are to conceive the inspiration of the apostles in general as not merely an act, done once for all, but a permanent influence and state, varying in strength as occasion required. Paul speaks expressly of several revelations, with which he was favored (2 Cor. 12:1, 7), and carefully distinguishes from them his own opinion, formed in the way of reflection and deduction (1 Cor. 7:6, 25). It was during this first residence in Jerusalem after his conversion, that, while praying in the temple, he was entranced, and directed by the Lord to leave Jerusalem quickly, and preach the gospel to the distant Gentile nations (Acts 22:17–21).1
After this two weeks’ visit, Paul went, accompanied by the brethren, to Caesarea, and thence to Syria and his native city, Tarsus (Acts 9:30. Gal. 1:21). No doubt he preached the gospel in Cilicia. For, according to Acts 15:23, 41, Christian churches already existed there, when he came thither on his second missionary tour, though he had not visited this region on his first. Having labored a few (perhaps two or three) years2 in his native place, he was brought by Barnabas to Antioch (Acts 11:26), where, meanwhile, the first mixed congregation of Gentile and Jewish converts had arisen, and where a new and glorious prospect had opened for the extension of the kingdom of God.3 In this, the mother church of the Gentile mission, Paul found a centre for his activity, which, in its public character and on its grand scale, dates from this point its proper beginning.
- . 65. Second Journey to Jerusalem. Persecution of the Church there
After Paul had successfully labored a whole year in Antioch as “prophet and teacher” (11:26. 13:1), in the reign of the emperor Claudius, in the year 44 or 45, a great famine spread over Palestine.4 This caused the church at Antioch, which had been forewarned of the impending calamity by the prophet Agabus of Jerusalem (11:28), to send Barnabas and Paul with aid to the suffering brethren in Judea, and thus in some measure to discharge their debt of gratitude for the spiritual blessings they had received (11:29, 30).1 This was the second journey of our apostle to Jerusalem after his conversion. The church there had enjoyed some seven years of repose (comp. 9:31), when king Herod Agrippa, a heathen at heart, and a minion of the Romans, to ingratiate himself with the people, beheaded the elder James (the brother of John), who, being one of the two “sons of thunder,” had probably enraged the Jews by his bold confession; and thus became the first martyr in the apostolic college (12:2).2 He intended to treat Peter in the same way at the approaching festival of Easter, to make mirth for the multitude. But Peter was released from prison by a miraculous interposition of Providence; and thenceforth he left Jerusalem, the seat of his labors thus far, and entrusted the church there to the other James, who presided over it till his death (12:3–19). Instead of the apostle, Agrippa himself soon after died. Like his grandfather, Herod the Great, he met a terrible end (12:20–23) at Caesarea, during a festival in honor of the emperor, after having allowed himself to be called God by the people in the theatre. This occurred late in the summer of the year 44.3 It is very possible, that the after-storm of this persecution continued during the time of Paul’s second visit to Jerusalem, and made a longer stay there at that time unadvisable. Luke also intimates, that the delegates returned immediately after executing their commission, bringing with them John Mark, the kinsman of Barnabas (12:25).1 This makes it the easier to explain Paul’s silence respecting this journey in the epistle to the Galatians.2
- . 66. First Missionary Tour of Paul and Barnabas. A.D. 45
Soon after the return of the delegates, the prophets and teachers of the church at Antioch,—among whom, besides Simeon Niger, Lucius, and Manaen, are named also Barnabas and Saul themselves,—while fasting, and praying to be enlightened respecting the spread of the kingdom of God, were inwardly prompted to set apart these two men by the laying on of hands, and to send them out on a mission (13:1–3). Accordingly Paul and Barnabas, accompanied by Mark, under the authority of this church, and with the higher commission of the Holy Ghost, repaired first to the island of Cyprus, the birth-place of Barnabas, whose previous connections there seemed to present a favorable opening for the missionary work.
This is the first of Paul’s three great preaching tours, described in the Acts of the Apostles. The missionaries traversed the island from East to West, from Salamis to Paphos. Taking the course which history itself had marked out for them, they addressed themselves first to the Jews (13:5. 14:1). For the synagogues, and the freedom of speech which prevailed in them, afforded at once the most suitable places, and the best opportunities, for preaching the gospel. Then again, these oases of the true religion in the desert of heathen idolatry were also the places of assembly for those pious proselytes of the gate, who formed a natural bridge between Jews and Gentiles, and thus might vastly facilitate the transmission of the gospel to the latter. But finally and chiefly: the Jews, by virtue of their peculiar position in the history of religion and the express promises of a faithful God, had, so to speak, the first claim on the gospel.3 In spite of all the persecution he suffered, Paul therefore continually yearned over his “kinsmen according to the flesh,” and cherished the hope of their future conversion (Rom. 11:26). Nay, like Moses (Ex. 32:32), he could even wish to be banished from Christ (not, indeed, from the holy service,—then were the wish impious,—but from the blissful enjoyment of Christ), if by this heaviest sacrifice he might procure the faith and salvation of his unbelieving brethren,—which, however, was of course impossible (Rom. 9:1–3). Such a love reminds us of the actual self-sacrifice of the Saviour, who willingly left the throne of his heavenly Father, was made a curse for us (Gal. 3:13), and suffered the ignominious death of the cross, to give life and happiness to the lost world! In consequence of this conduct of Paul, almost all his churches were composed of converted Jews and Gentiles. Yet even in this first journey the greater susceptibility appeared on the part of the Gentiles. Where there were no Jews, or at least no synagogues, as in Lystra, the apostolic missionaries entered into conversation with individuals in the public places and walks, till a crowd collected from curiosity, and the dialogue could be turned into a sermon.
As to the most important events and results of this tour;—Luke mentions first the conversion of the Roman proconsul, Sergius Paulus, who resided at Paphos.1 At that time, when infidelity and superstition bordered so closely on one another, this man had yielded himself to the sorceries of a Jewish false prophet by the name of Bar-Jesus.2 But, unsatisfied with these, he desired to hear the Christian missionaries. As the kindred spirit, Simon Magus, was rebuked by Peter, so this deceiver, attempting to withstand the preaching of Paul, because it threatened ruin to his craft, was met by the apostle, as by an indignant judge, and smitten with blindness. This miraculous punishment decided the conversion of the proconsul to Christianity.
From Cyprus the company sailed northward to Perga in Pamphylia. Here Mark left them and returned to Jerusalem (13:13); probably discouraged by the hardships, and becoming homesick; but perhaps also, as he was a disciple of Peter and a member of the strictly Jewish-Christian church of Jerusalem, unable rightly to sympathize with the Apostle of the Gentiles in his liberal views and practice (comp. 15:37, 38. Gal. 2:11 sq.). From Perga they went to Antioch in Pisidia. Here, on the Sabbath, in the synagogue, at the invitation of its rulers. Paul delivered a discourse of eminent wisdom, mildness, and earnestness (13:16–41); reviewing the gracious dealings of God with Israel; announcing the appearance of the Messiah in the family of David, his death, and his resurrection; pointing the people to faith in him as the condition of pardon and justification; and concluding with an awful warning against unbelief. The discourse made an impression, and the apostle was urged to present his doctrine more fully on the ensuing Sabbath.1 In the mean time, the more teachable among the Jews and proselytes received more minute instruction; the news of the gospel spread to every house; and on the next Sabbath the whole city, Gentiles and all, flocked to the synagogue. This roused the envy of the Jews, who made great account of their lineage and privileges; and they interrupted Paul’s discourse with violent contradiction and blasphemy. He then declared to them: “We were bound by the divine counsel, and by our duty as apostles, to preach the word of God to you first. But since ye thrust it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles; according to the promise of the prophet (Is. 49:6), that the Messiah should be a light and the fountain of salvation for the nations to the ends of the earth.” Then were the Gentiles glad; “as many as were ordained to eternal life,” believed; and the word of God spread throughout the province of Pisidia. But the fanatical Jews succeeded in stirring up the honorable women, who leaned towards Judaism, and, through them, their husbands also; and they drove Paul and Barnabas away.
The missionaries then went eastward to Iconium,2 a city at the foot of Mt. Taurus, and at that time the capital of Lycaonia. After laboring there a long time with great success, they were compelled to flee from the persecution of the unbelieving Jews, who sought their lives. They next came to Lystra and Derbe, cities of Lycaonia. In Lystra the miraculous healing of a cripple by Paul made a great stir among the heathen inhabitants, who, on account of their obscurity, were still firm believers in the old popular mythology. They thought that the gods, who were said to have once been hospitably entertained in that very region by the pious couple, Philemon and Baucis,1 had come down in human form to dispense their favors. Barnabas, the elder of the two, and probably also the more commanding in personal appearance, they took for Jupiter, their tutelar deity, to whom they had dedicated a temple in front of the city. Paul, who was always the speaker, and possessed the gift of persuasive eloquence,—not, indeed, an eloquence of display and transient effect, but that “of the Spirit and of power” (1 Cor. 2:4),2—they supposed to be Mercury, the messenger of the gods.3 The priest even went so far, as to provide oxen as a sacrifice to the supposed gods, when Paul and Barnabas, indignant at this idolatrous demonstration, rending their clothes, rushed in among the multitude, and pointed them from vain idols to the living God, the Creator of all things and Giver of all good, (14:8–18).
The crude, sensuous superstition of these heathens readily accounts for their sudden change from idolatrous veneration to the opposite extreme of fanatical hatred towards the enemies of their gods. At the instigation of Jews, who had come from Antioch in Pisidia and from Iconium, the people rose against Paul in a mob, stoned him, and dragged him out of the city for dead. But he revived, and, spending the rest of the day with the believers in Lystra, he and Barnabas went the next day to Derbe. Having here won many to the gospel, the missionaries revisited the cities, where they had already preached; exhorted the new converts to be steadfast; and, having given them, by the election of elders, a fixed church organization, sailed from Attalia back to their starting-point, the Syrian capital, and reported to the Antiochian church the result of this mission (14:19–27).
- . 67. Journey to the Apostolic Council in Jerusalem. Settlement of the Dispute between the Jewish and Gentile Christians. A.D. 50
After again spending some time in Antioch (14:28), Paul about the year 50,1 made a third journey to Jerusalem, and that on business of the utmost importance, which required first to be clearly settled, before he could freely prosecute his great work of converting the Gentiles.
Paul’s successful propagation of the gospel among the Gentiles, which was the main seal of his apostleship, threatened to produce a schism in the church itself, between the two leading communities of Jerusalem and Antioch, and, in general, between the believers of the circumcision and those of the uncircumcision. Many of the Jewish Christians, especially those, who had formerly belonged to the narrow-minded sect of the Pharisees (Acts 15:5), could not yet divest themselves of their old national prejudices and their exclusive spirit. They regarded the observance of the whole Mosaic law, especially circumcision, as the necessary condition of salvation; erroneously resting in the authority of the Jewish apostles, particularly of the strictly legal James. Hence when Paul made salvation depend solely on faith in Christ, they looked with decided displeasure on his free proceedings; doubted his divine commission and apostolic dignity (as we see especially from the epistles to the Galatians and Corinthians), and caused disturbance in the Antiochian church, which contained so many uncircumcised Gentile Christians. This led that church to send Paul and Barnabas, with some others, to the apostles and elders in Jerusalem, to settle the dispute (15:2).
Before proceeding to consider the transactions of this first synod of the Christian church—the apostolic council, as it is called—we have the difficult question to decide, whether the important visit to Jerusalem, which Paul mentions in the second chapter of Galatians, and places fourteen years after his conversion, is identical with the journey to this apostolic convention (Acts 15), or with the fourth journey to Jerusalem (Acts 18:21, 22) four years after, A.D. 54.
Prof. Wieseler, in support of his learned and in other respects very satisfactory system of chronology, has decided for the latter hypothesis.2 His chronological arguments, on which he seems mainly to rest, are without weight for us; since we place the conversion of Paul, not in the year 40, as he does, but in 37. And his other reasons are by no means satisfactory. (1) According to Gal. 2:2, Paul went to Jerusalem in pursuance of a revelation; according to Acts 15:2, he went under commission from the church of Antioch. But there is no contradiction here. The former was the inward, personal reason, which, with Paul, was the most important; the latter, the outward, public occasion, with which Luke was chiefly concerned. And besides, there is no mention of a revelation even in respect to his fourth journey (Acts 18:21, 22). (2) According to Gal. 2:1, the apostle took Titus with him; while of this nothing is said in Acts 15. But neither is Titus mentioned in Acts 18, nor anywhere else in this book (his name only occurs in the epistles of Paul); whereas, in Acts 15:2, it is expressly stated, that, besides Paul and Barnabas, “certain others” went to the apostolic council, and these might surely have included Titus, who, being an undoubtedly faithful and zealous, though uncircumcised, Gentile Christian, was eminently fitted for such a mission. (3) While Paul, Gal. 2:3, firmly opposes the circumcision of Titus, which was demanded by the Judaizers in Jerusalem; he yet, according to Acts 16:3, therefore after the apostolic council, himself circumcised Timothy. This apparent inconsistency,1 Wieseler thinks, can be explained only by supposing, that the circumcision of Timothy took place before the journey mentioned in Gal. 2:1. But this is not the case; for Paul certainly had at all events adopted his free principles before the time of the apostolic council, and might far sooner allow an exception, from prudential considerations, when once his principle had been secured by the endorsement of the Jewish apostles. This procedure must, therefore, be explained otherwise. In the case of Titus, who had no connection whatever with the Jewish Christians, circumcision was positively demanded by others, and that, as a demonstration in favor of Judaistic error. But in the case of Timothy, who was, on his mother’s side, a Jew by birth, and might thus be claimed by the Jewish Christians as in some sense theirs,2 the circumcision was optional with Paul and Timothy, and was performed, not on dogmatical grounds, as a sacrament necessary to salvation, but as an indifferent ceremony observed in the way of self-denying concession to the weak consciences of the Jews, and for the sake of the greater influence of Timothy among them. There was no sacrifice of principle in this case at all.1 (4) The strongest argument against the identity of the journey in Gal. 2 with the journey to the apostolic convention, is, that Paul, in the passage referred to, says nothing of any synodical transaction; whereas Luke, on the contrary, makes no record of any private conference among the apostles. Dr. Baur, who supposes the journeys in question identical, attempts even to prove, that between the representation of Paul, Gal. 2, and that of Luke, Acts 15, there is an irreconcilable contradiction; and this he then employs against the credibility of the book of Acts.2 Wieseler, on the contrary, rightly maintains, that there is no such contradiction. His chronological work is a thorough, and, indeed, triumphant vindication of the historical truth of the Acts of the Apostles. Yet he thinks he can fully escape the force of Baur’s argument only by assigning the transactions in Gal. 2 to a later date. But closer inspection will show, that this gains him nothing for his own view, and that the above mentioned difference, as will hereafter still further appear, is not at all against, but in favor of, the identity of the two journeys. For by ἀνεθέμην αὐτοῖς, in distinction from κατʼ ἰδίαν δὲ τοῖς δοκοῦσι (Gal. 2:2), Paul evidently intimates that, besides his private conference with Peter, James, and John, there was also a public deliberation with the brethren of Jerusalem in general. He says nothing further about it, because he might presume, that the Galatians already understood it; as he himself had previously communicated the decree of the apostolic council to his churches in Asia Minor, and exhorted them to obey it (Acts 16:4). He was opposing the Galatian false teachers, who unwarrantably appealed to Peter and James, and refused to acknowledge him as a legitimate apostle. And here the great thing with him was, the result of his private transactions with the Jewish apostles themselves, and the vindication of his independent apostolical dignity, as acknowledged by them. Luke, on his part, has to do, not with the personal relation of the apostle to his colleagues, and the Judaizing teachers of Galatia, but with the rights of the Gentile Christians in general. His narrative, however, by no means precludes the supposition of a previous private interview, which, in the nature of the case is extremely probable; and his relating merely the public transactions is readily explained by the documentary character and object of his whole work. He, in fact, omits also many other things, pertaining chiefly to the private life of Paul; his residence in Arabia, for instance, his inward conflicts, visions, &c.
As there is, accordingly, no tenable ground in favor of Wieseler’s hypothesis; so, on the other hand, there are decisive arguments against it. The fourth journey to Jerusalem, Acts, 18:22, cannot be intended in Gal. 2:1; in the first place, because, according to Luke’s account, Paul, on this journey, merely “saluted” the church there. This implies a visit altogether too short for so important transactions as are mentioned in Gal. 2. Secondly; nothing is said in Acts 18 of Barnabas, though in Gal. 2 he plays, along with Paul, an important part (comp. Acts 15). Nay, it cannot be shown, and it is certainly not presumable, that Barnabas, who had separated from Paul shortly after the apostolic council, and undertaken with Mark an independent mission (c. 15:39), rejoined him so soon as the year 54.
But, in fine, our chief ground for believing the visit to Jerusalem, Gal. 2:1, to be the same with that described in Acts 15, is, that Paul, in his letter to the Galatians, could not possibly have passed over in utter silence his attendance at the apostolic convention. Grant, that he did not care to notice all his journeys to Jerusalem—as, for example, he omits the second, mentioned in Acts 11:30. 12:25, since he went then merely to carry a collection, and in all probability made a very short stay;1—the third journey would be the very last to be omitted. For Paul’s object was to prove to the Galatians, that his apostolic call was not of human authority; and also, that his peculiar views were acknowledged by the Jewish apostles themselves. And for this purpose the third journey was the most important of all. Nay, a formal silence respecting it would even excite suspicion of some want of honesty in Paul.
We are therefore compelled, on both negative and positive grounds, to adopt the view proposed already by Irenaeus,2 and advocated by the most eminent chronologists and interpreters.3 We must accordingly take the account of Paul in Gal. 2, as a valuable complement of the narrative in Acts 15. And as the private transactions with the apostles themselves, which alone it was to Paul’s purpose to detail, would naturally precede the public deliberation and decree, we must first notice the statement of Paul.
- . 68. The Private Transactions at Jerusalem (Gal. 2:1 sqq)
Paul, therefore, appeared in Jerusalem accompanied by Barnabas and the Gentile convert, Titus, whom he had taken with him as a living example of the success of his missionary labor and a seal of his apostolic calling. His first care, of course, must be to settle matters privately and personally1 with the prominent leaders of the church and of the whole Jewish-Christian party—the apostles James, Peter, and John, “who seemed to be pillars,”2—and to bring them to a formal recognition of his apostolic rank, his principles, and his successful labor among the Gentiles. He sought reconciliation especially with James, who, on account of his strictly legal views, and his limitation of his official labors to Jerusalem, had the greatest influence with the Judaizers; Peter having been regarded by them with suspicion ever since his interview with Cornelius. These leading Jewish apostles once gained, the main support of the secretly intruding “false brethren” (as Paul terms the Pharisaical errorists)3 was gone, and the fraternal union of Paul’s Gentile-Christian communities with the Jewish-Christian, and thus the unity of the church, for which he was so much concerned,4 was restored and confirmed. According to the maxim: “By their fruits ye shall know them,” his description of the great success of his preaching among the Gentiles necessarily made a deep impression on the Apostles of the Jews; though, by the conversion of Cornelius, who, even without circumcision, had received the Holy Ghost, they had already been led to more liberal views,5 and were prepared to fall in with Paul’s doctrine. As he, on his part, was far from denying, that God had endowed Peter for the work of converting the Jews, and had blessed his labors among them; so the three other apostles were, on their part, equally ready to acknowledge, that Paul was divinely entrusted with a like commission to the Gentile world (vs. 7, 8). They recognized the grace bestowed upon Paul and Barnabas; gave them the right hand of fellowship, and agreed with them, that all should work peaceably together, each party in the field assigned it by the Lord, the former among the Jews, the latter among the Gentiles; adding only the condition, that Paul and Barnabas should charitably remember the many poor Christians in Jerusalem by a collection of alms among the Gentile Christians, and thus testify their fellowship of spirit with the mother church and their gratitude to her (9, 10); and this Paul carefully attended to.1
In this compromise, therefore, the rights of both parties were preserved. Paul did not require the Jewish Christians to break away abruptly from their historical position; but, in genuine liberality, acknowledged the authority of their peculiar calling. The Apostles of the Jews, on their part, conceded to Paul the important principle, that faith in Jesus Christ is the only indispensable condition of salvation. They laid no Jewish yoke upon the Gentiles. They did not even require of Paul the circumcision of his companion, Titus (Gal. 2:3); though the false brethren, indeed, as we must conclude from the verses immediately following, in connection with Acts 15:5, insisted on it from principle.2 Nay, they said not a word, which is recorded, respecting even the minor conditions, the observance of the Noachic precepts, which the council immediately after enjoined on the Gentile Christians in general. The Palestinian apostles, in truth, could go no further. They conceded all, that was allowable in justice to their own position, which was as fully authorized, and as necessary for existing circumstances and the universal spread of the kingdom of God, as that of Paul and Barnabas. In short, notwithstanding any alienation of feeling, which may have at first existed, these private transactions are marked by the spirit of true Christian wisdom, self-denial, and brotherly love. The unprejudiced reader of the narrative in Galatians must admit, that it furnishes not the least support for the hypothesis, lately propounded with so much plausibility, of an irreconcilable opposition between Paul and Peter; but that, on the contrary, the Jewish apostles, in this private interview, conceded to Paul even more, than in the council described in Acts 15, where a prevailing regard for the whole church required them to take a middle course. This very fact is one reason, as already intimated, why Paul, in opposing the Galatian errorists, appeals to the private transactions in Jerusalem, as more to his purpose, than the decree of the council. For these Judaizers denied his apostolic rank (Gal. 1:1, 15 sqq.), which was fully acknowledged in the private conference; and they probably made no reference at all to the public decree, which they could not set aside, but appealed to the practice of the Jewish apostles; drawing from their observance of the Mosaic law (which was kept up at least by James) an unwarrantable doctrinal inference, as is generally done, in fact, among contending parties. And now when once Paul had demonstrated, from what the Jewish apostles themselves had done, his perfectly independent apostolical dignity, his own word was enough; and an appeal to the decree of others was the less necessary, since that decree had been already communicated to the churches, and was known to them.
Note.—As the Tübingen school bases its hypothesis, of an irreconcilable contradiction between the Christianity of Paul and that of Peter, mainly upon the second chapter of the epistle to the Galatians, some remarks against the wild extravagances and profane hyper-criticism of this latest fashion of infidelity will be here in place, though we have already above positively refuted them. Dr. Baur in his work on Paul, to which we have so often referred, supposes, by the aid of a truly monstrous exegesis, that the Apostles of the Jews coincided in principle with the “false brethren unawares brought in,” Gal. 2:4 (though Paul so clearly distinguishes the latter from the δοκοῦντες, v. 2, 6, 9); that they continued, all their lives, to hold circumcision and the observance of the whole Mosaic law as necessary to salvation; in a word, that they were, and continued to be, Ebionites, and were first stamped as orthodox Christians by writers of the second century, as, for instance, the author of the book of Acts. He thus revives the old original hypothesis of his two favorite authors, the Gnostic, Marcion, and the unknown composer of the Pseudo-Clementine Homilies; degrading the wise and moderate Apostle of the Gentiles to an anti-Jewish fanatic and a Gnostic heretic. Nay, he even outdoes his worthy forerunner, the pseudo-Pauline Marcion of the second century, in reducing the number of Paul’s epistles. He pronounces all, which do not square with his system, spurious, except the four to the Galatians, Corinthians, and Romans; and even from the latter he cuts off the last two chapters!! But since he cannot, in the face of the plain meaning of Gal. 2:9, deny, that the Jewish apostles gave Paul and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship and acknowledged them as work-fellows in the gospel, of equal authority with themselves (p. 125), he must, to make good his position, venture on the violent, desperate measure of explaining this procedure as inconsistent and weak. They (who, nevertheless, were in the majority, and had the whole church of Jerusalem on their side!) could not withstand, says he, the force of circumstances and the personal sway of Paul, though, in justice to their convictions they should have contested his views of Christianity (p. 126). The only thing, which seems to favor this assertion, is the weak conduct of Peter, as related in Gal. 2:11–14. But this, more narrowly examined, goes decidedly against Baur and his sympathizers. Paul expressly says of Peter, that, before the arrival of the Judaizers from Jerusalem, he held intercourse with the uncircumcised. and merely from fear of men dissembled, i. e. belied by his conduct his better, anti-Judaistic conviction. Add to this, that Barnabas also, whose genuine Pauline views Baur himself cannot question, acted just as Peter did. Furthermore, Paul, in describing the Judaizers as “false brethren unawares brought in,” intimates, that they were in the minority, and even opposed to the reigning sentiment of the church at Jerusalem (which perfectly accords with Acts 15:1 and 5); for, in Gal. 2:1–10, Paul plainly refers to this church, and not, as Baur falsely assumes, to that of Antioch. Had the Jewish apostles, after God had condemned their old prejudices by what had already taken place in the Gentile world, still held circumcision necessary to salvation, they would have fallen under the curse, which Paul denounces against all, who preach any other gospel than his own (Gal. 1:8, 9. Comp. 5:1 sqq). Paul would have regarded and treated them as false teachers, and not by any means as apostles-for these two ideas are in absolute contradiction. But who can for a moment bear the thought? It is glaringly inconsistent with the epistle to the Galatians, and with such passages as Eph 3:5 sqq. 2:10 sqq. 1 Cor. 15:1–11, where Paul acknowledges the divine calling and authority of the elder apostles; asserts their agreement with him on the very point in dispute—the relation of the heathen to the gospel; and calls himself the least among the apostles. It is inconsistent, moreover, with Paul’s continual care for the poor Jewish Christians in Jerusalem (these supposed heretics and unyielding antagonists!), which was directed not merely to the supply of their temporal wants, but, as he explicitly says (2 Cor. 9:12–14), to the establishment and confirmation of fraternal communion with them. The facts, that the Acts represent Peter as the first to receive Gentiles into the church without circumcision, and as declaring Pauline sentiments in the apostolic council; that Peter himself unequivocally sets forth in his epistles the community of faith between himself and Paul (1 Pet. 5:12. 2 Pet. 3:15); that the writings of John are far above all narrow Judaistic views; that even James calls Christianity a perfect law of liberty, in tacit antithesis with the Mosaic system as an imperfect law of bondage;—all these, indeed, go for nothing with Baur, Zeller and Schwegler; for, in spite of the strongest testimony of tradition, they assign all those documents (except the Revelation of St. John) to the second century, and declare them to have been forged for purposes of conciliation. But must not such extravagances of fiction lose all credit, when the assumptions, on which they wholly rest, and which surely do not commend them, are contradicted even by the few passages of Paul’s epistles, which are supposed to serve as their main supports? That the Tübingen critics for special reasons still retain four of Paul’s epistles, in order, like their predecessors in the time of Peter (2 Pet. 3:16), to use them by arbitrary perversion in the service of their Gnostic infidelity, is, on their ground, a sheer inconsistency, for which they merit no thanks: since half the ingenuity, with which they imagine that they overthrow the genuineness of the gospel of John and the other books of the New Testament, would prove also the epistles to the Romans, Corinthians, and Galatians to be Gnostic forgeries of the second century. In general, this mode of proceeding puts an end to all sound criticism, nay, ultimately to all history: and in this Tübingen school, if anywhere, are verified the words of Paul, Rom. 1:22: Φάσκοντες εἶναι σοφοὶ ἐμωράνθησαν.
- . 69. Public Transactions. Decree of the Council. (Acts 15)
As the dispute respecting the relation of the Gentiles to the gospel was disturbing the peace of the whole church, it was natural that it should be publicly settled.1 The apostles, therefore, and elders, and as many private Christians as were interested and could find room (Acts 15:1, 12, 22), came together for a general consultation. Here the point was, not so much the personal relation of the apostles to one another and the apostolic rank of Paul, as the rights and duties of the Gentile Christians. After much discussion on both sides, Peter, probably the president of the council, who, in doctrine as in practice, held middle ground between James and Paul, arose and testified, from his own experience in the case of Cornelius, of the acceptance which the gospel met among the heathen, and of the spiritual gifts which God imparted to them without the intervention of Judaism; uttering the purely Pauline maxim, that even they, the Jewish Christians themselves, as well as their uncircumcised brethren, were saved, not by the intolerable burden of the law, but only by the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and by a living faith in him. He thus appealed to a notorious, undeniable fact, the conversion and regeneration of Cornelius and his household, the first fruits of the Gentiles; and on this he based his doctrine respecting the claims of the heathen to the free grace of the gospel. These words from the mouth of the most esteemed apostle could not fail of their impression. A solemn silence prevailed in the assembly. Then Barnabas, who had long been in high repute in Jerusalem, and Paul, presented themselves, and related the signs and wonders, with which God had accompanied and sealed their labors among the Gentiles.
Thus far the transactions seemed likely to end in Paul’s complete victory and the confirmation of the private agreement of the apostles. But for this the mass of the Jewish Christians were not yet prepared. To their more timid scruples, to their weak consciences, some temporary concession must be made, before perfect peace could be restored. That concession was proposed by James, who in sentiment and spirit was most akin to the Jewish Christians of the stricter class, and therefore most influential with them. With great practical wisdom and moderation, he took a position of compromise between the conflicting interests. He first announced his perfect agreement, in principle, with Peter; that God had from among the Gentiles also prepared a people for himself. In this he saw only the fulfillment of the prophecy (Amos 9:11 sq.) respecting the glorious restoration and enlargement of the theocracy among the heathen, the execution of an eternal decree. This appeal to the Old Testament gave the matter such an aspect, as must commend it to the Jewish Christians. But for their perfect satisfaction, he proposed, not, indeed, that the converted Gentiles should submit to circumcision,—for this would have been, in fact, to countenance the heretical principle of the “false brethren,”—but that they should abstain from those practices, which were particularly offensive to a scrupulous Jew, and which he could not think consistent with genuine piety; viz., from eating meat offered to idols,1 blood,2 and, what is connected with this, strangled animals,3 and finally from fornication (15:20). These restrictions are among the seven precepts, which, according to tradition, were given to Noah, and which were enjoined upon the proselytes of the gate. It might seem strange, that, in these prohibitions, an act absolutely immoral should be classed with things in themselves indifferent and only relatively wrong. But it must be remembered, that licentiousness was very frequently united with the idolatrous sacrifices, and was an “adiaphoron” to the pagans, who were wholly destitute of the deeper conception of chastity in general. Idolatry, which is so frequently termed in the Old Testament a spiritual whoredom, is necessarily followed by bodily pollution. Hence it is, that Paul so often warns Gentile believers against this sin.1 Besides, the expression here is probably to be taken in the wider sense, as including marriage with unconverted heathen (Ex. 34:16), and marriage within those degrees of affinity, which were forbidden not only to the Jews in the Pentateuch, but also to the proselytes of the gate in the Noachic precepts, as partaking of the character of incest;2 whereas the heathen made no conscience of it.3
This proposition of James met with general acceptance, and was adopted by the council as its decree. The only dissentients were the false teachers themselves, who certainly, as their subsequent intrigues show, could not have been satisfied with it, or for the time understood it in their own sense. This decree, too, was most easily carried into execution, as things then stood, and best fitted to restore peace between the contending parties, and gradually to effect a perfect reconciliation. For, on the one hand, it drew the Jews nearer to the Gentiles; on the other, it secured the Gentiles against the after-workings of their former habits, as well as against contamination from the surrounding idolatry. Hess justly remarks, that in this thing the apostles became all things to all men; Jews, to Jews; Gentiles, to Gentiles; since, while they secured to the Gentile Christians their freedom, they also enabled the Jews with good conscience to associate with them.4 James and Paul here manifested, in different positions, the same practical wisdom and moderation; the former in making his attachment to Judaism subordinate to the general interests of Christianity; the latter, in readily submitting, from regard for weak consciences, and for the sake of fraternal harmony, to a restriction on the Gentile Christians, demanded indeed by the circumstances, and highly salutary, but, so far as the eating of blood and things strangled was concerned, destined to lose its force, as the national opposition disappeared.1 Moreover, circumstances may yet arise, where abstinence from these and similar things, which are not in themselves immoral, and are commonly reckoned among the “adiaphora,” becomes a duty of Christian love. The apostle Paul here suggests to us the golden rule: “All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not. Let no man seek his own, but every man another’s wealth” (1 Cor. 10:23, 24). True Christian freedom shows itself in self-restraint and tender forbearance towards the weak. So Paul, in full agreement with the spirit of the synod at Jerusalem, earnestly dissuaded the Corinthian Gentile Christians from eating meat offered to idols, lest they should offend the conscience of a weak brother, for whom likewise Christ died;2 while yet he at the same time asserts, on the other hand, that “the earth is the Lord’s and the fulness thereof”, and that every kind of food is, in itself, good, if it be eaten with thanksgiving.3 The same wise and truly free position he steadfastly maintains in the controversy among the Roman Christians about eating certain kinds of food and observing the Jewish feasts (Rom. 14 and 15).
This compromise act, as we may call it, having been reduced, probably by James,4 to the form of a short letter, was communicated in the name of the council to the Gentile-Christian congregations in Syria and Cilicia, by two distinguished men of the church (perhaps presbyters of Jerusalem), Judas Barsabas and Silas. The official document was to serve them as the warrant and basis of more extended oral instruction. These delegates, in the fulfillment of their commission, accompanied Paul and Barnabas to Antioch; Barnabas again taking with him his nephew, Mark.
Thus was brought out the first great antagonism in the Christian church; but with the public acknowledgment, that the difference between the Jewish-Christian and Gentile-Christian views, held with due moderation, did not touch the essence of Christian piety, and need not disturb the unity of the church. Reactions were certainly to be expected. It was long before the old “leaven of the Pharisees” was thoroughly purged out. In fact, the whole Roman Catholic church may be said still to bear a Judaizing, legal character; and the principle of evangelical freedom, which Paul so strenuously advocated, to have gained its due ascendancy only with the Reformation; undoubtedly bringing with it, however, also the danger of running to the opposite extreme of antinomianism and licentiousness. For church history vibrates between the two extremes of authority and freedom (Catholicism and Protestantism), which have never yet been satisfactorily reconciled. The type and guarantee of a final reconciliation we have, however, in the harmony of the Jewish and Gentile apostles, as it came to view in so lovely a manner and with such happy results, in this first synod of Christendom.
- . 70. Collision of Paul with Peter and Barnabas
Not long after this fraternal compromise in Jerusalem, while the Gentile missionaries were again spending some time in Antioch (15:33, 35, 36), Peter and Barnabas there fell into that memorable inconsistency, which caused an altercation, though only transient as the subsequent history shows, between them and Paul (Gal. 2:11 sqq).1 The same Peter, who was the first to admit Gentiles into the church without circumcision, who in the council so warmly advocated their rights, and in his practice in Antioch had disregarded the distinction of clean and unclean meats, could now be induced by fear of some scrupulous Jewish Christians from Jerusalem, who unwarrantably pleaded the authority of James, to withdraw gradually from intercourse with the Gentile converts. He did not, indeed, as Baur and Schwegler erroneously assume, require them to be circumcised; Gal. 2:11–14 contains no hint of this, but speaks only of eating with the Gentiles. In refusing to eat with the Gentiles, however, Peter of course virtually refused to recognize them as brethren; confirmed the prejudice against them as still unclean; and thus, at least indirectly, violated the compromise agreed upon at Jerusalem.1 His influential example had its effect upon the other Jewish Christians, and enticed even Barnabas, the intimate companion of Paul, to the same inconsistency. Paul, an enemy to all temporizing, seeing the consciences of the Gentile Christians in his most important congregation disturbed, and his evangelical principles and the peace of the church again put in jeopardy by the high authority of an apostle, called this obsequiousness a “dissimulation,” and before the whole company, without respect of persons, showed Peter his inconsistency, and the dangerous consequences of such conduct, if meant in earnest.2 That Peter, however, suffered himself to be thus corrected by the Apostle of the Gentiles, his junior in office, without conceiving any ill feeling towards him, evinces a rare humility, which commands as high admiration as the intrepid zeal of Paul for evangelical freedom.
This event is full of instruction. We cannot, indeed, justly infer from it anything unfavorable to the inspiration and doctrine of Peter; for his fault was rather a practical denial of his real and true conviction, as in his former and still deeper fall, when he denied Him, whom he yet knew to be his Lord and Master. But it shows, that the apostles, even after the outpouring of the Holy Ghost, are not to be looked upon as perfect saints in such sense as to be liable to no sinful weakness whatever. We here discern still the workings of the old sanguine, impulsive nature of Peter, who could, one hour, with enthusiastic devotion, swear fidelity to his Master; and the next, deny him thrice. Paul, too, on his part, may have been too excited and sharp against the senior apostle, without making due allowance for the delicacy of his position and his regard for the scrupulosity of the Jewish converts; which certainly go far to excuse, though not to justify Peter. The Word of God, at once to humble and to encourage, records the failings of the pious as faithfully as their virtues. Then again, from the conduct of Paul we learn not only the right and duty of combatting the errors even of the most distinguished servants of Christ, but also the equality of the apostles, in opposition to an undue exaltation of Peter above his colleagues.
The Acts of the Apostles, though they pass over in silence the inconsistency of Peter,1 yet record, with the same candor, a temporary rupture between Paul and Barnabas, which occurred most probably in close connection with the scene just described. When Paul, some time after his return from the apostolic council, proposed to Barnabas a new missionary tour, the latter wished to take along his kinsman, Mark. But Paul objected, because this Mark, in the previous journey, had not proved steadfast.2 This led to an irritation of feeling, “a sharp contention” (15:36–39). Each insisted, and doubtless not without human weakness, on his own view as having all the right. Paul, with his stern regard for duty, excluded all personal considerations, and felt compelled to censure severely any want of self-denial for the sake of the Lord. Barnabas, who seems to have been naturally of a milder turn, was disposed to be lenient towards his kinsman, hoping that this would be the best way to restore the backslider. The earnestness of Paul and the mildness of Barnabas united, brought forth their fruits; for we afterwards find Mark faithful and persevering in his calling, even under sufferings, and reconciled with Paul, as the latter himself testifies.1 Equally transient, of course, was Paul’s dispute also with Barnabas.2
For the missionary work itself this altercation, in the hands of the Lord, who can turn even the weaknesses of his children to the praise of his name, resulted in good. The missionary force was doubled, and the water of life flowed in double channel to a greater number of lands. Barnabas, with Mark, sailed to his native island, Cyprus. Paul, accompanied by Silas (Silvanus) and the blessing of the church of Antioch, which probably sided with him in this controversy, chose according to his rule. Rom. 15:20. 2 Cor. 10:16, a field of independent labor (Acts 15:39–41).
- . 71. Paul’s Second Missionary Tour. Galatia. The Macedonian Vision. A.D. 51
Some time after the apostolic council, in the year 51, or at the latest 52, Paul set out on his second great missionary tour, in which he brought the gospel to Europe, and thus determined the Christianization of this quarter of the globe. He first visited the churches he had founded in Syria and Cilicia before his second journey to Jerusalem;3 then the churches he and Barnabas had afterwards established in Lycaonia; to strengthen them, and recommend the apostolical concordat to their observance. In Lystra4 he met the young man, Timothy, whom he had probably already converted during his first visit there.5 Being the son of a heathen father and a pious Jewess, Eunice, who, with his grandmother, Lois, had instructed him from childhood in the Old Testament Scriptures (2 Tim. 1:5. 3:14, 15), this youth was peculiarly qualified for an assistant in the missionary work among the Gentiles and Jews, and he had been designated by prophetic voices in the congregation as a suitable instrument for extending the kingdom of God.6 To make him the more acceptable to the numerous Jews of that region, who had some claim upon him through his mother, Paul, of his own choice and from Christian prudence, had him circumcised.7 Henceforth Timothy appears to have been a faithful companion and fellow-laborer of the apostle,1 and particularly valued and beloved by him.2
What Do Scripture and History Reveal: The Apostolic Age of the Twelve Apostles and Paul (33-100 A.D.)?
From Lycaonia Paul went to Phrygia, a province abounding in cities, where we afterwards find flourishing churches in Colosse, Hierapolis, and Laodicea, though these are commonly supposed to have been founded not by Paul himself, but by his disciple, Epaphras (comp. Col. 2:1 sq. 1:7). For at that time at least he seems not to have visited the southern part of the province, but to have turned northward into Galatia, also called Gallograecia, a province inhabited by Celts (Galatae) and Germans, who migrated thither in the third century before Christ, and were conquered by the Romans 189 B.C. In his labors here he suffered much from the weakness of his body, which with difficulty sustained itself under his many hardships and persecutions, and the toil necessary to earn a livelihood, besides that peculiar trial, no more definitely described than as a “thorn in the flesh” (2 Cor. 12:7). All these sufferings and conflicts, however, gave exercise to his humility and patience, and made him cleave more firmly to all-sufficient grace. Accordingly the divine power of the gospel made its way only with the greater force and purity through this weak organ (the ἀσθένεια τῆς σαρκός, Gal. 4:13), and irresistibly attracted the minds of the heathen and proselytes. His self-denying love amidst the heaviest afflictions gained him the confidence and affection of all. The Galatians received him as an angel of God, nay, as Jesus Christ himself, and felt so happy, that, for the heavenly gift bestowed upon them, they were ready to deprive themselves of their dearest possession, their eyes, and give it to him (Gal. 4:14, 15). Hence also the deep grief of the apostle, when these flourishing churches afterwards suffered themselves to be led astray by Jewish errorists, and brought under the yoke of the law.
From Galatia Paul intended to travel southwest to Proconsular Asia,3 and thence northward to Bithynia, to prosecute his work. But the Holy Ghost, who controlled the volitions of the missionaries, and had this time another field of labor in view for them, forbade them to preach, and by a vision gradually raised to an inward assurance the indistinct impulse, which they perhaps already felt, to go to Europe. When, thus uncertain which way to turn, they came to the maritime city, Troas, on the Hellespont (now Eski Stambul), there appeared to Paul by night, either in a dream, or more probably while he was praying (comp. 16:25), a Macedonian, who, in the name of Greece, and in fact of all Europe, which longed for salvation and promised a rich harvest, besought him: “Come over into Macedonia, and help us” (16:9),—a cry for help, which no Christian should hear without the deepest emotion. On this momentous event hung the Christianization of Europe and all the blessings of modern civilization.
Thus went the gospel westward, like the sun, in its triumphant course; and thus did it visit, first of all, the classic soil of Greece, which was prepared by high natural culture to produce abundant fruit under its genial rays.
- . 72. Christianity in Philippi and Thessalonica. A.D. 51
The missionaries were now joined by the physician, Luke,1 the author of the book of Acts. The first city of Macedonia,2 to which they came, was Philippi, then a Roman colony, which they reached in two days’ sail from Troas. This ancient city (originally Craenides), enlarged and fortified by Philip of Macedon 358 B.C., stood on a hill abounding in springs, in those consecrated regions of Thrace, which lie upon the Strymonian gulf. Its site was that of the present hamlet of Filibe, inhabited by poor Greeks. It was noted, not particularly for its size, but for its commerce, for the neighboring gold mines, and for the coins there struck (philippici); and it became renowned in the history of the world by the decisive battle, in which Brutus and Cassius, the murderers of Cæsar, and with them the Roman republic, came to their tragical end (42 B. C).1 In this city was to spring forth the first, or—if, as is at least very probable, the precedence in time must be conceded to Rome—the second Christian community of Europe, and with it true spiritual freedom.
On the Sabbath Paul went with his companions to the place of prayer2 outside the city on the banks of the Strymon, where the Jews and proselytes, who were not numerous enough there to build a synagogue, were accustomed to assemble for devotional exercises. They engaged in conversation on religious subjects with the pious, Jewishly inclined females. One of these, Lydia, a purple-seller of Thyatira,3 in whom the Lord had awakened a susceptibility (for even the disposition to attend to the word of God is the effect of grace), was baptized with all her family,4 and in her grateful love constrained the missionaries to lodge with her. No doubt her house served at the same time as the first place of assembly for the church there forming. And now occurred another instance, in which an apparent hindrance was made to promote the growth of the church. A female slave, who passed for an organ of the Pythian Apollo, the oracular god, and by her arts of divination brought her masters much gain, followed the missionaries, and, with that deeper discernment which makes devils tremble (Jas. 2:19), declared them to be the servants of the most high God, which made known the way of salvation (16:17). This conduct is hardly to be regarded as a trick to draw money from them, or otherwise ensnare them. It was the same involuntary expression of reverence, which Jesus more than once received from demoniacs.5 But Paul, as little disposed as Christ to take advantage of such attestations of his work, cast out the unclean spirit of divination in the name of Him, who came to destroy all the powers of evil. By this act he deprived the woman’s owners of a lucrative traffic. The latter, enraged, seized Paul and Silas; dragged them, as Jewish disturbers of the peace, before the duumviri (so the two associate supreme magistrates of the Roman colonial cities were called), and accused them of introducing, against the strict prohibitions of government, a foreign religion and foreign customs opposed to the existing order of things. This caused general uproar. The servants of Christ were scourged without further examination (comp. 1 Thess. 2:2), and thrown into the inner part of the prison. But, in the solemn stillness of midnight, rejoicing in the consciousness of suffering for the Lord, notwithstanding the smarting of their wounds, the pain of the stocks (a wooden block for the feet, used as an instrument of torture), and the pangs of hunger, they raised their voices in united prayer and praise; turning the dark abode of crime into a temple of grace.1 In answer to their prayer an earthquake suddenly shook the prison to its foundations, opened the doors, and loosed the chains of all the prisoners.2 The jailer, a conscientious and impulsive man, was on the point of committing suicide in his fright, thinking that the prisoners had all escaped, when Paul checked him, and told him they were all there. He then fell down at his feet, and, passing from despair to hope (a change altogether psychological in such moments of excitement), he asked: “What must I do to be saved?”—a question which implies some previous acquaintance with the preaching of the apostle, and has since been for thousands the bridge from death to life. The messengers of peace gave him the comforting answer: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house;” instructed him and his household more fully; and, as they gladly received the gospel accompanied by the Spirit of God, baptized them. A joyful love-feast, prepared by the new converts in their gratitude, closed the scenes of this memorable night.
The next day the duumviri, whether intimidated by the earthquake, or moved by the representation of the jailor, sent their lictors to him with an order to let the imprisoned missionaries go. But Paul, who with genuine humility before God united a noble self-respect in his relations to men, was not disposed to be thus dismissed without any apology; and he now appealed, as he could not have done for the tumult the day before, to his Roman citizenship, which, according to the old laws, secured him against the disgraceful punishment of scourging. For injury to the person of a Roman citizen passed for high treason against the majesty of the Roman people, and, as such, was punished with confiscation of goods and death. This appeal, which, according to the well-known expression of Cicero, procured aid for many a one in the ends of the earth and even among the barbarians,1 failed not of its effect. The magistrates came in person, and honorably dismissed the prisoners as innocent. The missionaries then took leave of the brethren in the house of Lydia, and pursued their journey
In Philippi Paul left behind him one of his most flourishing churches, almost entirely composed of Gentile Christians, and closely bound to him in grateful love. It is true, this church also was afterwards invaded by Jewish errorists, spiritual pride, and schism. Yet, on the whole, it gave him more satisfaction than any other. He calls it his joy and his crown, and assures it of his ardent love (Phil. 1:3–8. 4:1). He also, contrary to his custom, accepted from it occasional presents (4:10–18. Comp. 2 Cor. 11:9); thus evincing a peculiarly strong confidence in it.
The first missionary operations in Europe were, therefore, exceedingly encouraging; and the persecution itself, which now proceeded from the heathen, turned out to the honor of Paul and the strengthening of the faith of the Christians. Paul next travelled, with Silas,2 by Amphipolis and Apollonia to the thriving commercial city of Thessalonica, the capital of the second district of Macedonia, and the residence of the Roman governor. It lay on the bay of Therma, about a hundred Roman miles from Philippi.3
Here the apostle staid at least three weeks (17:2). On the Sabbath days he expounded the Scriptures in the synagogues, and demonstrated that the Messiah, whose sufferings and resurrection were there predicted, had actually appeared in Jesus of Nazareth. Some Jews, a considerable number of proselytes, and not a few of the most distinguished women sided with him (17:4). At the same time he labored also among the proper Gentiles with great success (1 Thess. 1:9, 10. 2:10, 11), so that, through the extensive commercial connections of the city, the new community soon became widely known (1 Thess. 1:8). Although, according to our Lord’s maxim (Matt. 10:10), and in his own view (1 Cor. 9:14), the apostle might justly have claimed the supply of his temporal wants from those to whom he offered the far more precious gift of the gospel, yet he earned his livelihood himself by working at his trade, sometimes even at night (1 Thess. 2:9, comp. Acts 20:34); partly, to show his gratitude for the unmerited grace bestowed upon him; partly that he might not be burdensome to the infant congregation; partly, to deprive his Judaistic adversaries of all ground for accusing him of self-interest. Under this self-denial he richly experienced the truth of the Saviour’s words: “It is more blessed to give, than to receive” (Acts 20:35). Yet while here he twice received presents from the church at Philippi (Phil. 4:16). The unbelieving Jews, exasperated by this success, stirred up the populace against the missionaries, maliciously perverting their teachings respecting the kingly office and the second coming of Christ, and exciting political suspicion against them, as rebels against the imperial authority. But the magistrates were satisfied with taking security of one Jason, with whom Paul and Silas lodged, and the missionaries journeyed the next night to Berea, some sixty Roman miles south-east from Thessalonica, in the third district of Macedonia.
Here they preached some time with much acceptance, not only among the Greeks, but also among the Jews, who were more noble-minded and susceptible in this city than in Thessalonica. It is said to the credit of the new converts, that they searched the Scriptures daily, to see whether the Christian doctrine agreed with them (Acts 17:11)—a statement frequently and justly adduced in proof of the right and duty of the laity to search the Scriptures for themselves. From this place, too, the apostle was driven by the machinations of the fanatical Jews of Thessalonica, who had heard of his favorable reception here. Leaving Silas and Timothy in Berea, with directions to follow him soon, he travelled, accompanied by other brethren, probably by sea,1 to Hellas proper, and to the metropolis of heathen science and art.
- . 73. Paul in Athens
The renowned capital of Attica, though politically depressed, and long degenerate also in morals, still, by her culture, held sway over the whole intellectual world, not excepting even haughty Rome; and to this day she exerts, by her literature, an incalculable influence. The first appearance of the apostle of Jesus Christ in that city awakens, therefore, an unusual interest, and produces an impression of peculiar sublimity. This is owing, not to any immediate effects of his short and, in this respect, comparatively unimportant visit there; nor to any subsequent prominence of Athens in the history of the church. It arises rather from the imposing contrast between two wholly different kingdoms and spheres of thought here thrown together. The highest, but already decaying civilization of Heathendom here receives the breath of life from the new creation in Christ, for which it had been involuntarily preparing the way, therein at once to find its grave, and to celebrate its resurrection as a means to a higher and nobler end, the development of Christian civilization. On the consecrated ground of classic antiquity and of the religion of the Beautiful, in the birth-place of the most splendid forms, which reason and imagination, in the dim twilight of the Logos, could of themselves produce, appears a man of feeble, uncomely person, but of the noblest mind and heart and the most disinterested zeal, nay, filled with the Spirit of God himself, proclaiming the religion of the True, and of eternal life,—the religion, which has subjected the old world, with all its power and glory, to her own service, and reared upon its ruins a universal kingdom of heaven. Before the philosophers of Greece, and amidst the renowned temples and statues of all conceivable idols, a despised Jew preaches that foolishness of God, which confounds the wisdom of the Grecian schools, and appeals more eloquently to the guilt-stricken heart, than even Demosthenes or Æschines to the sovereign people;—the doctrine of the crucified Nazarene, who revealed the only true God; whose beauty, veiled in the form of a servant, far outshines that of the statues of Phidias and the temple of Minerva on the Acropolis; takes its bold flight beyond the ideals of Plato; no longer, like the myths of Prometheus and Hercules and the tragedies of Æschylus and Sophocles, leaving men to grope wishfully after the blissful harmony of existence, the reconciliation of God and man; but actually giving it, and giving beyond all that the most earnest and profound heathens could ask or think.
Paul, even as a mere monotheist, could, of course, look with no complacency on the idolatry, which here surrounded him, nor be beguiled by the splendor, with which art had invested it Nevertheless, he did not begin with overthrowing the altars and the images. He was touched, rather, with deep grief for these aberrations of the sense of religious need,—with that compassionate love, which seeks the lost. While waiting the arrival of Silas and Timothy, he improved the time, therefore, not only by preaching to the Jews and proselytes in the synagogue, but also by joining, like a Christian Socrates, in daily conversations with the heathens in the market. The curious and inquisitive Athenians used then, as in the days of Demosthenes, to collect in the public places and under the shady colonnades, to hear the city gossip and the political and literary news of the day. In one of these places, probably the market Eretria, which was most frequented, and close by the στοὰ ποικίλη, a resort of the philosophers, the apostle encountered some of the Epicureans and Stoics, who afterwards showed themselves the most bitter enemies of Christianity. The Epicureans, like the Sadducees among the Jews, were pleasure-loving men of the world. If they acknowledged the gods at all, they made them idle, unconcerned spectators of the world; derived everything from chance and the free will of man; and set up pleasure as the chief good. They thus severed the world from the eternal source of its life; denied man’s likeness to God and his higher destiny; and could, therefore, see nothing in Christianity, but fanaticism and superstition. The Stoics, who may be called the Grecian Pharisees,1 held the opposite extreme. They were pantheists and fatalists; made the dominion of reason the highest good; and placed virtue in complete self-control and apathy. They mistook the moral corruption of man, and deified the natural power of will. In them also, accordingly, the doctrine of the cross, making humility the fundamental virtue, requiring an entire renewal of the mind, and held forth, moreover, in artless elocution by a barbarian Jew, could not possibly allay, but must rather inflame that moral pride, which arrogated equality with the gods. The Epicureans called the apostle a babbler (σπερμολόγος,)2 betraying their foppish disgust for him, and their utter insensibility to every thing that concerns the higher destiny of man. The Stoics thought, he wished to introduce strange gods; namely, Jesus, and the Resurrection.3 This sounded more threateningly; for on a like charge Socrates had once been condemned to death by the Areopagus.4 It was not, however, this time taken so earnestly. Nor does the sequel show any spirit of fanatical persecution. On the contrary, partly from courtesy and partly from curiosity, they gladly listened to the interesting enthusiast; and the more to gratify their curiosity, and give others the same opportunity, they brought him to the Areopagus, or hill of Mars, west of the Acropolis, where the supreme court of the same name held its sessions, and presided over the observance of the laws, customs, and religious ceremonies. Here the apostle could be heard by a greater multitude. On this venerable eminence, with the city spread out at his feet, in sight of the Theseion and the Acropolis, the magnificent Parthenon, and those Propylaea, whose ruins are even yet a wonder, he delivered a discourse marked by great wisdom and skill, exquisitely adapted to the occasion, and furnishing a profitable lesson for all rash zealots and intolerant fanatics.
Though deeply grieved at the abounding idolatry, he did not begin by denouncing it as purely the work of the devil, and thus at the outset bar the hearts of the people against his address. He perceived beneath the ashes of superstition the glimmering spark of a longing after that God, who, though unseen, is yet so near. On this relic of the divine image in man, this feeling of religious want, and on the inextinguishable consciousness of God, which underlies even all the vagaries of polytheism (comp. Rom. 1:19. 2:14, 15), he based his discourse, acknowledging in the Athenians a peculiar zeal for religion,1 and very appositely appealing, in proof of it, to the altar, he had noticed, dedicated to “an unknown God” (ἀγνώστῳ θεῷ 17:23).2 By this the Athenians did not mean, indeed, the only true God of the Bible. They had in view, according to their polytheistic conceptions, one of the many gods, whom, on their principles, they could multiply indefinitely. But at the same time this reverence for the Unknown and Nameless was the expression of the unsatisfied groping of Polytheism after the truth; its consciousness of its own insufficiency; its presentiment both of a higher power beyond the sphere of its gods, and of the necessity of having that power propitiated. Thus polytheism itself left room for a new religion, for the knowledge and worship of the unknown God, who is also the only true God. On this longing after truth Paul lays hold; and, referring that remarkable phenomenon to its ultimate principle; interpreting the religious want, which revealed itself therein; and, in the worship of an unknown God, recognizing with perfect propriety the faint notion of the unknown God; he proceeds: “Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you.” And now he goes on to unfold the truth, which forms at the same time a positive refutation of the polytheistic error. He discourses of God as the Creator and Upholder of the universe,—in tacit opposition to the entirely false cosmogony of Heathenism, which, on the one hand, deified the forces of nature, and, on the other, reduced deity itself to a creature;—of the original unity of the human family, and the appointment by providence of its habitation and the term of its existence,—in opposition to the denial of this unity inseparable from idolatry, and to the atomic notions and proud particularism of the Athenians, who considered themselves autochthons, aborigines of their country, and looked upon Jews and barbarians with contempt;—and of the higher moral destiny of man,—a subject, to which he was led by his doctrine of providence and of the government of the world,—that men should seek God (whom they have lost by sin), and return to fellowship with him. This the heathen had not at all, or at best very imperfectly attained.1 But their failure was their own fault; for God is not far from any one of us. He is the foundation of life on which we all rest. On him we absolutely depend every moment for our spiritual life, our physical motion, nay, even our very existence;1 as, in fact, some of your own poets have said: “For we are his offspring.”2 This higher dignity of man itself upbraids idolatry, which degrades the eternal Creator into the sphere of the creature, and images him in lifeless matter. In this way the apostle at once awakens the sense of guilt and proves heathenism irrational. But he does not even now launch out into a tirade against idolatry. Like the long-suffering God himself, he passes by these times of ignorance,3 and preaches repentance, the resurrection of Christ, and the judgment, which awaits unbelievers.4 But of this second part Luke gives us only a brief abstract.
The announcement of the resurrection of the dead was to the natural understanding of the Greek philosophers particularly offensive. Such a thing seemed to them impossible, and to no purpose. Some, perhaps especially Epicureans, mocked; while others said to the apostle: “We will hear thee again of this matter.” This may possibly have been meant in earnest, but far more probably as a polite hint to be silent respecting a doctrine in their view so absurd. And here is a striking proof, that God has hid the gospel from the wise and prudent and revealed it unto babes (Matt. 11:25); or, according to the kindred sentiment of the poet: “What the understanding of the wise sees not, the childlike spirit, in its simplicity, practices.”1
But this wise, apposite, and finished discourse of the apostle was after all not in vain. Several men and women, and some, it appears, of culture and rank, embraced his doctrine; among whom one Dionysius, a member of the supreme court, is particularly mentioned by name (Acts 17:34). According to the church tradition, this Areopagite was the first bishop of the church of Athens;2 and in later times there was ascribed to him a mass of mystic writings,3 which exerted an important influence in the Middle Ages. He was made the representative of the mystic philosophy of Plato (that last effort of earnest-minded heathenism), in its combination with Christian truth. This city of the Grecian muse, however, which had, indeed, reached the summit of natural culture, but, on the other hand (according to the Clouds of Aristophanes), had regarded the greatest and noblest of her own sages as an idle, inflated enthusiast, and condemned him to death, never rose to great prominence in the history of the church.
- . 74. Paul in Corinth. A.D. 53
From Athens Paul journeyed alone to Corinth, where Silas and Timothy again joined him (18:5). This rich and flourishing city, the capital of the province of Achaia, and the residence of the Roman proconsul, stood upon the peninsula of Peloponnesus, between the Ægean and Ionian seas. Its position, with its two ports, Lechaeum on the west and Cenchreae on the east, made it the centre of commerce and intercourse between the eastern and western portions of the Roman empire; the bridge, so to speak, between Asia and Europe; and at the same time, after it was rebuilt by Cæsar (B.C. 46), a prominent seat of philosophy, art, and general culture. It was given, however, to excessive luxury, and to a licentiousness even sanctioned by the worship of Venus.1 Its civilization had merely substituted the vices of refinement for the vices of barbarism. Here the apostle had the best opportunity to learn from his own observation that horrible corruption of the heathen, the picture of which he drew a few years afterwards on the same spot, in the first chapter of Romans.
The establishment of a Christian church at so important a point, thus in communication with the whole world, was of course, a work of transcendent moment, but also of uncommon difficulty. Paul accordingly staid here a year and a half. He soon found lodging and employment at his trade with Aquila, a Jewish Christian.2 This man followed the same business as the apostle, probably on a large scale, and had come to Corinth shortly before with his wife Priscilla (Prisca), in consequence of an edict of Claudius (A.D. 52), which banished the Jews from Rome, but soon went out of force. Thenceforth both appear in different places,—at Ephesus (18:18, 26. 1 Cor. 16:19), and at Rome (Rom. 16:3),—as zealous promoters of the gospel (comp. also 2 Tim. 4:19).
Here, too, Paul addressed himself first to the Jews and proselytes, who in Corinth, as in all commercial cities, were very numerous. But he met with such violent opposition, that he left the synagogue, and held his meetings in the adjoining house of one Justus, a proselyte of the gate. Nevertheless, perhaps in consequence of this determined effort, Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, with his whole household, embraced the faith; and these, along with a certain Gaius, and the family of Stephanas, Paul baptized with his own hands (18:8. 1 Cor. 1:14–17), though in other cases he left this business to his aids, who could administer the ordinance just as well. For in the sacrament, where, as it were, the Lord himself officiates, the personal character of the human functionary falls out of view, while in preaching, which founds the church and requires special gifts, it becomes prominent. The great majority of the congregation collected by Paul and his associates, Silas and Timothy (comp. 1 Cor. 1:19), were, no doubt, formerly pagans, and chiefly, though not entirely,1 from the lower classes. For in 1 Cor. 1:26–30, Paul himself says, that there were not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, among them, but that God had chosen those that were foolish and weak in the eyes of the world, to display the more gloriously in them the power of the gospel, and to put to shame the pride of the wise and strong. The apostle had seen in Athens how little susceptibility, generally speaking, the higher and more cultivated circles had for the gospel, which so directly and firmly opposed their Sadducean or Pharisaic spirit. He had, accordingly, determined to appear in Corinth, not with the wisdom and eloquence of man, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, with the unadorned simplicity of the glad tidings to poor sinners. He had resolved to know nothing among them, save Jesus Christ and him crucified (1 Cor. 2:1–5), in whom, however, is found all that is needful for salvation. This brought out all the more sharply the opposition between the world and Christianity, and left grace to operate only with the greater purity and power. The apostle, indeed, met with violent resistance from the pride of wisdom in the Greeks, the passion for wonders in the Jews, and the moral corruption of the people generally. He had also to sustain painful struggles in his own breast, and was often so depressed with the sense of his own weakness, that whenever he thought of himself, he feared and trembled (1 Cor. 2:3), and needed special encouragement from the Lord in a vision (Acts 18:9 sq.). But, in spite of all, his preaching in this city was attended with uncommon success, and the church there spread its influence over the whole province of Achaia (1 Thess. 1:7, 8. 2 Cor. 1:1).
This rapid progress of the gospel only embittered the nostility of the Jews. They, therefore, took advantage of the arrival of the new proconsul, Annaeus Gallio, to accuse Paul of attacking their religion, which was recognized by law. But Gallio, a man of great kindness,2 wisely observing the limits of his power as a civil judge, dismissed the complaint, and referred it to the Jewish tribunal, as relating to a controversy on religious doctrine, and therefore not at all cognizable by him; whereupon the heathen apparitors vented their spite upon Sosthenes, the ruler of the synagogue (18:12–17). After this the apostle still remained in Corinth a long time, meanwhile, as must be inferred from 2 Cor. 1:1 (comp. Rom. 16:1), either making excursions himself, or sending his disciples, into the neighboring districts of the province.
- . 75. The Epistles to the Thessalonians. A.D. 53
Of this date, about A.D. 53, are the first of Paul’s epistles, which have come down to us, and which are also among the oldest portions of the New Testament,—the two letters to the Thessalonians.1 Timothy, whom he appears to have sent back from Athens to Thessalonica (1 Thess. 3:1 sq.), brought to him to Corinth intelligence, on the whole very cheering (1 Thess. 1:8), of the earnestness, fidelity, and steadfastness of the Thessalonian Christians under protracted persecutions, as also of their zeal for extending the gospel into Macedonia and even to Achaia. But at the same time in many of them the expectation of the speedy return of Christ in glory, which was probably one of Paul’s favorite themes, had taken the form of a somewhat immoderate enthusiasm, and had produced, in some, a state of melancholy, a grieving over already departed brethren, as though death had separated them from the Lord, and deprived them of the blessings of his appearing; in others, carelessness, and an undervaluation of their earthly callings, so that they ceased working and became a burden to the benevolent. Unauthorized prophets arose, who inflamed this enthusiasm; and this, in turn, produced, in a part of the congregation, the opposite extreme of contempt for the prophetic gift (1 Thess. 5:19, 20). This state of things was the occasion of the apostle’s first epistle, which is full of the fresh recollections of his recent visit. He commends the church for its virtues; comforts those who are troubled about the fate of the departed; exhorts the impatient to be industrious, to walk in the light, and to be always ready to meet the Lord, who shall come unexpectedly, like a thief in the night; and warns them, for this very reason, among other errors, against presuming to calculate the day and hour of his appearing.
But as this did not break the delusion, and as some one even fabricated a letter, as from the apostle (2 Thess. 2:2), going to confirm it, he soon afterwards wrote his second epistle, signed with his own hand, in which he instructed the church more fully respecting the appearance of the Lord, and especially concerning the development of the power of evil in its most mature and fearful form, the “man of sin” (2 Thess. 2:1–12), which must necessarily precede it; and exhorted them anew to an orderly and industrious life. It is remarkable, that it was to these very Macedonian churches, where Christianity so charmingly bloomed, that the mystery of iniquity was first disclosed. And the prophecy respecting it was doubtless not perfectly fulfilled in the apostolic age, but looks to the latest days of the church.
- . 76. Third Missionary Tour of Paul. His labors in Ephesus. A.D. 54–57
After residing a year and a half in Corinth, our apostle, probably in the spring of the year 54, in which Nero came to the throne, resolved to return to the mother church of the Gentile mission; and to go by way of Jerusalem, where he wished to celebrate Pentecost,1 and, as it appears, at the same time to present a thank-offering in the temple for escape from death by sickness, or some other cause unknown to us. So at least most commentators understand the vow, he had made at Cenchreae, the eastern port of Corinth.1 Nor was such a course, in itself, inconsistent with Paul’s liberal principles. For although he was far from making the observance of the law, or any human work, the condition of salvation; though he resisted from principle the imposition of a Jewish yoke on the Gentile Christians; yet he gave all due credit to the more legal, pupilary form of piety of the Jewish Christians, and felt free to use, in a voluntary way, for the promotion of his own spiritual life,1 some of their disciplinary institutions and customs. He fully understood, that the law still retains its character and value, as a schoolmaster to Christ, even for the regenerate, so long as they have to contend with flesh and blood. Indeed it may be said in general of all the religious forms and symbols of the church, that they tend to awaken true piety in those still in their pupilage, and to promote it in the more advanced; but that they become dangerous the moment they are made indispensable to salvation, and substituted for living faith, or, it may be, even for Christ himself.
Sailing by way of Ephesus, where he left his companions, Aquila and Priscilla, promising to return soon, Paul went to Cæsarea Stratonis; made his fourth, but very short visit to the church at Jerusalem; and afterwards again spent some time in Antioch. He then set out on his third great missionary tour. He first strengthened the churches already founded in Phrygia and Galatia (18:23), and then, in pursuance of his usual missionary policy of directing his chief attention to the most important commercial cities, selected Ephesus for the scene of a protracted activity of nearly three years (19:1 sqq.). He probably arrived there before the winter of the year 54 had yet set in.
Ephesus, the then capital of proconsular Asia, lay near the coast of the Icarian sea, between Smyrna and Miletus, in that fair and fertile province, where twenty-five hundred years ago appeared, in the sanguine, buoyant, and gifted tribe of the Ionians, the first blossoms of Grecian art and literature; where Homer sang the deeds of the Trojan heroes and the return of Ulysses, and Anacreon the light, momentary joys of the heart; where Mimnermus bewailed the rapid flight of youth and love; where Thales, Anaximenes, and Anaximander first woke the spirit of philosopical inquiry concerning the origin, meaning, and end of existence. But besides being a centre of commerce and culture, Ephesus was also a principal seat of the heathen superstition, and of the mystic worship of Artemis. There stood the renowned temple of Diana; built of white marble in the sixth century before Christ; set on fire on the birth-night of Alexander the Great (356 B.C.) by the immortal wantonness of Erostratus; but soon rebuilt in still more magnificent and costly style; ornamented with a hundred and twenty-seven columns; visited by numberless pilgrims; and not finally demolished till the time of Constantine the Great. It contained the image of the great mother of the gods, which was said to have fallen from heaven, and to have remained unchanged from the earliest age;—an image in the shape of a mummy, with many breasts, and mysterious inscriptions, to which a peculiar magical power was attributed, and from which were fabricated formulas of incantation under the name of Ἐφέσια γράμματα.1
Here, therefore, was opened to Paul, as he himself says (1 Cor. 16:9), a great door for extensive usefulness. Here was soon to arise, under his hands, a church, which should surpass in importance the churches of Antioch and Corinth, and become, under John, the centre of Eastern Christendom. To it he communicated, a few years later, in his epistle to the Ephesians, his profoundest disclosures of the glory, the inward nature, and the outward appearance of the bride of Jesus Christ. But from its bosom, too, he already saw coming forth the most dangerous of foes, the pernicious heathen Gnosis; verifying the maxim: Wherever God builds a temple, Satan erects a chapel by its side. From this point he could spread Christianity into all parts of Asia Minor, either by making excursions himself, or by sending out his disciples and assistants; and the many mercantile connections of the city furnished him the most convenient ways of getting intelligence from his churches in Greece. Along with these advantages, however, he had there to encounter, also, new trials and sufferings, and was every day in danger of death.2 His first short visit, which the Jews had desired him to prolong (18:19 sq.), and the faithfulness and zeal of Aquila and his wife, had already prepared the way for the gospel in Ephesus.
He also met there with a singular sort of half-christians, disciples of John the Baptist, twelve in number, who had been baptized by John, and directed to the Messiah. They had also believed in the Messiah, yet without being fully acquainted with the teaching and history of the Lord, and with the operations of his Spirit. Probably they had left Palestine before the resurrection, to announce the advent of the Messiah to the heathen. They thus formed a continued development, independent of the church and therefore very imperfect, of the spirit of prophecy, which flowed into Christianity; they stood between those disciples of John, who passed directly over to Jesus, and the later Sabians, who held John the Baptist for the Messiah, and opposed Christianity. They cheerfully took more ample instruction from Paul, and received the baptism of the Spirit in the name of Jesus, with the customary laying on of hands. Thereupon the new life revealed itself in the extraordinary gifts of the apostolic age, speaking with tongues and prophecy (19:1–6).
After preaching three months in the synagogue, Paul was compelled by the hostility of some Jews to meet the Christian congregation separately, which he did in the lecture-room of Tyrannus, a Greek rhetorician, where he delivered discourses daily for two years.1 Near this place he wrought striking miracles, which were doubly necessary on account of the juggleries of pagan and Jewish magicians, for whom Ephesus was a great rendezvous. Even to the apostle’s handkerchiefs and aprons the people attributed a healing power, and God graciously condescended to their superstitious notions, though without approving them (19:12); nay rather, giving, in the occurrence just afterwards related, a warning; and preservative against them. There were at that time numbers of Jewish exorcists strolling about those parts, who pretended to be able to cast out devils by means of mysterious magical formulas and amulets, which they derived, as they boasted, from king Solomon.2 Some of these jugglers, the seven sons3 of one Sceva, who was either the proper high priest, or the foreman of one of the twenty-four courses of priests, perhaps the head of the Jewish community at Ephesus, and a master magician, desired, like Simon Magus, to turn the semblance of Christianity to account for their selfish purposes, and fancied they were able, by simply calling on the name of Jesus, without sympathy with his Spirit, to produce the same effect as Paul. But the attempt failed. The demon, which they thus exorcised, knew the difference of spirits. The demoniac fell upon the impostors with the almost supernatural muscular power, which often appears in possessed and delirious persons, and abused them so unmercifully, that they fled naked and wounded (v. 13–17). This unexpected demonstration made such an impression, that many, who had formerly made use of the arts of magic, believed in Jesus; nay, even a number of the Goëtae burned their books of magic, which were especially abundant in Ephesus, and the value of which amounted to fifty thousand drachms or denarii—about twenty thousand florins, or eight thousand dollars (v. 17–20). Considering the class of men and the circumstances, this was a splendid and most appropriate victory of light over darkness.1
Paul was now intending to revisit Greece, and had already sent on into Macedonia his assistants, Timothy and Erastus (not to be confounded with the chamberlain of Corinth, Rom. 16:23), when the popular uproar arose against him, described in Acts 19:23 sqq. So fast as his preaching undermined idolatry, those who derived their support from idolatrous practices, and yet refused to forsake them, would necessarily break out against him. Thus, among other things, a check was put upon the extensive traffic in gold and silver models of the renowned temple of Diana, which were manufactured in great multitudes in Ephesus, and were a rich source of gain. The silversmith, Demetrius, who carried on this business on a large scale, stirred up his numerous workmen under the cloak of religion, and through them the common people, against the enemy of the gods, and set the whole city in motion. The populace shouting: “Great is Diana of the Ephesians!” first seized Gaius and Aristarchus, and dragged them to the Amphitheatre, where they were accustomed to hold public meetings. When Paul learned this, he was for exposing himself to save his companions and, if possible, allay the storm. But some of the magistrates, Asiarchs, as they were called, who this year had the oversight of sacred things and public plays in Asia, and who were his friends, dissuaded him. The confusion was increased by the interference of the Jews, who, being also enemies of idolatry, and concerned for their own security, sought to divert the popular rage from themselves to the Christians. Then the multitude cried still more vehemently for two hours: “Great is Diana of the Ephesians!”—though most of them knew not for what they were assembled. At last the recorder or chancellor of the city, by a skillful address, succeeded in vindicating the missionaries, who, it appears, never indulged in abusive language respecting the gods (v. 37); and thus the uproar was silenced.
From this occurrence we see, that the labors of Paul had already shaken the foundations of idolatry in those regions, and had made a highly favorable impression on the most distinguished and influential men, among whom were the Asiarchs and the secretary of the city.1
- . 77. The Epistles to the Galatians and Corinthians
While residing in Ephesus Paul wrote two of his most important epistles—that to the Galatians and the first to the Corinthians. He made the welfare of his remote churches an object of daily supplication and care, and he felt every joy and every sorrow of his spiritual children, as if it were his own (2 Cor. 11:28, 29). He, therefore, endeavored to exert his influence upon them continually; partly by sending his delegates and disciples to them, partly by correspondence.
Soon after his second visit to the Galatian churches,2 Judaizing false teachers, those deadly enemies of the liberal apostle of the Gentiles, had found their way into them, undermined his apostolical standing, charged him with error and officiousness, and laid on the Gentile Christians the yoke of the Jewish ceremonial law. This sad intelligence caused Paul to send them, about the year 55, an autograph letter, full of holy indignation at this unfaithfulness of the Galatians to their Lord and his apostles, at their sinking back from the spirit to the flesh, from the freedom of the gospel to the bondage of the law; but a letter, which breathed at the same time the tenderest love of a father, seeking to reclaim his wandering children. To accomplish his object, he enters upon a full vindication both of himself and of his cause. First he demonstrates his own apostolic dignity, as resting on a direct call and revelation from Christ, and as acknowledged by the older apostles themselves (1:1–2:14). Secondly, he draws out a masterly development of the gospel as distinguished from the law, and of the living faith, which alone makes us children of God and heirs of the promise (2:15–5:12). With this, however, he also warns the few in the congregation, who remained faithful to him, against pride, the abuse of their liberty, and uncharitable contempt for their brethren, who were otherwise minded (5:13–26). He then once more exhorts both parties; entreats them to add no more to his heavy sufferings, which accredit him as a servant of Christ; and closes with the benediction (c. 6).—We know not what effect this letter had. But it is one of the most important parts of the New Testament, and is still, for all Christians, one of the main sources of sound doctrine respecting the law and the gospel.
The circumstances of the Corinthian church had become, during the apostle’s absence, more peculiar and complicated. Here the Christian life had developed itself pre-eminently in its wealth and splendor, and the church shone in the most variegated attire of spiritual gifts, like a field of flowers under the sun of spring.1 But there was a want of thoroughly formed and fixed character and solid earnestness, of regard for authority and order, of humility and mutual fraternal forbearance. The gospel had not yet entirely subdued and sanctified the old Grecian nature. Thus all sorts of imperfections had made their appearance; partly by the force of former habits and of the peculiar temperament and turn of the Greeks; partly through the influence of other teachers, such as Apollos, who continued substantially what Paul had begun, and some Judaizers, who endeavored, as in Galatia, only with greater subtlety, to undermine it. The lights and shades of the apostolic church, especially in its union with the Grecian nationality, here appear concentrated; and the epistles to the Corinthians, accordingly, give us the most complete and graphic picture both of the social life of Christians in those days, and of the vast difficulties, which the apostles had to contend with, and which could be overcome only by the special aid of the Spirit of God.
Before writing his epistle to this church, Paul had paid it a second, but very short visit (“by the way,” 1 Cor. 16:7). This is not mentioned, indeed, in Acts, but it is made tolerably certain by several passages of the two epistles themselves; especially 2 Cor. 12:13, 14 and 13:1, where the apostle speaks of an intended third journey to Corinth, coinciding with the second of the Acts, c. 20:2. This second visit we may fix either with Baronius, Anger, and others, daring Paul’s first residence of a year and a half in Achaia (Acts 18:1–17), making it simply a return to the metropolis after an excursion in the surrounding country; or, as Neander is inclined to do, in the interval between this and his second arrival in Ephesus (Acts 18:18–19:1). But it is after all most probable, that the apostle, during his residence of almost three years in Ephesus (Acts 19), made a missionary excursion from there, in which he touched at Corinth.1 Already had this visit given Paul painful evidence of the re-intrusion of pagan vices into that church under the garb of Christianity. But on his return to Ephesus, he heard still worse accounts, which caused him to write an epistle now lost, forbidding intercourse with professing Christians of licentious habits.2 The Corinthians, in reply, laid before him their doubts about complying with this injunction, which they thought rather too sweeping, extending even to vicious persons out of the church; and at the same time made inquiries as to the disputed points of marriage, of eating meat offered to idols, and of spiritual gifts. Paul received, through this answer and the bearers of it, still more minute intelligence; sent Timothy to Corinth, intending himself soon to follow (1 Cor. 4:17, 19. 16:10. comp. Acts 19:21, 22); and shortly before leaving Ephesus (comp. 1 Cor. 16:8. 5:7, 8), perhaps about Easter of the year 57, wrote with many tears and much anguish of heart (2 Cor. 2:4) a long letter, which carries us into the very heart of a Christian community in its forming state, and gives us illustrious proof of the author’s extraordinary wisdom as a teacher, and of the divine, all-conquering power of the gospel.
- . 78. Parties in the Corinthian Church
After congratulating the church on the abundance of its spiritual gifts, the apostle takes up first (1 Cor. 1:10 sqq.) the divisions which had sprung up among its members, and which he attributes to pride and over-valuation of the natural talents and peculiarities of individuals Here we discern the great fickleness of the Greeks, their party spirit in politics, and their quarrelsomeness in philosophy, transferred to the sphere of Christianity, This spirit of disputation fitted the Greek church, indeed, to act an all-important part in the doctrinal controversies of the first five centuries; but it was also one of the main causes of her subsequent decline. The apostle, in v. 12, mentions four parties. One called itself after Paul, another after Apollos, a third after Cephas or Peter, a fourth, in the same sectarian sense, after Christ. We may presume that the first two parties were composed chiefly of the Gentile Christians, who formed the majority of the church; that the name of Peter was made the watchword of the Jewish Christians; while the Christ party, nowhere else mentioned in the New Testament, is veiled in obscurity, and has given rise to very different conjectures.1
- The party of Paul, which was perhaps the most numerous and the most clearly defined in opposition to the other tendencies, doubtless adhered, indeed, to the doctrine of that apostle; but some of them carried it to an extreme, boasting as the sole possessors of true knowledge and spiritual freedom; roughly and uncharitably repulsing the more contracted Jewish Christians, whose views, nevertheless, had just claim to regard; deriding their scrupulousness; and, against the apostolic ordinance (Acts 15), wounding their consciences, by eating meat offered to idols (1 Cor. 8:1 sqq. 9:19 sqq. 10:23 sqq).
- The second party rallied around Apollos (Apollonius), an Alexandrian Jew. He had come to this city soon after Paul’s first short visit to Ephesus, and, though then only a disciple of John the Baptist, had proclaimed the reign of the Messiah with glowing enthusiasm in the synagogue. More precisely instructed in Christianity by Aquila. and Priscilla, and provided by the brethren with recommendations, he went to Corinth, taught there some time with great success, and then returned to Ephesus, where he had a personal interview with Paul.2 Luke describes him as an eloquent man, learned in the Scriptures (Acts 18:24–28); and Paul also speaks very favorably of him as a faithful work-fellow, and urges him to return to Corinth. We may hence conclude with certainty, that, in his views of Christianity, Apollos agreed substantially with Paul, and built on his foundation. The difference between the two was not one of spirit and aim, but simply of peculiar gifts and modes of operating. Paul was specially fitted to lay the foundation, Apollos to carry up the building; or, according to the apostle’s figure, the former to plant the church, the latter to water it (1 Cor. 3:6). Add to this, that Apollos,—as may be inferred from his parentage, and from the epithets applied to him by Luke and Paul,—having probably gone through the Alexandrian-Jewish school of theology, was better versed in the Greek language, and more rhetorical in his discourse.1 Hence he has been regarded by many scholars, Luther first, and latterly Bleek, Tholuck, and De Wette,—though without any support from patristic tradition,—as the author of the epistle to the Hebrews, which is characterized by great beauty and eloquence of style, and striking allegorical interpretation. But the cultivated among the Corinthians made too much of this personal accomplishment, and were disposed to undervalue the more simple, unadorned preaching of the cross, which human nature, in its fancied wisdom and importance, condemns and treads under foot. Here we find the germ of the later school of Clement and Origen, which placed the Gnosis and Pistis, philosophical and popular Christianity, in a false position of antagonism. Most probably, therefore, what the apostle says against the desire of the Greeks for wisdom, and their over-valuation of knowledge and brilliant language (1 Cor. 1:18 sqq. 2:1 sqq.), was aimed, not indeed at Apollos himself, who certainly knew how to distinguish the true wisdom from the false, and who used rhetoric merely as a means to a higher end, but at his disciples, who went beyond him. A morbid admiration of philosophy and eloquence, moreover, was constitutional with the Greeks as a whole, the Christian portion among the rest.
- These two parties of Paul and Apollos, accordingly, agreed in holding Gentile-Christian principles, but differed in their ways of apprehending and setting them forth. Over against them both stood the party of Cephas. To them Paul addresses himself from the ninth chapter onward, and he frequently combats it, either directly or indirectly, but in the most delicate manner, in his second epistle to the Corinthians. It consisted of Jewish Christians, who could not rid themselves of their old legal prejudices, and rise to the freedom of the gospel. Yet they do not seem, like the Galatian errorists, to have made circumcision and the observance of the whole ceremonial law the condition of salvation. At all events they did not come out openly with such doctrine. The Greeks had no susceptibility for this rigid, Pharisaic Judaism. They proceeded, therefore, more cautiously, directing their attacks entirely against the apostolical authority of Paul. This once undermined, they could then venture further. They pronounced Paul an illegitimate pseudo-apostle, and opposed to him, as the only true apostles, those who had enjoyed personal intercourse with Christ; who had been called and instructed by himself in the days of his flesh; above all, Peter, to whom the Lord had assigned a certain primacy. Of course Peter did not fall in with them, any more than did Paul with the light-minded Paulinians, or Apollos with the conceited Apollonians. His prominent position among the apostles of the Jews the false teachers perverted to their own ends against his will. Yet it is very probable, that some of them were personal disciples of Peter, and felt bound to him by gratitude; which also best accounts for the name of the party.
- Far more difficult is it to determine the peculiar character of the Christ party, the οἱ τοῦ Χριστοῦ, respecting which we have no certain hints to guide us. Had they called themselves “of Christ” in the good sense, as also Paul, in opposition to all sectarianism and bondage to men, would be simply a disciple of Christ (1 Cor. 3:23), we should be saved all further inquiry.1 But in this case Paul would have held them up as a pattern to the other parties; which he does not do. He rather counts them as a sect along with the three others, and immediately proceeds in the strain of censure: “Is Christ divided?” (1 Cor. 1:13). From this we must infer, that the Christ party made Christ himself a sectarian leader, and perverted his name, as the Pauline faction did that of Paul, the Apollonians that of Apollos, and the Petrines, that of Peter, for selfish party purposes. The simplest explanation of the name of this faction according to the analogy of the other sectarian names, would be the fact, if it could be proved, that this party, or at least its leaders, were personal disciples or auditors of Jesus, and prided themselves particularly on this knowledge of Christ after the flesh (2 Cor. 5:16). It is in itself very possible, that many of our Lord’s hearers lived twenty or thirty years after his death, and were scattered amongst the Christian communities in the larger cities. But however this may be, the appellation warrants us in supposing, that this party made the name of Christ their watch-word, in an exclusive, sectarian sense, after the fashion of the North American sect of “Christians” or “Disciples of Christ;” or like the Weinbrennerians, who assume, in opposition to all the rest of Christendom, the arrogant title: “The Church of God.” This, however, gives us very little satisfaction respecting their peculiar theological character; since the name of Christ and the appeal to the Bible must have been made, even at this early day, a cloak for all possible errors On this point four different views have been proposed by Storr, Baur, Neander, and Schenkel respectively, which merit a detailed consideration. None of them, however, can give perfect satisfaction. For Paul makes no further mention of the Christ party; and the passages, which have been applied to it, may just as well be referred to the party of Peter. We here find ourselves, therefore, entirely in the region of exegetical and critical conjecture.
If we consider, that there existed in the apostolic age two great opposing forces, Gentile Christianity and Jewish Christianity, and the germs of the corresponding heresies of Gnosticism and Ebionism; that, furthermore, the first two Corinthian parties were simply different shades of the Gentile Christian tendency; we might easily conclude, that between the last two parties, also, there was no essential difference, and that the Christ party must accordingly be counted as Jewish-Christian. This view, however, admits of two modifications. Storr1 supposes, that the party in question made James, the brother of the Lord (Gal. 1:19), their leader, and attached great importance to his consanguinity with Jesus. To this the “knowing Christ after the flesh” alludes (2 Cor. 5:13); and for this reason Paul speaks of the “brethren of the Lord” (1 Cor. 9:5), and of James in particular, along with Peter (1 Cor. 15:7). But in this case they must have styled themselves rather, οἱ τοῦ κυρίου, or οἱ τοῦ Ἰησοῦ, or still more accurately, οἱ τοῦ Ἰακώβου (comp. Gal. 2:12). We should also expect that the followers of James would lay far more stress on the law, than those of Peter; yet the epistles to the Corinthians nowhere come into conflict with a strictly legal tendency. Hence Baur identifies the Christ party with the party of Peter. The same members of the church, he thinks, called themselves after Cephas, because he stood at the head of the Jewish apostles, and at the same time after Christ, because they made immediate personal connection with Christ the grand mark of apostolical authority; for which very reason they refused to acknowledge Paul, who arose later, as an apostle of equal birth.1 This view Baur ingeniously endeavors to substantiate by all those passages, in which Paul demonstrates, that he has the same right, as any other, to call himself an apostle of Christ; particularly 2 Cor. 10:7. But this hypothesis, with all its plausibility, has against it the fact, that Paul designates the parties of Peter and Christ as two, and therefore distinct.
If, on the contrary, we start from the name of the Christ party, which seems to contain an antithesis to the human names of the apostles, we rather reach the conclusion, that, in an arrogant and arbitrary spirit, they rejected all human authority, and, in opposition to the followers of any apostle, in opposition to the mediation ordained by God himself, were for holding simply to Christ. So a number of ancient and modern sects appeal to the Bible alone, against the church doctrine and symbols; while yet they take but a partial and distorted view of the Scriptures, through the spectacles of their own traditional preconceptions, and only add to the ecclesiastical divisions, against which they profess to contend.2 But with this general result we shall have to be content. For a more definite knowledge of the Christ party we have no certain data.
We must, however, notice two more hypotheses lately propounded. The Swiss divine, Schenkel,1 holds the “Christians” to have been false mystics and visionaries, who took their name not merely because they acknowledged the authority of no apostle, but also because their leaders, the “false apostles, deceitful workers,” attacked by Paul in 2 Cor. 11:13, pretended to maintain, by visions and revelations, an immediate, mysterious communion with Christ, and thus threatened to substitute a subjective, ideal Christ for the historical one. De Wette, who here substantially agrees with his former pupil, puts them in the same category with the theosophic errorists in Colosse, and pronounces them Judaizing Gnostics. The proof of this is found particularly in the twelfth chapter of 2 Corinthians, where the apostle is forced to boast of his own visions in opposition to these enthusiasts. But this hypothesis rests upon a series of arbitrary and artificial combinations; and the latter passage is evidently directed against the adversaries of Paul’s apostolic authority in general. More simple and plausible is the supposition of Neander, that the Christ party consisted of wisdom-seeking Greeks, and embodied a philosophico-rationalistic tendency, which regarded Christ as a second and higher Socrates.2 He identifies it with the opponents of the doctrine of the resurrection, who are attacked in the fifteenth chapter of the first epistle. These errorists, he thinks, probably conceived the resurrection as altogether spiritual and ideal, and as something already past (comp. 2 Tim. 2:17, 18); and this suits philosophically educated Greeks far better than Jews. A reference to the Sadducees seems to be forbidden here by the character of the apostle’s entire argument, as compared with our Lord’s way of refuting them from the Pentateuch, to which they appealed (Matt. 22:23 sqq). Rejection of the human media of divine revelation, appointed by God himself, almost always leads to a rationalistic tendency, if it does not start from one in the first place. We might refer for illustration to the Neo-Platonist, Porphyry, in the third century, also to some extent to the Manicheans, and in modern times to many Deists and Rationalists, who have imagined an antagonism between a Christianity of Christ, and a Christianity of the apostles and the church, and have explained the latter as a corruption of the former.1 As already remarked, however, for want of sure data, this view of Neander, like the others, cannot rise to certainty, and labors under various difficulties, which Baur, in particular, has acutely brought out. The greatest objection to it is, perhaps, that the name of the Christ party seems to point to some specific outward relation to Christ, and thus to indicate rather a Jewish than a Gentile origin. And that a rationalistic tendency, which casts off all human authority, could proceed even from Judaism, is proved by Sadducism.
Besides this party spirit, Paul rebuked still other faults, not all necessarily connected with this,2 yet more or less influenced by it, and checking the pure development of the Christian life. Among these we notice especially the incestuous connection of a church member with his stepmother (1 Cor. 5:1 sqq.), and unchastity in general (5:9 sqq. 6:12 sqq. 2 Cor. 12:21). Of this vice the people of Corinth, that πόλις ἐπαφροδιτοτάτη, as Dio Chrysostom calls it in the bad sense, had the most inadequate and superficial conception; for about the renowned temple of Venus in that city there lived upwards of a thousand priestesses as public prostitutes. This scandal in the church the apostle rebukes with overwhelming earnestness, requiring the exclusion of the offender from the congregation. He then goes on to censure the practice of carrying suits into heathen courts, instead of settling the difficulties before the tribunal of the church (1 Cor. 6:2 sqq). The difference of opinion respecting the merit of the unmarried life he adjusts by conceding to that state in certain circumstances, according to his own view, the preference over the married state; but without laying down a law about it for any one (c. 7). As to participating in the sacrificial meals of the heathen, and eating meat which had been offered to idols, he recommends a charitable regard to weak consciences (c. 8 and 10). He next rebukes the unbecoming freedom of women in respect to covering the head (11:1 sqq.); the light treatment and profanation of the love-feasts on the part of the rich (11:17 sqq.); disorder in the worship of God, the over-valuation and vain parading of extraordinary spiritual gifts, especially that of tongues. Against this he holds up the truth, that all gifts are intended to subserve the glory of Christ and the edification of his people, and, in that incomparably beautiful picture in c. 12–14, drawn as with the pencil of a seraph, extols love as the most precious gift of all. Finally, in the fifteenth chapter, in opposition to Epicurean and skeptical views, he treats of the resurrection of the body, and the complete development of the Christian church to the point where God becomes all in all. Then (c. 16), with an exhortation respecting the collection for the Christians in Jerusalem, with intelligence respecting himself, and with salutations, the epistle closes.
- . 79. A New Visit to Greece. Second Epistle to the Corinthians. A.D. 57
Some weeks after writing the first epistle to the Corinthians, about Pentecost of the year 57 (1 Cor. 16:8), Paul left Ephesus, intending to visit his churches in Greece, return thence to Jerusalem, and then go for the first time to the capital of the world (Acts 20:1. Comp. 19:21). Travelling first to Troas, he preached there some time. There he hoped, also, to meet Titus, whom he had sent to Corinth a little after Timothy (2 Cor. 12:18. 7:13–15), and to learn from him what impression his first epistle had made; but in this he was disappointed (2 Cor. 2:12, 13). He then sailed to Macedonia (Acts 20:1. Comp. 1 Cor. 16:5), where he experienced, indeed, much outward and inward trouble (2 Cor. 7:5), but at the same time the joy of finding his churches in a flourishing condition. For they had approved themselves in tribulation, and, notwithstanding their great poverty, had joyfully contributed to the support of the churches in Judea, even beyond their power (2 Cor. 8:1–5). This collection was at that time a matter of special concern with the apostle, and he recommended it also very urgently to the Christians in Achaia (1 Cor. 16:1–3. 2 Cor. 8 and 9). In Macedonia he met his anxiously expected messenger, Titus, with accounts from Corinth, which were on the whole cheering.1 His first epistle had given a salutary shock to the feelings of the largest and best part of the community, and awakened a godly sorrow (2 Cor. 7:6 sqq). The incestuous person (1 Cor. 5:1) had been excommunicated by the majority, and now manifested penitence, so that the same majority besought Paul, that they might be allowed to treat him more mildly;—a request which Paul, also, to save the penitent from despair and prevent a greater evil, gladly granted (2 Cor. 2:5–10). But, on the other hand, the Judaizing antagonists of the apostle were only the more embittered against him, and sought to impeach his purest motives, accusing him of weakness and inconsistency, haughtiness and self-interest.1
In this state of things Paul thought it advisable, during his stay in Macedonia, probably in the summer of the year 57, before appearing at Corinth in person,2 to write once more to the Christians in Corinth and the whole province of Achaia (2 Cor. 1:1), and by this means to remove beforehand, if possible, every hindrance to a joyful and fruitful visit there. The contents of this epistle may be divided into three parts. In the first six chapters the apostle describes his late protracted perils in Ephesus, and his divine consolations under them; advises the restoration of the penitent fornicator; and then portrays the office of a gospel preacher, and his own conduct as an apostle. Chapters 8 and 9 treat of the collection of alms for the poor Jewish Christians in Jerusalem. In the third part (c. 10–13), he defends himself against the charges of the false apostles, and confronts their pretensions with his own self-denying labors and the revelations imparted to him.3
The second epistle to the Corinthians is less important for doctrine, than the first and the epistle to the Romans, but is the more interesting as an exhibition of the personal character of the apostle. None of his other letters give us so clear a view of his noble, tender heart, the sufferings and joys of his inward life, his alternations of feeling, his anxieties and struggles for the welfare of his churches. These were his daily and hourly care, as his children, whom he had brought forth in travail, and the mortification their conduct had caused him, far from cooling his affection for them, only inflamed his love and his holy zeal for their eternal salvation. The epistle is evidently the fruit, not so much of calm, clear reflection, as of deep and strong emotion, like the book of the prophet Jeremiah. Hence its abrupt, often obscure, and harsh, but fascinating and striking style; its sudden transitions; its bold strokes of light and shade in depicting spiritual states and experiences. Without this epistle, we should be ignorant of one of the essential traits of that incomparable man, whose heart was as warm and tender, as his mind was strong and profound.
Paul sent this letter to the Corinthians by Titus and two other brethren, charging them to complete the collection already begun for the Palestinian Christians (8:6–23. 9:3, 5). Perhaps late in the autumn of this year, after having extended his field of operations, personally or through agents, from Macedonia to Illyria, a province on the eastern coast of the Adriatic (comp. Rom. 15:19), he went himself to Hellas, and spent three months in Corinth and its vicinity (Acts 20:2 sq. Comp. 1 Cor. 16:6). Respecting his subsequent relation to this remarkable church, the history is silent. But we have another invaluable monument of his activity at this period in his epistle to the Romans. This letter was designed to prepare the way for his labors in the metropolis of the world, which he intended to visit in the ensuing year, 58 (Acts 19:21. 23:11. Rom. 1:13, 15. 15:23–28).
- . 80. The Church at Rome, and the Epistle to the Romans. A.D. 58
The exact origin of the Roman church, which plays a part of such extraordinary moment in ecclesiastical history, is veiled in mysterious darkness. We regard it as similar to the rise of the church at Antioch, which was originally an assembly of the disciples of the apostles and emigrant members of the church of Jerusalem, and was afterwards placed on a firmer foundation, and permanently organized by Barnabas, Peter, and Paul.1 We should presume, that the news of the gospel reached Rome at a very early day. For the world’s metropolis was a centre of confluence for all nations and religions; and Ovid could justly say: “Orbis in urbe erat.”2 In Rom. 16:7, also, among the Roman Christians, some are saluted, who became believers before Paul. It is even possible, though certainly not demonstrable, that the seeds of this congregation were sown on the birth-day of the church. For, among the eye and ear witnesses of the miracle of Pentecost, Jews from Rome are expressly enumerated (Acts 2:10); and these may have carried back with them to their homes the first news of Christianity. In this case the apostle Peter, who bore so prominent a part in the transactions of the day of Pentecost, would be certainly, in some sense, the founder of that church; and it is to be presumed that he continued to exert upon it, through his disciples, an important influence. But that Peter himself was in Rome before the year 63, it is utterly impossible to prove. In Acts 12:17 it is said, that, after his liberation from prison, shortly before the death of Herod Agrippa, therefore in the year 44, he left Jerusalem, and went into “another place.” The history gives us no further information respecting his subsequent sphere of labor; and this chasm leaves room, indeed, for the supposition, that under the emperor Claudius, as we are first told by Eusebius, he made a transient visit to the imperial city—(we say a transient visit; for in the year 50 we find him again in Jerusalem, Acts 15, and somewhat later in Antioch, Gal. 2:11)—and labored among the many Jews collected there. But this supposition has against it the fact, that neither the Acts of the Apostles, nor the epistles of Paul, contain, even where we should certainly expect it, the slightest hint of any previous operations of Peter there; but rather furnish clear proof of his absence between the years 50 and 63, as we shall hereafter (§ 93) more fully show. At all events, he cannot have been there when the epistle to the Romans was written, or Paul would certainly have mentioned him among his many personal friends in the salutations of c. 16. It is very doubtful, moreover, whether the apostle, whose professed principle it was to work independently, and not to encroach upon the domain of his colleagues,1 would have written so long and important a letter to the Roman church, had it then already stood under the special personal direction of Peter.
The first clear trace of a formal Christian congregation in Rome has been rightly found by judicious historians in the edict of the emperor Claudius (41–54), banishing the whole body of Jews from the city, because they kept up a constant uproar at the instigation of “Chrestus.”2 Now we may, it is true, suppose the Chrestus, named by Suetonius as the cause of this perpetual tumult, to have been a seditious Jew then living, one of those political false prophets, who abounded in Palestine before the destruction of Jerusalem. But as no such person is otherwise known to us, and as it is a fact, that the Romans often used Chrestus for Christus,3 it is more than probable, that the same mistake is made also in this edict; and the popular tumults must, accordingly, be referred to the controversies between the Jews and Christians, who were at that time in the view of the heathen not very distinct from one another. This is confirmed by Luke, who, in Acts 18:2, among the Jews banished from Rome in the year 51, names Aquila and his wife, Priscilla; yet they were no doubt then already converted, since Paul was at once hospitably received by them. But, however this may be, this edict must soon have lost all force, especially after the accession of Nero (A.D. 54), who, with his wife, Poppaea, favored the Jews.1 Besides, Christianity had, in all probability, already taken root among the Gentiles, and that, doubtless, chiefly through the instrumentality of the disciples of Paul (comp. Rom. 16); and the Gentiles were not touched by this edict. A few years afterwards, A.D. 58, when the epistle to the Romans was written, the Roman congregation was already very numerous and important; in fact, the most important church in what is properly called the West. This is clear from its wide-spread fame (Rom. 1:8); from the large number of its teachers (c. 16), and its different places of meeting (16:5, 14, 15); and from the transcendent doctrinal importance of the epistle. Add to this the fact, that in Rome the two leading apostles ended their sublime public career, and sealed it with their blood;—and we have the historical and religious groundwork of the immense authority and influence, which the Roman church swayed already in the second and third centuries.
As to its ingredients, this church was, no doubt, like all the congregations out of Palestine, a mixture of Jewish and Gentile Christians (Rom. 15:7 sqq.). The presence of Jewish Christians is implied in Rom. 4:1, 12, where Abraham is designated as πατὴρ ἡμῶν; 7:1–6, where Paul addresses those who know the law; 14:1 sqq., where he recommends indulgence towards the weak in faith, who, like the Jewish Christians in Corinth (1 Cor. 8), abstain from meat and wine (probably the sacrificial flesh and wine placed before them when eating in company with the Gentiles), and scrupulously observe the Jewish feasts. That Rome, also, was not without its Judaizers, who opposed Paul and his liberal principles, is evident, partly, from the analogy of other churches, as those of Galatia and Corinth; partly, from Rom. 16:17 sqq.; and still more plainly from some passages of epistles written a few years after, during the Apostle’s imprisonment in Rome, as Phil. 1:15 sqq. 2:20, 21. Col. 4:11. 2 Tim. 4:16. But the great majority of the congregation consisted, no doubt, of Gentile Christians. This is probable in itself; since Rome was the centre of Heathendom, and maintained the most active intercourse with the chief seats of Paul’s labors, Antioch, Asia Minor, and Greece. There are also clear indications of it in the epistle, especially in such passages as Rom. 1:5–7, 13, where by the ἔθνη, among whom the apostle classes the Romans, we are, as usual, to understand Gentiles; 11:13, 25, 28, where he particularly addresses Gentile Christians; 14:1 sqq., where he exhorts them to be charitable towards the prejudices of the Jewish Christians; 15:15, 16, where he derives his right to instruct and strengthen the Roman church from his call to be the apostle of the Gentiles. We may also suppose that, at least at that time, Paul’s view of Christianity was the one which prevailed in Rome. For in c. 16 Paul salutes many there who were his followers and friends; Aquila and Priscilla, who had returned from Ephesus to Rome, Epenetus of Achaia, and others. He moreover has a strong desire to visit that church (1:11, 15. 15:23); is on the whole satisfied with its practical Christianity (1:8. 15:14); finds no difference between its gospel and his (2:16. 6:17. 16:17, 25); and nowhere contends, at least directly, as in his epistles to the Galatians and Corinthians, against Jewish false teachers and personal opponents of his apostolical standing.1
As Paul had for years cherished a desire to preach the gospel in the metropolis of the world,2 he wished, in the mean time, before carrying out this design, to compensate and prepare for oral instruction by sending a written communication; and for this he had a favorable opportunity in the departure of the deaconess, Phebe, from Cenchreae near Corinth for Rome (Rom. 16:1). The grand object of the letter was the positive exhibition of saving truth, of the great central doctrine of justifying, sanctifying, and saving faith in Jesus Christ, as the only ground of salvation for lost sinners, Jews as well as Gentiles (1:16). To Rome, the mistress of the world, whose great importance for the future history of the church he clearly foresaw, Paul was not ashamed freely and fearlessly to proclaim the gospel as the only hope for humanity languishing under the curse of sin and death; to announce Christianity as the absolute revelation, in which Heathenism and Judaism must merge, if they would have their deepest longings satisfied, and all their prophecies and types fulfilled. This epistle, therefore, presents the most complete and systematic view of Paul’s theology, and is the most important dogmatic portion of the New Testament. We are far from denying, that, along with his main object, the apostle had regard also, particularly in the hortatory parts, to the special wants and faults of the congregation, with which he might easily have become acquainted through letters from his friends in Rome. Among these particular subjects of animadversion were the disposition to resist the civil authority (c. 13); the doubts of weak believers (14); the narrow prejudices and carnal pretensions of the Jews (9 and 10); the incipient intrigues of the Jewish Christians (16:17–20); and the bickerings between them and the Gentile converts (15:7–9). But we must not make these polemical side-glances, these references to special circumstanees, the main object of the epistle, and thus misplace the true point of view, from which it was written. In the epistle as a whole, the general scope as above stated, viz., the analysis of the doctrines of the sin of man, the redeeming grace of God in Christ, and the new life of faith, plainly occupies the foreground.
The train of thought is as follows: The apostle, immediately after the introduction, propounds his theme: The gospel, the power of God for the salvation of all men through faith (1:16, 17). He then treats (1) of the universal sinfulness of Gentiles and Jews, and their need of redemption (1:18–3:20); (2) of the provision of salvation, or the revelation of righteousness through Christ, especially through his atoning death, and of justifying faith in him, the second Adam, who has given us far more than we lost in the first (3:21–5:21); (3) of the moral effects of faith, or the marriage of the soul with Christ, of sanctification, of walking in the spirit, and of the blessedness of the state of adoption (6–8). Then follows (4) an exceedingly profound discussion of divine election and reprobation, and of the progressive development of the kingdom of God;—a sort of philosophy of church history;—the demonstration, that the rejection of the unbelieving Jews, through the unsearchable counsel of God, subserved the conversion of the Gentiles, and that, when the fulness of the Gentiles shall have come in, the hour of all Israel’s redemption shall strike;—whereupon the apostle breaks out into a rapturous eulogy of the grace and wisdom of God (9–11). Thus he had proved the last point of his theme (1:16), that the gospel is the power of God unto salvation “to the Jew first, and also to the Greek,” the representative of the whole heathen world. (5) To this doctrinal portion, which forms the main body of the epistle, he adds, according to his custom, in c. 12–16, copious practical exhortations, closing with recommendations, greetings, benediction, and doxology.
The epistle to the Romans, therefore, like that to the Galatians, proceeds entirely from the anthropological point of view, the nature of man as in need of redemption, and his relation to the law of God. In this respect it is admirably adapted to the peculiar character and turn of the Latin church, of which Rome was so long the centre. The Oriental Greek church, in virtue of her propensity to speculation, took more to the later christological epistles of Paul to the Ephesians and Colossians, and still more to the writings of John, and developed from them with the greatest precision the fundamental doctrines of the nature of God, the Trinity, the Incarnation, and the relation of the two natures in Christ, while to anthropology and soteriology she paid very little attention. Then when it subsequently came the turn of the Western church to labor in the development of doctrine, she, led by the great Augustine, who so much resembled Paul, drew the material for her system of anthropology and soteriology, and for the more immediately practical doctrines of sin and grace, chiefly from the epistle to the Romans. And when, in the course of the Middle Ages, the Roman church, as once the Galatians, wandered from the path of the gospel back into Jewish legalism, from justification by faith to justification by works, it was preeminently the renewed study of the epistles to the Romans and to the Galatians, which armed the Reformers of the sixteenth century for the battle against all Pelagianism, and pointed the way to a deeper understanding of the doctrine of salvation, of the nature of the law and the gospel, of faith and justification. The epistle to the Romans, too, has ever since continued to be the main bulwark of evangelical Protestantism; though by this we by no means intend to say, that Protestantism has everywhere rightly conceived and has already thoroughly fathomed its contents.
- . 81. The Fifth and Last Journey to Jerusalem. A.D. 58
After staying three months in Achaia, Paul set about the execution of his purpose, to go once more to Jerusalem, to wind up his labors in the East, and then to carry the gospel to Rome and Spain (Rom. 15:22–25). For this visit to Jerusalem he had both an outward occasion, and an inward motive. In the first place, the collection for the poor Jewish Christians, which had been gathered during the past year, and which proved a large one, he wished himself to carry, that, with this supply for their bodily wants, he might also give the mother church a practical testimony of the grateful love and pious zeal of the Greek Christians, and, so far as in him lay, knit more firmly together the two grand divisions of the church.1 The perfect healing of the inward schism, which, through the persevering machinations of the Judaizers, threatened continually to break forth anew, must have appeared to him, with his conception of the church as the body of Christ, to be, even in itself, worth any effort and sacrifice, and at the same time indispensable to the further successful propagation of the gospel. But to this outward occasion was added the being “bound in spirit,” of which the apostle speaks in his farewell address to the elders of Ephesus (Acts 20:22); that is, an indefinable inward constraint, in which he recognized a higher impulse from the Holy Ghost, to go to meet the event which should decide his own fate,—he arrest at Jerusalem. Hence he gave no ear to the voices, which would deter him from this journey; convinced, that even the bondage and tribulation, which awaited him in Jerusalem, must redound to the glory of God and the good of the church (20:23, 24. 21:13, 14).
Paul, therefore, leaving Corinth in the spring of the year 58, spent the season of Easter in Philippi, where he again met with Luke, and then sailed with him2 to Troas, whither his seven companions, Sopater, Aristarchus, Secundus, Caius, Timothy, Tychicus, and Trophimus, had gone before by the direct sea route (Acts 20:4–6). There he remained a week with the church founded by him a year before, strengthening it by his exhortations, and by the miraculous resuscitation of the young man, Eutyches, who, during a discourse protracted beyond midnight, had fallen asleep in the window and been precipitated into the street. As the apostle wished to be in Jerusalem at Pentecost, he sailed along the coast by Ephesus, but sent for the elders of this and perhaps the neighboring churches,1 to meet him at Miletus, a maritime city of Ionia, lying somewhat further south.
Here, in the face of the dangers which threatened him, and with the mournful presentiment that he should never see them again, he delivered to them a hortatory and apologetic valedictory (Acts 20:17–38), which breathes the most touching love for his spiritual children and the most faithful care for the future welfare of the church. He first reminded the bishops of his labors in Ephesus; how, from the first day of his residence there, with all possible humility, and in the midst of many tears and temptations, caused particularly by the waylayings of the Jews (this is merely hinted at in Acts 19:9), he had unremittingly served the Lord, and had withheld from the church nothing which was needful for its spiritual profit, but had preached publicly and in private circles the whole way of life (v. 18–21). An apostle could, doubtless, without any violation of humility, point to himself, and through himself to the Lord, as the highest example,2 as, indeed, true humility in any one consists not so much in ignoring his own virtue, as in referring it to its source, the free, unmerited grace of God, and in feeling his entire dependence on that source.3 He then announces to them (v. 22–25) his separation from them, which was to be forever. For from church to church as he passed along (comp. 21:4, 11), prophetic voices predicted, that bonds and afflictions awaited him. But he allowed them not to stop him. He was prepared to finish his course of witness-bearing with joy, and to sacrifice his life in the service of the Saviour. The words, v. 25: “I know that ye all shall see my face no more,” are, we may add, no certain evidence against those, who advocate a second imprisonment of Paul in Rome, and suppose, that, after being liberated from the first, he again came into Asia Minor (2 Tim. 4:13, 20). For the infallible foreknowledge of the future, especially in personal matters, is not one of the necessary marks of an apostle;1 and the epistles written during the apostle’s confinement at Rome show, that he was uncertain respecting the issue. Here, in the sorrowful hour of departure, his prevailing feeling was, that the separation was final. Hence he exhorts the elders or bishops the more earnestly and emphatically to watchfulness over themselves,—lest, having preached to others, they themselves should be cast away,—and to the faithful and disinterested care of the church, which the Holy Ghost had committed to them, and which the Lord had purchased with his own blood (v. 26–35). This exhortation, which must be regarded as the main design of the address, he enforces by pointing forward to the false teachers, who, after his departure, would intrude upon them from without, nay, rise up from among themselves,2 and, like fierce wolves, destroy the flock (29, 30). This must, without question, be understood of the Judaizing Gnostics, or their forerunners, who are attacked openly in the Pastoral Epistles and the epistle to the Colossians,3 and more covertly and indirectly in the epistle to the Ephesians and the writings of John. The conditions of such an adulteration of Christianity with foreign elements were all at hand in Ephesus, where Jewish and heathen superstition and magic had fixed one of their chief centres.4 After thus showing the dangers which threatened the church, the apostle commends his hearers to the protection of Almighty God, and once more presents for their imitation the example of his three years’ labor. He reminds them how with the most unwearied care and the most disinterested devotion he served the Lord and his people; earned with his own hands the sustenance of himself and his companions; and in so doing experienced abundantly the truth of a saying of Christ not recorded in the Gospels: “It is more blessed to give, than to receive;”—that is, it makes one more happy to be in want and to starve from love for others, than to possess and enjoy at others’ expense; which is absolutely true of God, the Giver of every good gift and the Fountain of all happiness (31–35).5
Then, as Luke depicts the scene in the simplest, yet most expressive and touching words (v. 36–38), the apostle knelt down, prayed with his spiritual children, and parted from them with warm embraces and tears.
A similar parting scene occurred at the Phenician commercial city, Tyre, where the ship discharged her cargo. After vainly endeavering to keep him from pursuing his journey, the brethren, with their wives and children, accompanied him with heavy hearts to the harbor, and knelt down with him on the shore, and prayed (21:3–5). In Caesarea Stratonis Paul again staid some days with his attendants in the house of Philip, the evangelist, one of the seven first deacons of the church at Jerusalem; and here also he was warned of the impending danger. The prophet, Agabus of Judea, the same who had predicted the famine of the year 44 (11:28), bound himself hand and foot with Paul’s girdle,1 and said: “Thus saith the Holy Ghost, So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man that owneth this girdle, and shall deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles” (21:11). Here the members of the church and Paul’s companions, from the impulse of their own hearts, united in beseeching him, urgently and with tears, not to go to Jerusalem. But he felt compelled to obey his inward desire and the voice of duty, rather than the counsel of friends and disciples, though it proceeded from pure love to him and regard for the welfare of the church, and therefore deeply moved his full heart. He was ready not only to be bound, but also to die, for the name of the Lord Jesus. The brethren finally submitted to the will of the Lord. Some of them accompanied the apostle on his last journey to the city “which killed the prophets and stoned them which were sent unto it.” With one of the oldest Christians, Manson of Cyprus, the missionaries to the Gentiles found a hospitable reception and lodging.
- . 82. The Arrest of Paul. A.D. 58
We here reach a point, which forms an epoch in the life of Paul. For twenty years he had preached the gospel, as an itinerant missionary, from city to city, from land to land, and by the grace of God had labored more than all the other apostles (1 Cor. 15:10). Henceforth he was to serve his divine Master yet several years in chains and in prison, till at last he should glorify Him by martyrdom. This second part of his apostolic life, like the first, has been an incalculable blessing to the church, not only of his own day, but of all ages, and gives, if possible, still stronger proof of the power of his faith and the divine character of the Christian religion.
He came to Jerusalem as a messenger of peace; full of anxious love for his kinsmen according to the flesh, for whose conversion, could it thus have been effected, he was ready himself to undergo the punishment of the damned (Rom. 9:3). He came, also, laden with the liberal gift of the Grecian brethren to the poor churches of Judea, and animated with a sincere desire for the firmer union of all the Christians. But he had to meet a bitter experience of the ingratitude of the world and the false brethren. The persecution proceeded from the unbelieving Jews who thirty years before had crucified the Lord of glory himself. They hated the apostle as an apostate from the law and a rebel against the authority of God. They followed him with the same blind fanaticism, in which he himself had once vainly labored to exterminate the infant society of Christians. But as the Saviour was betrayed by one of his own disciples, and denied in the hour of danger by another, so here it would seem, that the narrow-minded, Pharisaical portion of the Jewish Christians were accomplices in the arrest of Paul, while the more liberal portion forsook him from fear of men. For we have, in fact, already found the former his bitterest enemies, taking all pains to undermine his reputation and his influence; and as to the others, we at least have no account of their having put in so much as a word with either the Jewish or the heathen magistrates in behalf of the captive servant of Christ. But this is the more strange, since James, with his elders, states the number of converted Jews in Jerusalem to have been many myriads, or tens of thousands (Acts 21:20). This may, indeed, be taken merely as a natural hyperbole to denote an indefinite multitude, and as including also the Jewish Christians of the whole vicinity, as well as those from other countries, who were present at the feast; still, with all we know of the later history of the church at Jerusalem,1 the number seems incredibly large, unless we assume, that at least a considerable part consisted of those, who had been baptized, indeed, as Christians, with water, but not with fire, and hence, in the critical hour, either fell back into proper Judaism, or propagated themselves as an Ebionistic sect. That the disposition to apostatize was very strong, we see from the epistle to the Hebrews, which was addressed to the Jewish Christians of Palestine, and written, though not by Paul himself, yet by one of his disciples under the immediate influence of his own spirit. We have reason to suppose, that the appearance of Christ after his death had a powerful effect also on the great mass of those, who, though they had been offended with him in his humiliation, were yet expecting, from his speedy return, the fulfillment of their carnal Messianic hopes, and hence outwardly assumed the Christian name, without any change of mind or heart. The more necessary, therefore, was the fearful crisis of the Jewish war, to put an end to this mock peace between Judaism and Christianity, and to sift out the true confessors of Jesus from the false.
On the very first day after his arrival Paul went, with his company, to James, the presiding officer of the Christian community at Jerusalem, and related to him and the elders assembled with him the blessed result of his labors among the Gentiles. For this they praised God (Acts 21:20); for James, as we learn from the transactions of the apostolic council, and from the epistle to the Galatians, fraternally acknowledged the peculiar gifts and mission of Paul, though he confined his own labors to the Jews, and, for himself, adhered strictly to the Old Testament forms of piety. But not all the members of the church were of this mind. Among many, and, it would seem, among the majority of them, there prevailed strong prejudices against the apostle of the Gentiles. They suspected him, not only of absolving the Gentiles from all allegiance to the law of Moses, but also of seducing all the foreign Jews to apostatize from it, and of forbidding them to circumcise their children. Now it is assuredly true, that he had laid down and continually acted upon the principle, that man is saved by faith in Jesus Christ alone without the deeds of the law; and in this Peter and all the apostles agreed with him (Acts 15:11). This principle must, in time, bring about the abolition of the ceremonial law even for the Jewish Christians, But Paul was far from attempting to effect this abolition suddenly and forcibly. He left it rather to the inward development of the spirit of the gospel, as he himself plainly enough declared, when he said: “Is any man called being circumcised? let him not become uncircumcised. Is any called in uncircumcision? let him not be circumcised. Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of God. Let every man abide in the same calling wherein he was called” (1 Cor. 7:18–20). Nay, he several times accommodated himself to the Jewish forms, as in the circumcision of Timothy (Acts 16:3), save where it was maintained, that circumcision, or any observance of the ceremonial law, was necessary to salvation. The above accusation was, therefore, only half true, and was based upon a hasty inference from the doctrine of Paul, and perhaps upon some practical examples among those Jewish Christians, who were disposed to go further in shaking off the old yoke, than he himself, under existing circumstances, held to be wise and prudent.
James, who had much at heart the preservation of harmony in his flock and the welfare of his “brother,” Paul, accordingly advised him to join in the ascetic exercises connected with the Nazarite vow (comp. Num. 6:1–21), which just then, as by a providential juncture, four poor members of the church had assumed; to bear for them the expense of the sacrifice for purification, which passed for a work of merit; and in this way to present a practical refutation of the dangerous charge against him. In this advice, James had no thought of encroaching on the freedom of the Gentile Christians. Hence his reference to the decree of the apostolic council (Acts 21:25, comp. 15:20, 29). But of Paul, as a Jew by birth, he thought such a submission to an ordinance of Moses might reasonably be expected, especially as the Lord himself had voluntarily obeyed the law. Paul, who, indeed, had come to Jerusalem with thoughts of love and peace, followed this well-meant counsel, submitted to the privations of the Nazarites, and the next day announced to the priests the time when the vow was to be accomplished and the closing sacrifice presented. Of course he did this not merely out of accommodation to the weakness of his Jewish brethren, but with good conscience, as in fact on other occasions he voluntarily applied to himself the discipline of the law,1 though without any view of thus earning salvation.
This is the conception hitherto current of the paragraph in Acts 21:18–26. But we prefer another explanation,2 according to which Paul did not become a Nazarite at all, but only bore the expense of the sacrifice for the four Nazarites, whose vow, which had been previously made (comp. v. 23), expired on the following day (v. 26). In this case the ἱγνίσθητι, which James demands of Paul (v. 24), is to be understood of the customary purification, which preceded the offering of sacrifice and every visit to the temple, especially the celebration of a feast;1 and the somewhat difficult verse, 26, must be translated: “Then Paul took the men, and after he had on the next day purified himself with them, he went into the temple, to announce the accomplishment of the days of the Nazarite (and remained there), till the gift had been presented for every one of them.” This admirably suits the aorist (προσηνέχθη), which seems to indicate the actual offering of the sacrifice on this day, and therefore the expiration of the vow. In the other interpretation this verb must be taken as future (donec offeretur); in which case, however, in a conditional clause with ἕως οὗ, like this, we should by all means expect the subjunctive (comp. 23:12, 21. 25:21). Then again, it is expressly observed in 24:18, that the apostle was arrested the same day, in which he, being purified (ἡγνισμένον, comp. the ἁγνισθείς, 21:26), was sacrificing in the temple. Finally, this view relieves the case, at least in a measure, of the offensiveness which attaches to the idea of the apostle Paul’s being a formal Nazarite. Though certainly even his participation, his aid in the mere closing ceremony of the vow, involved a virtual, relative approval of it, and of the Jewish form of piety, to which it belonged.
Thus did the two apostles, from different starting points, meet here on the same conservative, pacific ground. While we must certainly esteem and admire their condescending love and indulgence towards the weak, and their self-denying regard for the unity of the church,2 we may yet leave room for the opinion, that perhaps on this occasion, both of them, one in counselling, the other in acting, carried their accommodation too far. As their own explicit declarations, and the well-known temporary dispute of Paul with Peter, Barnabas, and Mark (comp. § 70), forbid our acquitting the apostles of all human infirmity, we may ask, with all modesty and reverence: Might not, nay, must not their conduct in this case have tended to confirm the zealots for the law in their unevangelical error, in the persuasion, that the observance of the Mosaic ceremonies was necessary to salvation? Should not James rather have upheld Paul in his principles, and fearlessly endeavored to purge away the old leaven of the Pharisees? And did not Paul here, on his own principles,—though certainly encompassed with far greater dangers—commit the same fault, for which he so sharply rebuked Peter at Antioch? Had it not been better, if he had firmly withstood these half-Christians, as formerly, when they demanded the circumcision of the Gentile, Titus? (Gal. 2:5). Though these doubts, however, certainly very naturally suggest themselves, we have to consider, on the other side, first, that the record of Luke is far too summary, and gives us too little light on the particular circumstances of the church at Jerusalem, to warrant such unfavorable inferences. Secondly, the position of James, as his martyrdom a few years after shows, was at all events one of extreme difficulty; since, amidst the growing obduracy of the nation, and in sight of its impending doom, he still had to stand—for this was his proper mission—as the connecting link between the old and the new dispensations, to rescue as many as possible from the destruction. And finally, as to Paul, he was here not in his proper Gentile-Christian field of labor. His conduct on other occasions proves that he was far from allowing himself to be restricted in this field. He reserved to himself entire independence in his operations. But he stood now on the venerable ground of the Jewish-Christian mother church, where he had to respect the customs of the fathers and the authority of James, the regular bishop. Clearly conscious of already possessing righteousness and salvation in Christ, he accommodated himself, with the best and noblest intentions, to the weaker brethren. Though himself free, he became to them, that were under the law, as under the law; to the Jews, a Jew; to those who were not free, a servant, that he might gain some, according to his own maxim, 1 Cor. 9:19–23. Should he, therefore, in this particular instance, have yielded too much, it would at all events not have been a betrayal of his convictions,—this is precluded by the firm, logical consistency of his character,—but a personal sacrifice for the great end of the peace and unity of the church. And surely this sacrifice must have been duly appreciated by the more moderate and noble-minded of the Jewish Christians.
The enmity of the Jews against Paul, however, was too deeply rooted to allow them to be propitiated by this approach to their religion. Before the end of the Pentecostal week,1 the Jews of Asia Minor, who were present at the feast, and who might have already persecuted the apostle of the Gentiles in Ephesus, raised a wild uproar against him, and seized him in the temple, crying: “Men of Israel, help: this is the man that teacheth all men everywhere against the people, and the law, and the temple, which he has desecrated.” The fanatics groundlessly inferred from his association with the Gentile Christian, Trophimus, likewise a native of Asia Minor (20:4. 2 Tim. 4:20), that he had brought Greeks into the sanctuary, which was forbidden under penalty of death.1 The furious multitude dragged him from the temple, that it might not be polluted with blood, abused him, and would undoubtedly have killed him, had not the tribune of the Roman garrison, which was stationed in the neighboring castle of Antonia, northwest of the temple, hastened to the spot in time with his soldiers and captains, Claudius Lysias,—as the chiliarch is called in 23:26,—rescued the witness of Jesus Christ from the enraged populace, and had him brought, bound with two chains, to the castle. How favorably the orderly, law-abiding disposition of the heathen Roman here contrasts with the unbridled rage of the degenerate people of God! Paul now from the stairs of the castle delivered an address in Hebrew (22:1–21), hoping by the simple story of his conversion from the strictest Pharisaism to the Christian faith, and by the description of the great things God had wrought among the heathen by the preaching of the gospel, to calm in some measure the excited multitude. But when he came to his divine call to be the apostle of the Gentiles, which was communicated to him by a vision in the temple, the tumult broke forth afresh, and the mob stormily demanded his execution. The tribune, who at first took him for an insurgent, was about to have him scourged, to make him confess his crime. But Paul knowing the protection which the Roman law afforded him, declared, as he had done on a former occasion (16:37), that he was a Roman citizen, and escaped this disgrace.1
- . 83. Paul before the Sanhedrim
The next day Lysias brought the prisoner before the assembled Sanhedrim, Here Paul conducted with dignity and sagacity. He thought at first to defend himself in a regular discourse; but in this he was rudely and unlawfully interrupted by the presiding high-priest, Ananias, a proud and cruel man, who afterwards fell by the hand of an assassin in the Jewish war. This man commanded him to be smitten on the mouth; whereupon Paul let fall the words: “God shall smite thee, thou whited wall!” (23:3) i. e. thou hypocrite, white outside, but inwardly filthy, whose behavior is unbecoming thy sacred office. However suitable and deserved this reproof may have been, it nevertheless betrays a passionate excitement, which ill compares with the calm dignity and resignation of Jesus under a still greater provocation (Jno. 18:22, 23),2 and was inconsistent with the respect due to the representative of the high-priesthood. This Paul himself felt, and instantly rebuked his own rashness by quoting a passage of Scripture: “Thou shalt not speak evil of the ruler of thy people” (Ex. 22:28). This seems to be the most natural view of the scene. It is possible, however, to explain the apostle’s conduct in such a way as to free him from all blame, and to present him in the light of a prophet of God, who, with the authority of the heavenly ruler, judged and condemned the unrighteousness of his unworthy earthly judge.3
Seeing that, while his enemies were so excited, a calm defense was useless, and in fact impossible, he took the course of that wisdom, which, so long as it serves simply as a means to a higher end, and conflicts not with truth, is not only allowed, but even enjoined (comp. Matt. 10:16).1 He presented the weighty doctrine of the resurrection of the dead as the issue. Thus he cast a firebrand into the assembly, composed as it was of Sadducees (with Ananias at their head), and Pharisees, and drew the stronger party, at least for the moment, to his side. Of course he conceived the resurrection of the pious in general as intimately connected with, and resting upon, the resurrection of Jesus, which last, in fact, is expressly designated by Festus (25:19) as the grand point of controversy. It has been said that this stratagem was a dishonest evasion of the point in dispute.2 The specific accusation against him was, to be sure, that of blaspheming the law, the people, and the temple. But this was, in reality, only a negative expression for his energetic faith in Christ as the author of a new creation, through whom the old was passing away and all was becoming new. This was his sole crime. But what, in Paul’s view, is the foundation of this faith? What is pre-eminently the basis of this conviction of the divinity of Christianity? Manifestly the fact of the resurrection, through which a new principle of life was introduced into humanity. Hence the apostles styled themselves emphatically, “witnesses of the resurrection,” and it was for their testimony respecting this, that they were first persecuted, while the Sadducees were in power in the high council (4:2 sqq. 5:17 sqq.). In this alone the desire and hope of Israel find their fulfillment, and without it the resurrection of believers is groundless and unmeaning. For “if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins” (1 Cor. 15:17). This very fact, however, justifies us in supposing, that Paul, who was far less concerned for his own safety, than for the glory of his Lord, sought, by this policy of divide et impera, to help the gospel, if possible, to the breach, by exclaiming to the Pharisees, as if for the last time, though in vain: “That, which ye hold as an empty form, is present in me as living truth. If, therefore, ye would really triumph over the dangerous heresy of the Sadducees, ye must make earnest of your theory of the resurrection, and believe in Christ, without whom it is an idle dream.” The Pharisees actually gave, involuntarily and from bitter party spirit, a testimony to the innocence of the apostle, which the simple love of truth and justice would never have drawn from them: “We find no evil in this man” (23:9). They granted, also, that a spirit or an angel may have appeared to him on the way to Damascus. But this was all. They would not consent to acknowledge that spirit to have been the Messiah. At last, this party strife growing more and more violent and threatening the life of the apostle, (the Sanhedrim thus giving sad proof of the frightful corruption of the whole nation which it represented), Lysias drew him away, and brought him back to the castle of Antonia.
The next night, while Paul, not only exhausted by his many hardships, but also overcome with anxiety and fear, was probably in perplexity respecting his plan of preaching the gospel in Rome, and was looking above for light and strength, the Lord appeared to him in a vision, and comforted him with the assurance, that, as he had borne witness of his master in the metropolis of Judaism, so he must testify of him in the capital of Heathendom (23:11). This prospect of an abundant harvest, of which he was afterwards re-assured in the midst of his perils at sea (27:24), this divine “must,” was a potion which nerved him for all the long sufferings before him.
- . 84. Paul in Cæsarea before Felix and Festus. A.D. 58–60
On the following day more than forty of the worst zealots, in concert with the high-priest and the Sadducean party in the Sanhedrim, conspired against the life of Paul. The Roman tribune, apprised of this in time by a nephew of the apostle living in Jerusalem, sent him the same night, under a strong military guard, which seemed necessary on account of the conspiracy and the bands of robbers then continually thickening in Palestine, to Cæsarea to the procurator Felix, with a letter stating the facts about the prisoner, and testifying his innocence. This Felix is represented by Josephus and Tacitus as a very worthless character, cruel, unjust, dissolute, and servile.1 He committed the apostle to the prætorium, built by Herod, till his accusers should appear, and a trial might be instituted. After five days the prosecutors came from the Sanhedrim, Ananias himself at their head, bringing with them an advocate by the name of Tertullus. This orator, in a flattering, deceitful speech (25:2–8), sought to asperse the apostle as a political insurgent, a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes, and a profaner of the temple. He complained, at the same time, of the uncalled-for interference of Lysias, and hinted to Felix to force the prisoner to a confession of his crime, and to gain for himself the favor of the Jews by punishing him, or, still better, by delivering him to the Sanhedrim. But Paul, in his defense (v. 10–21), exposed the groundlessness of these charges; reminded Felix of the absence of the Asiatic Jews, who should have appeared as eye-witnesses of the pretended sacrilege; and represented himself as a genuine and consistent Israelite, as in fact he was, inasmuch as the Messiah is the substance and end of the Old Testament, the fulfillment of the law and the prophets. The governor deferred giving sentence till he should hear further evidence; for he could find no punishable fault in him, and was reluctant to meddle in the religious controversies of the Jews.
Some days after this, Felix, with his Jewish wife, Drusilla,2 daughter of king Herod Agrippa the elder (12:1), whom he had alienated from her former husband, Aziz, king of Emesa, by the aid of the magician Simon,1 had the apostle brought before him, to gratify his curiosity respecting the Christian faith. But when Paul came to the practical application of the truth, and appealed to the conscience of his hearer respecting righteousness, temperance, and a judgment to come, the old sinner trembled, and dismissed his fearless reprover with the remark, so characteristic of the worldly mind, which feels the force of truth, but bids it defiance: “Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season I will call for thee” (24:24 sq.). He was undoubtedly convinced of Paul’s innocence, but hoped to receive bribes from him; for the apostle, though himself certainly poor, could very easily have been supplied with money by his Christian friends in Cæsarea and elsewhere. Of course he scorned any such means for his liberation, trusting that the Lord, according to his promise, would, in his own time, and in an honorable way, bring him to Rome. He accordingly remained two years in confinement in Cæsarea (24:27), uncondemned, visited by the Christians, occasionally heard before the governor, and, it would appear, mildly treated, laboring for the kingdom of God in a way to us unknown.2 At the expiration of this time Felix was recalled; but, to please the Jews, who, however, complained to the emperor Nero of his oppression, he left Paul a prisoner in the hands of his successor, M. Porcius Festus, who entered on his office in the year 60, or at latest 61.3
Festus, who, judging from the scanty records of his short administration,1 was a lover of justice, at all events one of the better governors, was brought, three days after his inauguration, by official and personal business, to Jerusalem, where the high-priest (Ishmael, successor to Ananias) and the prominent Jews besought him to deliver Paul to them, intending secretly to kill him. But this time also, through the justice of the heathen, God protected his apostle against the malice of the degenerate Jews. Festus required them to present a regular indictment in Cæsarea, and held his court there the day after his return. Again the prosecutors failed to prove that Paul had offended either against the law (rightly understood), or against the temple, or (and this was the only charge properly cognizable by a Roman tribunal) against the emperor. Festus, wishing on the one hand to please the Jews, but on the other not to trespass upon the rights of Paul, of whose innocence he was convinced, asked him, whether he was willing to be tried before the Sanhedrim under the governor’s supervision. Then Paul, who, as a Roman citizen, could not be forced to submit himself to a lower tribunal, appealed to the emperor, and thus opened the way to the fulfillment of his long-cherished desire to testify of the Saviour of the world in the world’s metropolis. Festus, who might have anticipated this result, had of course to acknowledge the right of appeal here, as in the case of every Roman citizen, and said, as the unconscious instrument of divine providence (25:12), “Thou hast appealed unto Cæsar. Unto Cæsar shalt thou go!”
A few days after this, the young king, Herod Agrippa II.,—a favorite of the emperor Claudius, at whose court he had been educated; son and heir of his namesake, the persecutor of the Christians, mentioned in Acts 12:1; great-grandson of Herod the Great; and the last king of his house,—with his beautiful, but abandoned sister, Bernice,—formerly married to her uncle, Herod of Chalcis; at this time, and also again after a second marriage, living, as was suspected, in incestuous intercourse with her brother; and finally mistress of the emperors Vespasian and Titus,—paid a complimentary visit to the new governor. Since Agrippa was a Jew and the overseer of the temple,1 Festus laid before him the case of Paul, to learn his opinion respecting this religious question and the resurrection of “one Jesus, which was dead” (25:19), that he might be able to give a better account to the emperor. The king, who could not have been unacquainted with Christianity,—for it was his father, who had executed the elder James, and cast Peter into prison,—desired to hear the prisoner for himself. Festus, therefore, the next day ordered Paul into his audience-room, where Agrippa and Bernice had come with great pomp, attended by the principal officers of the five cohorts stationed in Cæsarea, and by the most distinguished military and civil personages of the city, to gratify their curiosity.
Before this brilliant audience, after an introductory explanation by the procurator, Paul joyfully delivered an apologetic discourse (26:1–23), fulfilling the Lord’s prediction (Matth. 10:18. Mk. 13:9): “Ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles.” On this occasion also, as before, to the people in Jerusalem, he related how he was miraculously converted, from a bigoted Pharisee and persecutor of the Christians to an apostle of Jesus Christ, to turn the Gentiles from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God. He had, therefore, not arbitrarily chosen his calling, but had been constrained to it by a heavenly vision; and he preached nothing but the fulfillment of what the prophets had already foretold,—the death and resurrection of the Messiah, and the salvation offered in him to Jews and Gentiles. To the cold, Roman worldling, as to the Athenians (17:32), what Paul said, especially about the resurrection, seemed the foolish extravagance of an over-taxed brain. “Paul, thou art beside thyself,” involuntarily2 exclaimed the governor, “much learning (much reading in the Jewish Scriptures, to which Paul had just referred, v. 22 and 23) doth make thee mad.” The apostle, to whom the madness seemed to lie rather in his former rage against the Christians (v. 11), could answer, in the calm consciousness of victory: “I am not mad, most noble Festus; but speak forth the words of truth and soberness.” Then, turning to the Jewish king, he called him to witness, that the great facts of Christianity did not take place in a corner, but publicly in Jerusalem, and in presence of the whole assembly, he put to the king’s heart and conscience the question: “Believest thou—not me, not the appearance in Damascus, but, first of all simply—the prophets? I know that thou believest.” Agrippa replied, either in real earnest under momentary conviction, or in ironical mockery designed perhaps only to hide his inward compunction: “Thou wouldst shortly1 persuade me to be a Christian.” Then Paul uttered that sublime sentence, which gives us a glimpse of his holy zeal for the salvation of souls, and of his own inward happiness: “I would to God, that, sooner or later, not only thou, but also all that hear me this day, were such as I am, except these bonds” (26:29). How infinitely exalted the shackled servant of God above his judges, bound to the world in the chains of gold!
- . 85. Paul in Rome. A.D. 61–63
Agrippa also was forced to testify to the perfect innocence of the apostle. But, now that he had appealed to the emperor, Festus could neither acquit nor condemn him, but must send him to Rome. He delivered him, therefore, at the first opportunity for embarking, with some other prisoners, to the care of the centurion, Julius,2 of the imperial cohort; and thus Paul left Cæsarea, attended by his faithful companions, Luke and Aristarchus of Thessalonica.3 The voyage, which Luke describes minutely and with the vividness and accuracy of an eyewitness,4 was very dangerous, as must be expected at that advanced season of the year. For when they landed at Lasea on the island of Crete, the great day of fasting and atonement, which fell on the tenth of Tisri, towards the end of September, was already past (27:9) Paul advised to winter there; but his advice was not followed, as the harbor seemed unsuitable. After a stormy run of fourteen days, the ship stranded on the shores of Malta (27:27, 33 sqq., 28:1), and the apostle, through his prayers and good counsel, was the means of saving the whole company (27:21–26, 31 sqq.). For the sake of one righteous man, two hundred and seventy-five souls were preserved. So was the Lord once ready to spare Sodom for the sake of a small remnant (Gen. 18:32). The children of God are poor, and powerless, and yet by their faith they protect the world. This shipwreck is the radiant centre of the whole voyage. Here appears the majesty of the captive Paul, amidst the raging storm and in the face of death,—a powerful proof of his divine mission.
Having remained in Malta three months, and by his miraculous preservation from the bite of a poisonous serpent (comp. Mk. 16:18), and by healing the sick; having inspired the barbarians and the governor of the island with a sense of reverence and gratitude (Acts 28:3–10), he sailed in the Alexandrian ship “Castor and Pollux” (28:11), to Syracuse in Sicily, stopping there three days; then to Rhegium (Reggio), opposite Messina; and thence he arrived in two days at Puteoli (Puzzuolo), the destination of the Egyptian ship, near Naples. Here he remained a week with the small congregation of Christians, and then journeyed by land to Rome, where he may have arrived about the end of March of the year 61, or at latest 62. Some brethren of the Roman church had come more than a day’s journey (forty-three Roman miles), to the village of Forum Appii, on the Appian Way, and others at least to the tavern, Tres Tabernæ (thirty-three Roman miles), to meet the apostle; thus giving him a token of their respect and love, which must have afforded him great encouragement and joy.
Thus, therefore, were fulfilled his ardent desire1 and the assurance of the Lord,2 that he should yet testify of Christ in the capital of the world; though under other circumstances than he had at first intended (Rom. 15:24). The centurion Julius, who had treated him politely and kindly throughout the voyage,3 now handed him over to the captain of the imperial body-guard (præfectus prætorio 28:16).4 But since the apostle, according to the testimony of Festus, and even of Agrippa himself, had transgressed no law of the state; since, therefore, the litteræ dimissoriæ, or apostoli, as they were called, in which the procurator was obliged to lay before the emperor the charge against the prisoner and the whole state of the case, all went only in Paul’s favor; and since the centurion also, no doubt, gave evidence for him, his confinement must have been a very easy one. This is confirmed by Luke’s description, 28:16 sqq. The apostle was, indeed, continually watched by a soldier, a prætorian, and bound with a long chain on his left arm (v. 16, 17, 20);1 but he was allowed to rent a private dwelling, receive visits, and write letters; and in this condition he might labor for the kingdom of God, without hindrance, for two whole years (v. 30, 31), till all the witnesses should have arrived, and the proper trial, of which, however, the Acts give us no account, should begin.
And he did labor. Three days after his arrival he sent for the most prominent Jews in Rome, probably the rulers of the synagogues; partly because he always began his apostolic work with the children of the promise; and partly because he wished to inform them of the true cause of his appearance in Rome, to assure them of his pure intentions, and to prevent new machinations among them. For he must have feared, that they had received slanderous accounts of him from Jerusalem, and would look upon him as an enemy to their nation. But this, according to their own declaration, was not the case. They said, they had heard nothing bad about him either by letters or orally; yet they desired to hear him personally, for thus much they certainly knew of the Christian sect, that it was everywhere spoken against (28:21, 22). It is undoubtedly true, that the Sanhedrim could not have given any official intelligence to the Roman Jews till after Paul’s appeal; and as the winter soon set in, which shut up all communication by sea (mare clausum), any such report could not well have reached Rome, at all events, before Paul himself. It is also possible, that these Roman Jews of quality gave themselves but little trouble about religious matters. Yet it is, after all, exceedingly improbable, that they had never heard by private communications anything against the renowned apostate; for he had already for twenty years been hated and persecuted by the Jews in Palestine, Asia Minor, and Greece; and the Christian community in Rome, as appears from the epistle to the Romans, was large enough to attract attention. Besides, the first part of their declaration is not fully consistent with the second, that they knew “this sect” to be everywhere spoken against. We are forced, therefore, to suppose this pretended want of acquaintance with the apostle of the Gentiles to have been intentional dissimulation on the part of the Jews, whether it be, that they wished thereby to express their contempt for his supposition of the contrary, or that they feared they should fail in sustaining their charges against him, and be in turn prosecuted by himself. When Paul, on an appointed day, preached the gospel to them more fully, a division arose among them; some believed; the others hardened their hearts, as Isaiah (6:9, 10) had predicted; and thus, repulsed by his own brethren, he could again turn with good conscience to the Gentiles, who, here as elsewhere, manifested a greater susceptibility to the gospel.
In his epistle to the Philippians (1:7, 13, 14) Paul could write, that his imprisonment was favorable to the spread of the gospel. As his guards relieved one another, each told his comrades, what he had heard from the apostle, so that the word of the cross became known to the whole imperial guard (the prætorium, the castra prætoria, Phil. 1:12–14). The very personal appearance of the apostle, his courage, the cheerfulness, with which he sacrificed everything for his cause, must have wrought in favor of his doctrine. In Rome also, it is true, there was no lack of Judaizing false teachers, who preached the gospel from impure motives, from envy and the spirit of contention, and sought to undermine Paul’s reputation and to embitter his condition (Phil. 1:15, 16). He complains, that only three of the Jewish Christians, Aristarchus, Mark, and Jesus Justus, were a comfort to him (Col. 4:10, 11). But he did not allow this to discourage him. In genuine self-denial. he forgot his own person in the cause of the Lord, and rejoiced, that the facts and truths of Christianity, though mixed with many errors, were spread even by his enemies. “What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice” (Phil. 1:18).
His activity was not limited, however, to the Roman church. He had around him, at least at times, most of his friends and fellow-laborers, Luke, Aristarchus, Timothy, Mark, Tychicus, Epaphras, Demas, and Jesus, surnamed Justus.1 Through them he could the more easily keep up intercourse with all his churches in Greece and Asia Minor, and continue to direct them. This he did by sending his delegates to these churches with oral instructions, and with letters, by which he wrought upon the whole church of his day and of succeeding ages, so that we still continue to enjoy the rich fruits of his imprisonment.
- . 86. The Epistles written during the Imprisonment at Rome, to the Colossians, Ephesians, Philemon, and Philippians. A.D. 61–63
During this Roman captivity appeared the epistles to the Colossians, to the Ephesians, to Philemon, to the Philippians, and the second to Timothy; concerned partly with personal matters, partly with the new dangers of the church, and especially with the development of the doctrine of the person of Christ, forming the transition to the writings of John. That Paul wrote these epistles while a prisoner, he himself informs us in several passages of them.2
These alone are not, indeed, enough to show that Rome was the place of composition; for he was also confined upwards of two years in Cæsarea. Yet the almost unanimous tradition of the ancient church favors the opinion that it was. In the case of the second epistle to Timothy this is conceded by all modern critics,3 since in c. 1:17 Rome is expressly named (compare also the Roman names, Pudens, Linus, and Claudia, 4:21); the only difficulty here being, whether the epistle were written during the first or a second imprisonment in Rome, of which we shall hereafter speak. The epistle to the Philippians conveys a salutation, c. 4:22, from the house of the emperor, by which it is most natural to understand the palace of Nero and the members of his body-guard or his domestics. What Paul says in c. 1:7, 12–18, of the beneficial results of his imprisonment for the spread of the gospel, also suits far better with what the Acts tell us of his situation in Rome, than with their description of his captivity in Cæsarea. It is more difficult to determine the place from which the epistles were written to the Ephesians, the Colossians, and Philemon. Yet in favor of Cæsarea, for which Schulz, Wiggers, Meyer, and Thiersch have declared, not a single positive argument can be brought, while the freedom and boldness, which Paul used in preaching,1 point again to Rome. Then, too, we can more easily conceive, how the many fellow-laborers above enumerated might join Paul in Rome, the world’s rendezvous, than how they should meet with him in the less important city of Cæsarea. Finally, the passage Philem. v. 22, according to which Paul hoped to go soon to Phrygia, seems decisive. In Rome he might, no doubt, think of such a journey; but not in Cæsarea; for here Rome and Spain were uppermost in his mind,2 while the thought of returning to Asia Minor was far from him (comp. Acts 20:25).
As to the chronological order of these letters; we suppose, that the epistles to the Ephesians, the Colossians, and Philemon were written and sent first and almost simultaneously, during the author’s two years of quiet, Acts 28:30, 31 (A.D. 61:63); the epistle to the Philippians, somewhat later; and the second to Timothy, last.3 In favor of this is the gradual change, which these letters exhibit, in the condition of the apostle in his confinement. According to Eph. 6:19, 20. Col. 4:3, 4, he preaches the gospel without hindrance, and is expecting his liberation. In his epistle to Philemon in Colosse, he already bespeaks a lodging in that city (v. 22), since the circumstances of the church in Asia Minor made his presence desirable, and seem to have caused a change in his former plan of going to Spain. These letters are as silent as the Acts respecting a trial. While writing the epistle to the Philippians, he could speak already of the great success of his preaching in Rome (1:7, 12–19. 4:22). This indicates a later date. He also then still entertained the hope of being soon set free and revisiting the Philippians (1:25, 26. 2:24); but the prospects were no longer so favorable, and he had before him the possibility of speedy martyrdom. Finally, the second epistle to Timothy shows, that he had already made his first judicial defence before the emperor (4:16, 17); was bound as a malefactor (2:9); expected nothing now but his execution; and saw his course already finished, his battle fought (4:6–8, 18). The number of attendants assembled round him leads to the same result Coloss. 4:7–14 shows eight: Philem. 10, 23 sq., five; Phil. 1:1. 2:25 (comp. however, 4:21), only two, Timothy and Epaphroditus; and at the writing of the second epistle to Timothy, all but Luke had forsaken the apostle; some, as Tychicus, under commission from him; others, of their own accord, and, it would seem, from fear of the impending danger, and from love of ease (4:9, 10, 16. 1:15).
- The epistle to the Colossians was sent by Tychicus, the faithful helper of Paul (Col. 4:7, 8; comp. Acts 20:5. Tit. 3:12), as was also the epistle to the Ephesians (Eph. 6:21). From this circumstance and the striking similarity in the matter of the two letters, we should judge that they were written at about the same time. The one to the Colossians is probably the older, since the epistle to the Ephesians consists in part of a mere enlargement of the same thoughts and exhortations.1 The church of Colosse, a city of Phrygia, not far from Laodicea and Hierapolis, was not founded by Paul himself, but by his disciples, particularly Epaphras. It consisted mostly of Gentile Christians. The occasion of Paul’s letter to it was the intelligence, partly cheering, partly suspicious, which Epaphras had brought him (1:6–8. 4:12, 13). The church of Asia Minor was threatened with new danger from the adulteration of the gospel, against which the apostle had already warned the Ephesian elders in his parting address (Acts 20:29, 30). The gross Pharisaical Judaism had been for a while suppressed by the powerful and decided attack upon it in the epistle to the Galatians. But now the Judaistic error was assuming a more refined, spiritualistic form, and beginning, by union with elements of Hellenistic philosophy, to shape itself towards Gnosticism. Many educated Jews, especially at Alexandria, had become ashamed of the uncouth realistic character of their religion, and sought to clothe its naked simplicity with the fig-leaves of Grecian speculation. They declared the facts of sacred history to be merely symbols veiling higher Platonic ideas, and these ideas they endeavored to find in the Old Testament itself by means of allegorical interpretation. Thus arose that remarkable amalgamation of Judaism and Heathenism, which we have noticed above in Philo and the Therapeutae.1 The Colossian errorists, however, seem to have stood in no direct connection with this eclecticism. Their theory may be more simply explained from the union of Essenism with the Phrygian national character, which was inclined to enthusiasm and extravagance. In the epistle before us (particularly c. 2) they appear as ascetic theosophists, who lost themselves in the cloudy regions of the spiritual world; worshipped angels at the expense of the higher dignity of Christ; boasted of a hidden wisdom; and sought to atone for sin by the mortification of sense.
This Judaizing Gnosticism the apostle meets with a positive refutation, setting forth briefly but comprehensively the doctrine of the person of Jesus Christ and his redeeming work. Christ is presented as the centre of the whole spiritual world, raised above all created beings; as the mediator, by whom the world was made and is upheld; as the embodiment of all the fulness of the Godhead; as the head of the church, and the source of all wisdom and knowledge. The redemption wrought by him embraces heaven and earth; releases believers form outward statutes, from this perishable world; and leads them on gradually to the true perfection.—Then follow practical exhortations, items of intelligence, and salutations.
- The epistle to the Ephesians has no such direct and clear reference to a particular error or a particular circle of readers, and, on account of its general character, has been by some modern critics, like De Wette and Baur, rejected as spurious. Considering that Paul had labored three years in Ephesus, it must certainly seem strange, that he no where reminds his readers of this residence with them; that he salutes them neither for himself nor for his companions, but rather concludes in the third person with a general benediction on all Christians (6:24); and even seems to be acquainted with them only indirectly from hearsay.1 These singular circumstances are sufficiently explained, however, by the simple assumption, that we here have before us a circular letter, addressed, indeed, to the church of Ephesus, the principal congregation of Asia Minor, particularly to the Gentile Christians there,2 but at the same time to the neighboring churches also, which had sprung from it, and with which Paul, especially after having been three or four years absent from them, could personally be but partially acquainted.3 In favor of this are also the facts, that the words of address: ἐν Εφέσῳ (1:1), in the important codex Vaticanus (B), are found only on the margin, and, in Tischendorf’s opinion,4 were put there by a second hand in smaller characters; that in cod. 67, they are marked as suspicious by diacritical points; and that, according to the statements of Basil the Great,5 and Jerome,6 they must have been wanting also in other ancient manuscripts. Now though this address be sufficiently ascertained by the preponderance of testimony to be the original reading; yet the omission of it in many copies is most easily accounted for by supposing the letter to have been a circular. Finally, we know, that the Gnostic Marcion, in the middle of the second century, entered the epistle to the Ephesians in his canon as Epistola ad Laodicenos (πρὸς Λαοδικέας).7 We can see no reason for supposing this to have been an intentional falsification, and it confirms the opinion, to us very probable, that the epistle to the Laodiceans, which the Colossians (4:16) were charged to read, was no other than the epistle to the Ephesians.8 Perhaps Laodicea was the last church in the circle, as, in fact, the series of epistles in the Apocalypse begins with Ephesus, and closes with the lukewarm Laodicea.
The contents of the epistle are, as already remarked, much the same as those of the epistle to the Colossians, but indicative of progress,—the idea of the church being more fully developed in the closest connection with the person and work of the Redeemer. The main doctrinal thought of this circular is, The church in Christ Jesus, the eternal principle of her life, her unity of many members, her warfare and victory, her steady growth, and her glorious end. The church is represented as the body of Jesus Christ; the fulness of all his theanthropic glory; a mystical spiritual temple, which rests on Christ as its corner-stone, and in which Gentiles and Jews are joined together in a fellowship of peace and love before unknown. Hence, in the hortatory portion, the apostle urges especially the preservation of unity (4:1 sqq.), and derives the duties of husband and wife from the relation of Christ to his church and of the church to Christ (5:22 sqq). Here, therefore, we have an epistle on the church, designed primarily for the church of Asia Minor, but through it for that of all ages and climes. Even at the time of the apostle’s departure from Ephesus the fundamental conception of this epistle was floating in his mind (Acts 20:28). There everything urged to the maintenance of a firm unity in the growing church, that it might withstand as well the approaching persecutions from without, as the incipient errors from within, which threatened to dissolve and evaporate the historical substance of Christianity. The epistle to the Ephesians nowhere, indeed, combats errors directly, like that to the Colossians; yet it is at the same time a positive refutation of the spiritualistic Gnosticism, and marks in ideal outline the course which the church in the next age had to take to oppose an effectual barrier to this dangerous foe.1 Not that it had distinctly in view the specific form of church government, which meets us in the second and third centuries; but that, which was true and eternal in the ancient church, that, which armed her for victorious conflict with the grand heresies, and which is now again needed for her rebuilding, was mainly the complete doctrine of the theanthropic person of Christ and the church unity founded upon it,—a doctrine, the development of which started first from the later epistles of Paul, particularly those to the Ephesians and Colossians, as also from the writings and later activity of John.
As to style; in no other epistle do the ideas flow in such an unbroken stream and such involved periods, as in that to the Ephesians. The perverted taste of some modern critics has pronounced this “diffuseness,” “verbosity,” &c. Grotius understood the matter better, when he said: “Rerum sublimitatem adaequans verbis sublimioribus, quam alia habuit umquam lingua humana!” The first chapter has, so to speak, a liturgical, psalmodic character, being as it were a glowing song in praise of the transcendent riches of the grace of God in Christ and the glory of the Christian calling.
- The short epistle to Philemon, a zealous Christian in Colosse, is a recommendation of his slave Onesimus, who had run away from his master on account of some offense he had committed (ancient tradition says theft), but was converted by the apostle during his imprisonment, and now penitently desired to return in company with Tychicus (Col. 4:9). The letter is a “gem of Christian tenderness,” an invaluable contribution to the portrait of the generous, amiable, kind-hearted apostle, who, in the midst of his cares for the whole church, had also a warm heart for a poor slave, and treated him as a dear brother in Jesus Christ.
- Some time after the composition of the above epistles, perhaps not till the expiration of the first two years of the apostle’s confinement, A.D. 63,1 but probably before the proper trial began,2 was written the epistle to the church at Philippi, the first congregation planted by Paul on European soil, and one with which he stood on terms of peculiar friendship (comp. 1:3–11). It was sent by Epaphroditus, who had brought the apostle a present of money from the Philippians (4:10, 18. 2:25). For this Paul returned his thanks (4:10–20), together with information respecting his personal condition and his labors in Rome (1:12–26); exhortations to humility and unity, to rejoicing in the Lord, to prayer, and to delight in every virtue; and warnings against Judaizing false teachers, who would substitute their own righteousness of works for the righteousness of faith (1:27–4:9). The close consists of salutations and the usual benediction (4:21–23). In a doctrinal point of view the christological passage c. 2:5 sqq. is the passage of chief importance. In other respects this epistle has more the character of a familiar letter, than any other of Paul’s epistles to churches. It is full of personal matters; it is the hearty effusion of the impressions and feelings of the moment; and a lovely memorial of the author’s tender, sympathizing heart, and his susceptibility to hallowed friendship.
- . 87. The Hypothesis of a second Imprisonment of Paul in Rome. The Pastoral Epistles
The book of Acts concludes its narrative of the labors of Paul, c. 28:31, with the remark, that for two years, while in custody in Rome, he preached the kingdom of God, and taught concerning the Lord Jesus Christ, “with all confidence, no man forbidding him” (μετὰ πάσης παῤῥησίας ἀκωλύτως); thus leaving it altogether problematical, whether he was ever set at liberty or not. Luke seems to have employed these two years of rest in writing or continuing his two works (probably begun in Cæsarea), partly on the basis of older documents, partly from his own observation, and to have finished the book of Acts just at the expiration of this time. In this second work, which forms with his gospel a continuous composition, his purpose of describing the planting of the Christian church among the Jews and Gentiles by the two leading apostles (comp. 1:8), finds a convenient stopping-place in Paul’s joyful preaching of Christianity in Rome, the capital of the then known world, and soon the centre of the Christian church. With this the promise given to the apostle (23:11, comp. 19:21. 27:24) was fulfilled, and the final triumph of the gospel decided.
But here at once arises the question respecting the subsequent fortunes of the apostle. From tradition no more is certain and generally received, than that he suffered martyrdom at Rome under Nero. But whether this took place during his first imprisonment or a second, is a point on which commentators and church historians to this day disagree.1 According to one view, the apostle was executed as early as the year 63 or 64; according to the other, he was set at liberty, made several more missionary tours, and did not die till about A.D. 66 or 67. In the latter case his liberation must be dated at all events before the year 64. For in this year broke out the great conflagration in Rome, and, in consequence of it, the cruel persecution of the Christians, in which Paul, as the leader of the hated sect, would be the very last to be spared. But what, now, did Paul do between the first and second imprisonments? On this point the advocates of the latter hypothesis are themselves divided. Baronius and Hug place the composition of the Pastoral Epistles before the time of Paul’s liberation, while Usher, Pearson, Heidenreich, Gieseler, and Neander date the first epistle to Timothy and the epistle to Titus during the interval between the two terms of confinement, and the second epistle to Timothy, after the example of Eusebius, during the second imprisonment in Rome. Neander then, with his usual circumspection and judgment, constructs from the historical hints in the Pastoral Epistles the following picture of that part of Paul’s life, which the Acts leave entirely unnoticed.2 After his liberation, Paul first carried out the purpose, expressed in the epistles to Philemon and the Philippians, of making a tour of visitation to Asia Minor and Greece; left Timothy in Ephesus to govern the church there and watch against the secret intrusion of errorists; brought the gospel to Crete; entrusted the further management of the church on this island to his disciple Titus; then went again into Greece (to Nicomedia in Epirus) and Asia Minor, took leave of Timothy, and now fulfilled his former resolution to preach the gospel in Spain;1 was here arrested a second time, and taken to Rome, where he wrote the second epistle to Timothy, and afterwards suffered martyrdom. But we must here at once remark, that so many, so extensive missionary tours could scarcely have been crowded into the space of three, or, at most, four years; especially since, for all we know from the book of Acts, the apostle did not usually merely fly through the countries he visited, but settled in the larger cities for a considerable time.
We propose now to examine, with all possible impartiality, the principal arguments for and against the hypothesis of a second imprisonment in Rome. Here six points present themselves: (1) The nature of Paul’s trial; (2) the conclusion of the book of Acts; (3) Paul’s own expectations; (4) the date of the Pastoral Epistles, especially (5) of the second epistle to Timothy; (6) the statements of patristic tradition.
- As to the first point; Paul was properly innocent. He had committed no crime, for which he could be condemned before the tribunal of the Roman law. The Roman state had as yet taken no official notice of Christianity as such, had not yet declared it a religio illicita, and gave itself no concern with the internal religious disputes of the Jews. Felix, Festus, and Agrippa were convinced of the apostle’s innocence; the official statement, which accompanied him to Rome, was no doubt in his favor; and to it the centurion, Junius, who had learned on the voyage to esteem and love him, and who owed him the preservation of his own life, might have added his recommendation, founded on personal knowledge.
But, on the other hand, it must be considered, that the Jews certainly left no means untried to evade the real point in dispute, and to hold up the victim of their fanaticism as a disturber of the public peace, and therefore a political offender, as had already been attempted by their advocate, Tertullus, in Cæsarea. In the empress Poppæa, who was married to Nero in the year 62, they could easily find support; for she was a Jewish proselyte, and often successfully interceded for the Jews.2 Then again, the efficient labors of Paul in Rome itself had led many Gentiles and Jews to apostatize from their religion, and drew upon the new sect the attention and suspicion of the Roman authorities. The persecution of the Christians, which broke out in the year 64, therefore at all events soon after the expiration of the two years of Acts 28:30, shows that the Christians had already become an object of public hatred and abhorrence; otherwise the slander, which made them the incendiaries of Rome, could not have been so easily taken up. And that Nero should shortly before have treated Paul justly and fairly, is very improbable, since even from the year 60, and especially from the death of Burrus in 62, he had begun to rule with the most arbitrary self-will and horrible cruelty. Granting, moreover, that Paul was actually acquitted of the charge brought by the Jews, it by no means follows that he left Rome, and was afterwards a second time arrested. In the circumstances of the Roman church he might have seen good reasons for continuing to labor there after his liberation, until the outbreak of the Neronian persecution in the summer of 64 put an end to his life and all his further missionary plans.
- The silence of the book of Acts as to the result of the appeal to the emperor and respecting the apostle’s end has been variously explained; from the acquaintance of Theophilus with the facts; or from an intention on the part of Luke to continue the history; or from considerations of prudence, lest the mention of the Neronian persecution of the Christians should cause excitement;—but all these explanations can easily be shown to be unsatisfactory. Probably when the Acts were finished the fate of Paul was yet entirely undecided; and in this case the silence would be neither for nor against a liberation, unless it were assumed, that a turn for the worse in the condition of the prisoner, or that the outbreak of the persecution hindered the author from continuing his work. But if the book were not completed till after the death of the apostle, it is rather against a second imprisonment, that the author says nothing at all of the plan of going to Spain, which Paul conceived in Corinth (Rom. 15:24, 28), but afterwards seems to have given up, or at least to have indefinitely postponed (Philem. 22. Phil. 2:24), and generally speaks of Rome quite distinctly as the farthest and last point of the apostle’s labor (19:21. 23:11. 27:24. Comp. 20:25, 38).
- Paul himself, in his epistle to Philemon, v. 22, and in Philippians, 1:25. 2:24, expresses the hope of being set free, and on this builds his plan of a tour of visitation to his churches in Greece and Asia Minor, and even engages a lodging in Colosse. This, however, by no means warrants the supposition, that he was actually set free. For this hope proceeded not from a higher revelation, as in the case of his journey to Rome, but merely from his own mind and his very natural desire to revisit his brethren and renew his labors for the kingdom of God. We are not at all at liberty to attribute to the apostles an infallible foreknowledge of their own future. We find, on the contrary, that Paul’s mind, as to such personal matters, changed with his circumstances. In his valedictory at Miletus he took leave of the Ephesian elders for ever;1 his previous plan of going directly from Rome to Spain (Rom. 15:24) he gave up; and when he wrote his epistle to the Philippians, he was by no means so confident of being released, but rather had in view the possibility of speedy martyrdom (2:17), and in his own mind, also, he wavered between the desire to depart and be with Christ, and the wish still longer to serve his brethren (1:20–23). But how easily might an unfavorable change have taken place in his situation in Rome, especially after his regular trial had begun! When writing the second epistle to Timothy, which several even of the advocates of a second imprisonment suppose to have been written before his liberation, he was still bound, indeed, with only one chain (2 Tim. 1:16), yet as an evil-doer (2:8) was forsaken by many of his brethren, even by his fellow-laborer, Demas, through fear of death (4:10, 16, 18), and was expecting nothing but a martyr’s crown (4:6–8).
- A much stronger argument in favor of a second imprisonment in Rome seems at first sight to be furnished by the Pastoral Epistles, the genuineness of which some modern critics, Baur and De Wette, after the Gnostic Marcion, have in vain impugned. As to the first epistle to Timothy and the epistle to Titus, it is difficult to find a place for these in the earlier life of Paul, mainly because the Acts give no account of Paul’s preaching the gospel on the island of Crete (now Candia), which is nevertheless presupposed by Tit. 1:5.2 Then again, their contents seem better suited to a later time. The apostle gives Timothy, whom he finds in Ephesus (1 Tim. 1:3), and Titus, whom he had left behind him in Crete (Tit. 1:5), instructions respecting the conduct of church affairs, especially as to the qualifications and duties of church officers, and the resistance of Gnosticizing errorists, who are represented, some as already present, others as still to come. Finally, the spirit and style of the Pastoral Epistles so differs from those of Paul’s other epistles, as to indicate their later composition. They are not so didactic, so logically argumentative, so strictly coherent as, for instance, the epistles to the Galatians and Romans, but almost exclusively practical, desultory, abrupt in their transitions, and pervaded by a kind of mournful tone, as though the writer longed to escape from the heat of the day and the theatre of strife into a land of quiet.
But all these considerations are by no means decisive against the earlier composition of these epistles, and are in part set aside by the very fact, that the ancient church almost unanimously, and even many advocates of the hypothesis in question, take the first epistle to Timothy and the epistle to Titus to have been written before the first imprisonment in Rome. Had they been composed shortly after it, we should expect some intimation of the fact; but we find none. And closer inspection enables us to solve the difficulties to tolerable satisfaction.
(a) The silence of the Acts of the Apostles respecting Paul’s labors in Crete is not decisive, since this book does not propose to give a complete history, and entirely omits many other events, as the apostle’s three years’ residence in Arabia (Gal. 1:17), his second visit to Corinth (see above, § 77), his work in Illyria (Rom. 15:19), and many of his hardships and persecutions (2 Cor. 11:23 sqq.). Paul might very easily have made a trip to Crete from some one of the larger cities, Antioch, Ephesus, Corinth, where he staid for years; and since, according to Rom. 15:19 (comp. v. 23), therefore before his arrest, he had finished the preaching of the gospel between Jerusalem and Illyricum, and had no more room to labor here (for which reason he turned his eye towards Rome and Spain), it is even very probable, that he had at that time already been also in Crete, as well as in Cyprus (Acts 13:4 sqq.); for Crete was the largest and most important island of the Archipelago, and lay directly between Illyricum and Jerusalem.1 To us the best founded supposition seems to be, that Paul’s journey to Crete, as also the epistle to Titus and the first to Timothy, fall in the time of his three years’ residence in Ephesus (Acts 19:7, 10, comp. 20:31),2 in which we have also placed (§ 77) his second visit to Corinth, likewise passed over in Acts, but made certain by 2 Cor. 12:13, 14. 13:1. These two journeys agree very well with one another, and with the intended winter’s residence at Nicopolis (Tit. 3:12), which can be no other than the Nicopolis in Epirus, belonging to the province of Achaia,1 built by Augustus in commemoration of his victory over Antony, and early a very flourishing city. For from the first epistle to the Corinthians, also, which was written from Ephesus about this time, in the spring of 57 (see § 77), we know, that Paul hoped to spend the ensuing winter in Achaia, to which province, as just observed, Nicopolis in Epirus belonged.2 This purpose, according to Acts 20:2, 3, he carried out, and on his way through Macedonia to Corinth he might very easily have touched at Nicopolis. This possibility is even made a certainty by the explicit declaration of the apostle in the epistle to the Romans, written soon after in 58, that he had at that time labored in Illyria, which joins Epirus (15:19), and had no more room for preaching the gospel in those parts (v. 23). Besides, the Acts say, that he spent the winter of 57–58, not in Corinth alone, but in Hellas, i. e. Achaia (20:2, 3); and when he was in Illyria, his nearest way to Corinth was by Nicopolis. Thus, on closer examination, all the circumstances fit admirably together; whereas, in placing the epistle to Titus between the first and second imprisonments in Rome, one finds himself entirely on the uncertain ground of conjecture.3—And that the first epistle to Timothy was written at the same time with the epistle to Titus, perhaps even earlier, is favored by the fact, that Timothy was still a youth (1 Tim. 4:12; comp. Tit. 2:15), and in general little acquainted with the management of church affairs; which ill accords with the time after the first imprisonment, as Timothy had been Paul’s assistant ever since Acts 16:1 sq., A.D. 51 (see § 71).4
(b) The presence of church officers and false teachers at so early a day is nothing strange. There were deacons and presbyters much earlier in the mother church at Jerusalem,5 and in the churches planted by Paul.1 A Judaizing Gnosis, altogether like that combated in the Pastoral Epistles had spread at least in Colosse even at the time of the first imprisonment.2 Why should not the germs of it have been visible some few years before in the leading church of Asia, that centre of Jewish and Heathen magic and false philosophy? (Comp. Acts 19:13–19). Paul himself, in one of his earliest epistles, A.D. 53, says, that “the mystery of iniquity” (2 Thess. 2:7), which, however, stands connected with an apostasy from the Christian truth (comp. v. 11), “doth already work.” We may, indeed, adduce against this Paul’s valedictory at Miletus (Acts 20:29–30), where he warns the elders against false teachers, who should appear after his departure. But, strictly understood, he is there speaking of the approaching intrusion of errorists among the Ephesian presbyters; and from this we should infer, that in the congregation they were present earlier, rather than later. And who does not know the instability and changeableness, the ebb and flow, of the history of heresies and sects! How easily might the false brethren impudently raise their heads under the administration of the young and inexperienced Timothy; be disarmed for a time, on the return of Paul, by his intellectual power and personal weight of character; and then re-appear after his departure with new and more dangerous weapons. Add to this, that the evil is represented in the first epistle to Timothy, 4:1 sqq. (comp. 2 Tim. 2:17 sqq. 3:1 sqq.), as one, which should not fully unfold itself till hereafter, “in the last times.”
(c) Finally, the peculiar contents and tone of the epistles in question are explained to the satisfaction of those, who are firmly convinced of their genuineness, by their concern with the practical affairs of the church; by the specially agitated state of the author’s mind, to which we have a parallel in the second epistle to the Corinthians (comp. § 79); and by the character of the persons, to whom he wrote.
- The main exegetical bulwark of the hypothesis in hand is the second epistle to Timothy. To this epistle, therefore, the most recent advocates of a second imprisonment make their chief appeal. This letter, which presupposes that the person to whom it was addressed was in Ephesus, or at least in its vicinity,1 and summons him to come quickly with Mark to the imprisoned apostle in Rome (4:9, 11, 21), contains some apparent hints of Paul’s having lately been in Asia Minor and Corinth, and of his having taken a route varying from that of Acts 27; besides indicating, that his situation was not the same as in the first imprisonment Acts 28:30 sq. A more accurate exegesis, however, leads to altogether different results, as we shall now proceed to show. The passages in point are the following:
(a) Paul charges Timothy to bring with him the portmanteau,2 books, and parchments, he had left at Troas (4:13). But this may very well be referred to the visit of Paul in Troas mentioned in Acts 20:6; his leaving these things there having been either intentional, or made necessary by his travelling to Assos on foot (v. 13). It is undeniable, that several years had passed since this time. But there is nothing to hinder us from supposing, either that he had hitherto had no good opportunity to send for the books, or had purposely left them there so long for the use of Carpus, or had not till now needed them. And since, when he wrote the second epistle to Timothy, he was expecting soon to suffer martyrdom, there is certainly room for the opinion, that he sent for these documents at that time simply because they were important in his trial, as evidence of his innocence. It is also possible, however, that they were of use to Luke in the composition of his Gospel and the book of Acts.
(b) The remark, that he “left Trophimus at Miletum sick,” and that “Erastus abode at Corinth” (4:20), is not enough to establish the fact of his having shortly before made a visit to Corinth and Miletus, of which the Acts take no notice. For the narrative in Acts simply states, that Erastus (undoubtedly the chamberlain of Corinth, Rom. 16:23), contrary to Paul’s expectation, did not come to Rome, where the apos the might have employed him, on account of his high station, as deprecator, and perhaps as a witness in the trial, if his Jewish accusers had renewed their prosecution before the tribunal of Annaeus Gallio (Acts 18:12–27). And as to his leaving Trophimus behind him sick, the ἀπελιπον, which is commonly taken as the first person singular, with Paul for its subject, may just as grammatically be the third person plural, and read: Trophimus they (i. e. his countrymen, the Asians, 2 Tim. 1:15, 16) left at Miletum sick.1 Should this not satisfy, we may refer the statement—in case it is really the Carian Miletus, and not the Cretan, which is meant, or if the reading might not even be Malta (ἐν Μελίτῃ)—to the apostle’s transportation from Cæsarea to Rome. On this voyage he came, it is true, only to Myra in Lycia, and there took another ship (Acts 27:5); but he might have left Trophimus behind, distinctly instructing and expecting him to go on to Miletus in the first vessel, which was, in fact, bound for Adramyttium near Troas, and was to sail by the maritime cities of Asia Minor (27:2).2 At any rate, the apostle hardly intended here to tell Timothy anything new about Trophimus; for Timothy himself was then in or near Ephesus, and therefore near Miletus. He was describing his own lonesome, forsaken condition (2 Tim. 4:16), and showing the reasons for his request, that Timothy should come to him to Rome before winter (v. 21). It must have been the harder for him to be without Trophimus, since this brother had been the innocent occasion of his arrest at Jerusalem (Acts 21:29), and might therefore have been of special service to him as a witness, in disproving the charge of his having profaned the temple by bringing into it a Gentile.
(c) In 2 Tim. 4:16, 17, Paul speaks of his first answer (πρώτη ἀπολογία), in which his human friends forsook him through fear of death, but the Lord strengthened him mightily, and rescued him from the jaws of the lion (ἐκ στόματος λέοντος). By this several church fathers, following Eusebius, understand liberation from a former imprisonment in Rome, and from the power of the emperor Nero; and then refer the words: “that by me the preaching might be fully known, and that all the Gentiles might hear,” to the subsequent labors of the apostle among other western nations, which he had not visited before. But, not to mention, that ἀπολογία is not the same as αἰχμαλωσία, nor πρώτη as προτέρα, this interpretation is at once contradicted by the fact, that Paul is here telling Timothy something new; whereas his deliverance from a first imprisonment could not have been unknown to him. Hence almost all commentators now place the “first answer” within the time of the imprisonment, during which Paul wrote the letter, and refer the preaching before all the Gentiles to the judicial defense of the apostle, since criminal trials among the Romans were public, and Rome was a rendezvous for all nations. The interpretation of the “lion” is decisive neither way; yet we are probably to understand by it not Nero, but either the peril of death, or Paul’s prosecutor, the representative of the Sanhedrim.1 Besides, the epistle before us gives no hint of a former imprisonment in Rome; even in c. 3:11, where something of the kind would be expected in the apostle’s enumeration of his sufferings and persecutions.
As this epistle, accordingly, furnishes no decisive proof of a second imprisonment of Paul in Rome; so, on the other hand, its general tenor is positively against this hypothesis. It indicates, that the apostle’s situation was substantially the same, as when he wrote the epistles of the first imprisonment. He had the same attendants; some of them with him, as Luke (4:11);2 some shortly before sent on a mission, as Tychicus (v. 12);3 some with orders to come to him, as Timothy and Mark (v. 9, 11). He was bound with only one chain (1:16). He was at liberty to receive visitors and write letters. That his circumstances in a second captivity were precisely the same, and that, even after the Neronian persecution, he was allowed intercourse and correspondence with friends and a second defense (to which πρώτη, 2 Tim. 4:16, properly points), is surely very improbable. For this reason many advocates of a second imprisonment, as Baronius and Hug, have assigned 2 Timothy to the first imprisonment; though erroneously to the earlier part of it.4 For all the circumstances, particularly the absence of most of the apostle’s companions, his forlorn condition (4:9, 10, 16),1 the advanced stage of his trial (4:16, 17), his expectation of speedy martyrdom (4:7, 8, 18), and the apostasy of Demas (4:10, comp. with Col. 4:14), go to show, that the second epistle to Timothy was written last, and after the expiration of the two years, with which the book of Acts closes; since Paul had already had his first hearing, of which Luke says nothing, and his condition, though still essentially the same, had become considerably worse as to its probable issue. The limits, for the date of this epistle, therefore, are the spring of the year 63, and the conflagration of Rome in July, 64, after which the persecution broke out. And since Paul charged Timothy to come to him soon (4:9), and before winter (v. 21), the latter part of the summer of the year 63 might be sated as the most probable date of this epistle.
In the New Testament itself, therefore, we find no proper evidence whatever in favor of the hypothesis in question; and even supposing, that the above difficulties in the interpretation of the Pastoral Epistles cannot be solved to perfect satisfaction, yet they by no means authorize us to assume a series of historical facts, of which we otherwise have not the slightest reliable trace.2
But now the question arises: May not the hypothesis of a second imprisonment be established by later testimony? Several of its supporters, as Baronius and Hug, while they abandon the exegetical ground, betake themselves to the authority of some church fathers. In this case we should have no documents whatever respecting the labors of Paul after his liberation, and would know simply the general facts, that he either remained in Rome, or, according to his former purpose, made several more missionary tours, perhaps to the East, perhaps to Spain, perhaps to both, and then suffered martyrdom in a second confinement. This brings us to the sixth and last point.
- Of the statements of tradition only two here come properly into view, those of Clement of Rome and Eusebius; for on this point the other church fathers draw entirely from Eusebius.
(a) Clement of Rome, a younger contemporary and probably a disciple of Paul (Phil. 4:3), and thus a witness of special weight, says in his epistle to the Corinthians, c. 5, according to the common interpretation, that Paul bore chains seven times; preached the gospel in the East and West; taught the whole world righteousness; came to the limit of the West; and died a martyr under the rulers.1 Had Clement said in plain words, Paul was in Spain, the matter would soon be settled. We should then have unequivocal testimony, that the apostle was released from his first confinement in Rome; since he cannot be proved to have been in Spain before it, but designed to go thither from Rome (Rom. 15:24, 28). The case, however, is not so simple. Everything depends on the interpretation of the expressions τέρμα τῆς δύσεως and μαρτυρήσας ἐπὶ τῶν ἡγουμένων. To begin with the latter; the advocates of a second imprisonment take μαρτυρεῖν in the sense (usually only in later authors), “to suffer martyrdom,” and refer ἡγούμωνοι either (with Pearson) to Helius and Polycletus, the regents at Rome during the absence of Nero in Greece, A.D. 66–67, therefore after Paul’s first imprisonment, or (with Hug) to the prefects, Tigellinus and Nymphidius Sabinus. But, apart from some historical difficulties, ἐπί here is hardly a designation of time: “in the time of the princes” (sub præfectis, as Hefele translates it); it means, coram principibus. And then, too, μαρτυρήσας is rather to be understood in its usual sense, as meaning the public, bold confession, which Paul made before the imperial court.2 The idea of death Clement expresses, in fact, immediately after by ἀπηλλάγη τοῦ κόσμου καὶ εἰς τὸν ἅγιον τόπον ἐπορεύθη (e mundo migravit et in locum sanctum abiit). Consequently the whole burden of proof falls upon the much disputed phrase τέρμα τῆς δύσεως. By this expression Pearson, Hug, Neander, Olshausen, and others, think it most natural to understand Spain; inasmuch as Clement, in fact, wrote from Rome, so that Italy was for him not the limit, but rather the beginning of the West. For, in itself, the word “limit” may denote beginning as well as end; and its meaning is to be determined by the writer’s position. Anglican theologians, interested in the apostolical origin of their church, have referred the phrase to Britain, still more remote from Rome.1 But τέρμα, if ever interpreted geographically, admits also of being taken subjectively, and may possibly denote only what was for Paul the limit of his apostolic labor,2 or what appeared to the Corinthians, to whom Clement was writing, to be the boundary of the West. And even aside from this, the whole passage is plainly so colored by rhetoric and panegyric, that it cannot possibly furnish, of itself, adequate ground for so important a hypothesis. Clement says, for example, that Paul bore chains seven times,—which certainly cannot mean, that he was so many times imprisoned. He speaks of him as having taught “the whole word” righteousness,—which at any rate can only be understood as a hyperbole. Paul uses just such expressions to denote the rapid spread of the gospel over the whole Roman empire, and that, too, in a time, when confessedly he had not yet been in Spain. See Col. 1:6–23 (2 Tim. 4:17), and even Rom. 10:18, where he applies to the heralds of the gospel the words of the nineteenth Psalm: “Their sound went into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the word” (εἰς τὰ πέρατα τῆς οἰκουμένης). So it is said, Acts 1:8 (comp. 13:47), that the apostles should be witnesses of Jesus “unto the uttermost part of the earth” (ἕως ἐσχάτου τῆς γῆς); and yet Luke, likewise writing in Rome, closes his narrative of the founding of the church with the preaching of Paul in Rome; though this, it is true, at once secured the victory of Christianity in all the West. The same Luke says, Acts 2:5, that, on the day of Pentecost, “Jews out of every nation under heaven” were in Jerusalem; and yet immediately after, in enumerating them (v. 10), he mentions the Romans as the westernmost nation,—showing, that, according to the usage of those times, Rome might, in fact, very well be called, in hyperbole, the limit of the West.1
But is not the local sense of τέρμα, in the passage from Clement, to be altogether given up? Considering that not one of the church fathers has appealed to this passage in proof of Paul’s having been in Spain; and that the preposition ἐπί, which first suggested the geographical interpretation, is purely a conjecture of the editor, Junius, to fill a chasm here in the original cod. Alex.;—we are inclined to adopt the explanation recently proposed by Wieseler, who supplies ὑπό instead of ἐπί, and takes τέρμα in the familiar sense of “supreme power,” “highest tribunal.”2 Accordingly we translate the passage in question thus: “After having been a herald (of the gospel) in the East and in the West, he (Paul) obtained the noble renown of his faith; having taught the whole world righteousness, and having appeared before the highest tribunal of the West, and having borne witness (of Christ) before the rulers, he departed from the world and went to the holy place, having furnished the sublimest model of patience.” This interpretation alone brings out the beautiful climax in Clement’s language; and this alone clears him of the tautology of which the other would make him guilty; the preceding words from κῆρυξ to κόσμον having already sufficiently described the great extent of Paul’s preaching.
(b) Of the fragment from Dionysius, bishop of Corinth (about A.D. 170), in Eusebius (II, 25), we shall speak more particularly in the section on Peter’s residence in Rome. We here pass it by, as it makes Peter and Paul, indeed, joint founders of the Corinthian church (which is manifestly incorrect), and speaks of their simultaneous martyrdom, but not of their going together from Corinth to Italy, as they certainly could have done only after the first imprisonment.1 So with a fragment on the Canon, written about A.D. 170, and published by Muratori. This, indeed, makes the first explicit mention of a “profectio Pauli ab urbe ad Spaniam proficiscentis,” but in a passage so defaced and obscure, that the most we can gather from it is, that there was then current a report of such a journey. This rumor, however, not a single ecclesia Paulina in that land can substantiate, and it may be very easily accounted for, according to Neander’s own concession, as a premature conclusion from the apostle’s purpose (Rom. 15:24 sqq.) to his execution of it.2
(c) The first clear and unequivocal statement of Paul’s release from his first confinement and of a subsequent second imprisonment in Rome, is that of Eusebius (†340), in the second book of his Church History, ch. 22. The force of his testimony, however, is materially weakened by the fact, that he bases it, not on any historical foundation (simply saying in the most indefinite way: λόγος ἔχει), but rather on his own interpretation of 2 Tim. 4:16, 17, as noticed above. And this is now given up as erroneous even by most of the advocates of a second imprisonment. Besides, the whole chronological system of Eusebius required this hypothesis to support it. For he made Paul’s first imprisonment begin with the spring of the year 55, which is at any rate decidedly incorrect; and put his death in the thirteenth year of Nero’s reign, the year 67. Unless, therefore, he had assumed a liberation of the apostle, he would have had to suppose a continuous confinement of twelve years.
To sum up in few words the result of this discussion; we must say, that the hypothesis of a second imprisonment of Paul in Rome rests on a very poor foundation, and has been suggested, not so much by reliable historical tradition, as by the effort, on the one hand, to extend as far as possible the sphere of the apostle’s labor, and, on the other, to remove certain exegetical difficulties, which the Pastoral Epistles, particularly the second epistle to Timothy, present,—difficulties, however, which may be more satisfactorily solved without this hypothesis and the vague combinations connected with it.
- . 88. The Martyrdom of Paul, and the Neronian Persecution. A.D. 64
Respecting the formal trial of the apostle we know nothing, but what may be gathered from a general knowledge of the usages of the Roman tribunal, and from some hints in the second epistle to Timothy. At all events, the fact, that at least two years passed away, according to Acts 28:30, 31, before his case came up for decision, can give us no surprise. For we have to consider, in the first place, that, by reason of its connection with a religious controversy, this case was very complicated; secondly, that the defendant had remained two years also in Cæsarea without being tried; thirdly, that despotic emperors, among whom Nero, after his quinquennium, most emphatically belonged, often purposely delayed judicial investigations; and finally, that the Jews would have good reason to prolong the suit, whether to have time to secure patrons at court, or to make the apostle harmless, at least as long as possible, by keeping the issue in uncertainty. In cases like that before us, where the witnesses, who were commonly required to appear in person (comp. Acts 24:19), had to come from a great distance, the prosecutor was allowed considerable time. The principal parts of a formal process were, successive speeches from the prosecutor and his colleagues, speeches in defense (ἀπολογίαι) from the accused and his friends, the hearing of witnesses, and the examination of other sources of evidence. Then followed immediately the decision of the judge. Where the evidence of guilt or innocence was clear, he either condemned or acquitted, but in doubtful cases adjourned the court, i. e. pronounced a non liquet; and then after an appointed interval the above named process must be repeated in an actio secunda, till a definite judgment could be given. From 2 Tim. 4:15, according to the true interpretation, it appears, that in Paul’s case such an adjournment took place, as also formerly in Cæsarea (Acts 24:22). In his first defense he was deserted, indeed, by his own friends, through their fear of death, but, in the strength of the Lord, made a fearless confession of his faith before the highest tribunal of the heathen world. But though he was not this time condemned, his condition seems to have become somewhat worse. Whether he came to a second hearing, as he expected according to 2 Tim. 4:16, 18, or whether the persecution, which soon broke out, interrupted the course of the law by violence, we do not know.
The second epistle to Timothy, however, which bears plain marks of being, at all events, the last letter of the great Apostle of the Gentiles, allows us at least a glimpse of his state of mind shortly before his martyrdom. For nearly thirty years had he now served his heavenly Lord and Master with unexampled fidelity and self-denial. Innumerable perils, conflicts, and persecutions, on land and sea, in city and desert, among Jews, heathens, and false brethren, he had borne with a heroism possible only by help from above, and mightier than any arguments of reason to prove the divinity of the Christian religion. And now as he nears the goal of his noble career, he leaves behind him a most beautiful me morial of his paternal love for his disciple, Timothy; of his unwearied care for the church and for the purity of saving doctrine; of his exalted tranquillity of soul; and of his unshaken trust in the almighty and faithful God, and in the final triumph of His gospel over all its foes. He could not have retired more worthily from the field of his warfare, than with those sublime words, 2 Tim. 4:7, 8: “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day; and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.”
The immediate outward occasion of this first3 imperial persecution of the Christians was the fearful conflagration, which broke out on the 19th of July (XIV Kalend. Sextil.), A.D. 64, lasted six days and seven nights, and, of the fourteen wards, into which Rome was then divided, laid three entirely, and seven half, in ruins. The heathen authors unanimously attribute the incendiarism to Nero himself, who, for the first five years of his reign (54–59), under the guidance of Seneca and Burrus, was a model prince, but afterwards abandoned himself to such arbitrary despotism and unnatural cruelty, that he must be counted one of the most horrible of tyrants. During the conflagration, the greatest known to history, he staid in Antium, not far from the city; regaled himself from the tower of Maecenas with the magnificent sight of the flames recited, in his favorite theatrical dress, the destruction of Troy; and hurried back to Rome only when the raging element approached his own palace. To divert from himself the general suspicion of the incendiarism, and at the same time to furnish new entertainment for his diabolical cruelty, he cast the blame upon the hated Christians, who, meanwhile, especially since the public trial of Paul and his successful labors in Rome, had come to be distinguished from the Jews as a genus tertium, and of whom not only the rude multitude, but even earnest and cultivated heathens—as the example of Tacitus shows—were inclined to believe the most shameful things. On this suspicion and the equally groundless charge of misanthropy and unnatural vice, Nero caused a vast multitude (ingens multitudo, as Tacitus says) to be put to death in the most shocking manner. This was the answer of the powers of hell to the mighty preaching of the two chief apostles, which had shaken Heathenism to its centre. Some of the Christians were crucified; some sewed up in the skins of wild animals and thrown out to be torn to pieces by dogs; some smeared with combustible material, and burned at night for torches in the imperial gardens. The whole wound up with a theatrical exhibition, in which Nero appeared as charioteer.1 This event in the metropolis could, of course, only make the condition of the Christians in the provinces worse, and perhaps drew after it several other persecutions. Unfortunately no account has come down to us of the tremendous impression, which this tragical scene and the almost simultaneous martyrdoms of the two leading apostles must have made on the Jewish as well as the Gentile Christians.
It is no accident, that the line of persecuting emperors began with the man, who represents the ripest product of heathen depravity; stands branded in history as one of the most wicked of men, a real moral monster; and was made by common rumor the forerunner of Antichrist.1 History delights to place in immediate contrast the greatest moral opposites, as here the apostles Paul and Peter, and the monster Nero, and to illustrate at once the destiny of virtue, forever victorious in seeming defeat, and the fate of vice, whose triumph is the eternal monument of its shame.
1 It was customary with the Jews to have two names, and in intercourse with foreigners to use the Greek or Latin one; as John, Mark, (Acts 12:12, 25); Simeon, Niger (13:1); Jesus, Justus (Col. 4:11). This best accounts for the appearance of the name, Paul, exactly from the time, when this apostle comes out as the independent apostle of the Gentiles (13:9); while previously, and during the first period after his conversion, where Luke followed Palestinian documents, he is called Saul. He had probably, however, already used the Graeco-Roman form during his former residence in Tarsus. According to the old view of Jerome (De vir, illustr. c. 5), which has been advocated of late by Olshausen and Meyer, Paul assumed this name in grateful remembrance of the first fruits of his apostolic labors, the conversion of the Roman proconsul Sergius Paulus (Acts 13:7): “Apostolus a primo ecclesiae spolio, Proconsule Sergio Paulo, victoriae suae trophaea retulit erexitque vexilla, ut Paulus a Saulo vocaretur.” But we must reject this explanation for the following reasons: (1.) The new name appears before the conversion of Sergius, in Acts 13:9; whereas one would not expect it to occur till c. 13:13. To this point Fritzsche has justly called attention (Epist. P. ad. Roman tom. I. p. XI. note 2). (2.) It was, indeed, customary in ancient times to name pupils after their teachers, but not the reverse (vid. Neander, Apostelgesch. I. p. 135. Note). (3.) Paul had undoubtedly before this converted many Gentiles, though the Acts take no special notice of it, (comp., however, 11:25, 26), as also they make no mention of Paul’s three years’ residence in Arabia, and only briefly touch upon his residence in Tarsus. At all events we can see no reason why this particular conversion, which seems to have been attended with no further results, should appear to the apostle so important, as to induce him to change his name.
In homilies and practical discourses it is still usual to refer the double name of the apostle to the great religious antithesis of his life, just as Simon’s new name, dates from his confession of the Messiahship of Jesus, and denotes his peculiar position, as foundation, in the history of the church. Thus Augustine (Serm. 315) draws a parallel between Saul the persecutor of the Christians, and Saul the persecutor of David: “Saulus enim nomen est a Saule, Saulus persecutor erat regis David. Talis fuerat Saul in David, qualis Saulus in Stephanum.” And the new name, which he derives from the Latin adjective paulus, he regards as involving the idea of humility: “Quia Paulus modicus est, Paulus parvus est. Nos solemus sic loqui: videbo te post paulum, i. e. post modicum. Unde ergo Paulus: ‘ego sum minimus Apostolorum,’ 1 Cor. 15:9.” Still more arbitrary and ungrammatical is the etymological trifling, noticed, but decidedly condemned by Chrysostom (De nominum mutatione), which derives Saul from σαλεύειν sc. τὴν ἐκκλησίαν, and Paul from παύσασθαι sc. τοῦ διώκειν, making the first name denote the persecution of the Christians, and the second, the cessation of the persecution! Saul, it is well known, is a Hebrew word, meaning rather “the longed for,” “the prayed for.” All these and such like allegorical interpretations are forestalled by the fact, that Luke several times calls our apostle Saul, even after his conversion (Acts 9:8, 11, 17, 19, 22, 26. 11:25, 30. 12:25. 13:2, 9).
- Henry Hampton Halley, Halley’s Bible Handbook with the New International Version., Completely rev. and expanded. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 2000).
- David S. Dockery, ed., Holman Bible Handbook (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 1992).
- Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988).
- Philip Schaff, History of the Apostolic Church; With a General Introduction to Church History, trans. Edward D. Yeomans (New York: Charles Scribner, 1859).
- Christopher M. Leighton and Charles Arian, The Encyclopedia of Christianity (Grand Rapids, MI; Leiden, Netherlands: Wm. B. Eerdmans; Brill, 1999–2003).
- Ferguson, Everett. Church History, Volume One: From Christ to Pre-Reformation: The Rise and Growth of the Church in Its Cultural, Intellectual, and Political Context: 1. Zondervan. Kindle Edition.
- Gonzalez, Justo L. The Story of Christianity: Volume 1: The Early Church to the Dawn of the Reformation. HarperOne. Kindle Edition.
- Ferguson, Everett. Backgrounds of Early Christianity. Eerdmans Publishing Co – A. Kindle Edition.
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1 For at the time of his imprisonment in Rome, when he wrote his epistle to Philemon (v. 9), about A.D. 63, he was an old man, πρεσβύτης, therefore doubtless upwards of sixty.
2 Strabo, contemporary with Cæsar Augustus, in his Geography, XIV. 5, places Tarsus, in point of philosophical and literary culture, even above Athens and Alexandria.
3 Tents were then used for a great variety of purposes, in war, in navigation, by shepherds and travellers. They were made mostly of the hair of the Cilician goat, which was peculiarly coarse and well adapted to this purpose; whence κιλίκιος τράγος denoted a coarse man. Comp. Hug: Einl. in’s N. T. II. p. 328 sq. 3rd ed. The Jewish custom of pursuing a trade along with the study of the law was not designed solely to secure the means of temporal subsistence, but also to counteract temptations to sensuality, and its destructive influence on the higher spiritual life. For the same twofold purpose the Christian monachism united manual labor with meditation.
1 Only from the Christians of Philippi, towards whom he held a relation of peculiar friendship, he sometimes received presents (Phil. 4:15.)
1 It is possible, that he may have personally known Jesus, but not probable, as we have no distinct trace of it in his writings. For we can by no means, as Olshausen does, infer it with certainty from 2 Cor. 5:16: “Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more.” Comp. Neander: Apostelgesch. I. p. 142, and De Wette ad loc.
2 Josephus relates, (De bello Jud. II. 20, 2), that under Nero almost all the women in Damascus were attached to Judaism, and that at one time ten thousand Jews were executed.
1 Acts 9:17, 27. Comp. 1 Cor. 9:1, and 15:8.
1 This phrase, employed respecting horses and oxen: πρὸς κέντρα λακτίζειν, adversus stimulum calcare, to kick against the goads used for urging the animals, may denote either the subjective impossibility of resisting the power of divine grace; in which case it would furnish an argument for Augustine’s doctrine of “gratia irresistibilis;” or, as seems to us more probable, it may express the objective fruitlessness of opposition to the church of Christ, which is founded on an immovable rock. This interpretation is supported by the parallel passage in Gamaliel’s address, 5:39: “But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God.”
2 The acknowledged discrepancies among these three accounts, to which, of late, Baur, (l. c. p. 60 sqq.), has attached extravagant importance, in the interest of his mythological theory, relate merely to immaterial circumstances, and with every unbiased mind, serve only to enhance the credibility of the narratives, and to refute Schneckenburger’s and Baur’s hypothesis of constant design and calculating reflection on the part of the author of the Acts. (1) According to c. 9:7, the companions of Paul heard the voice which spoke with him; but in 22:9, they did not. These statements may be reconciled by simply supposing that the attendants heard the sound of the voice, but did not understand the words, which, besides, were intended only for Saul. (2) In Acts 22:9, (comp. 26:13), the attendants saw the light, which shone around Paul; in Acts 9:7, they saw no one (μηδένα) i. e. no definite form in the splendor;—which by no means contradicts the first assertion. (3) In 26:16–18, Jesus himself reveals to Paul his call to be an apostle, whereas in both the other accounts this is done through Ananias. This is explained by considering that Paul before Agrippa condenses his story for the sake of brevity. And, in fact, the first representation is by no means untrue; since Ananias acted under commission from the Lord, and Paul, while yet on his way, was referred to this transaction, (9:6).
1 The rationalistic explanation, for instance, of Ammon and others, long ago refuted, which, in entire opposition to the plain sense of the text, converts the unearthly effulgence of the glorified Godman into lightning, and his voice, which spoke Hebrew, into thunder, and regards all the rest as additions of a heated oriental fancy. No better, however, is the mythical theory lately advanced by Dr. Baur, according to which we would here have no objective appearance at all, natural or supernatural, but simply a subjective process, which took place in Paul’s own mind. “The light,” says Baur, “is nothing else than the symbolical, mythical expression of the certainty of the real and immediate presence of the exalted Jesus,” (Paulus, p. 68), in whom Baur himself does not believe, except in a pantheistic sense. This view rests on no exegetical and historical grounds whatever, but upon unproved philosophical assumptions, such as the impossibility of a miracle, and especially upon the denial of the resurrection of Christ. It moreover makes Paul, that clear, logical, and searching spirit, a blind and stubborn enthusiast. For, after all, even Baur cannot deny, that according to the passages, 1 Cor. 9:1 and 15:8, aside from the narratives in Acts, the apostle believed he had actually seen the Lord; that he regarded the resurrection of Christ as the best accredited and most important of all facts; nay, that, without this, he declared his preaching and all faith empty and groundless, and Christians of all men most miserable, (1 Cor. 15:14–19). But which, now, is the more rational: to give implicit credit to the plain statements of such a man, authenticated by the most brilliant results, and to correct our own philosophy by history, where the two conflict; or to deny the history, and, for the sake of some preconceived opinions, to attribute a life, next to that of the Saviour, the most laborious and beneficent, which history can show, a life, which yet serves for the daily instruction, edification, and consolation of millions, to an empty conceit, a radical self-deception? But a small portion of sound common sense (which is sometimes much better than uncommon sense) is amply sufficient to decide.
1 As is assumed especially by Olshausen, in the third volume of his Commentary, p. 5 sqq. A peculiar modification of this view Dr. Heinr. Thiersch takes occasion to propound in favor of Irvingism, which is well known to teach a restoration of the apostolic office for the last age of the church. “Paul is not the thirteenth of the first apostolate, but the first of a second, which, being designed for the Gentile world and the church arising in it, was in those times not yet filled,” (Vorlesungen über Katholicismus und Protestantismus, Part I. p. 309. Note. 2nd ed. Comp. also Thiersch’s Geschichte der apost. Kirche, p. 121 sq.
2 If Judas, the traitor, had not the powers of a Paul, he was still designed for great things; otherwise Jesus would not have taken him into the number of his disciples. From his tragical end we may infer the greatness of his original destiny, as we may judge of a demolished building by its ruins. On this point comp. my work: Ueber die Sünde wider den heiligen Geist. Halle, 1841, p. 41 sqq.
3 The strict hierarchical view, be it Roman or Puseyite, which always looks for an outward, palpable succession, admits no satisfactory explanation of the fact, that the apostles had no share whatever in the ordination of Paul after his conversion (Acts 9:17), and in his being sent to the Gentiles by the church of Antioch, (13:3) The divine irregularity of his call and the subsequent independence of his labors make Paul, so to speak, a prototype of evangelical Protestantism, which has always looked to him as its main authority, as Romanism to Peter.
1 Our arguments for this date are the following: (1) The statement of Paul, that, three years after his conversion, he fled from Damascus before the ethnarch of king Aretas, (2 Cor. 11:32, 33), furnishes no certain datum, owing to our imperfect knowledge of the time of this Aretas and of the history of Damascus. It only determines that the conversion of Paul cannot be put earlier than the year 34, since Aretas cannot have come into possession of Damascus before the death of Tiberius, A.D. 37. (Comp. Wieseler, l. c. p. 167–175.) (2) The conversion cannot have been long after the death of Stephen; which, on account of the mob-like nature of the proceeding, may best be referred to the time immediately succeeding the deposition of Pilate, A.D. 36, or to the beginning of the reign of Caligula, (after 37), who, in the first year of his reign, showed himself mild towards his subjects, as Josephus expressly observes, Antiqu. XVIII. 8, 2. (3) A sure datum is furnished by Paul’s second journey to Jerusalem, (Acts 11:29, 30), which cannot have taken place before the year 44 or 45; since in this year the famine appeared in Palestine, which occasioned the sending of Paul and Barnabas with supplies. Between this journey of Paul to Jerusalem and the first, (Acts 9:26), some four or five years must have intervened; for the apostle in the meantime had spent a whole year in Antioch, (11:26), probably from two to three years in Syria and Tarsus, (9:30. Gal. 1:21), and some time in travelling. If, according to this, the first journey fell in the year 40, then the year of the conversion is also settled; since, according to the statement in Gal. 1:18, it happened three years before, therefore in the year 37. This calculation is, indeed, at once made uncertain by our not knowing the length of Paul’s residence in Tarsus either from himself or from Luke; and conjectures respecting it vary. Anger, for example, makes it two years, Schrader and Wieseler, only half a year. (4) The surest guide to the date is afforded by Gal. 2:1, according to which the apostle, “fourteen years after, went up again to Jerusalem.” Reckoning this, with most interpreters, from Paul’s conversion, as the great era of his life; and understanding the journey here mentioned to be the one to the apostolic convention, Acts 15, which, according to a tolerably certain calculation, was held in the year 50 or 51; we again have the year 37 for the latest date of his conversion. It is true that this calculation also can be easily disputed, as chronologists and interpreters differ on the question, whether the fourteen years should begin at the conversion, or at the first journey to Jerusalem, (Gal. 1:18), as well as on the question, whether Gal. 2:1 refers to the second journey, (Acts 11:30. 12:25). or the third, (15), or the fourth, (18:21, 22) Wieseler, for instance, l. c. p. 179–208, endeavors at some length to prove, that Paul, in Gal. 2, had in view his fourth journey to Jerusalem. (Acts 18:22); and putting this in the year 54, and deducting fourteen years, he obtains, in harmony with his other combinations, A.D. 40 for the year of the apostle’s conversion. But the reasons for identifying the journey, Gal. 2:1, with that mentioned Acts 15, are very strong, and we think it impossible, that Paul, in his epistle to the Galatians, would have passed over in perfect silence his attendance at the apostolic council, where yet the point in controversy was the very one spoken of in Gal. 2. For a more full refutation of Wieseler’s view, see below, § 67.
1 Acts 9:23–25; with which agrees Paul’s own statement (2 Cor. 11:32, 33), with the easily adjusted difference, that, according to Luke, the Jews, according to Paul, the ethnarch (i. e. both in concert), set watch over the city. This and other cases of an undesigned coincidence between Luke’s narrative and Paul’s epistles in such intrinsically unimportant historical notices, as well as the frequent indications of Luke’s accurate knowledge of contemporary circumstances, make it absolutely impossible, aside from higher considerations, to suppose, with Baur, that the book of Acts was written so late as the second century.
2 Gal. 1:18. Luke has for this (Acts 9:23) the less definite, indeed, but by no means contradictory expression: ἡμέραι ἱκαναί, “many days,” for which Dr. Baur in Tübingen (p. 106) reads him a sharp lecture! From our heart we wish the historical and critical sins of this scholar a more merciful judge. Were the Acts, as Baur supposes, not composed till the beginning of the second century, how easily might the author, for his own sake, have secured himself against such reproaches, with the more minute statement of the epistle to the Galatians before his eyes. For intentional distortion (as such the above named critic would brand this and other insignificant differences), no reasonable ground whatever can here be imagined.
3 At first, where Paul and Barnabas are named together in Acts, the latter is named before the former (11:30. 13:2), and even in the apostolic council (15:12). The reverse order appears, however, in the same chapter, vs. 2 and 22, and, in fact, as early as 13:43, 46, 50.
1 As he expressly remarks, Gal. 1:19; by which the more indefinite statement in Acts 9:27 must be limited.
2 Thus, for example, he refers his knowledge of the institution of the Holy Eucharist (1 Cor. 11:23) to the Lord; where, however, the ἀπό does not necessarily, like παρά, denote the immediate source, but may also possibly mean a communication through tradition.
3 On the sources of Paul’s Christian knowledge, comp. the instructive remarks of Dr. Neander in his Geschichte der Pflanzung etc. I. p. 166–176.
1 Wieseler, l. c. p. 165 sqq., endeavors to show, in behalf of his system of chronology, that this trance was the same as the one related in 2 Cor. 12:2–4, which befell the apostle fourteen years before the writing of the epistle (A.D. 57); so that we should have the year 43 for the date of Paul’s first journey to Jerusalem, and the year 40 for the time of his conversion. But a simple comparison of the two passages will certainly not lead to this. In the Corinthians nothing is said of a command to leave Jerusalem and go to the Gentiles, as in Acts 22: but, on the contrary, Paul then heard “unspeakable words, which it is not lawful (possible) for a man to utter.” We can, therefore, attach no weight whatever to Wieseler’s inference from this supposed identity respecting the date of the first journey to Jerusalem.
2 As Anger (De temp. in Act. rat. p. 171), and Neander (l. c. I. p. 177), suppose. Schrader, on the contrary, and Wieseler, (l. c. p. 147 sq.), allow only half a year, or at most one year, for the residence in Tarsus. Luke confessedly gives no hint respecting this interval, thus leaving a chasm in the chronology.
3 Comp. supra, § 61.
4 Acts 11:28, compared with the more minute statement of Josephus in his Archaeology, B. xx. c. 2, § 5, and xx. 5, 2; which thus furnishes a fixed chronological datum; only Josephus points to the year 45, and the account of Luke rather to 44. Luke inserts the death of king Agrippa between the departure of Paul in consequence of the famine and his return from Jerusalem; and this death, it is certain, took place in the year 44. He also expressly remarks, that those two events happened about the same time, comp. 11:30. 12:1. and 12:25. This difference Wieseler seems to have overlooked.
1 The Jewish historian relates, l. c., that at that time many starved, and that Helena, queen of Adiabene, a proselyte, and her son, king Izates, sent grain, figs, and money to Jerusalem to relieve the wants of the poor.
2 Unfortunately we have no certain knowledge respecting the labors of this apostle, who was one of the three favorite disciples of the Lord. Clement of Alex. (in Eusebius: Hist. Eccl. II, 9) relates, that the accuser of James, on the way to the place of execution, stung by remorse, himself confessed faith, and begged his forgiveness; whereupon James said to him: “Peace be with thee,” gave him the brotherly kiss, and had him for a companion in martyrdom.
3 This second certain date in the life of Paul is furnished by the passage quoted from Acts in connection with Josephus, Antiqu. xix. 8, 2. Comp. on this Wieseler, p. 129 sqq., who thinks he can determine even the day of Agrippa’s death (the 6th of August).
1 The well known evangelist. His original Hebrew name, John (Acts 12:12, 25. 15:37. 13:5, 13), afterwards, when he entered on his missionary work in foreign lands, gave place entirely to the Roman name, Mark (15:39. Col. 4:10. Philem. 24. 2 Tim. 4:11. 1 Pet. 5:13); precisely as the name, Saul, was changed into Paul;—a proof of the correctness of our explanation, § 62, first Note.
2 Many interpreters and chronologists (the Chronicon pasch., Calvin, Kühnöl, Paulus, Flatt, Fritzsche, and others) have supposed, indeed, that Paul, Gal. 2:1, means this second journey to Jerusalem, and that, therefore, this was the time of the important transactions between him and the Jewish apostles. But, not to mention other difficulties, this hypothesis is, even chronologically, absolutely untenable; for there is not a single critical authority for reading τεσσάρων instead of δεκατεσσάρων.
3 Acts 13:46. 18:6. Rom. 1:16. Comp. Jno. 4:22.
1 The island of Cyprus was at that time a senatorial province, and therefore governed by a “proconsul” (ἀνθύπατος); while the governor of an imperial province was termed “propraetor”, or “legatus Cæsaris” (ἀντιστράτηγος). The careful observance of this distinction in the terminology of the Acts (19:38. 18:12. Comp. Luke 2:2), is one of the many proofs of the reliable historical character and early composition of that book. Comp. Wieseler, p. 224 sq. and especially Tholuck: Glaubwürdigkeit d. evang. Gesch. p. 171 sqq.
2 So, under Marcus Aurelius, the juggler, Alexander of Abonoteichos (a small town of Paphlagonia), found favor even with the most respectable Romans, particularly with the statesman, Rutilianus. So says Lucian, in c. 30 of his biography of this man, dedicated to the philosopher, Celsus. He calls Alexander as great an impostor, as the Macedonian Alexander was a hero (c. 1). Making all due allowance for the poetical coloring of the work, we may take it, on the whole, as a life-like, moral picture of the times; and Neander, therefore, notwithstanding the arbitrary protest of Baur (p. 94), is perfectly right in appealing to this parallel. Also what Josephus relates of the influence of the magician, Simon of Cyprus, on the Roman procurator Felix (Antiqu. XX 7 2), goes to confirm the statements of the Acts.
1 The μεταξύ, v. 42, must evidently mean the same as ἑξῆς (from ἕχω,) or μετέπειτα, “in succession,” “afterwards,” as sometimes in the later Greek; e. g. very certainly in Josephus: De bello Jud. V. 4, 2. The interpretation: “In the intervening week, is inconsistent with v. 44.
2 Now Conien, the residence of a Turkish Pasha.
1 Ovid: Metamorph. VIII. 611 sqq. From the same region sprang the famous goët, Apollonius of Tyana, who, according to Philostratus, was held by his countrymen to be a son of Zeus.
2 As is abundantly evident from his discourses in Acts, such as the one at Athens, and from his epistles, e. g. Rom. 8:31–39, and 1 Cor. 13, which are among the most sublime passages in the whole history of eloquence and poetry. Paul tells us, indeed (2 Cor. 10:10), that it might be said of him: “His letters are weighty and powerful; but his bodily presence is weak (ἀσθενής), and his speech contemptible (ἐξουθενημένος).” But this last is no doubt a superficial judgment, which, according to the degenerate taste of the times, looked to the outward pomp and ornament of the later heathen rhetoricians, as the principal criterion of eloquence. That he had some bodily infirmity, however, might be gathered also from such passages as 1 Cor. 2:3. Gal. 4:13 sq., and 2 Cor. 12:7. A tradition (Acta Pauli et Theclae, and Nicephorus Call. II, 37), which, however, certainly cannot be relied on, represents him as small and uncomely in stature.
3 In Jamblichus, De Mỵster. Aeg. I, this god is called: θεὸς ὁ τῶν λόγων ἡγεμών. Macrobius describes Mercury as “vocis et sermonis potens” (Sat. I, 8).
1 This date is obtained by adding to the time of Paul’s conversion (A.D. 37) the fourteen years of Gal. 2:1,—assuming, that the journey there mentioned is identical with this to the apostolic convention;—and also by subtracting a year and a half or two years from the time of his arrival in Corinth (Acts 18:1). For this arrival was in the autumn of the year 52 (vid. Wieseler, p. 118 and 128); he was one year, or at most two years, on the way; and he began this second missionary tour soon after his return from the apostolic council (15:33, 36). This council, accordingly, must be placed, at the latest, in the beginning of 51; more probably in 50.
2 l. c. p. 180–208.
1 Of which Baur, l. c. p. 129, makes great account, as impairing the credibility of the book of Acts.
2 According to the principles of the Talmud, the son of a mixed marriage must be circumcised: and only on this condition would such a marriage be considered allowable. The Roman Catholic church is well known to maintain the same principle, sanctioning mixed marriages only on condition, that the children receive Catholic baptism.
1 Instead of a “flat inconsistency,” as Dr. Baur expresses it, p. 130, being charged by the author of the Acts upon the free-minded Apostle of the Gentiles, we rather have, in this conduct, only a practical application of Paul’s principle, to become, from love, all things to all men, that he might gain all (1 Cor. 9:19, 20), and a proof of the apostle’s freedom from arbitrary dogmatism, and of his readiness to accommodate himself to others in self-denying charity, for the good of the kingdom of God, whenever he could do so without being untrue to his principles.
2 P. 111 sqq. This is one of the most plausible parts of Baur’s work on Paul, which deserves to be placed by the side of Strauss’ “Leben Jesu.” What is said on the same point by Baur’s disciple, Schwegler, in his radically unsound and fictitious book: Das nachapostolische Zeitalter, Tübingen. 1846. Part I. p. 116 sqq., makes, after the representation of his master, only the impression of an indifferent copy.
1 That this second journey of Paul cannot be intended in Gal. 2:1, we have already observed above, § 65, last note. Comp. also De Wette’s Comment. zum. Galaterbrief, 2nd ed. p. 24; Meyer, ad loc.: and Wieseler, l. c. p. 180 sqq.
2 Adv. haer. III. 13.
3 By Theodoret, Baronius, Pearson, Hess, Hug, Winer, Eichhorn, Usteri, Olshausen, De Wette, Meyer, Schneckenburger. Neander, and others. Since the appearance of the German edition of this work (1851), Ebrard, Thiersch, and Baumgarten, independently of us have also concurred in opposing Wieseler, and in identifying the journey mentioned in Acts 15 with that of Gal. 2: so that the above extended argument seems now almost superfluous.
1 As expressed by κατʼ ἰδίαν. “seorsim,” “privatim,” v. 2.
2 οἱ δοκοῦντες στῦλοι εἶναι, Gal. 2:9. This language is founded on the conception of the church as a temple. The true reading places James first, and the naming of Peter first is an alteration by later transcribers to furnish exegetical support for the primacy of Peter.
3 παρείσακτοι ψευδάδελφοι v. 4, amounts to: “false Christians (as the Christians called themselves ‘brethren’), who had secretly, unlawfully crept in, or been smuggled in,” and had changed only their name, not their views: being still in fact Jews, Pharisaical slaves to the law, and having no idea of evangelical freedom. Comp. Gal 5:23, 6:12–14, and Acts 15:5.
4 Comp. Eph. 4, and 1 Cor. 12–14.
5 Comp. supra, § 60.
1 Comp. Acts 24:17. 1 Cor. 16:1 sqq. 2 Cor. 8:1 sqq. Rom. 15:15 sqq.
2 The passage, Gal. 2:3–5, certainly very difficult, and variously interpreted,—I explain thus: “But not even was my companion, Titus, though an (uncircumcised) Greek, compelled (by the Jewish apostles) to be circumcised, and that (i. e. he was not compelled), on account of intruding false brethren (who peremptorily and from principle demanded his circumcision), who had crept in invidiously to spy out our liberty in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us under the bondage (of the law),—to which (false brethren) we yielded not an hour by (the) subjection (they demanded—Dative of manner: ‘in the way of obedience to them’), that the truth of the gospel (the doctrine of evangelical freedom, and justification by faith without works of the law) might continue with you.” By emphasizing the ἠναγκάσθη, and the δέ, which immediately follows it (which with Beza, Bengel, Fritzsche, De Wette, and others, we take as confirmatory, as in Phil. 2:8. Rom. 3:22), we might find the intimation implied, that the Jewish apostles advised circumcision, but merely from prudential considerations, and in this particular case, πρὸς ὥραν. James afterwards, we know, gave Paul similar advice in regard to the Nazarite vow (Acts 21:24). Under other circumstances, where only charity to a weak conscience, and not the sanction, by practice, of a heretical principle, was concerned, Paul, according to his maxim, 1 Cor. 9:20–23. Rom. 14:1 sqq., would undoubtedly have yielded, as is shown by his voluntary circumcision of Timothy (Acts 16:3). But here, where the false Christians were disposed to make this thing a matter of conscience, and where the point in question was not yet settled, the least sign of concession to the false teachers had to be avoided.
1 Hess (Apost. Gesch. I. p. 208) makes the council, on the contrary, precede the private interview. But this is certainly far less probable than the reverse.
1 The remains of the heathen sacrifices, which the Jews were strictly forbidden to eat (Ex. 34:15), were either consumed at the sacrificial feasts, or sold in the market. The partaking of this flesh offered to false gods was as much a pollution with idolatry, as the participation in the sacrificial feasts of the Israelites was a token of communion with Jehovah (comp. Ex. 29:28, 33).
2 According to Gen. 9:4. Lev. 17:10 sqq. Deuter. 12:23 sqq.: “Only be sure, that thou eat not the blood: for the blood is the life; and thou mayest not eat the life with the flesh. Thou shalt not eat it: thou shalt pour it upon the earth as water,” &c. The blood is intended to atone upon the altar for the soul of man (Lev. 17:11), and the prohibition to eat it rests accordingly upon regard for the sacrifice, the centre o. the Old Testament religion. With the heathen also, indeed, the blood was counted the proper means of atonement: but the eating of it was not forbidden, because with them the line was not so sharply drawn between the holy and the unholy.
3 i. e. those animals, which, like fowls, were caught in snares, and whose blood was not let. Comp. Lev. 17:13. 19:26.
1 1 Cor. 5:9. Eph. 5:3, 5. 1 Thess. 4:3. Col. 3:5.
2 Comp. 1 Cor. 5:1, where also πορνεία is put for incest.
3 Gieseler (Stäudlin and Tzschirner’s “Archiv für K. G.” IV. p. 312) explains the πορνεία as incest. He is followed by Baur (l. c. p. 142 sqq.), and Schwegler (l. c. p. 125 sq.): but these at the same time, altogether gratuitously, make the passage include the prohibition of a second marriage, appealing to the Montanists, and to Athenagoras, who describes the second marriage as εὐπρεπὴς μοιχεία. But this latter usus loquendi, and the view which lies at the bottom of it, are totally foreign to the New Testament (Rom. 7:3), and can be charged upon the author of the book of Acts only in zeal for a false assumption.
4 l. c. p. 211. Luther, on the contrary (Werke, ed. Walch, VIII. p. 1033, 1042), who is well known to have had little favor for James in other respects, unjustly reproaches him here with “having faltered a little.” From this, as well as from Luther’s hostility to the doctrine of justification set forth in the epistle of James, which he irreverently called an “epistle of straw,” we see that the great reformer carried the opposition to Judaism to excess, and was far from possessing, in this respect, the wise moderation of his favorite apostle, Paul, as it meets us in this council and elsewhere, and for this very reason also was not at all qualified for the work of peace and union. An interesting proof of the great distance between an ever so distinguished church-teacher and an apostle!
1 The Greek church, indeed, in the second Trullan council, A.D. 692, re-enacted the law against eating blood and things strangled, and still retain it. But the Latin church here more properly considered the change of time and circumstances, and gradually let this prohibition drop. Comp. Augustine: Contra Faustum, 32:13, and other passages. Also Neander, I. 219; and the remarks of Baumgarten in his instructive work on Acts (1852), Part II. Sec. 1, p. 153 sqq.
2 1 Cor. 8:7–13. 10:14, 24–29.
3 1 Cor. 10:25, 26. 8:4, 8. 1 Tim. 4:4.
4 As we may infer, partly from the share he had in the proposition itself; partly from the similarity of the style to that of the epistle of James: especially from the form of salutation, χαίρειν (15:23), which occurs nowhere else in the New Testament but in James 1:1.
1 The chronology here is, indeed, disputed, and cannot be determined with absolute certainty. Augustine, Grotius, Hug, and Schneckenburger (Ueber den Zweck der Apostelgeschichte, p. 109), place this occurrence before the apostolical convention; but this does not agree at all with the order of events as described in the epistle to the Galatians. Neander, on the contrary (I. p. 354), and Wieseler (p. 199), put it after the fourth journey of Paul to Jerusalem, Acts 18:22. But Gal. 2:11, by placing this event in immediate connection with the conference of the apostles, indicates that it occurred not long after; which Wieseler himself admits (p. 184, note), only he wrongly refers the whole narrative in Gal. 2:1–11, as already observed, to the fourth journey to Jerusalem, A.D. 54. It is also, in itself, not at all improbable, that many persons went from Jerusalem to Antioch just in consequence of the apostolic council; some from a lively interest in the Gentile converts there; but the Judaizers from jealousy, intending to get up a reaction against what they thought a most dangerous innovation of Paul;—the same, that they afterwards attempted ia Galatia and elsewhere. For, as to these pharisaically minded persons, we must suppose, either that they dissented from the decree of the council from the first; or that they repented of having submitted to it, when they became aware of its real, though perhaps unintended, consequences to the Jewish Christians; or that they misunderstood it. Neander’s chronological hypothesis would make Paul to have fallen out with Barnabas twice; for their dissension before the second missionary tour is made certain by Acts 15:39; and it is easier explained, too, when to the personal reason there given is added the cause mentioned in Galatians.
1 We must, indeed, agree with Dr. Wieseler (p. 197 sq.) in maintaining against Baur, that the conduct of Peter did not violate the letter of the decree. Yet we think, that the case involved, unconsciously perhaps to Peter himself, a violation of its spirit. For though that document settled nothing definitely respecting the relation of converted Jews to the Mosaic law; yet, by not imposing circumcision on the Gentile Christians, it virtually recognized them as brethren, and thus indirectly abrogated the Jewish statute against eating with them. But if we suppose, with Wieseler, that this refusal of Peter and Barnabas had reference only to the articles forbidden in Acts 15:20, and was therefore but a strict observance of the apostolic decree, on which the followers of James insisted; we make the apostle Paul’s severe rebuke unjust, even though we fix the occurrence, as Wieseler does, at a later date. For it can hardly be supposed, that that decree fell so soon into disuse.
2 We have already shown (p. 409, Note, and p. 461), that this rebuke of Paul’s contradicts Baur’s hypothesis of Ebionism in Peter (of which, in this case, Barnabas also must be guilty), and confirms the account in Acts. Schwegler, sensible, no doubt, of this difficulty, endeavors (1 c. I, p. 129) to weaken and distort the συνυπεκρίθησαν αὐτῷ (sc. Πέτρῳ), Gal. 2:13 But this violates not only the grammar, but also the connection. For the whole passage, especially v. 12 and 14 sqq., implies the charge of hypocrisy against Peter, and the αὐτῶν, v. 14, evidently refers, according to the context, as much to the leading person, Peter, as to the Jewish Christians of Antioch.
1 In this Dr. Baur (p. 129 sq.) sees intentional dishonesty, required by the conciliatory object of the Acts of the Apostles. But why then does not this book leave to oblivion the παροξυσμός between Paul and Barnabas on account of Mark, who was so intimate a friend of Peter? Or could the author of the Acts imagine, that by such an omission he could lessen the force of Paul’s own unequivocal statement? The omission must therefore be either accidental, or explained from the fact, that the collision of Paul with Peter had no bearing upon the direct object of Luke, which was to describe not the internal affairs of the congregation at Antioch but the missionary labors of Paul.
2 By reason of his near relation to Peter and Barnabas, he had doubtless been enticed by their example to separate himself also at that time from the Gentile Christians.
1 Philem. v. 24. Col. 4:10. 2 Tim. 4:11.
2 Comp. 1 Cor. 9:6. Col. 4:10, where he makes respectful mention of him.
3 Comp. Gal 1:21. Acts 9:30. 11:25.
4 This place, and not Derbe, is evidently intended by the ἐκεῖ. Acts 16:1, comp. v. 2. This is by no means incompatible with 20:4; for there Timothy’s home is not mentioned at all, but presumed to be known. Comp. von Hengel: Comment. in Ep. P. ad Philipp. 1838. p. 30.
5 Comp. 1 Cor. 4:17, and 1 Tim. 1:2.
6 Acts 16:2. Comp. 1 Tim. 4:14. 1:18.
7 That this act was nowise inconsistent with Paul’s princip es, or with his refusal to circumcise the Gentile, Titus, we have already remarked, § 67. We will add here, that there are two kinds of formalism, a negative, and a positive. A man may either fanatically oppose or slavishly advocate certain ceremonies in themselves indifferent, as though the salvation of the soul depended on either rejecting or observing them. So, on the other hand, true spiritual freedom, which we see in the apostle Paul, shows itself as much in accommodation to indifferent usages, where Christian charity and regard for the kingdom of God demand it, as in opposition to them, where a value is ascribed to them, which makes them indispensable, and tends to depreciate faith and a change of heart. Comp. 1 Cor. 9:20. Phil. 4:12, 13. Also Neander’s remarks against Baur, I. p. 290 sq.
1 Acts 17:14 sq. 18:5. 19:22. Rom. 16:21. 2 Cor. 1:19. So also the superscriptions of several of Paul’s epistles, 1 Thess., 2 Thess., 2 Cor., Col., Phil., and Philemon.
2 1 Tim. 1:2. 2 Tim. 1:2. 1 Thess. 3:2. Phil. 2:19–23.
3 Ἀσία, Acts 16:6, must be understood, as in 2:9, in the narrower sense, meaning the provinces of Mysia, Lydia, and Caria. Comp. the expositors ia loc.; Winer’s Realwörterbuch, article Asien; and Wieseler, l. c. p. 31 sq.
1 Comp. Col. 4:14. Philem. 24. 2 Tim. 4:11. That Luke here joined the party appears from the fact, that from c. 16:10 onward (comp. 20:5 sq., 13 sqq. 21:1 sqq., 17. c. 27 and 28) he speaks in the first person plural, thus including himself; while previously he had always used the third person. The absence of his name is doubtless owing to the same modesty, which the evangelists show in keeping their own persons quite out of sight. The recent hypothesis of Schleiermacher, Bleek, and others, that Timothy rather is the narrator, seems to me to be sufficiently refuted in favor of the older view by the discriminating remarks of Schneckenburger in his work on Acts, p. 26 sqq.
2 I take the πρώτη, 16:12, as referring not to rank, but to geographical position, as if the writer had said, the easternmost city. For Neapolis was merely the port of Philippi, and seems, besides, to have belonged at that time to Thrace, as Rettig (Quaestiones Philipp. Gissae. 1838, p. 3 sqq.) endeavored to prove from Skylax and Strabo. If we refer πρώτη to rank, we must understand it as a mere title of honor, such as was borne by the neighboring cities of Asia Minor, especially Nicomedia, Nicaea, Ephesus, Smyrna, and Pergamus. Perhaps at this time Philippi strove with Amphipolis for this rank, without possessing it, as did Nicaea with Nicomedia (comp. Credner: Einleitung in’s N. T. Pt. I. Sec. 1. p. 418 sq).
1 The most minute description of the city we have in Appian: De bellis civilibus, 1. IV. c. 105 sq. (p. 499 of the Paris edition).
2 A προσευχή, as it was called, Acts 16:13, or προσευκτήριον, a substitute for a synagogue. These oratories were either simple edifices, or merely enclosed spaces in the open air, and, for convenience in the customary ablutions before prayer, were commonly near streams or pools.
3 Purple-dyeing was extensively carried on especially in the province of Lydia, to which Thyatira belonged, and an inscription found in this city mentions the guild of dyers there. See the proofs in H A. B. Meyer’s Commentary on Acts 16:14.
4 How far the baptism of an entire household, which occurs again immediately after in the case of the jailer, 16:33, goes towards demonstrating the existence of infant baptism in the time of the apostles, will be shown afterwards under the bead of infant baptism, in the history of worship (§ 143).
5 Comp. Matt. 8:29. Mk. 1:34. 3:11. Luke 4:41.
1 Neander here aptly quotes Tertullian, who writes to the martyrs, c. 2: “Nihil crus sentit in nervo, quum animus in coelo est.”
2 We grant Dr. Baur (p. 151), that Luke means to represent the earthquake and its consequences, not as accidental, nor as the occasion of the prayer, but as the effect of it; though he does not explicitly say so. Nor can we wonder that Baur looks on this circumstance as against the credibility of the narrative; since, on his pantheistic principles, there can be no such thing as prayer to a personal, prayer-hearing, wonderworking God, but at best a self-adoration of the creature, which certainly would not produce an earthquake. Baur, moreover, in his anatomical dissection of these events in Philippi, which he regards as a forged glorification of Paul, an offset to the miraculous deliverance of Peter (Acts 12), falls, as in many other instances, into a strange self-contradiction. He attributes to the author of this romance, called the Acts of the Apostles, on the one hand, a nicely-calculating literary wisdom and design, but on the other, an incredible thoughtlessness and careless self-exposure. This, of itself, justifies the supposition, that the fiction is rather in these two assumptions of the modern critic; with this difference, that Baur’s undeniable poetical and combining talent takes its own fancies for perfect truth, and thus proceeds quite honestly in a sort of unconscious fabrication of mythological dreams, such as the notorious Strauss attributes to the early Christian congregation in inventing the gospel history.
1 In Verrem, V. c. 57: “Jam illa vox et imploratio: ‘Civis Romanus sum,’ quae saepe multis in ultimis terris opem inter barbaros et salutem attulit.”
2 That he left Luke behind in charge of the church at Philippi, we infer from the fact, that Luke himself at c. 17:1, begins to speak again in the third person. Timothy, too, seems to have remained there, but soon rejoined Paul in Berea (17:14, 15).
3 It is still, under the name of Saloniki, an important commercial city of some seventy thousand inhabitants: nearly half of them are Jews.
1 The ὡς, Acts 17:14, denotes not the mere apparent, but the real intention as to the direction of the journey. Comp. the commentators, and Winer’s Gramm p. 702 (5th ed). The distance by land from Berea to Athens was, according to Itiner Antonini, 251 Roman, or 50 geographical miles.
1 They are so compared also by Josephus: De bello Jud. II, 12.
2 In the same place Demosthenes had once honored his antagonist, Æschines, with his epithet, Pro corona, p. 269, ed Reiske.
3 That they took Jesus and the Resurrection, according to their polytheistic notions, for a pair of gods, is evident from the repetition of the article, Acts 17:18. Dr. Baur (p. 168) is no doubt right in taking this, not as in earnest, but as an expression of the ironical wit which distinguished the Athenians. Besides, they had, in fact, built altars not only to their many female deities, but also to abstract conceptions, such as Pity. Ἔλεος.
4 According to Xenophon (Memorab. I, 1), Socrates was likewise accused of introducing strange gods: οὓς μὲν ἡ πόλις νομίζει θεοὺς, οὐ νομίζων, ἕτερα δὲ καινὰ δαιμόνια (in the good sense, as frequently in the classics) εἰσφέρων.
1 The δεισιδαιμονεστέρους, 17:22, is to be taken (as also in 25:19) in its primary, good sense of “reverential,” “religious,” as for example in Xenophon and Aristotle; and the comparative denotes preeminence above other Greeks. Pausanias says (Attic. 24) the Athenians excelled others in zeal for divine worship (περισσότερον εἰς τὰ θεῖα σπουδῆς); and this is evident in fact from the multitude of their temples and altars. Josephus, also (c. Ap. I, 12), calls them εὐσεβεστάτους τῶν Ἑλλήνων. The word δεισιδαίμων is, indeed, ambiguous, and signifies also, particularly in the later Greek, morbid religious feeling, slavish fear of God, superstition. Perhaps Paul used it intentionally here, to give the Athenians at least a gentle hint of their religious error; while he immediately after employs the more definite term, εὐσεβεῖτε, but with reference to the true God. It is certainly improper, however, and inconsistent with the next verse, as well as with the extremely indulgent tone of the whole discourse, to insist on the unfavorable meaning of that word, and make the apostle begin with a denunciation; as is done by Luther’s translation, “allzu aberglâubisch,” and the English, “too superstitious”
2 We know from heathen writers, that there were at Athens several altars with this or a like inscription. Thus Pausanias says (Attic. I, 4): Ἐνταῦθα καὶ βωμοὶ θεῶν τε ὀνομαζομένων ἀγνώστων καὶ ἡρώων; and Philostratus in his Vita Apollon. VI, 3; οὖ (at Athens) καὶ ἀγνώστων δαιμόνων βωμοὶ ἵδρυνται. The erection of such altars was occasioned by public calamities, which could not be attributed to any particular god, but which men yet wished to avert by sacrifice. Thus Diogenes Laertius, in his Life of Epimenides (3), relates that in a time of pestilence the Athenians were informed by the oracle that expiation must be made for the city. They therefore sent to Crete for Epimenides, a celebrated poet and prophet, who made the atonement thus: “He brought black and white sheep to the Areopagus, and let them run from there, whithersoever they would; directing those who followed them, to offer sacrifice wherever each lay down, to the appropriate god (τῷ προσήκοντι θεῷ, the supposed author of the plague). And thus the evil was removed. Hence in some districts of the Athenians we find altars to this day without any (particular) name (βωμοὺς ἀνωνύμους).”
1 Paul does not, indeed, distinctly express this, but hints at it with Attic delicacy in the εἰ ἅραγε, v. 27. The ψηλαφάω also (to feel around, to grope, like a blind man) involves an antithesis to the clear light and sure knowledge of revelation.
1 This expression: Ἐν αὐτῷ γὰρ ζῶμεν καὶ κινούμεθα καί ἐσμεν, v. 28, contains the great, deep, and comforting truth which underlies the error of Pantheism, viz. the doctrine of the continual indwelling of God in the world, and particularly in humanity; but without excluding, of course, the grand doctrine of Theism, the personality of God, and his absolute independence of the world, as just before asserted by Paul himself. Besides, the explanation contained in the text above shows, that we must take the passage as an anticlimax, and not as a climax, with Olshausen. who, entirely without reason, and without analogy in Biblical phraseology, refers ζῇν, to the physical life, κινεῖσθαι to the free motion of the soul, and εἶναι to the true life of the spirit; in which latter sense, in fact, the very word ζωή occurs times without number.
2 Paul here refers to his countryman, Aratus, a Cilician poet of the third century before Christ, in whose astronomical poem, Phaenomena, V. 5, the passage above quoted is found word for word, as the first part of a hexameter; and in the following connection:
“… We all greatly need Zeus,
For we are his offspring; full of grace, he grants men
Tokens of favor.” …
The τοῦ (poetic for τούτου) refers therefore, in the original, to Jupiter; but Paul, with his eye on the secret yearning of the heart, the longing of erratic religious feeling after the unknown God, feels himself justified in finding here, as before in the ἀγνώστῳ θεῷ, an indirect, an unconscious reference to the true God. An expression precisely similar, only in the form of an address to Zeus, occurs in the Stoic, Cleanthes: Hymn in Jov., 5: Ἐκ σοῦ γὰρ γένος ἐσμέν; and in the “Golden Poem”: θεῖον γὰρ γένος ἐστὶ βροτοῖσιν.
3 By thus passing over heathenism as a time of ignorance, χρόνοι τῆς ἀγνοίας, v. 30,—a judgment exceedingly mild, and yet at the same time deeply humiliating to the Athenian pride of knowledge, the apostle, however, of course intended only partially to excuse it, as is plain from the preceding verse; comp. Rom. 1:20.
4 This is also Schleiermacher’s view: Einleitung in’s N. T. (Sämmtl. Werke Part I. Vol. 8, p. 374): “Of Paul’s discourse at Athens, c. 17:22–31, it is evident, that only the beginning is given in full, the rest in an abridged form. For the appearance of Christ is only hinted at, and then his resurrection immediately mentioned; and this cannot be taken for a full report of the discourse, but only as an abstract. No interpolator would have constructed this so: the main matter would have been made more prominent.” This view relieves us, too, of the difficulties invented by Baur (Paulus p. 173), who considers the mention of the resurrection—a topic so offensive to the heathen—as a proof of the spuriousness of this discourse. But could we expect Paul to be utterly silent concerning the great point, Christianity? And when once he had touched upon this, could he help presenting the divine seal of its truth, the Resurrection? And,—on the principles of this criticism we must ask,—would not an ingenious and calculating writer, who, according to Baur’s own concession, displays in this chapter so great familiarity with the manners and customs of the Athenians, have been able to avoid also this supposed offense, and secure himself against modern critics and fault-finders?
1 Hess, l. c. I, p. 241, starts the question: What would Socrates probably have said to this discourse of the apostle?—and answers it thus: “He would in all probability have discerned in it the true kingdom of God, from which he was not far, and would have been among those who wished to hear more of that divinely appointed Judge of the human race, and more of the resurrection. In the person of the Redeemer of the world he would have found more than that just man, whom Plato depicts. He would rather have had such an address respecting the unknown God, than the most eloquent dissertations of sophists on the gods, which are the offspring of imagination.”
2 On the testimony of Dionysius of Corinth, who lived in the middle of the second century, and is quoted in Eusebius, H. E. IV, 23.
3 Works on the Heavenly Hierarchy, on the Ecclesiastical Hierarchy, on the Divine Names, on the Mystic Theology; and eleven Epistles. These writings, the spuriousness of which has been incontrovertibly proved, particularly by the Reformed theologian Dallaeus (1666), are probably the work of a Christian Neo-Platonist of the sixth, or, at the earliest, of the fifth century. The first undoubted trace of them appears at Constantinople, A.D. 533.
1 So great was the dissoluteness of this city, that κορινθιάζειν, “to live like the Corinthians,” was equivalent to scortari. It is a significant fact, that while Minerva, the patroness of wisdom, was enthroned on the Acropolis of Athens, the Acrocorinthus was the site of the most renowned temple to Venus, the goddess of lust.
2 Luke does not say whether Aquila was already a Christian, or was first converted by Paul. The former seems to us more probable, in view of his speedy connection with the apostle; and the appellation Ἰονδαῖος (18:2) is not against it, since this term often, as in Gal. 2:13–15, denotes merely the national origin.
1 Comp. Rom. 16:23, where Paul sends a salutation from Erastus, the chamberlain of Corinth.
2 His brother, the famous Stoic, Annaeus Seneca, considered him the most amiable of mortals. “Nemo mortalium,” says he (Praef. natur. quaest., 1. IV.), “uni tam dulcis est, quam hic omnibus.” Perhaps, among other things, the protection he afforded the apostle, in connection with Phil. 4:22, where converts from the household of the emperor (Nero) are mentioned, gave rise to the groundless supposition, that Paul had an acquaintance and correspondence with the philosopher Seneca, Nero’s tutor.
1 As to their date the reader may compare, besides the current Introductions to the New Testament, particularly Wieseler’s Chronologie der Apost. Gesch. p. 241 sqq.
1 Luke, indeed, uses the indefinite expression, τὴν ἑορτήν. But this could not have been the feast of tabernacles; because that feast was of no interest for the specifically Christian spirit, and is never mentioned by Paul. It could not have been the passover, which fell in the spring; because Paul made the journey by sea, and, in the existing state of the art of navigation, it was only in rare cases, that the sea was passable during the winter months till the vernal equinox (the 23rd of March). The only remaining one of the great feasts is that of Pentecost; and this was of special interest for the church on account of the outpouring of the Holy Ghost.—Furthermore, we must not omit to mention, that the first clause of the 21st verse: “I must by all means keep this feast that cometh in Jerusalem,” is of doubtful genuineness, and by Lachmann altogether rejected. This would bring into question the whole matter of Paul’s fourth journey to Jerusalem, and make Wieseler’s hypothesis of its identity with that mentioned in Gal. 2:1 (comp. above, § 67) utterly impossible. Luke, also, says nothing at all of the presentation of an offering, but speaks in the briefest manner merely of his saluting the church. But even letting go the suspected words from δεῖ to πάλιν, as not belonging to the original text; still, the ἀναβάς, v. 22, could only refer, it would seem, to a journey from Cæsarea to Jerusalem, which lay higher. For if we make it mean merely the ascent from the landing to the city of Cæsarea, or to the place where the congregation assembled, the word would be entirely superfluous; whereas in this very passage Luke studies great brevity. Then again, the following κατέβη applies very well to the relative geographical positions of Jerusalem and Antioch, but not to a journey from Cæsarea to Antioch. Finally, we see no reason, why Paul, in going from Ephesus to Antioch, should have made the great circuit by Cæsarea, unless he intended to visit Jerusalem.
1 We intentionally leave this problematical, since the words of Luke, 18:18: “Having shorn his head in Cenchreae; for he had a vow,” present a double difficulty. In the first place, expositors are divided as to the subject of the parenthesis. Grotius and Meyer (also Wieseler, p. 203, Note) refer κειράμενος to the nearest antecedent, Aquila; especially as his name, contrary to the usage of antiquity, and to the order observed in v. 2 and 26, is here placed after that of his wife Priscilla; the reason of which is found in the gender of the participle. But these names occur in the same order in Rom. 16:3 and 2 Tim. 4:19. This the above interpreters have overlooked. We are compelled, therefore, to look for the reason of this circumstance, not in the grammatical structure of the sentence, but, with Neander (latest ed. p. 349), in the greater Christian zeal of Priscilla, and her nearer relation to Paul; and we may properly find in it a hint of the exaltation, which Christianity, as compared with heathen antiquity, confers on the female sex. Then again, one cannot understand, why Luke should have remarked this fact respecting Aquila. For the supposition of Schneckenburger (l. c. p. 66), that he intended thereby indirectly to defend the apostle against the charge of inducing the Jewish Christians to renounce the law, is too artificial, and is connected with this scholar’s general hypothesis of an apologetic purpose running through the whole book of Acts;—a hypothesis, which we cannot regard as well founded. Since, now, Paul is the subject in v. 18 as well as v. 19, it is best, with Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Olshausen, Neander, and De Wette, to refer the parenthesis also to him.—The second difficulty in this passage is about the kind of vow here intended. Most commentators think it the vow of a Nazarite (Num. 6:1 sqq.), which Philo calls the great vow (εὐχὴ μεγάλη). A Nazarite was one, who had consecrated his person to the Lord either for his whole life or for a certain portion of it, and was bound, during the term of his vow, to abstain from intoxicating drinks, and to let the hair of his head grow. At the expiration of the time he presented in the temple at Jerusalem an offering, and had his head shorn (tonsura munditiei) by the priest, throwing the hair into the flame of the thank-offering, and thus consecrating it to the Lord (Num. 6:5, 18). But the latter circumstance does not suit the case before us; for Paul had performed the tonsure out of Palestine, and, it would seem, not at the accomplishment, but at the assumption of his vow. To solve this last difficulty, (as Meyer, ad loc. does), by considering this ceremony as having been the close of the vow, still leaves the other. For not a hint occurs, either in the Old Testament or in the Talmud, of the head being shorn in a foreign land; the assumption only, never the laying off, of the Nazarite vow, could take place out of Palestine, according to Mischna Nasir, III, 6. Neander accordingly assumes, that the Nazarite vow was modified in later times. But the passage from Josephus (De bello Jud. II. 15, 1), to which he refers, is no proof of this. The context and the terms employed can hardly suggest any thing more, than the common Nazarite vow; and besides, the tonsure of Berenice, spoken of just before took place in Jerusalem, In this state of the case, Meyer, following Salmasius and others, takes the εὐχή. Acts 18:18, to be a private vow or votum civile, the term of which expired in Cenchreae. But this makes the letting the hair grow and the cutting it off, which were still a part of the vow of a Nazarite, altogether unmeaning and unaccountable. For no appeal can be allowed, in this case, to the pagan custom of those who had recovered from sickness, or had made a prosperous journey, consecrating their hair to a divinity (Juvenal, Sat. XII, 81, et al).—We are forced, therefore, to acknowledge, that the vow of Paul, as De Wette (ad loc) expresses it, is a Gordian knot, or, in the words of Winer (Reallexikon, I. p. 141. 3rd ed.), that, “with our present knowledge of the ancient Jewish vows, it cannot be satisfactorily explained.” Fortunately it touches no essential article of faith. The apostle at all events seems not to have bound himself strictly to any legal form, and to have used great freedom with the vow, whatever may have been its nature.
1 I cannot agree with Calvin, in referring this vow merely to regard for the Jews. See his Commentary: “Se igitur totondit non alium ob finem, nisi ut Judaeis adhuc rudibus, necdum rite edoctis, se accommodaret, quemadmodum testatur, ut eos qui sub lege erant lucrifaceret, se voluntariam legis, a qua liber erat, subjectionem obiisse (1 Cor. 9:20).”
1 Of this temple there now remain only a few ruins, and on the site of the city once so flourishing stands a miserable Turkish hamlet, Ajasoluk, supposed to be so called from John, the ἅγιος θεολόγος (pronounced by the Greeks, Seologos). Comp. Schubert: Reise in das Morgenland, Part I. p. 294 sqq; and Tischendorf Reise in den Orient, II. p. 251 sqq.
2 1 Cor. 15:30–32. Comp. Acts 20:1 sqq. 1 Cor. 4:9–13. Gal 5:11. 2 Cor. 1:8, 9.
1 These two years (19:10) are doubtless covered by the first twenty verses of c. 19. After the expiration of them, Paul still remained some time in Ephesus and its vicinity, having already sent his companions before him into Macedonia (v. 22), and not leaving the city himself till after the uproar caused by Demetrius (20:1). Adding, now, to the two years the three months, during which he taught in the synagogue, and the indefinite time in v. 22. we have nearly three years for his residence in Ephesus; which agrees with the triennium, 20:31. Perhaps, however, the latter includes also the visit to Corinth omitted in Acts.
2 Respecting these people, comp. 13:10. Matt. 12:27. Lu. 9:49. Josephus, Autiqn. VIII. 2, 5. De bello Jud. VII. 6, 3, and Justin’s Dial. c. Tryph. Jud. p. 311, ed. Colon. Josephus, in the first passage referred to, tells how these jugglers astonished even the emperor Vespasian and the Roman army.
3 “Sons” is here probably, according to the Jewish way of speaking, equivalent to disciples, followers; and the number seven may be accounted for by the notion, that devils to that number often took possession of one man, and could be expelled only by an equal number of counteracting spirits.
1 We cannot wonder, that Dr. Baur (p. 188 sqq.) can see in these strange events nothing historical, still less any evidence of the divinity of Christianity. For the evidence was not designed or adapted for such persons as he. Of Paul’s labors among the Epicureans and Stoics of Athens nothing of the kind is recorded. But fortunately the world is not entirely made up of miracle-denying philosophers and skeptical critics. The grand aim of Christianity is, not to establish a new philosophical school, but to turn the wonder-seeking Jews, as well as the wisdom-seeking heathen, to a new life,—to redeem mankind. This could only be accomplished by a concurrence of internal evidence with external; and Paul himself expressly says in the 2nd epistle to the Corinthians, acknowledged even by Baur as genuine, 12:12, that he was accredited as an apostle by “signs and wonders and mighty deeds” (powers), comp. 1 Cor. 12:9 10, 29, 30. Rom. 15:19. Mk. 16:17.
1 About fifty years afterwards the younger Pliny, in a letter to Trajan (X. 97, al. 96), lamented the decay of the heathen worship and the spread of Christianity in Asia Minor, though he thought, the evil might still be remedied, as many had in fact already gone back to their idolatry. Says he: “Multi enim omnis aetatis, omnis ordinis, utriusque sexus etiam vocantur in periculum et vocabuntur. Neque enim civitates tantum, sed vicos etiam atque agros superstitionis istius contagio pervagata est Quae videtur sisti et corrigi posse. Certe satis constat, prope jam desolata templa coepisse celebrari, et sacra solemnia diu intermissa repeti, passimque venire victimas, quarum rarissimus emptor inveniebatur.”
2 Acts 18:23. Comp. the ταχέως, Gal. 1:6, and the τὸ πρότερον, Gal 4:13.
1 1 Cor. 1:5–7. c. 12 and 14. 2 Cor. 8:7.
1 So Rückert, Billroth, Olshausen, Meyer, Wieseler, Wieseler makes this tour extend to Crete, where Paul left Titus, and supposes, that on this journey, perhaps in Achaia, A.D. 56, the first epistle to Timothy was written, which presents so many chronological difficulties (Chronologie der Apg., p. 314). The date of the epistle to Titus he fixes somewhat later, soon after Paul’s return to Ephesus (p. 346 sqq.), between the two epistles to the Corinthians, between Easter and Pentecost of the year 57. This arrangement commends itself most, in case we give up the hypothesis of a second imprisonment at Rome, and are thus forced to place the composition of the two pastoral epistles before the first imprisonment.
2 That the words ἔγραψα ὑμῖν ἐν τῇ ἐπιστολῇ, 1 Cor. 5:9, refer to a former letter, is now the universal opinion of commentators. Equally fixed, however, is the spuriousness of the letter of the Corinthians to Paul, and Paul’s answer, preserved by the Armenian church. For these treat of subjects entirely different from those with which the lost epistle of Paul, according to 1 Cor. 5:9–12, must have been occupied; and they bear the evidence of being a second-hand compilation.
1 Besides the work of Neander, I. p 375 sqq., and the modern commentaries on the epistles to the Corinthians by Billroth, Rückert. Olshausen, Meyer, De Wette, we must mention particularly some learned and ingenious articles by Dr. Baur in the “Tübinger Zeitschrift,” reprinted in his monograph on Paul, p. 260–326, which have led to a more thorough investigation of the character of the Christ party.
2 Acts 18:24–28. 1 Cor. 1:12. 3:4, 22. 4:6. 16:12
1 We do not at all mean to say, that Apollos was more gifted than Paul. The apostle was certainly his superior in genius, profundity, and dialectic power, and had also a rare energy and precision of style. But his gifts had not the dazzling exterior, nor his discourse the elegance, which particularly pleased the Corinthian taste; and besides, in that very city he purposely laid aside all human art, and left the gospel to its own divine power.
1 We should then have to suppose, that, while the other parties are saying: “I am of Paul,” &c., the apostle interrupts and corrects them with the words: “But I am of Christ,” 1 Cor. 1:12. But this is certainly a very forced construction. It is, however, worthy of attention, that the Roman bishop, Clement, a disciple of Paul and Peter, in his first epistle to the Corinthians, written towards the close of the first century, and occasioned likewise by divisions in the church, mentions only the first three parties, saying nothing at all of the Christ party. His words are: Ἀναλάβετε τὴι ἐπιστολὴν τοῦ μακαρίου Παύλου τοῦ ἀποστόλου· τί πρῶτον ὑμῖν ἐν ἀρχῇ τοῦ εὐαγγελίοι (i. e. when the gospel was first preached at Corinth) ἕγραψεν; Ἐπʼ ἀληθείας πνευματικῶς ἐπἑστειλεν ὑμῖν, περὶ αὐτοῦ τε καὶ Κηφᾶ τε καὶ Ἀπόλλω, διὰ τὸ καὶ τότε προσκλίσεις (factiones) ὑμᾶς πεποιῆσθαι (c. 47). Yet this silence may be accounted for by the fact, that, at the time when Clement wrote, the Christ party was no longer in existence; which is the more probable, if it consisted of personal disciples of Jesus.
1 Opusc. acad. II. p. 246. The same view is adopted by Flatt, Bertholdt, Hug, and Heidenreich.
1 Paulus p. 272 sqq. This view is adopted substantially by Billroth in his Commentar zu den Korintherbriefen, Credner in his Einleitung in’s N. T., and Schwegler, Nachapost. Zeitalter, I. p. 162. A peculiar modification of Baur’s hypothesis is held by Thiersch (die Kirche im apostolischen Zeitalter, p. 143 sq.) He distinguishes, indeed, the Christ party from the Cephas party, but still takes them to have been Pharisaically disposed Judaizers, and the most violent personal opponents of Paul, who cast suspicion on his whole work, and were styled by him, in irony, “the very chiefest apostles;” nay, false apostles and servants of Satan (2 Cor. 11:13–15. 12:11). But it is very hard to think, that such malicious and dangerous men were all personal disciples of Jesus, as Thiersch, on the ground of the name of the party, supposes.
2 It might not be amiss, perhaps, to illustrate this by an example from the history of the modern American sects. We mean the “Christians,” who arose at the end of the last century, and whose name itself shows, that they aim to reject all human authority and abolish all lines of sect, though they, in fact, accomplish just the opposite. Some passages from the description given by one of their number in the History of all the Relig. Denominations in the United States, 2nd ed. Harrisburg, 1848, p. 164, will suffice to show their character in this respect: “Within about one half century, a very considerable body of religionists have arisen in the United States, who. rejecting all names, appellations, and badges of distinctive party among the followers of Christ, simply call themselves Christians.… Most of the Protestant sects owe their origin to some individual reformer, such as a Luther, a Calvin, a Fox, or a Wesley. The Christians never had any such leader, nor do they owe their origin to the labors of any one man. They rose nearly simultaneously in different sections of our country, remote from each other, without any preconcerted plan, or even knowledge of each other’s movements.… This singular coincidence is regarded by them as evidence that they are a people raised up by the immediate direction and overruling providence of God, and that the ground they have assumed is the one which will finally swallow up all party distinctions in the gospel church.”
1 In his tract: De ecclesia Corinthia primaeva factionibus turbata, etc. Basil. 1838. With him go De Wette, and, with some modification, Goldhorn and Dähne.
2 Ap. Gesch. I. p. 395 sqq. So Olshausen in his Commentar, III. p. 478 sqq. The latter divine, however, is wrong, at all events, in supposing the Christ party to have been the most important in Corinth. For then we should assuredly have had clearer allusions to it, and Clement of Rome, intimately acquainted as he was with Paul and with the circumstances of the Corinthian church, would not have passed over it in perfect silence.
1 The “Christians,” also, above noticed, fall in with Rationalism in many points, as in the denial of the Trinity and the divinity of Christ.
2 As Storr and other commentators erroneously suppose.
1 Timothy also appears with Paul in Macedonia during the writing of the second epistle to the Corinthians, and is named in the superscription. Probably he had already rejoined the apostle in Ephesus, according to expectation (1 Cor. 16:11), and had accompanied him from there. Several modern critics suppose, that Timothy, for some reason or other, did not get to Corinth at all. But the grounds for this opinion are untenable; comp. Wieseler, l. c. p. 359 sqq.
1 2 Cor. 10:10 sq. 12:16 sqq. Comp. also 1:15 sqq. 3:1, and 5:12 sq.
2 Comp. 2 Cor. 1:8. 2:12, 13. 7:5 sqq. 8:1–5. 9:2, 4.
3 Wieseler, l. c. p. 357 sq., endeavors to show, that Paul wrote only the second and third parts after meeting with Titus, and the first six chapters before this time, while he had as yet only the accounts which Timothy had given. In this way he explains Paul’s recurring, shortly after mentioning the arrival of Titus (7:6 sqq.), to the effect of his previous letter, and his seeking, in part, to counteract those wrong impressions.
1 Comp. Acts 11:19–26. Gal. 2:11, and § 61.
2 Athenaeus (Deipnosoph. I, 20) calls Rome πόλιν ἐπιτομὴν τῆς οἰκουμένης, the world in epitome, in miniature, where all cities might be seen collected, and where ὅλα ἔθνη ἀθρόως συνῴκισται.
1 Comp. Rom. 15:20, 21. 2 Cor. 10:16.
2 Suetonius: Claud. c. 25: “Judaeos impulsore Chresto assidue tumultuantes Roma expulit.” This edict is mentioned by Luke in Acts 18:2, where Aquila and Priscilla are said to have come to Corinth in consequence of it, and that too not long (προσφάτως) before Paul’s, first arrival there, hence about A.D. 52 (comp. § 74 supra). This date would be corroborated, if the edict, of which Suetonius speaks, were identical with the decree of the Senate de mathematicis Italia pellendis, assigned by Tacitus, Ann. XII. 52, to the year 52; and the probability of this identity is attempted to be shown by Wieseler among others: Chronologie, p. 125 sq.
3 Tertullian: Apolog. c. 3., and Lactantius: Divin. Instit. IV, 17. They wrongly derived Christus from χρηστός; and by this etymological error Justin endeavored to prove the unrighteousness of persecuting the Christians for the sake of their name, which itself signifies “good men” (Apol. I. p. 136. Comp. Hug’s Einleitung, II. p. 391 sq.). That Suetonius, in his Life of Nero, c. 16, properly writes Christiani, is no proof that he would have avoided the above error in another passage, where he probably had an official document before him.
1 Josephus describes Poppaea, by the term θεοσεβης, as a proselyte to Judaism (Archaeol. XX. 8, 12); and informs us in his Autobiogr., c. 3, that he himself was in great favor with her. Even as early as the end of the year 52, under Claudius, we find the younger Agrippa again in Rome, where he successfully defended the Jewish deputies against the bailiff, Cumanus (Josephus, Arch. XX. 6, 2).
1 Dr. Baur (first in the “Tübinger Zeitschr.” 1836, No. 3, and again lately in his work on Paul, p. 334 sqq.), and after him Dr. Schwegler (Nachapost. Zeitalter, I. p. 283 sqq.), have attempted to establish an entirely opposite view; viz., that the Roman church consisted almost wholly of Jewish Christians, and followed the Petrine, or what in the theology of these writers is the same, the strictly Judaizing, Ebionistic tendency. This assertion stands or falls with Baur’s entire conception of primitive Christianity, as being nothing but a Judaism, which believed in Christ as the Messiah, but was characterized by exclusiveness, bigotry, slavish observance of the law, and consequent hatred of Paul and his free gospel. It contradicts, moreover, all the ideas hitherto current respecting the scope and structure of the epistle to the Romans. This epistle, according to Baur, was intended as a defense of Paul’s missionary operations against the particularistic prejudices of the Jewish Christians; or, in Schwegler’s rather more comprehensive terms, an apology for Paulinism in general, and a systematic refutation of the primitive Judaistic Christianity, or Petrinism. Both these scholars, accordingly, find the gist of the whole letter in the analysis of the historical development of the kingdom of God, c. 9–11, and regard the first eight chapters, which go into the very heart of saving doctrine, as merely an introduction to and basis for this; whereas the apostle states clearly enough, 1:16, as the theme of his epistle, the far more momentous and comprehensive thought, that the gospel is a power of God to justify and save all sinners through faith. Respecting the details of the train of thought, compare especially the commentaries of Olshausen, Tholuck (4th ed.), Fritzsche, De Wette, and Philippi (Einleitung, p. xxi. sqq.), who all declare against Baur’s hypothesis. This hypothesis, however, is characteristic of the Tübingen school, which has merely a philosophical and critical interest in Christianity, and overlooks the deep practical wants of our nature, which it is the main object of the Christian religion to relieve.
2 Rom 1:13, 15 15:22 sqq. Comp. Acts 19:21.
1 1 Cor. 16:3, 4. 2 Cor. 9:12–15. Rom. 15:25–27.
2 For at c. 20:6 Luke suddenly resumes the “we” in his narrative, which had given place to the third person at Paul’s first departure from Philippi (17:1). The minuteness of the subsequent description of the journey, also, bespeaks an eye witness
1 According to the opinion of Irenaeus, who understands by ἐκκλησίας, 20:17, not merely the Ephesian congregation, but the whole church of Asia Minor, and makes Paul hold a formal council; as we must infer from his words: “In Mileto convocatis episcopis et presbyteris, qui erant ab Epheso et a religuis proximis civitatibus” (Adv. haer. III. 14. § 2). The transaction can in no case, indeed, be regarded as formal; but the supposition, that other churches in the neighborhood besides that of Ephesus were represented, is favored by the phrase ἐν οἷς διῆλθον, v. 25. And it is in itself, too, very probable, that Paul, either from Ephesus as a centre, or before and after his residence there, had planted churches in the surrounding region.
2 Comp. 1 Cor. 4:16. Phil. 3:17. 1 Thess. 1:6. 2 Thess. 3:9.
3 The familiar expression of Luther: “True humility never knows that it is humble; for if it did, it would be proud of contemplating this beautiful virtue,”—does not well consist with this conduct of Paul, nor with the Saviour’s declaration: “I am meek and lowly in heart.” It is much more applicable to innocence.
1 Comp. Acts 20:22, where the contrary is intimated: “And now, behold, I go bound in the spirit to Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befall me there.”
2 The ἐξ ὑμῶν αὐτῶν we must refer either to the presbyters themselves, immediately addressed, or to the Christian churches represented by them. The former reference is plainly the more natural; and this leaves the less room for the inference, that the first epistle to Timothy, which presupposes the actual presence of false teachers, was not written till after the valedictory at Miletus. For in this epistle not a word is said of heretical presbyters; and even in 1 Tim. 4:1 sqq. comp. 2 Tim. 2:16 sqq., 3:1 sqq., which agree with Acts 20:29, 30, the apostasy from the faith is represented rather in the spirit of prophecy, as something to arise “in the latter times.”
3 1 Tim. 1:4, 20. 4:1 sqq. 2 Tim. 2:16 sqq. 4:3 sq. Tit. 1:10 sqq. 3:9. Col. 2:8 sqq.
4 Comp. § 76 supra.
5 Even this masterly discourse and the ensuing parting scene, which, for every unprejudiced mind, carry in themselves the clearest marks of genuineness and primitive antiquity, is not left untouched by the radical skepticism of Dr. Baur, but is pronounced the bungling work of a later hand (Paulus, p. 177 sqq.). His grounds are (1) A supposed contradiction between the presentiment of death there expressed and the joyful hopes of new labor even away in Spain, appearing in the epistle to the Romans, c. 15:22 sqq., which was written shortly before. But, in the first place, Baur has no right at all to appeal to the fifteenth chapter of Romans; for he rejects it as not written by Paul. And besides Rom. 15:31 does, in fact, express the apprehension of dangers, which threatened the apostle from the unbelieving Jews in Jerusalem, and in view of which he solicits the intercessions of the Roman Christians. Nor does the parting address at Miletus go essentially beyond these indefinite apprehensions (comp. Acts 20:22: τὰ ἐν αὐτῇ συναντήσοντά μοι μὴ εἰδώς); only, in consequence of the preceding warnings by the voices of prophets and in view of his approaching departure, which fills every noble, loving heart with pain. these apprehensions very naturally become for the moment the prominent object (2) The reference to the false teachers, v. 29, 30; which, however, by its very indefiniteness gives evidence of high antiquity; aside from the corroboration of it by the Pastoral Epistles, whose spuriousness Baur has by no means proved. A later author, who lived in the midst of the already developed heresies, would certainly have put into the mouth of Paul a far clearer and more extended description of them.
1 This symbolical action was intended the more impressively to present before the eyes of the bystanders the approaching arrest, as an actual reality. Similar dramatic prophecies occur in the Old Testament; e. g. the yokes of Jeremiah (27:2); the secret digging through the wall by Ezekiel (12:5).
1 At the time of Origen, and according to his estimate (In Joann. T. I. § 2), the number of converted Jews in the whole world did not amount to 144,000.
1 Acts 18:18. Comp. above, § 76, especially the second note.
2 Recently proposed by Wieseler in his Chronologie, p. 105 sqq.
1 Comp. 1 Sam. 16:5. Ex. 19:10. 2 Macc. 12:38. Jno. 11:55.
2 In regard to this disposition of the apostles to yield to the weak Jewish believers. R. Stier says: “Would that this disposition had prevailed in the time of the reformation! There would no more have been two evangelical churches opposed to one another, than there were then a Pauline and a Petrine church of God!” (Die Redender Apostel, Part II. p. 219).
1 Here arises the question, to what are the perplexing “seven days,” 21:27, to be referred? They are commonly understood to mean the whole duration of the vow of the four brethren. But this is at variance with Jewish usage. The vow of a Nazarite was either for life, or at least for thirty days. Grotius, Kühnöl, and De Wette suppose, therefore, that the brethren at that time had seven days of their vow still remaining to be fulfilled, and that Paul joined himself to them only for this remainder; and De Wette thinks, that the priests, at their own discretion, allowed a shorter time to those, who defrayed the expenses of the vow. But no proof can be brought for such a custom; and besides, this hypothesis conflicts irreconcilably with the statement of twelve days (24:11), as intervening between Paul’s departure from Cæsarea for Jerusalem and the sixth day of his confinement in Cæsarea. These must be reckoned thus: two days, for his journey to Jerusalem; the third day, for his interview with James (21:18–25); the fourth (probably Pentecost), for the offering in the temple with the Nazarites, and for the arrest (21:26–22:29); the fifth, for the hearing before the Sanhedrim (22:30–23:11); the sixth, at nine o’clock in the evening, for the departure for Cæsarea (23:12–31); the seventh, for his arrival there (23:32–35); and the remaining five days he had already spent in prison there, when Ananias arrived from Jerusalem (24:1–23). This would leave, we see, only one day, instead of the supposed seven, for the Nazariteship of Paul. Under these circumstances, Wieseler seems to me to give the proper solution of the difficulty, when he tells us (1. c. p. 110). that by the ἑπτὰ ἡμέραι Luke means the Pentecostal week; which he might presume to be clear to his readers from the connection, since he had shortly before (20:16) noticed Paul’s intention of keeping this feast.
1 On the pillars of the porch of the Israelites stood the warning in Greek and Latin: “No foreigner (one not a Jew) may enter the sanctuary,” (Joseph. De bello Jud. V. 5, 2). According to Philo and Josephus, the Jews had, or at least claimed, the right to put to death every Jew, even a Roman, who profaned the temple by transgressing this prohibition.
1 The lex Porcia and the leges Semproniae made it a crime to bind or scourge a Roman citizen. Hence Cicero exclaims, Verr. V. 66: “O nomen dulce libertatis! O jus eximium nostrae civitatis! O lex Porcia, legesque Semproniae! Facinus est vinciri civem Romanum, scelus verberari.”
2 This contrast Jerome brings out, perhaps too strongly, in the beginning of his work Contra Pelag. III: “Ubi est illa patientia salvatoris, qui quasi agnus ductus ad victimam non aperuit os suum, sed clementer loquitur verlseranti: si male locutus, argue de malo, si autem bene, quid me caedis?” But he adds by way of qualification: “Non apostolo detrahimus, sed gloriam Domini praedicamus, qui in carne passus carnis injuriam superat et fragilitatem.”
3 All depends here upon the proper interpretation of the difficult words: “I wist not, that he was the high-priest” (23:5). This can hardly be taken in a strict and literal sense, as Paul might have known the fact even from the seat, which Ananias held, and his official dress, though he were not personally acquainted with him. The οὐκ ἤδειν has, therefore, been variously understood; as meaning (1) non agnosco. on the supposition, that Ananias either never was proper high-priest, since he acquired the office in an unrighteous manner, by bribery, or that he, since his accusation before the emperor, had ceased to be such, and had only usurped the office during the interregnum immediately after the assassination of his successor Jonathan But Luke calls him “high-priest,” v. 2, without any qualification. (2) Nesciebam, but ironically: “I could not suspect that a man, who shows himself so unholy. was the high-priest. For him certainly no one can lawfully revile.” This view, which is adopted by commentators of different theological tendencies, Camerarius, Calvin. Stier, Meyer, Baumgarten, and also by Baur (p. 207), would not require us to suppose Paul to have been rash in his previous language. The matter might be made to appear as though, in v. 3, he spoke not in the ebullition of human passion, but under the guidance of the Holy Ghost (which was promised to the apostles, especially for such occasions, Matt. 10:19, 20), telling the miserable Ananias the truth in the name of God, and announcing the punishment, which afterwards actually came upon him. (So Stier: Reden der Ap. II. p. 321 sqq., and quite lately Baumgarten, Apostelgeschichte II. 2. p 185 sqq.) The expression, “thou whited wall,” is certainly no stronger, than the epithets which our Lord himself applies to the Pharisees, Matt. 23, where, among other comparisons, he likens them, to “whited sepulchres,” v. 27. The angelic martyr Stephen, too, said to the assembled Sanhedrim to the face: “Ye stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost, as your fathers did, so do ye” (Acts 7:51). But a great deal depends here also upon the tone and manner in which such reproof is administered, and it may be, that Paul suffered the natural vehemence of his temper to rise too high for a moment, as was perhaps also the case in his collision with Peter and Barnabas at Antioch. For if we free him from all guilt in this difficulty, his colleagues would be doubly censurable, and nothing gained for those who imagine an apostle to have been an absolute saint while yet on earth. Then again, in v. 5, the irony is evidently not sufficiently manifest. Hence in our text we have preferred the interpretation proposed, under various modifications, by Bengel, Wetstein, Kühnöl, Olshausen, Neander, and others; viz. (3) non reputabam, “I did not at the moment consider;” involving a self-correction, a retraction of his harsh language, as a violation of decorum. It must be confessed that this unusual signification of εἰδέναι is not sufficiently supported by Eph. 6:8. Col. 3:24, and other passages; yet it seems to give the plainest sense, and in this case is at once suggested by the context, as the hearers took no offence at this word, as they probably would have done, if they had understood it ironically.
1 On c. 23:6, Grotius aptly remarks: “Non deerat Paulo humana etiam prudentia, qua in bonum evangelii utens, columbae serpentem utiliter miscebat et inimicorum dissidiis fruebatur.” Bengel views the matter differently: “Non usus est P. calliditate rationis aut stratagemate dialectico, sed ad sui defensionem simpliciter eos invitat, qui propius aberant a veritate.”<