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Julian Period, 4762. Vulgar Æra,


8 But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any Thessalo

have been the first written of them all: the Epistle to the Ro-
mans the eighth or ninth. The latter has probably been placed
first, either on account of the pre-eminence of the city of Rome,
or on account of the excellency of the Epistle itself, which has
always been looked upon as St. Paul's master-piece, and the most
polished of the apostolic monuments.

The epistles were spread by slow degrees from one Church to
another. St. Paul commands the Colossians (1 Coloss. iv. 16.)
to send to the Laodiceans what he wrote to them, in order "to
be there read in the Church, and to cause to be read in
theirs those they should receive from Laodicea." There is
no doubt but that the Churches of the metropolitan cities sent
authentic copies of the letters addressed to them from the apos-
tles, to others of their province. Hence these letters passed
to Churches more remote. The Christians, who diligently
sought after those of the martyrs, did not assuredly neglect
those of the apostles. It is evident, from the letter that Poly-
carp wrote to the Philippians, that he asked them for those of
St. Ignatius. "I send you," says Polycarp, "the letters that
Ignatius has written to me, and in general all those that I have,
as you bave commanded me (o)." He means the letters that
Polycarp, who was at Smyrna, in Asia, might have collected,
either from the apostles, or from the disciples of the apostles;
for he adds, "that they might be of use in strengthening them
in patience and faith."

With respect to the time in which the Epistles of St. Paul began to be dispersed, it is very difficult to mark it precisely, since there are very few complete records of that time remaining. Clement of Rome, who was cotemporary with the apostle, has written a letter to the Church of Corinth, which is preserved, in which he speaks of the First Epistle of St. Paul to the same Church. "Receive," says he," the epistle of the happy apostle St. Paul, what he has written to you at the time that you were only beginning to receive the Gospel (p)." He afterwards mentions the divisions with which the apostle reproaches the Corinthians on account of Cephas, Apollos, and himself. There are, moreover, in this letter of St. Clement, some quotations, or manifest imitations of the Epistle to the Hebrews (q), which prove, doubtless, that he had seen that epistle.

St. Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch, and a disciple of the apostles, has written more letters, which Eusebius (r) mentions, and of which, in these later ages, we have found the MS. which do not appear to have been at all altered (s). Writing to the Ephesians, he tells them, "You are the companions (t) of the faith of Paul, who has been sanctified, who has suffered martyrdom, who has obtained the highest happiness, and who, throughout his epistle, makes honourable mention (u) of you in Jesus Christ." There is also another letter of S. Polycarp, the disciple of St. John, where he quotes this remarkable passage of 1 Cor. iv. "Know ye not that the saints will judge the world (x)?" There are moreover in it some instructions for the deacons and deaconesses, evidently copied from those which St. Paul gave to Timothy and Titus respecting those persons. In general, Polycarp speaks of St. Paul's Epistles to the Churches that knew God, at a time (y) when there was not as yet any Christian Church at Smyrna. This is what he sends to the Philippians respecting the apostle, "Neither I, nor any of my equals, were able to obtain the knowledge of the happy and



Julian Pe- other gospel unto you than that which we have preached Thessalo riod, 4762. unto you, let him be accursed. Vulgar Era,


glorious Apostle Paul who has been aforetime among you,
those who lived then have seen in person; who has taught
you the clear and true doctrine most exactly; and who being
absent wrote some letters to you, which all can now edify
you in the faith, if you attentively consider them." These tes-
timonies evince the Epistles of St. Paul to have been propa-
gated at the period here spoken of. There is also a very de-
cisive proof that they were dispersed before this period, as St.
Peter, writing to the faithful Jews who were scattered through
Asia Minor, speaks to them not only of the epistles that the
apostle had addressed to the Churches of Asia, but even of
those that he had written to others (z), as of works that were
known, and which they might then peruse. It is likewise evi-
dent, in reading these compositions of the first ages of Chris-
tianity, that the Epistles of the apostles were communicated
immediately to the neighbouring Churches by those who had
received them, and passed slowly to the Churches more remote.
Eusebius has observed (aa), that Papias, Bishop of Jerusa-
lem, has quoted the earliest Epistles of St. Peter and St. John.
Polycarp refers often to the first Epistle of St. Peter. Each of
them was in Asia. There are, however, no evident quotations
from the Epistle to the Romans, which having been sent into
the west, passed very late into the east; and therefore could
not have been so early recognized.

The eloquence of St. Paul does not consist in the style. It
consists in the sublimity of thoughts, in the force of reasoning,
in the admirable use he makes of the Scriptures, in the bold-
ness and brilliancy of expression, in the justness of images,
and in the multiplicity and beauty of figures. He is animated,
cogent, rapid, compact; frequently abrupt; often led away
from his subject by an accidental word or expression, and re-
turning to it again without the usual forms of connection: in
other places he is pathetic, affecting, moving, and ever dis-
playing that tender love and unction of the Holy Spirit, with
which he was affected. He knew how to unite authority with
compliance, and all the meekness of the apostle St. Johu, with
the severity of the Baptist; but, as has been remarked, his
style is in many places extremely negligent (bb). St. Jerome
speaks on this point with great freedom (cc), he gives him,
nevertheless, in other respects, the greatest praise; as well as
Eusebius (dd), who does not hesitate to declare that St. Paul
has surpassed all the other apostles, both in thought and ex-
pression. His excessive zeal leads him into many particula-
rities. He abounds with broken sentences, and the most con-
strained metaphors, which occasion many and repeated diffi
culties. To account for his own declaration of himself, that
when he should be rude and as "an idiot with respect to
speech, he was not with respect to knowledge (ee)," it must be
remembered that he was born in the city of Tarsus (ff), where
the Greek language was not very pure, and that the Hebrew,
or Syriac language, being as familiar to him as the Greek, his
style was consequently less polished; and is frequently mixed
with Hebraisms, which render it a little harsh. He makes use also
of some Greek particles in a sense we may term Hebraic, on
which account they have not always determinate significations.
Many of the illustrations of St. Paul are traceable to his
private life and circumstances. Tarsus, where he was born, was
one of the most celebrated places of exercise then in Asia;

Julian Period, 4762. Vulgar Era,


9 As we said before, so say I now again, If any man Thessalo

and, as Dr. Powell observes, apud Bowyer, p. 432, there is no
matter from which the apostle borrows his words and images
more than from the public exercises. He frequently considers
the life of a Christian as a race, a wrestling, or a boxing; the
rewards which good men expect hereafter, he calls the prize,
the victor's crown; and when he exhorts his disciples to the
practice of virtue, he does it usually in the very same terms in
which he would have encouraged the combatants. From the
apostle's country we descend to his family, and here we find
another source of his figurative expressions. His parents being
Roman citizens; words or sentiments, derived from the laws
of Rome, would easily creep into their conversation. No won-
der then that their son sometimes uses forms of speech peculiar
to the Roman lawyers, and applies many of the rules of adop-
tion, manumission, and testaments, to illustrate the counsels
of God in our redemption. Nor are there wanting in St. Paul's
style some marks of his occupation. To a man employed in
making tents, the ideas of making camps, arms, armour, war-
fare, military pay, would be familiar; and he introduces these
and their concomitants so frequently, that his language seems
to be such as might rather have been expected from a soldier,
than from one who lived in quiet times, and was a preacher of
the Gospel of peace. When we consider these things, with the
others that have been already noticed, there will remain nothing
that is peculiar in St. Paul's manner of writing, of which the
origin may not easily be discovered.

He pursues an idea that presents itself, and leaves for a mo-
ment the main one, to return to it again afterwards. With this,
there are frequent ellipses, or words understood, which must
be supplied either by what has preceded, or by what follows.
In the parallel which he draws, in the fifth chapter of the
Epistle to the Romans, between Adam, the author of sin and
condemnation, and Jesus Christ, the author of justification
and life, his style is so concise and so elliptic, that a mere literal
translation, without any supplement, would be not only bar-
barous, but unintelligible. It is the same in the fourteenth
chapter of the first Epistle to the Corinthians, where the turn
and the construction of the original is obliged to be changed,
and some words added in italics, (that the reader may be able
to distinguish what does not belong to the text) before the
apostle's meaning can be properly understood.

The subjects of which he treats, add also to the obscurity of the Epistles of St. Paul. He discusses things which were only known at his time, and he answers some objections, which he sometimes only mentions. All this, however, is no reason why the meaning of St. Paul may not be sufficiently clear in every essential point. The only thing necessary, is to find out whether every interpretation that can be given to the words is true in the end, and agrees with the doctrine of Christianity. The obscurity again that is met with in these epistles, arises, very often, from commentators, who press some words too far, which they lay as foundations on which they build ill-founded systems, because they do not pay sufficient attention to the design of the author, and to the general system of religion, which ought to serve as a light to clear up dark passages.

St. Paul had been brought up in the school of Gamaliel, and had been instructed in all the learning of the Jewish theology. This was the knowledge in highest esteem among the nation. "We reckon as wise among us,” says Josephus (gg), “ thosc



Julian Pe- preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have re- Thessalo-
riod, 4762. ceived, let him be accursed.
Vulgar Æra,

only who have acquired so thorough a knowledge of our laws,
and the holy writings, as to be capable of explaining them,
which is a circumstance so rare, that scarcely two or three
have succeeded in it, and deserved that honour." This know-
ledge, however, is what St. Paul has termed Judaism, Gal. i.
14. in which he testifies himself, that he had made very great
progress. Hence it is that so many more vestiges of this theo-
logy are visible in his writings, than in those of the other apos-
tles; and that many of his arguments against the Jews are drawn
from their own books (hh), and from their own expositions of

His quotations from the Old Testament are, for the most
part, taken from the Septuagint version. This version was re-
ceived by the Jews, who were called Hellenists, and who were
dispersed among the Greeks, speaking their language. It is to
these Jews, and the Gentiles who had embraced the Gospel,
that St. Paul has written all his epistles, except the Epistle to
the Hebrews. But besides the quotations from Scripture,
there are some others that, according to the testimony of the
ancients, are taken from some apocryphal books of the Jews.
The apostles having a "spirit of discrimination," had the
power of separating the true from the false, that was to be met
with in those books, and they quoted them without mentioning
the books themselves. However, we may here make use of a
very wise observation of St. Jerom (ii), that it is by no means
necessary to refer always to those apocryphal books, in order
to find out St. Paul's allegations; that it cannot be found in
the same terms in the canonical books, because in quoting
Scripture he sometimes unites many passages together, without
distinguishing what is taken from one prophet from that which
is taken from another, and because he rather relates the sense
than the words. His interpretation of the Old Testament is
most commonly mystical, and what St. Jerom calls sensus re-
conditi, hidden meanings. The Jews, who studied the Holy
Scriptures, were persuaded that beside the sense that naturally
presented itself to the understanding, there was a concealed
sense, a spiritual sense, which was the principal object of their
study. They were consequently very much infatuated with al-
legories, in which they were imitated in a dangerous degree by
some of the Christian teachers and fathers. This method of
explaining the Scriptures being authorised, the apostle has
made use of it under the divine direction. The Jews could
apply only to their sacred books their own particular and ordi-
nary knowledge, whereas the apostles had received the spirit of
prophecy, that is to say, the gift of explaining the ancient
oracles, and they trusted their interpretations less to reason,
than to a demonstration of spirit and power. They bad the
key of those sacred sayings, those "hidden mysteries," whose
mystical senses, however vague and uncertain before, were
made valid in the mouths of the apostles, on account of the gift
of prophecy and miracles.

We must discriminate in the passages which St. Paul quotes from the Old Testament, between those that are only allusions and applications, and those which are mentioned as oracles, which serve as proofs. Thus, when the apostle applies to Gospel justification, what Moses has said respecting the law, "Say not in your hearts, or in yourselves, who shall ascend to heaven?" it cannot be imagined that this is a prophecy, of which

Julian Period, 4762, Valgar Era,


10 Fór do I now persuade men, or God? or do I Thessalo

he discovers the profound and concealed sense. It is a mere
application of what has been said of the law, to the Gospel :
but a very beautiful and just application. The same may be
observed of these words of the nineteenth Psalm, "Their words
are gone out to the ends of the earth," which were said of the
stars, and which St. Paul applies to the ministers of the Gospel.
From the internal evidence afforded by the epistle itself-
from the general testimony of antiquity-and the arguments
both of Michaelis and Macknight, I am induced to place this
Epistle to the Galatians before the others; and assign the year
49 or 50 as its date. Semler quotes and approves the opinion
of another German writer, that the epistle was written before
the council at Jerusalem. I have not been able to procure the
work to which he alludes, neither can I discover sufficient ar-
guments to confirm his opinion.

Various opinions have been entertained by the learned, as to
the date of this epistle. Theodoret thought it one of those
epistles which the apostle wrote during his first confinement at
Rome, in which he is followed by Lightfoot and others. But
seeing in the other epistles which the apostle wrote during his
first confinement he hath often mentioned his bonds, but hath
not said a word concerning them in this, the opinion of The-
odoret cannot be admitted. Because there is nothing said
in the Epistle to the Galatians of St. Paul's having been in Gala-
tia more than once. L'Enfant and Beausobre think it was written
during his long abode at Corinth, mentioned Acts xviii. 11. and
between his first and second journey into Galatia.

This opinion Lardner espouses, and assigns the year 52 as the date of this epistle. The author of the Miscellanea Sacra, who is followed by Benson, supposes it to have been written from Corinth. Capel, Witsius, and Wall, say it was written at Ephesus, after Paul had been a second time in Galatia. See Acts xviii. 23. xix. 1. Fabricius thought it was written from Corinth during the apostle's second abode there, and not long after he wrote his Epistle to the Romans. This likewise was the opinion of Grotius.

Mill places it after the Epistle to the Romans, but supposes it to have been written from Troas, while the apostle was on his way to Jerusalem with the collections; to which he fancies the apostle refers, Gal. ii. 10. and that the brethren who joined him in writing to the Galatians i. 2. were those mentioned Acts xxii. 4. Beza, in his note on Gal. i. 2. gives it as his opinion, that the brethren who joined St. Paul in his letter to the Galatians, were the eldership of the church at Antioch, and that it was written in that city, in the interval between Paul and Barnabas's return from Paul's first apostolical journey and their going up to Jerusalem to consult the apostles and elders concerning the circumcision of the Gentiles. Tertullian, as Grotius informs us in his Preface to the Galatians, reckoned this one of Paul's first epistles. Macknight's opinion is, that St. Paul's Epistle to the Galatians was written from Antioch, after the council of Jerusalem, and before Paul and Silas undertook the journey in which they delivered to the Gentile Churches the decrees of the council, as related Acts xvi. 4. To this date of the epistle he is led by the following circumstances:-The earnestness with which St. Paul established his apostleship in the first and second chapters of this epistle, and the things which he advanced for that purpose, shew that the Judaizers, who urged the Galatians to receive circumci.


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