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by Frédéric Louis Godet
THE EPISTLE OF ST. PAUL TO THE ROMANS
Frederick Louis Godet
Translated from the French
Rev. A. Cusin, M. A.
Translation Revised and Edited with An Introduction and Appendix
Talbot W. Chambers, D.D.
INTRODUCTION TO THE AMERICAN EDITION.
THE author of this book, the Rev. Frederick L. Godet, D.D., was born at Neufchatel, Switzerland, October 25th, 1812. After having finished his collegiate course and entered upon theological studies in his native town, he repaired to Berlin, and afterward to Bonn, where he gave his attention to philosophy and theology. In 1837 he was admitted to orders in Neufchatel, and became curate of the pastor of Valawjin. The next year he was appointed by Prince William of Prussia (now the Emperor of Germany) to be the “civil governor” or director of the education of his only son, Frederick William, the present crown-prince of the Empire. This position he occupied with honor and success for six years, securing the confidence of his distinguished pupil in such a degree that a correspondence between them has been maintained to this day. In 1845 he became pastor of the church in Val de Ruy, and in 1850 one of the principal pastors of the city of Neufchatel, and professor of theology (exegetical and dogmatic) in the theological school of the national church of the canton. While here he received the degree of D.D. from the University of Basle. At the ecclesiastical disruption which took place in 1873, in consequence of the encroachments of the political power, he became the prominent leader of the Independent Church then established, and was made professor in its theological school, a position which he holds and adorns to this day.
Professor Godet is a man somewhat above the ordinary height, of fine presence and attractive demeanor. Two of his early friends and fellow-students, Dr. Schaff and Prof. Guyot, speak of him with enthusiasm as a scholar, a patriot, and a Christian.
Among his numerous writings may be mentioned:
Histoire de la Reformation et du Refuge dans le pays de Neufchatel 1859.
Commentaire sur l'Evangile selon S. Jean. 2 vols. 1864-5; 2d ed. 1875. English translation, Edin. 1876-7. Translated also into German and Dutch.
Commentaire sur l'Evangile S. Luke 2:0 vols. 18; 2d ed. 1870. English translation, 1875.
Etudes Bibliques. Old Test. 1872; 2d ed. 1873. English Translation, 1875. New Test. 1874. English Translation, 1876; 2d ed. 1879.
Conferences Apologetiques. 1879. English title: Lectures in Defence of the Christian Faith. 1882.
His most recent work is the one now in the reader's hands. The first volume appeared in 1879, the second in the following year. The English translation was issued by the Messrs. Clark, Edinburgh, in 1880-2, and by arrangement with them is now sent forth.
The work is a welcome addition to the literature on this subject already accessible to English readers. The elaborate volumes of Drs. Hodge and Shedd, able as they are, still leave room for another exposition made from a different point of view and taking notice of the more prominent recent writers. Dr. Godet is at once exegetical and theological. He not only examines critically the original text, but discusses the doctrine involved, both in itself and in its relation to other truths of Scripture, a feature which adds much to the value of the work for homiletic purposes. The reader may not always agree with the conclusions reached, but he has before him the reasoning upon which they rest, and from this can receive important aid in formulating his own views. Indeed it is better for stimulus, discipline, and mental growth that a commentary should not reproduce just what the reader already knows or has accepted. To leave a track because it is beaten is absurd, and to seek novelty for the sake of novelty is perilous, as has been shown again and again on the Continent during the present century. But careful, independent study is another thing. The riches of the Bible are so great as to be practically inexhaustible, and the great themes presented in the doctrinal epistles of the apostle are so profound and far-reaching that every new generation of scholars may come to them with the hope of seeing and setting forth the truth in a clearer light and a more varied application than before.
The author has many qualifications for his work. One of the most needful exists in an eminent degree viz., a hearty sympathy with the book he is expounding. He does not approach it from the outside, but the inside, having a heartfelt experience of the power and blessedness of its truths. He is a devout believer, filled with affectionate loyalty to him who is God over all, blessed forever. Taught by the Holy Ghost, he knows what sin is in the sight of the Holy One of Israel, and at the same time appreciates the grace and glory of the means by which it is overcome, both in its guilt and in its dominion. He cannot therefore handle exegesis and dogma in a cold, dry, mechanical way, but writes as one who feels with the Psalmist of old, “How precious are Thy thoughts unto me, O God!” This pious feeling is diffused over his pages like the fragrance of a precious oil, and renders his treatment of the loftiest and most recondite themes tributary to the spiritual growth of all careful readers. Yet piety is not made a substitute for knowledge. The author presents the fruit of life-long studies. He is not a novice, but having spent his life in the centre of all the discussions and investigations which have occupied Christendom for the last half-century, has become familiar with the progress of opinion and with the varied schools and tendencies which have appeared from time to time. He is able, therefore, to treat erroneous views with fulness, ability, and candor, meeting acuteness and learning with acuteness and learning, and furnishing substantial reason for the faith that is in him. Baur and Ewald and Renan are handled with respect, yet without fear or compromise. It is not necessary to affirm that the positions taken are always right, or that the reasoning pursued is always logical and conclusive, but it may be confidently said that the general tone is that of a thoughtful, incisive, learned Christian scholar.
The work embraces, as must every critical commentary in our day, the consideration of textual questions. In this respect nothing is omitted, even where the variations of reading have no effect upon translation or exposition. The author is familiar with the history of biblical criticism, and always speaks intelligently. He, however, does not accept the principles which, since the days of Lachman, have gradually approached well-nigh universal acceptance among scholars. He clings to the readings of the Textus Receptus where most writers give them up, and is unwilling to accept the authority of the early uncials as decisive in all cases. Doubtless there are cases where the internal evidence is so strong and varied that it cannot be overborne by any considerations of another kind, but the author takes this view quite too often and too freely. Besides, he gives in to the opinion of Mr. Scrivener, that as a cursive MS. may represent one even older than the oldest known uncial, this possibility should influence one's judgment in a disputed case. It is hard to see why much force should be allowed to a consideration of this kind. We argue commonly and effectively from the known to the unknown, but this method reverses the process, and puts conjecture as the basis of knowledge. Certainly it would seem better to take the existing data just as they stand, and draw from them as a whole that conclusion which they justify. The original edition of this work was published before Westcott and Hort gave to the world the fruits of their long and elaborate study of the sacred text, and of course no reference to the conclusions which they reached appears in any of the author's pages; but occasionally the editor has given in a foot-note a brief notice of the readings in which these latest editors agree with Tischendorf and Tregelles. In cases where the author differs from the judgment of the latest critics, he is careful to cite the evidence and state the reasons upon which his opinion is founded. In this way the thoughtful reader is enabled to see the exact state of the question, and form his own judgment. It is gratifying to know that at present the learned are coming more and more to a substantial agreement upon the principles involved in the determination of questions in biblical criticism. When this agreement is once fully assured the application to points in detail will be greatly facilitated.
A useful feature of the work is the citation and classification of opinions upon important questions of dogma, together with a statement of the grounds upon which they rest ( e.g.,, the introduction to chapters vi.-viii.) This is done, so far as the writer is able to judge, with fairness and intelligence, no important feature being either omitted or altered. The author's own views are stated with clearness and precision. In regard to what are called the doctrines of grace, he appears to hold the views of the Remonstrants, although, so far as may be gathered from his own words, these views do not depend upon the exact words of Scripture so much as upon what he regards as necessary corollaries from the free agency of man. He thinks that he must construct a Theodicy, and that the strong language of the apostle, where it seems to teach or imply Augustinianism, must be modified or explained so as to harmonize with our necessary convictions of the moral liberty of man. This is always a difficult and perilous process, and furnishes an incessant temptation to weaken and lower the meaning of words beyond what the laws of philology will allow. To the writer it seems far better to adopt the course mentioned by Dr. Gifford in the Speaker's Commentary (Romans, p. 65). In discussing the nature of the divine agency in giving men “up in the lusts of their hearts to uncleanness ( Rom 1:24 ), he mentions the view which deems it permissive, then that which calls it privative, and finally decides for that which regards it as judicial, the living God thus working through a law of our moral nature. But then he adds: “It is none the less true that every downward step is the sinner's own wilful act, for which he knows himself to be responsible. These two truths are recognized by the mind as irreconcilable in theory, but coexistent in fact; and the true interpretation of St. Paul's doctrines must be sought not by paring down any, but by omitting none.” Such a conclusion is unwelcome to those who insist upon having a complete, coherent, logical system which will satisfactorily explain the divine plan of the history of the world, and reconcile what seem to be utterly discordant factors in the existing state of things. But if it be the method of Scripture which unhesitatingly affirms human freedom on one hand and divine sovereignty on the other, without ever even attempting to exhibit the hidden link which unites these antagonisms, what can we do that is wiser than to follow in the track of the holy men that are inspired by the Holy Ghost?
In a few cases that seemed to be of special importance, the editor has recorded his dissent from the author in notes, which, in order not to break the continuity of the commentary, have been placed together in a short appendix at the end of the volume.
Dr. Godet's previous labors as an exegete, upon the third Gospel and the fourth, have been a useful preparation for the present work, the most difficult which an expositor can propose to himself. For whatever view one may adopt as to the occasion or the object of the Epistle, there can be no doubt that it is by far the fullest, most complete, and most systematic unfolding of Christian doctrine to be found in the New Testament. It is an epistle, and as such is adapted to the local circumstances and special tendencies of the church to which it was addressed; yet, besides this, it is also a comprehensive statement of the fundamental principles of the gospel by virtue of which it is the one true religion for all the nations of the earth, meeting the deepest wants of human nature by unfolding a satisfactory provision for righteousness in the sight of God and deliverance from the power of sin and death. Its wide sweep takes in natural religion, soteriology, and ethics. Hence Coleridge does not exaggerate when he pronounces it “the most profound work in existence.” None other grapples with such difficult problems or discusses them with such insight and logical force. It is true there are those who depreciate it, some voices even amid the ranks of the orthodox which proclaim it to be pedantic and overstrained, a merely human resolution of the great principles of the gospel into stiff forms borrowed from the Roman law, and therefore not only less attractive and juicy than the words of our Lord, but also less authoritative and useful. These persons speak of Paul as allowed to eclipse his master and seek to represent the relation between his writings and the Gospels as one of decided contrast in substance as well as form. It is too late in the day to undertake to refute this preposterous error. The Epistle has impressed itself too deeply upon the creeds of Christendom, and entered too far into the common religious consciousness of all believers, to be set aside in any such summary way. For better or worse, it is part and parcel of the New Testament, the norm of faith, and its very nature must render it always the dominant factor in the determination of dogma. The system of revealed truth could not be fully set forth or understood until the facts of redemption had been accomplished in the death, resurrection, and ascension of the Son of God, and in the seal put upon them by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Then the way of salvation became capable of full delineation, and for this purpose it pleased God that the apostles should be, not only, as the Saviour promised, led “into all the truth,” but guided by inspiration in unfolding it in permanent records. These records, though informal because they are epistles, and apparently the offspring of peculiar emergencies which required to be met, yet furnish the needful explication of divine things, the material of a systematic treatment of the subject. Upon these the constructive minds of the church in every age have been diligently employed, and without these theology could hardly have attained the dignity of a science. With them the circle of revelation becomes complete. By far the most important of the series is the Epistle to the Romans. And the intelligence and stability of any generation of believers is exactly proportioned to the degree in which this marrowy and masculine treatise is studied, understood, and appreciated. As to its literary qualities, the eulogy of Jerome has been reiterated by many a scholar of subsequent ages: Paulum proferam quem quotiesque lego, video mihi non verba audire sed tonitrua. Videntur quidem verba simplicia et quasi innocentis hominis et rusticani, et qui nec facere nec declinare noverit insidias, sed quocunque respexeris fulmina sunt. Haeret in causa; capit omne quod tetigerit; tergum vertit ut superet: fugam simulat ut occidat (Ep. 48 ad Pammachiam, c. 13).
The translation is, with a few trifling exceptions and one serious one, very well executed, being faithful and fluent. The serious drawback is in regard to the text of the apostle as cited by the author. Professor Godet is careful to give a new version of the Greek, corresponding to his view of its precise meaning. Sometimes the English translator has observed this and reproduced its peculiar features in our tongue, but in general the language of the Authorized Version has been adopted. So that occasionally there is a disagreeable want of conformity between the text and the comment. The American editor has gone carefully over the pages, and sought to make the apostle's words, as they appear here, an exact reproduction of the author's views. This could not be done uniformly, because in some cases the author allows himself to vary in the discussion from the wording adopted in the text. This matter is of more importance than would appear at first blush. For exact idiomatic translation is a nice accomplishment, and often proves a more severe test of insight and culture than an elaborate exegesis. Dr. Godet evidently bestowed great pains upon his version, and desired it to be viewed along with his exposition. In it he shows for the most part considerable exegetical tact; yet it is surprising how often, or rather how commonly, he disregards the exact force of the Greek aorist and translates it by our perfect. Of course there are places in which this must be done, owing to our idiom, but surely it should be confined to such instances. His rendering of the particles, the small but useful hinges of speech, is careful and accurate.
Talbot W. Chambers
March 1, 1883.
NO one will deny that there is room for some emotion in giving to the public a Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans. It avails nothing that the author is only the interpreter of a given text. The contents of that text, accepted or rejected, affect his readers so decisively, that the author, who serves them as a guide, feels himself at every step under a burden of the gravest responsibility.
This consideration cannot weigh with me, however, to prevent me from offering to the church, and especially to the churches of the French language, this fruit of a study which, in the course of my theological teaching, I have been called again and again to renew.
I shall here state frankly an anxiety which fills my mind. I believe the divine conception of salvation, as expounded by St. Paul in this fundamental work, to be more seriously threatened at this moment than ever it was before. For not only is it assailed by its declared adversaries, but it is abandoned by its natural defenders. In these divine facts of expiation and justification by faith, which formed, according to the apostle's declaration, the gospel which he received by the revelation of Jesus Christ (Galatians 1:0), how many Christians see nothing more, and would have the church henceforth to see nothing more, than a theological system, crammed with Jewish notions, which St. Paul himself conceived by meditating on Jesus Christ and upon His work!
It will not be long, I fear, ere we see what becomes of the life of individuals and of the church, as soon as its roots cease to strike into the fruitful soil of apostolical revelation. A religious life languishing and sickly, a sanctification without vigor or decision, and no longer distinguished by any marked feature from the simple morality of nature such will be the goal, very soon reached, of that rational evolution on which the church, and particularly our studious youth, are invited to enter. The least obscuration of the divine mind, communicated to the world by means of apostolical revelation, has for its immediate effect a diminution of spiritual life and strength.
Must the church of France, in particular, lose the best part of its strength at the very moment when God seems at length to be bringing France into its arms? This would be the last tragedy of its history sadder still than all the bloody but heroic days of its past.
It is neither the empty affirmations of free thought, nor the vague teachings of a semi-rationalism which does not know itself whether it believes in a revelation or not which will present a sufficient basis for the religious elevation of a whole nation. For there is needed a doctrine which is firm, positive, divine, like the gospel of Paul.
When the Epistle to the Romans appeared for the first time, it was to the church a word in season. Every time that, in the course of the ages, it has recovered the place of honor which belongs to it, it has inaugurated a new era. It was so half a century ago, when that revival took place, the powerful influence of which remains unexhausted to this hour. To that movement, which still continues, the present Commentary seeks to attach itself. May it also be in some measure to the church of the present a word in season!
I may be justly charged with not having more completely ransacked the immense library which has gradually formed round St. Paul's treatise. My answer is: I might have...but on condition of never coming to an end. Should I have done so?
And as I have been obliged to set a limit to my study, I have been obliged to restrict also the exposition of the results of my labor. If I had allowed myself to cross the boundaries of exposition properly so called, to enter more than I have sometimes done into the domain of dogmatic developments, or into that of practical applications, the two volumes would have been soon increased to four or six. It was better for me to incur the charge of dryness, which will not repel any serious reader, than to fall into prolixity, which would have done greatly more to injure the usefulness of the Commentary.
The pious Sailer used to say: “O Christianity, had thy one work been to produce a St. Paul, that alone should have rendered thee dear to the coldest reason.” May we not be permitted to add: And thou, O St. Paul, had thy one work been to compose an Epistle to the Romans, that alone should have rendered thee dear to every sound reason.
May the Spirit of the Lord make all of His own that He has deigned to put into this work, fruitful within the church, and in the heart of every reader!
COLERIDGE calls the Epistle to the Romans “the profoundest book in existence.” Chrysostom had it read to him twice a week. Luther, in his famous preface, says: “This Epistle is the chief book of the New Testament, the purest gospel. It deserves not only to be known word for word by every Christian, but to be the subject of his meditation day by day, the daily bread of his soul....The more time one spends on it, the more precious it becomes and the better it appears.” Melanchthon, in order to make it perfectly his own, copied it twice with his own hand. It is the book which he expounded most frequently in his lectures. The Reformation was undoubtedly the work of the Epistle to the Romans, as well as of that to the Galatians; and the probability is that every great spiritual revival in the church will be connected as effect and cause with a deeper understanding of this book. This observation unquestionably applies to the various religious awakenings which have successively marked the course of our century.
The exposition of such a book is capable of boundless progress. In studying the Epistle to the Romans we feel ourselves at every word face to face with the unfathomable. Our experience is somewhat analogous to what we feel when contemplating the great masterpieces of mediaeval architecture, such, for example, as the Cathedral of Milan. We do not know which to admire most, the majesty of the whole or the finish of the details, and every look makes the discovery of some new perfection. And yet the excellence of the book with which we are about to be occupied should by no means discourage the expositor; it is much rather fitted to stimulate him. “What book of the New Testament,” says Meyer, in his preface to the fifth edition of his commentary, “less entitles the expositor to spare his pains than this, the greatest and richest of all the apostolic works?” Only it must not be imagined that to master its meaning nothing more is needed than the philological analysis of the text, or even the theological study of the contents. The true understanding of this masterpiece of the apostolic mind is reserved for those who approach it with the heart described by Jesus in His Sermon on the Mount, the heart hungering and thirsting after righteousness. For what is the Epistle to the Romans? The offer of the righteousness of God to the man who finds himself stripped by the law of his own righteousness ( Rom 1:17 ). To understand such a book we must yield ourselves to the current of the intention under which it was dictated.
M. de Pressensé has called the great dogmatic works of the Middle Ages “the cathedrals of thought.” The Epistle to the Romans is the cathedral of the Christian faith.
Sacred criticism, which prepares for the exposition of the books of the Bible, has for its object to elucidate the various questions relating to their origin; and of those questions there are always some which can only be resolved with the help of the exegesis itself. The problem of the composition of the Epistle to the Romans includes several questions of this kind. We could not answer them in this introduction without anticipating the work of exegesis. It will be better, therefore, to defer the final solution of them to the concluding chapter of the commentary. But there are others, the solution of which is perfectly obvious, either from the simple reading of the Epistle, or from certain facts established by church history. It cannot be other than advantageous to the exposition to gather together here the results presented by these two sources, which are fitted to shed light on the origin of our Epistle. It will afford an opportunity at the same time of explaining the different views on the subject which have arisen in the course of ages.
An apostolical epistle naturally results from the combination of two factors: the personality of the author, and the state of the church to which he writes. Accordingly, our introduction will bear on the following points: 1. The Apostle Paul; 2. The Church of Rome; 3. The circumstances under which the Epistle was composed.
In a supplementary chapter we shall treat of the preservation of the text.
CHAPTER I. THE APOSTLE ST. PAUL.
IF we had to do with any other of St. Paul's Epistles, we should not think ourselves called to give a sketch of the apostle's career. But the Epistle to the Romans is so intimately bound up with the personal experiences of its author, it so contains the essence of his preaching, or, to use his own expression twice repeated in our Epistle, his Gospel (Romans 2:16, Rom 16:25 ), that the study of the book in this case imperiously requires that of the man who composed it. St. Paul's other Epistles are fragments of his life; here we have his life itself.
Three periods are to be distinguished in St. Paul's career: 1. His life as a Jew and Pharisee; 2. His conversion; 3. His life as a Christian and apostle. In him these two characters blend.
I. St. Paul before his Conversion.
Paul was born at Tarsus in Cilicia, on the confines of Syria and Asia Minor (see his own declarations, Acts 21:39; Act 22:3 ). Jerome mentions a tradition, according to which he was born at Gischala in Galilee. His family, says he, had emigrated to Tarsus after the devastation of their country. If this latter expression refers to the devastation of Galilee by the Romans, the statement contains an obvious anachronism. And as it is difficult to think of any other catastrophe unknown to us, the tradition is without value.
Paul's family belonged to the tribe of Benjamin, as he himself writes, Rom 11:1 and Philippians 3:5. His name, Saul or Saül, was probably common in this tribe in memory of the first king of Israel, taken from it. His parents belonged to the sect of the Pharisees; compare his declaration before the assembled Sanhedrim ( Act 23:6 ): “I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee,” and Philippians 3:5. They possessed, though how it became theirs we know not, the right of Roman citizens, which tends, perhaps, to claim for them a somewhat higher social position than belonged to the Jews settled in Gentile countries. The influence which this sort of dignity exercised on his apostolic career can be clearly seen in various passages of Paul's ministry (comp. Act 16:37 et seq., Acts 22:25-29; Act 23:27 ).
The language spoken in Saul's family was undoubtedly the Syro-Chaldean, usual in the Jewish communities of Syria. But the young Saul does not seem to have remained a stranger to the literary and philosophical culture of the Greek world, in the midst of which he passed his childhood. “Tarsus,” even in Xenophon's time, as we find him relating ( Anab. 1.2. 23), was “a city large and prosperous.” In the age of Saul it disputed the empire of letters with its two rivals, Athens and Alexandria. In what degree Greek culture is to be ascribed to the apostle, has often been made matter of discussion. In his writings we meet with three quotations from Greek poets: one belongs both to the Cilician poet Aratus (in his Phaenomena) and to Cleanthes (in his Hymn to Jupiter); it is found in Paul's sermon at Athens, Acts 17:28: “As certain also of your own poets have said, We are also his offspring;” the second is taken from the Thaïs of Menander; it occurs in 1 Corinthians 15:33: “Evil companionships corrupt good manners;” the third is borrowed from the Cretan poct Epimenides, in his work on Oracles; it is found in the Epistle to Titus 1:12: “One of themselves, a prophet of their own, said: The Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, slow bellies.” Are these quotations proofs of a certain knowledge of Greek literature which Paul had acquired? M. Renan thinks not. He believes that they can be explained as borrowings at second hand, or even from the common usage of proverbs circulating in everybody's mouth. This supposition might apply in all strictness to the second and third quotation. But there is a circumstance which prevents us from explaining the first, that which occurs in the discourse at Athens, in the same way. Paul here uses this form of citation: “ Some of your poets have said...” If he really expressed himself thus, he must have known the use made by the two writers, Aratus and Cleanthes, of the sentence quoted by him. In that case he could not have been a stranger to their writings. A young mind like Paul's, so vivacious and eager for instruction, could not live in a centre such as Tarsus without appropriating some elements of the literary life which flourished around it.
Nevertheless it cannot be doubted that his education was essentially Jewish, both in respect to the instruction he received and to the language used. Perhaps he was early destined to the office of Rabbin. His rare faculties naturally qualified him for this function, so highly honored of all in Israel. There is connected with the choice of this career a circumstance which was not without value in the exercise of his apostolical ministry. According to Jewish custom, the Rabbins required to be in a position to gain their livelihood by means of some manual occupation. This was looked upon as a guarantee of independence and a preservative from sin. The received maxim ran thus: “The study of the law is good, provided it be associated with a trade....Otherwise, it is useless and even hurtful.” Saul's parents chose a trade for him which was probably connected with the circumstances of the country where they dwelt, that of tentmaker ( σκηνοποιός , Act 18:3 ), a term which denoted the art of making a coarse cloth woven from the hair of the Cilician goats, and used in preference to every other kind in the making of tents. The term used in the Book of the Acts thus denotes the work of weaving rather than tailoring.
When we take account of all the circumstances of Saul's childhood, we understand the feeling of gratitude and adoration which at a later date drew forth from him the words, Galatians 1:15: “God, who separated me from my mother's womb. ” If it is true that Paul's providential task was to free the gospel from the wrappings of Judaism in order to offer it to the Gentile world in its pure spirituality, he required, with a view to this mission, to unite many seemingly contradictory qualities. He needed, above all, to come from the very heart of Judaism; only on this condition could he thoroughly know life under the law, and could he attest by his own experience the powerlessness of this alleged means of salvation. But, on the other hand, he required to be exempt from that national antipathy to the Gentile world with which Palestinian Judaism was imbued. How would he have been able to open the gates of the kingdom of God to the Gentiles of the whole world, if he had not lived in one of the great centres of Hellenic life, and been familiarized from his infancy with all that was noble and great in Greek culture, that masterpiece of the genius of antiquity? It was also, as we have seen, a great advantage for him to possess the privilege of a Roman citizen. He thus combined in his person the three principal social spheres of the age, Jewish legalism, Greek culture, and Roman citizenship. He was, as it were, a living point of contact between the three. If, in particular, he was able to plead the cause of the gospel in the capital of the world and before the supreme tribunal of the empire, as well as before the Sanhedrim at Jerusalem and the Athenian Areopagus, it was to his right as a Roman citizen that he owed the privilege. Not even the manual occupation learned in his childhood failed to play its part in the exercise of his apostleship. When, for reasons of signal delicacy, which he has explained in chap. 9 of his first Epistle to the Corinthians, he wished to make the preaching of the gospel, so far as he was concerned, without charge, in order to secure it from the false judgments which it could not have escaped in Greece, it was this apparently insignificant circumstance of his boyhood which put him in a position to gratify the generous inspiration of his heart.
The young Saul must have quitted Tarsus early, for he himself reminds the inhabitants of Jerusalem, in the discourse which he delivers to them, Acts 22:0, that he had been “brought up in this city.” In Act 26:4 he thus expresses himself not less publicly: “All the Jews know my manner of life from my youth at Jerusalem.” Ordinarily it was at the age of twelve that Jewish children were taken for the first time to the solemn feasts at Jerusalem. They then became, according to the received phrase, “ sons of the law. ” Perhaps it was so with Saul, and perhaps he continued thenceforth in this city, where some of his family seem to have been domiciled. Indeed, mention is made, Acts 23:16, of a son of his sister who saved him from a plot formed against his life by some citizens of Jerusalem.
He went through his Rabbinical studies at the school of the prudent and moderate Gamaliel, the grandson of the famous Hillel. “Taught,” says Paul, “at the feet of Gamaliel, according to the perfect manner of the law of our fathers” ( Act 22:3 ). Gamaliel, according to the Talmud, knew Greek literature better than any other doctor of the law. His reputation for orthodoxy nevertheless remained unquestioned. Facts will prove that the young disciple did not fail to appropriate the spirit of wisdom and lofty prudence which distinguished this eminent man. At his school Saul became one of the most fervent zealots for the law of Moses. And practice with him kept pace with theory. He strove to surpass all his fellow-disciples in fulfilling the traditional prescriptions. This is the testimony which he gives of himself, Galatians 1:14; Philippians 3:6. The programme of moral life traced by the law and elaborated by Pharisaical teaching, was an ideal ever present to his mind, and on the realization of which were concentrated all the powers of his will. He resembled that young man who asked Jesus “by the doing of what work” he could obtain eternal life. To realize the law perfectly, and to merit the glory of the kingdom of heaven by the righteousness thus acquired such was his highest aspiration. Perhaps there was added to this ambition another less pure, the ambition of being able to contemplate himself in the mirror of his conscience with unmixed satisfaction. Who knows whether he did not flatter himself that he might thus gain the admiration of his superiors, and so reach the highest dignities of the Rabbinical hierarchy? If pride had not clung like a gnawing worm to the very roots of his righteousness, the fruit of the tree could not have been so bitter; and the catastrophe which overturned it would be inexplicable. Indeed, it is his own experience which Paul describes when he says, Romans 10:2-3, in speaking of Israel: “I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. For they, being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God” [that which God offers to the world in Jesus Christ].
Three natural characteristics, rarely found in union, must have early shown themselves in him, and attracted the attention of his masters from his student days: vigor of intellect it was in this quality that he afterwards excelled St. Peter; strength of will perhaps he was thus distinguished from St. John; and liveliness of feeling. Everywhere we find in him an exuberance of the deepest or most delicate sensibility, taking the forms of the most rigorous dialectic, and joined to a will fearless and invincible.
In his exterior Saul must have been of a weakly appearance. In 2Co 10:10 he reproduces the reproach of his adversaries: “His bodily appearance is weak.” In Act 14:12 et seq. we see the Lycaonian crowd taking Barnabas for Jupiter, and Paul for Mercury, which proves that the former was of a higher and more imposing stature than the latter. But there is a wide interval between this and the portrait of the apostle, drawn in an apocryphal writing of the second century, the Acts of Paul and Thecla, a portrait to which M. Renan in our judgment ascribes far too much value. Paul is described in this book as “a man little of stature, bald, short-legged, corpulent, with eyebrows meeting, and prominent nose.” This is certainly only a fancy portrait. In the second century nothing was known of St. Paul's apostolate after his two years' captivity at Rome, with which the history of the Acts closes; and yet men still know at that date what was the appearance of his nose, eyebrows, and legs! From such passages as Galatians 4:13, where he mentions a sickness which arrested him in Galatia, and 2 Corinthians 12:7, where he speaks of a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan buffeting him, it has been concluded that he was of a sickly and nervous temperament; he has even been credited with epileptic fits. But the first passage proves nothing; for a sickness in one particular case does not imply a sickly constitution. The second would rather go to prove the opposite, for Paul declares that the bodily affliction of which he speaks was given him that is to say, inflicted for the salutary purpose of providing the counterpoise of humiliation, to the exceeding greatness of the revelations which he received. The fact in question must therefore rather be one which supervened during the course of his apostleship. Is it possible, besides, that a man so profoundly shattered in constitution could for thirty years have withstood the labors and sufferings of a career such as that of Paul notoriously was?
Marriage takes place early among the Jews. Did Saul marry during his stay at Jerusalem? Clement of Alexandria, and Eusebius among the ancients, answer in the affirmative. Luther and the Reformers generally shared this view. Hausrath has defended it lately on grounds which are not without weight. The passages, 1 Corinthians 7:7: “I would that all men were even as I myself” (unmarried), and 1 Corinthians 7:8: “I say to the unmarried and widows, It is good for them if they abide even as I,” do not decide the question, for Paul might hold this language as a widower not less than if he were a celibate. But the manner in which the apostle speaks, 1 Corinthians 7:7, of the gift which is granted him, and which he would not sacrifice, of living as an unmarried man, certainly suits a celibate better than a widower.
Had Saul, during his sojourn at Jerusalem, the opportunity of seeing and hearing the Lord Jesus? If he studied at the capital at this period, he can hardly have failed to meet Him in the temple. Some have alleged in favor of this supposition the passage, 2 Corinthians 5:16: “Yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we Him no more.” But this phrase is rather an allusion to the pretensions of some of his adversaries, who boasted of their personal relations to the Lord; or more simply still, it denotes the carnal nature of the Messianic hope current among the Jews. As there is not another word in Paul's Epistles fitted to lead us to suppose that he himself saw the Lord during His earthly life, Renan and Mangold have concluded that he was absent from the capital at the time of the ministry of Jesus, and that he did not return to it till some years later, about the date of Stephen's martyrdom. But even had he lived abroad at that period, he must as a faithful Jew have returned to Jerusalem at the feasts. It is certainly difficult to suppose that St. Paul did not one time or other meet Jesus, though his writings make no allusion to the fact of a knowledge so purely external.
Saul had reached the age which qualified him for entering on public duties, at his thirtieth year. Distinguished above all his fellow-disciples by his fanatical zeal for the Jewish religion in its Pharisaic form, and by his hatred to the new doctrine, which seemed to him only a colossal imposture, he was charged by the authorities of his nation to prosecute the adherents of the Nazarene sect, and, if possible, to root it out. After having played a part in the murder of Stephen, and persecuted the believers at Jerusalem, he set out for Damascus, the capital of Syria, with letters from the Sanhedrim, which authorized him to fill the same office of inquisitor in the synagogues of that city. We have reached the fact of his conversion.
II. His Conversion.
In the midst of his Pharisaical fanaticism Saul did not enjoy peace. In chap. 7 of the Epistle to the Romans, he has unveiled the secret of his inner life at this period. Sincere as his efforts were to realize the ideal of righteousness traced by the law, he discovered an enemy within him which made sport of his best resolutions, namely lust. “I knew not sin but by the law; for I had not known lust except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.” And thus he made the most important experience of his life, that which he has expressed in these words of the Epistle to the Romans ( Rom 3:20 ): “By the law is the knowledge of sin.” The painful feeling of his powerlessness to realize virtue was, if I may so call it, the negative preparation for the crisis which transformed his life. His soul, hungering and thirsting after righteousness, found the attempt vain to nourish itself with its own works; it did not suceed in satisfying itself.
Another circumstance, fitted to prepare for the change in a more positive way, occurred at this period. An inactive witness of Stephen's martyrdom, Saul could calmly contemplate the bloody scene see the brow of the martyr irradiated with heavenly brightness, and hear his invocation addressed to the glorified Son of man, in which was revealed the secret of his love and triumphant hope. His soul was no doubt deeply pierced in that hour; and it was with the view of cicatrizing this wound that he set himself with redoubled violence to the work of destruction which he had undertaken. “The hour shall come,” Jesus had said to His apostles, “in which whosoever shall kill you will think that he renders God worship.” It was really with this thought that the young persecutor raged against the Christians. Nothing but an immediate interposition on the part of Him whom he was thus persecuting could arrest this charger in his full career, whom the sharp prickings by which he felt himself inwardly urged only served to irritate the more.
The attempt has been made in modern times to explain in a purely natural way the sudden revolution which passed over the feelings, convictions, and life of Saul.
Some have described it as a revolution of an exclusively inward character, and purely moral origin. Holsten, in his work on the Gospel of Peter and Paul (1868), has brought to this explanation all the resources of his remarkable sagacity. But his own master, Baur, while describing the appearing of Jesus at the moment of Saul's conversion as “the external reflection of a spiritual process,” could not help acknowledging, after all, that there remains in the fact something mysterious and unfathomable: “We do not succeed by any analysis, either psychological or dialectical, in fathoming the mystery of the act by which God revealed His Son in Saul.”
The fact is, the more we regard the moral crisis which determined this revolution, as one slowly and profoundly prepared for, the more does its explanation demand the interposition of an external and supernatural agent. We cannot help recalling the picture drawn by Jesus, of “the stronger man” overcoming “the strong man,” who has no alternative left save to give himself up with all that he has into the hands of his conqueror. Saul himself had felt this sovereign interposition so profoundly, that in 1 Corinthians 9:0 he distinguishes his apostleship, as the result of constraint, from that of the Twelve, which had been perfectly free and voluntary ( 1Co 9:16-18 comp. with 1Co 9:5-6 ). He, Paul, was taken by force. He was not asked: Wilt thou? It was said to him, Woe to thee, if thou obey not! For this reason it is that he feels the need of introducing into his ministry, as an afterthought, that element of free choice which has been so completely lacking in its origin, by voluntarily renouncing all pecuniary recompense from the churches, and imposing on himself the burden of his own support, and even sometimes that of his fellow-laborers (comp. Act 20:34 ). This fact is the striking testimony borne by the conscience of Paul himself to the purely passive character of the transformation which was wrought in him.
The account given in the Acts harmonizes with this declaration of the apostle's conscience. The very shades which are observable in the three narratives of the fact contained in the book, prove that a mysterious phenomenon was really perceived by those who accompanied Saul, and that the fact belongs in some way to the world of sense. They did not discern the person who spoke to him, so it is said, Acts 9:7, but they were struck with a brightness surpassing that of ordinary sunlight (Acts 22:9, Act 26:13 ); they did not hear distinctly the words which were addressed to him ( Act 22:9 ), but they heard the sound of a voice ( Act 9:7 ). Sometimes these striking details of the narrative have been alleged as contradictions. But the hypothesis has become inadmissible since criticism, by the pen of Zeller himself, has established beyond dispute the unity of authorship and composition characterizing the whole book. Supposing even the author to have used documents, it is certain that he has impressed on his narrative from one end to the other the stamp of his style and thought. In such circumstances, how could there possibly be a contradiction in a matter of fact? It must therefore be admitted that while Saul alone saw the Lord and understood His words, his fellow-travellers observed and heard something extraordinary; and this last particular suffices to prove the objectivity of the appearance.
Paul himself was so firmly convinced on this head, that when proving the reality of his apostleship, 1 Corinthians 9:1, he appeals without hesitation to the fact that he has seen the Lord, which cannot apply in his judgment to a simple vision; for no one ever imagined that a vision could suffice to confer apostleship. In chap. 15 of the same Epistle, 1 Corinthians 15:8, Paul closes the enumeration of the appearances of the risen Jesus to the apostles with that which was granted to himself; he therefore ascribes to it the same reality as to those, and thus distinguishes it thoroughly from all the visions with which he was afterward honored, and which are mentioned in the Acts and Epistles. And the very aim of the chapter proves that what is in his mind can be nothing else than a bodily and external appearing of Jesus Christ; for his aim is to demonstrate the reality of our Lord's bodily resurrection, and from that fact to establish the reality of the resurrection in general. Now all the visions in the world could never demonstrate either the one or the other of these two facts: Christ's bodily resurrection and ours. Let us observe, besides, that when Paul expressed himself on facts of this order, he was far from proceeding uncritically. This appears from the passage, 2Co 12:1 et seq. He does not fail here to put a question to himself of the very kind which is before ourselves. For in the case of the Damascus appearance he expresses himself categorically, he guards himself on the contrary as carefully in the case mentioned 2Co 12:1 et seq. against pronouncing for the external or purely internal character of the phenomenon: “I know not; God knoweth,” says he. Gal 1:1 evidently rests on the same conviction of the objectivity of the manifestation of Christ, when He appeared to him as risen, to call him to the apostleship.
M. Renan has evidently felt that, to account for a change so sudden and complete, recourse must be had to some external factor acting powerfully in Saul's moral life. He hesitates between a storm bursting on Lebanon, a flash of lightning spreading a sudden brilliance, or an increase of ophthalmic fever producing in the mind of Saul a violent hallucination. But causes so superficial could never have effected a moral change so profound and durable as that to which Paul's whole subsequent life testifies. Here is the judgment of Baur himself, in his treatise, Der Apostel Paulus, on a supposition of the same kind: “We shall not stop to examine it, for it is a pure hypothesis, not only without anything for it in the text, but having its obvious meaning against it.” M. Reuss thus expresses himself: “After all that has been said in our time, the conversion of Paul still remains, if not an absolute miracle in the traditional sense of the word (an effect without any other cause than the arbitrary and immediate interposition of God), at least a psychological problem insoluble to the present hour.”
Keim, too, cannot help acknowledging the objectivity of the appearance of Christ which determined so profound a revolution. Only he transports the fact from the world of the senses into the not less real one of the spirit. He thinks that the glorified Lord really manifested Himself to Paul by means of a spiritual action exercised over his soul. This explanation is the forced result of these two factors: on the one hand, the necessity of ascribing an objective cause to the phenomenon; on the other, the predetermined resolution not to acknowledge the miracle of our Lord's bodily resurrection. But we shall here apply the words of Baur: “Not only has this hypothesis nothing for it in the text, but it has against it its obvious meaning.” It transforms the three narratives of the Acts into fictitious representations, since, according to this explanation, Saul's fellow-travellers could have seen nothing at all.
If Paul had not personally experienced our Lord's bodily presence, he would never have dared to formulate the paradox, offensive in the highest degree, and especially to a Jewish theologian ( Col 2:9 ): “In Him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. ”
With Saul's conversion a supreme hour struck in the history of humanity. If, as Renan justly says, there came with the birth of Jesus the moment when “the capital event in the history of the world was about to be accomplished, the revolution whereby the noblest portions of humanity were to pass from paganism to a religion founded on the divine unity,” the conversion of Paul was the means whereby God took possession of the man who was to be His instrument in bringing about this unparalleled revolution.
The moment had come when the divine covenant, established in Abraham with a single family, was to extend to the whole world, and embrace, as God has promised to the patriarch, all the families of the earth. The universalism which had presided over the primordial ages of the race, and which had given way for a time to the particularism of the theocracy, was about to reappear in a more elevated form and armed with new powers, capable of subduing the Gentile world. But there was needed an exceptional agent for this extraordinary work. The appearing of Jesus had paved the way for it, but had not yet been able to accomplish it. The twelve Palestinian apostles were not fitted for such a task. We have found, in studying Paul's origin and character, that he was the man specially designed and prepared beforehand. And unless we are to regard the work which he accomplished, which Renan calls “the capital event in the history of the world,” as accidental, we must consider the act whereby he was enrolled in the service of Christ, and called to this work, as one directly willed of God, and worthy of being effected by His immediate interposition. Christ Himself, with a strong hand and a stretched-out arm, when the hour struck, laid hold of the instrument which the Father had chosen for Him. These thoughts in their entirety form precisely the contents of the preamble to the Epistle which we propose to study ( Rom 1:1-5 ).
What passed in the soul of Saul during the three days which followed this violent disturbance, he himself tells us in the beginning of chap. 6 of the Epistle to the Romans. This passage, in which we hear the immediate echo of the Damascus experience, answers our question in the two words: A death, and a resurrection. The death was that of the self-idolatrous Saul, death to his own righteousness, or, what comes to the same thing, to the law. Whither had he been led by his impetuous zeal for the fulfilling of the law? To make war on God, and to persecute the Messiah and His true people! Some hidden vice must certainly cleave to a self-righteousness cultivated so carefully, and which led him to a result so monstrous. And that vice he now discerned clearly. In wishing to establish his own righteousness, it was not God, it was himself whom he had sought to glorify. The object of his adoration was his ego, which by his struggles and victories he hoped to raise to moral perfection, with the view of being able to say in the end: Behold this great Babylon which I have built! The disquietude which had followed him on this path, and driven him to a blind and bloody fanaticism, was no longer a mystery to him. The truth of that declaration of Scripture, which he had till now only applied to the Gentiles, was palpable in his own case. “There is not a just man, no, not one” ( Rom 3:10 ). The great fact of the corruption and condemnation of the race, even in the best of its representatives, had acquired for him the evidence of a personal experience. This was to him that death which he afterwards described in the terms: “I through the law am dead to the law” ( Gal 2:19 ).
But, simultaneously with this death, there was wrought in him a resurrection. A justified Saul appeared in the sphere of his consciousness in place of the condemned Saul, and by the working of the Spirit this Saul became a new creature in Christ. Such is the forcible expression used by Paul himself to designate the radical change which passed within him ( 2Co 5:17 ).
Accustomed as he was to the Levitical sacrifices demanded by the law for every violation of legal ordinances, Saul had no sooner experienced sin within him in all its gravity, and with all its consequences of condemnation and death, than he must also have felt the need of a more efficacious expiation than that which the blood of animal victims can procure. The bloody death of Jesus, who had just manifested Himself to him in His glory as the Christ, then presented itself to his view in its true light. Instead of seeing in it, as hitherto, the justly-deserved punishment of a false Christ, he recognized in it the great expiatory sacrifice offered by God Himself to wash away the sin of the world and his own. The portrait of the Servant of Jehovah drawn by Isaiah, of that unique person on whom God lays the iniquity of all...he now understood to whom he must apply it. Already the interpretations in the vulgar tongue, which accompanied the reading of the Old Testament in the synagogues, and which were afterward preserved in our Targums, referred such passages to the Messiah. In Saul's case the veil fell; the cross was transfigured before him into the instrument of the world's salvation; and the resurrection of Jesus, which had become a palpable fact since the Lord had appeared to him bodily, was henceforth the proclamation made by God Himself of the justification of humanity, the monument of the complete amnesty offered to our sinful world. “My righteous Servant shall justify many,” were the words of Isaiah, after having described the resurrection of the Servant of Jehovah as the sequel of His voluntary immolation. Saul now contemplated with wonder and adoration the fulfilment of this promise, the accomplishment of this work. The new righteousness was before him as a free gift of God in Jesus Christ. There was nothing to be added to it. It was enough to accept and rest on it in order to possess the blessing which he had pursued through so many labors and sacrifices, peace with God.
He entered joyfully into the simple part of one accepting, believing. Dead and condemned in the death of the Messiah, he lived again justified in His risen person. It was on this revelation, received during the three days at Damascus, that Saul lived till his last breath.
One can understand how, in this state of soul, and as the result of this inward illumination, he regarded the baptism in the name of Jesus which Ananias administered to him. If in Romans 6:0 he has presented this ceremony under the image of a death, burial, and resurrection through the participation of faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, he has, in so expressing himself, only applied to all Christians his own experience in his baptism at Damascus.
To the grace of justification, of which this ceremony was to him the assured seal, there was added that of regeneration by the creative operation of the Spirit, who transformed his reconciled heart, and produced a new life within it. All the energy of his love turned to that Christ who had become his substitute, guilty, in order to become the author of his righteousness, and to the God who had bestowed on him this unspeakable gift. Thus there was laid within him the principle of a true holiness. What had been impossible for him till then, self-emptying and life for God, was at length wrought in his at once humble and joyful heart. Jesus, who had been his substitute on the cross, in order to become his righteousness, was easily substituted for himself in his heart in order to become the object of his life. The free obedience which he had vainly sought to accomplish under the yoke of the law, became in his grateful heart, through the Spirit of Christ, a holy reality. And he could henceforth measure the full distance between the state of a slave and that of a child of God.
From this experience there could not but spring up a new light on the true character of the institutions of the law. He had been accustomed to regard the law of Moses as the indispensable agent of the world's salvation; it seemed to him destined to become the standard of life for the whole race, as it had been for the life of Israel. But now, after the experience which he had just made of the powerlessness of this system to justify and sanctify man, the work of Moses appeared in all its insufficiency. He still saw in it a pedagogical institution, but one merely temporary. With the Messiah, who realized all that he had expected from the law, the end of the Mosaic discipline was reached. “Ye are complete in Christ” ( Col 2:10 ); what avails henceforth that which was only the shadow of the dispensation of Christ ( Col 2:16-17 )?
And who, then, was He in whose person and work there was thus given to him the fulness of God's gifts without the help of the law? A mere man? Saul remembers that the Jesus who was condemned to death by the Sanhedrim was so condemned as a blasphemer, for having declared Himself the Son of God. This affirmation had hitherto seemed to him the height of impicty and imposture. Now the same affirmation, taken with the view of the sovereign majesty of Him whom he beheld on the way to Damascus, stamps this being with a divine seal, and makes him bend the knee before His sacred person. He no longer sees in the Messiah merely a son of David, but the Son of God.
With this change in his conception of the Christ there is connected another not less decisive change in his conception of the Messiah's work. So long as Paul had seen nothing more in the Messiah than the Son of David, he had understood His work only as the glorification of Israel, and the extension of the discipline of the law to the whole world. But from the time that God had revealed to him in the person of this son of David according to the flesh ( Rom 1:2-3 ) the appearing of a divine being, His own Son, his view of the Messiah's work grew with that of His person. The son of David might belong to Israel only; but the Son of God could not have come here below, save to be the Saviour and Lord of all that is called man. Were not all human distinctions effaced before such a messenger? It is this result which Paul himself has indicated in those striking words of the Epistle to the Galatians ( Gal 1:16 ): “When it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb and called me by His grace, to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the heathen...” His Son, the heathen: these two notions were necessarily correlative! The revelation of the one must accompany that of the other. This relation between the divinity of Christ and the universality of His kingdom is the key to the preamble of the Epistle to the Romans.
The powerlessness of the discipline of the law to save man, the freeness of salvation, the end of the Mosaic economy through the advent of the Messianic salvation, the divinity of the Messiah, the universal destination of His work all these elements of Paul's new religious conception, of his gospel, to quote the phrase twice used in our Epistle (Romans 2:16, Rom 16:23 ), were thus involved in the very fact of his conversion, and became more or less directly disentangled as objects of consciousness in that internal evolution which took place under the light of the Spirit during the three days following the decisive event. What the light of Pentecost had been to the Twelve as the sequel of the contemplation of Jesus on the earth, which they had enjoyed for three years, that, the illumination of those three days following the sudden contemplation of the glorified Lord, was to St. Paul.
Everything is connected together in this masterpiece of grace ( 1Ti 1:16 ). Without the external appearance, the previous moral process in Paul would have exhausted itself in vain efforts, and only resulted in a withering blight. And, on the contrary, without the preparatory process and the spiritual evolution which followed the appearance, it would have been with this as with that resurrection of which Abraham spoke, Luke 16:31: “If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither would they believe though one rose from the dead.” The moral assimilation being wanting, the sight even of the Lord would have remained unproductive capital both for Paul and the world.
III. His Apostleship.
St. Paul became an apostle at the same time as a believer. The exceptional contemporaneousness of the two facts arose from the mode of his conversion. He himself points to this feature in 1 Corinthians 9:16-17. He did not become an apostle of Jesus, like the Twelve, after being voluntarily attached to Him by faith, and in consequence of a freely-accepted call. He was taken suddenly from a state of open enmity. The divine act whereby he was made a believer resulted from the choice by which God had designated him to the apostleship.
The apostleship of St. Paul lasted from twenty-eight to thirty years; and as we have seen that Paul had probably reached his thirtieth year at the time of his conversion, it follows that this radical crisis must have divided his life into two nearly equal parts of twenty-eight to thirty years each.
Paul's apostolic career embraces three periods: the first is a time of preparation; it lasted about seven years. The second is the period of his active apostleship, or his three great missionary journeys; it covers a space of fourteen years. The third is the time of his imprisonments. It includes the two years of his imprisonment at Caesarea, and the two of his captivity at Rome, with the half-year's voyage which separated the two periods; perhaps there should be added to these four or five years a last time of liberty, extending to one or two years, closing with a last imprisonment. Anyhow, the limit of this third period is the martyrdom which Paul underwent at Rome, after those five or seven years of final labor.
An apostle by right, from the days following the crisis at Damascus, Paul did not enter on the full exercise of his commission all at once, but gradually. His call referred specially to the conversion of the Gentiles. The tenor of the message which the Lord had addressed to him by the mouth of Ananias was this: “Thou shalt bear my name before the Gentiles, and their kings, and the children of Israel” ( Act 9:15 ). This last particular was designedly placed at the close. The Jews, without being excluded from Paul's work, were not the first object of his mission.
In point of fact, it was with Israel that he must commence his work, and the evangelization of the Jews continued with him to the end to be the necessary transition to that of the Gentiles. In every Gentile city where Paul opens a mission, he begins with preaching the gospel to the Jews in the synagogue. There he meets with the proselytes from among the Gentiles, and these form the bridge by which he reaches the purely Gentile population. Thus there is repeated on a small scale, at every step of his career, the course taken on a grand scale by the preaching of the gospel over the world. In the outset, as the historical foundation of the work of Christianization, we have the foundation of the Church in Israel by the labors of Peter at Jerusalem and in Palestine such is the subject of the first part of the Acts (i.-xii.); then, like a house built on this foundation, we have the establishment of the church among the Gentiles by Paul's labors such is the subject of the second part of the Acts (xiii.-xxviii.).
Notwithstanding this, Baur has alleged that the course ascribed to Paul by the author of the Acts, in describing his foundations among the Gentiles, is historically inadmissible, because it speaks of exaggerated pains taken to conciliate the Jews, such as were very improbable on the part of a man like St. Paul. But the account in the Acts is fully confirmed on this point by Paul's own declarations (Romans 1:16; Rom 2:9-10 ). In these passages the apostle says, when speaking of the two great facts, salvation in Christ and final judgment: “To the Jews first. ” He thus himself recognizes the right of priority which belongs to them in virtue of their special calling, and of the theocratic preparation which they had enjoyed. From the first to the last day of his labors, Paul ceased not to pay homage in word and deed to the prerogative of Israel.
There is nothing wonderful, therefore, in the fact related in the Acts ( Act 10:20 ), that Paul began immediately to preach in the Jewish synagogues of Damascus. Thence he soon extended his labors to the surrounding regions of Arabia. According to Galatians 1:17-18, he consecrated three whole years to those remote lands. The Acts sum up this period in the vague phrase “many days” ( Act 9:23 ). For the apostle it doubtless formed a time of mental concentration and personal communion with the Lord, which may be compared with the years which the apostles passed with their Master during His earthly ministry. But we are far from seeing in this sojourn a time of external inactivity. The relation between Paul's words, Galatians 1:16, and the following verses, does not permit us to doubt that Paul also consecrated these years to preaching. The whole first chapter of the Epistle to the Galatians rests on the idea that Paul did not wait to begin preaching the gospel till he had conferred on the subject with the apostles at Jerusalem, and received their instructions. On the contrary, he had already entered on his missionary career when for the first time he met with Peter.
After his work in Arabia, Paul returned to Damascus, where his activity excited the fury of the Jews to the highest pitch. The city was at that time under the power of Aretas, king of Arabia. We do not know the circumstances which had withdrawn it for the time from the Roman dominion, nor how many years this singular state of things lasted. These are interesting archaeological questions which have not yet found their entire solution. Nevertheless, the fact of the temporary possession of Damascus by King Aretas or Hareth at this very time cannot be called in question, even apart from the history of the Acts.
At the close of this first period of evangelization, Paul felt the need of making the personal acquaintance of Peter. With this view he repaired to Jerusalem. He stayed with him fifteen days. It was not that Paul needed to learn the gospel in the school of this apostle. If such had been his object, he would not have delayed three whole years to come seeking this instruction. But we can easily understand how important it was for him at length to confer with the principal witness of the earthly life of Jesus, though he knew that he had received from the Lord Himself the knowledge of the gospel ( Gal 1:11-12 ). What interest must he have felt in the authentic and detailed account of the facts of the ministry of Jesus, an account which he could not obtain with certainty except from such lips! Witness the facts which he recites in 1 Corinthians 15:0, and the sayings of our Lord which he quotes here and there in his Epistles and discourses (comp. 1 Corinthians 7:10; Act 20:35 ).
For two weeks, then, Paul conferred with the apostles ( Act 9:27-28 ); the indefinite phrase: the apostles, used in the Acts, denotes, according to the more precise account given in the Epistle to the Galatians, Peter and James. Paul's intention was to remain some time at Jerusalem; for, notwithstanding the risk which he ran, it seemed to him that the testimony of the former persecutor would produce more effect here than anywhere else. But God would not have the instrument which He had prepared so carefully for the salvation of the Gentiles to be violently broken by the rage of the Jews, and to share the lot of the dauntless Stephen. A vision of the Lord, which Paul had in the temple, warned him to leave the city immediately ( Act 22:17 et seq.). The apostles conducted him to the coast at Cesarea. Thence he repaired the history in the Acts does not say how ( Act 9:30 ), but from Gal 1:21 we should conclude that it was by land to Syria, and thence to Tarsus, his native city; and there, in the midst of his family, he awaited new directions from the Lord.
He did not wait in vain. After the martyrdom of Stephen, a number of believers from Jerusalem, from among the Greek-speaking Jews ( the Hellenists), fleeing from the persecution which raged in Palestine, had emigrated to Antioch, the capital of Syria. In their missionary zeal they had overstepped the limit which had been hitherto observed by the preachers of the gospel, and addressed themselves to the Greek population. It was the first time that Christian effort made way for itself among Gentiles properly so called. Divine grace accompanied the decisive step. A numerous and lively church, in which a majority of Greek converts were associated with Christians of Jewish origin, arose in the capital of Syria. In the account given of the founding of this important church by the author of the Acts ( Act 11:20-24 ), there is a charm, a fascination, a freshness, which are to be found only in pictures drawn from nature.
The apostles and the church of Jerusalem, taken by surprise, sent Barnabas to the spot to examine more closely this unprecedented movement, and give needed direction. Then Barnabas, remembering Saul, whom he had previously introduced to the apostles at Jerusalem, went in search of him to Tarsus, and brought him to this field of action, worthy as it was of such a laborer. Between the church of Antioch and Paul the apostle there was formed from that hour a close union, the magnificent fruit of which was the evangelization of the world.
After laboring together for a whole year at Antioch, Barnabas and Saul were sent to Jerusalem to carry aid to the poor believers of that city. This journey, which coincided with the death of the last representative of the national sovereignty of Israel, Herod Agrippa (Acts 12:0), certainly took place in the year 44; for this is the date assigned by the detailed account of Josephus to the death of this sovereign. It was also about this time, under Claudius, that the great famine took place with which this journey was connected, according to the Acts. Thus we have here one of the surest dates in the life of St. Paul. No doubt this journey to Jerusalem is not mentioned in the first chapter of Galatians among the sojourns made by the apostle in the capital which took place shortly after his conversion, and to explain this omission some have thought it necessary to suppose that Barnabas arrived alone at Jerusalem, while Paul stayed by the way. The text of the Acts is not favorable to this explanation (Acts 11:30; Act 12:25 ). The reason of Paul's silence about this journey is simpler, for the context of Galatians 1:0, rightly understood, does not at all demand, as has been imagined, the enumeration of all the apostle's journeys to Jerusalem in those early times. It was enough for his purpose to remind his readers that his first meeting with the apostles had not taken place till long after he had begun his preaching of the gospel. And this object was fully gained by stating the date of his first stay at Jerusalem subsequent to his conversion. And if he also mentions a later journey (chap. 2), the fact does not show that it was the second journey absolutely speaking. He speaks of this new journey (the third in reality), only because it had an altogether peculiar importance in the question which formed the object of his letter to the churches of Galatia.
The second part of the apostle's career includes his three great missionary journeys, with the visits to Jerusalem which separate them. With these journeys there is connected the composition of Paul's most important letters. The fourteen years embraced in this period must, from what has been said above, be reckoned from the year 44 (the date of Herod Agrippa's death) or a little later. Thus the end of the national royal house of Israel coincided with the beginning of the mission to the Gentiles. Theocratic particularism beheld the advent of Christian universalism.
Paul's three missionary journeys have their common point of departure in Antioch. This capital of Syria was the cradle of the mission to the Gentiles, as Jerusalem had been that of the mission to Israel. After each of his journeys Paul takes cares to clasp by a journey to Jerusalem the bond which should unite those two works among Gentiles and Jews. So deeply did he himself feel the necessity of binding the churches which he founded in Gentile lands to the primitive apostolic church, that he went the length of saying: “lest by any means I had run, or should run, in vain ” ( Gal 2:2 ).
The first journey was made with Barnabas. It did not embrace any very considerable geographical space; it extended only to the island of Cyprus, and the provinces of Asia Minor situated to the north of that island. The chief importance of this journey lies in the missionary principle which it inaugurates in the history of the world. It is to be observed that it is from this time Saul begins to bear the name of Paul ( Act 13:9 ). It has been supposed that this change was a mark of respect paid to the proconsul Sergius Paulus, converted in Cyprus, the first-fruits of the mission to the Gentiles. But Paul had nothing of the courtier about him. Others have found in the name an allusion to the spirit of humility either to his small stature, or to the last place occupied by him among the apostles ( παῦλος , in the sense of the Latin paulus, paululus, the little). This is ingenious, but far-fetched. The true explanation is probably the following: Jews travelling in a foreign country liked to assume a Greek or Roman name, and readily chose the one whose sound came nearest to their Hebrew name. A Jesus became a Jason, a Joseph a Hegesippus, a Dosthai a Dositheus, an Eliakim an Alkimos. So, no doubt, Saul became Paul.
Two questions arise in connection with those churches of southern Asia Minor founded in the course of the first journey. Are we, with some writers (Niemeyer, Thiersch, Hausrath, Renan in Saint Paul, pp. 51 and 52), to regard these churches as the same which Paul afterward designates by the name of churches of Galatia, and to which he wrote the Epistle to the Galatians (Galatians 1:2; 1Co 16:2 )? It is certain that the southern districts of Asia Minor, Lycaonia, Pisidia, etc., which were the principal theatre of this first journey, belonged at that time, administratively speaking (with the exception of Pamphylia), to the Roman province of Galatia. This name, which had originally designated the northern countries of Asia Minor, separated from the Black Sea by the narrow province of Paphlagonia, had been extended by the Romans a short time previously to the districts situated more to the south, and consequently to the territories visited by Paul and Barnabas. And as it cannot be denied that Paul sometimes uses official names, he might have done so also in the passages referred to. This question has some importance, first with a view to determining the date of the Epistle to the Galatians, and then in relation to other questions depending on it. According to our view, the opinion which has just been mentioned falls to the ground before insurmountable difficulties.
1. The name Galatia is nowhere applied in Acts 13:14 to the theatre of the first mission. It does not appear till later, in the account of the second mission, and only after Luke has spoken of the visit made by Paul and Silas to the churches founded on occasion of the first ( Act 16:5 ). When Luke names Phrygia and Galatia in Acts 16:6, it is unquestionable that he is referring to different provinces from those in which lay the churches founded during the first journey, and which are mentioned Acts 16:1-5.
2. In 1 Peter 1:1, Galatia is placed between Pontus and Cappadocia, a fact which forbids us to apply the term to regions which are altogether southern.
3. But the most decisive reason is this: Paul reminds the Galatians ( Gal 4:13 ) that it was sickness which forced him to stay among them, and which thus led to the founding of their churches. How is it possible to apply this description to Paul's first mission, which was expressly undertaken with the view of evangelizing the countries of Asia, whither he repaired with Barnabas?
From all this it follows that Paul and Luke used the term Galatia in its original and popular sense; that the apostle did not visit the country thus designated till the beginning of his second journey, and that, consequently, the Epistle to the Galatians was not written, as Hausrath thinks, in the course of the second journey, but during the third, since this Epistle assumes that two sojourns in Galatia had taken place previously to its composition.
A second much more important question arises when we inquire what exactly was the theoretic teaching and the missionary practice of Paul at this period. Since Rückert's time, many theologians, Reuss, Sabatier, Hausrath, Klöpper, etc., think that Paul had not yet risen to the idea of the abrogation of the law by the gospel. Hausrath even alleges that the object which Paul and Barnabas had in Asia Minor was not at all to convert the Gentiles were there not enough of them, says he, in Syria and Cilicia? but that their simple object was to announce the advent of the Messiah to the Jewish communities which had spread to the interior. He holds that it was the unexpected opposition which their preaching met with on the part of the Jews, which led the two missionaries to address themselves to the Gentiles, and to suppress in their interest the rite of circumcision. To prove this view of the apostle's teaching in those earliest times, there are alleged: (1) the fact of the circumcision of Timothy at this very date ( Act 16:3 ); (2) these words in Galatians 5:11: “If I yet preach circumcision, why do I yet suffer persecution? Then is the offence of the cross ceased;” (3) the words, 2 Corinthians 5:16: “Yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, we know Him in that manner no more. ”
Let us first examine the view of Hausrath. Is it credible that the church of Antioch, itself composed chiefly of Christians of Greek origin and uncircumcised (comp. the very emphatic account of this fact, Act 11:20 et seq.), would have dreamt of drawing the limits supposed by this critic to the commission given to its messengers? This would have been to deny the principle of its own foundation, the free preaching of the gospel to the Greeks. The step taken by this church was accompanied with very solemn circumstances (a revelation of the Holy Spirit, fasting and prayer on the part of the whole church, an express consecration by the laying on of hands, Act 13:1 et seq.). Why all this, if there had not been the consciousness that they were doing a work exceptionally important and in certain respects new? And instead of being a step in advance, this work would be in reality, on the view before us, a retrograde step as compared with what had already taken place at Antioch itself! The study of the general course of the history of the Acts, and of the progress which it is meant to prove, forces us to the conclusion that things had come to a decisive moment. The church undertook for the first time, and with a full consciousness of the gravity of its procedure, the conquest of the Gentile world.
The question, what at that time was the apostle's view in regard to the abrogation of the law, presents two aspects, which it is important to study separately. What did he think of subjecting the Gentiles to the institutions of the law? and did he still hold its validity for believing Jews?
According to Galatians 1:16, he knew positively from the first day that if God had revealed His Son to him in so extraordinary a way, it was “that he might proclaim Him among the Gentiles. ” This conviction did not follow his conversion; it accompanied it. Why should the Lord have called a new apostle, in a way so direct and independent of the Twelve, if it had not been with a view to a new work destined to complete theirs? It is with a deliberate purpose that Paul, in the words quoted, does not say the Christ, but His Son. This latter expression is tacitly contrasted with the name Son of David, which designates the Messiah only in His particular relation to the Jewish people.
Now it cannot be admitted that Paul, knowing his mission to be destined to the Gentiles, would have commenced it with the idea of subjecting them to the discipline of the law, and that it was not till later that he modified this point of view. According to Galatians 1:1; Galatians 1:11-19, the gospel which he now preaches was taught him by the revelation of Jesus Christ, and without human interposition. And when did this revelation take place? Gal 1:15 tells us clearly: “when it pleased God to reveal His Son to him,” that is to say, at the time of his conversion. His mode of preaching the gospel therefore dates from that point, and we cannot hold, without contradicting his own testimony, that any essential modification took place in the contents of his preaching between the days following his conversion and the time when he wrote the Epistle to the Galatians. Such a supposition, especially when an Epistle is in question in which he directly opposes the subjection of the Gentiles to circumcision, would imply a reticence unworthy of his character. He must have said: It is true, indeed, that at the first I did not think and preach on this point as I do now; but I afterward changed my view. Facts on all sides confirm the declaration of the apostle. How, if during the first period of his apostleship he had circumcised the Gentile converts, could he have taken Titus uncircumcised to Jerusalem? How could the emissaries who had come from that city to Antioch have found a whole multitude of believers on whom they sought to impose circumcision? How would the Christians of Cilicia, who undoubtedly owed their entrance into the church to Paul's labors during his stay at Tarsus, have still needed to be reassured by the apostles in opposition to those who wished to subject them to circumcision ( Act 15:23-24 )? Peter in the house of Cornelius does not think of imposing this rite (Acts 10:11); and Paul, we are to suppose, was less advanced than his colleague, and still less so than the evangelists who founded the church of Antioch!
It is more difficult to ascertain precisely what Paul thought at the beginning of his apostleship as to the abolition or maintenance of the Mosaic law for believing Jews. Rationally speaking, it is far from probable that so sequacious a thinker as St. Paul, after the crushing experience which he had just had of the powerlessness of the law either to justify or sanctify man, was not led to the conviction of the uselessness of legal ordinances for the salvation not only of Gentiles, but of Jews. This logical conclusion is confirmed by an express declaration of the apostle. In the Epistle to the Galatians, Galatians 2:18-20, there are found the words: “ I through the law am dead to the law, that I may live unto God; I am crucified with Christ.” If it was through the law that he died to the law, this inner crisis cannot have taken place till the close of his life under the law. It was therefore in the very hour when the law finished its office as a schoolmaster to bring him to Christ, that this law lost its religious value for his conscience, and that, freed from its yoke, he began to live really unto God in the faith of Christ crucified. This saying, the utterance of his inmost consciousness, supposes no interval between the time of his personal breaking with the law (a death) and the beginning of his new life. His inward emancipation was therefore one of the elements of his conversion. It seems to be thought that the idea of the abrogation of the law was, at the time of Saul's conversion, a quite unheard-of notion. But what then had been the cause of Stephen's death? He had been heard to say “that Jesus of Nazareth would destroy this temple and change the institutions which Moses had delivered” ( Act 6:13-14 ). Among the accusers of Stephen who repeated such sayings, Saul himself was one. Stephen, the Hellenist, had thus reached before Paul's conversion the idea of the abolition of the law which very naturally connected itself with the fact of the destruction of the temple, announced, as was notorious, by Jesus. Many prophetic sayings must have long before prepared thoughtful minds for this result. Certain of the Lord's declarations also implied it more or less directly. And now by a divine irony Saul the executioner was called to assert and realize the programme traced by his victim!
The gradual manner in which the Twelve had insensibly passed from the bondage of the law to the personal school of Christ, had not prepared them so completely for such a revolution. And now is the time for indicating the true difference which separated them from Paul, one of the most difficult of questions. They could not fail to expect as well as Stephen and Paul, in virtue of the declarations already quoted, the abrogation of the institutions of the law. But they had not perceived in the cross, as Paul did ( Gal 2:19-20 ), the principle of this emancipation. They expected some external event which would be the signal of this abolition, as well as of the passage from the present to the future economy; the glorious appearing of Christ, for example, which would be as it were the miraculous counterpart of the Sinaitic promulgation of the law. From this point of view it is easy to explain their expectant attitude as they considered the progress of Paul's work. On the other hand, we can understand why he, notwithstanding his already formed personal conviction, did not feel himself called to insist on the practical application of the truth which he had come to possess in so extraordinary a way. The Twelve were the recognized and titled heads of the church so long as this remained almost wholly the Jewish-Christian church founded by them. Paul understood the duty of accommodating his step to theirs. So he did at Jerusalem, in the great council of which we are about to speak, when he accepted the compromise which guarded the liberty of the Gentiles, but supported the observances of the law for Christians who had come from Judaism. And later still, when he had founded his own churches in the Gentile world, he did not cease to take account with religious respect of Jewish-Christian scruples relating to the Mosaic law. But it was with him a matter of charity, as he has explained 1 Corinthians 9:19-22; and this wise mode of action does not authorize the supposition that at any time after his conversion his teaching was contrary to the principle so exactly and logically expressed by him: “Christ is the end of the law” ( Rom 10:4 ).
The circumcision of Timothy in Paul's second journey, far from betraying any hesitation in his mind on this point, is wholly in favor of our view. Indeed, Paul did not decide on this step, because he still regarded circumcision as obligatory on believing Jews. The point in question was not Timothy's salvation, but the influence which this young Christian might exercise on the Jews who surrounded him: “Paul took and circumcised him,” says the narrative, “ because of the Jews who were in those regions. ” If this act had been dictated by a strictly religious scruple, Paul must have carried it out much earlier, at the time of Timothy's baptism. The latter, indeed, was already a Christian when Paul arrived at Lystra the second time and circumcised him. (“ There was there a disciple,” we read in Acts 16:1.) At the beginning of the second journey, Timothy was therefore a believer and a member of the church, though not circumcised. This fact is decisive. It was precisely because the legal observance had become in Paul's estimation a matter religiously indifferent, that he could act in this respect with entire liberty, and put himself, if he thought good, “under the law with those who were under the law, that he might gain the more.” Such was the course he followed on this occasion.
The words, Galatians 5:11: “If I yet preach circumcision, why do I yet suffer persecution?” on which Reuss mainly supports his view, do not warrant the conclusion drawn from them by means of a false interpretation. Paul is supposed to be alluding to a calumnious imputation made by his adversaries, who, it is said, led the Galatians to believe that previously, and elsewhere than among them, Paul had been quite ready to impose circumcision on his Gentile converts. Paul, according to the view in question, is replying to this charge, that if to the present hour he yet upheld circumcision, as he had really done in the earliest days after his conversion, the Jews would not continue to persecute him as they were still doing. But the reasoning of Paul, thus understood, would assume a fact notoriously false, namely, that he had only begun to be persecuted by the Jews after he had ceased to make the obligatoriness of circumcision one of the elements of his preaching of the gospel. Now it is beyond dispute that persecution broke out against Paul immediately after his conversion, and even at Damascus. It was the same at Jerusalem soon after. It is therefore absolutely impossible that Paul could have thought for a single instant of explaining the persecutions to which he was subjected by the Jews, by the fact that he had ceased at a given point of his ministry to preach circumcision, till then imposed by him. Besides, if Paul had really been accused in Galatia of having acted and taught there differently from what he had done previously and everyhere else, he could not have confined himself to replying thus in passing, and by a simple allusion thrown in at the end of his letter, to so serious a charge. He must have explained himself on this main point in the beginning in chap. 1 and 2, where he treats of all the questions relating to his person and apostleship.
We therefore regard the proposed interpretation as inadmissible. The change of which the apostle speaks is not one which had taken place in his system of preaching; it is a change which he might freely introduce into it now if he wished, and one by which he would immediately cause the persecution to which he was subjected to cease. “If I would consent to join to my preaching of the gospel that of circumcision, for which I was fanatically zealous during the time of my Pharisaism, the persecution with which the Jews assail me would instantly cease. Thereby the offence of the cross would no longer exist in their minds. Transformed into an auxiliary of Judaism, the cross itself would be tolerated and even applauded by my adversaries.” What does this signify? The apostle means, that if he consented to impose circumcision on those of the Gentiles whom he converted by the preaching of the cross, the Jews would immediately applaud his mission. For his conquests in Gentile lands would thus become the conquests of Judaism itself. In fact, it would please the Jews mightily to see multitudes of heathen entering the church on condition that all those new entrants by baptism became at the same time members of the Israelitish people by circumcision. On this understanding it would be the Jewish people who would really profit by Paul's mission; it would become nothing more than the conquest of the world by Israel and for Israel. The words of Paul which we are explaining are set in their true light by others which we read in the following chapter ( Gal 6:12 ): “As many as desire to make a fair show in the flesh, they constrain you to be circumcised, only that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ.” Certain preachers therefore, Paul's rivals in Galatia, were using exactly the cowardly expedient which Paul here rejects, in order to escape persecution from the Jews. To the preaching of the cross to the Gentiles they added the obligatoriness of circumcision, and the Jews easily tolerated the former in consideration of the advantage which they derived from the latter. This anti-Christian estimate was probably that of those intriguers at Jerusalem whom Paul calls, Galatians 2:0, false brethren unawares brought in. Christianity, with its power of expansion, became in their eyes an excellent instrument for the propagation of Judaism. So we find still at the present day many liberalized Jews applauding the work of the Christian church in the heathen world. They consider Christianity to be the providential means for propagating Irsaelitish monotheism, as paving the way for the moral reign of Judaism throughout the whole world. And they wait with folded arms till we shall have put the world under their feet. The difference between them and St. Paul's adversaries is merely that the latter allowed themselves to act so because of the theocratic promises, while modern Jews do so in name of the certain triumph to be achieved by their purely rational religion.
Thus the words of Paul, rightly understood, do not in the least imply a change which had come over his teaching in regard to the maintenance of circumcision and the law.
As to the passage 2 Corinthians 5:16, we have already seen that the phrase: knowing Christ no more after the flesh, does not at all refer to a new view posterior to his conversion, but describes the transformation which had passed over his conception of the Messiah in that very hour.
We are now at the important event of the council of Jerusalem, which stands between the first and second journey.
Subsequently to their mission to Cyprus and Asia Minor, which probably lasted some years, Paul and Barnabas returned to Antioch, and there resumed their evangelical work. But this peaceful activity was suddenly disturbed by the arrival of certain persons from Jerusalem. These declared to the believing Gentiles that salvation would not be assured to them in Christ unless they became members of the Israelitish people by circumcision. To understand so strange an allegation, we must transport ourselves to the time when it was given forth. To whom had the Messianic promises been addressed? To the Jewish people, and to them alone. Therefore the members of this people alone had the right to appropriate them; and if the Gentiles wished to share them, the only way open to them was to become Jews. The reasoning seemed faultless. On the other hand, Paul understood well that it cut short the evangelization of the Gentile world, which would never be made Christian if in order to become so it was first necessary to be incorporated with the Jewish nation. But more than all else, the argument appeared to him to be radically vicious, because the patriarchal promises, though addressed to the Jews, had a much wider range, and really concerned the whole world.
Baur asserted that those who maintained the particularistic doctrine at Antioch represented the opinion of the Twelve, and Renan has made himself the champion of this view in France. Baur acknowledges that the narrative of the Acts excludes, it is true, such a supposition. For this book expressly ascribes the lofty pretensions in question to a retrograde party, composed of former Pharisees ( Act 15:1-5 ), and puts into the mouth of the apostles the positive disavowal of such conduct. But the German critic boldly solves this difficulty, by saying that the author of the Acts has, as a result of reflection, falsified the history with the view of disguising the conflict which existed between Paul and the Twelve, and of making the later church believe that these personages had lived on the best understanding. What reason can Baur allege in support of this severe judgment passed on the author of the Acts? He rests it on the account of the same event given by Paul himself in the beginning of Galatians 2:0, and seeks to prove that this account is incompatible with that given in the Acts. As the question is of capital importance in relation to the beginnings of Christianity, and even for the solution of certain critical questions relative to the Epistle to the Romans, we must study it here more closely. We begin with the account of Paul in Galatians; we shall afterward compare it with that of the Acts.
According to the former (Galatians 2:0), in consequence of the dispute which arose at Antioch, Paul, acting under guidance from on high, determined to go and have the question of the circumcision of the Gentiles decided at Jerusalem by the apostles ( Gal 2:1 ). “A proof,” observes Reuss, “that Paul was not afraid of being contradicted by the heads of the mother church.” This observation seems to us to proceed on a sounder psychology than that of Renan, who asserts, on the contrary, that at Antioch “there was a distrust of the mother church.” It was in the same spirit of confidence that Paul resolved to take with him to Jerusalem a young Gentile convert named Titus. The presence of this uncircumcised member in the church assemblies was meant to assert triumphantly the principle of liberty. This bold step would have been imprudence itself, if, as Renan asserts, the church of Jerusalem had been “hesitating, or favorable to the most retrograde party.”
Paul afterward ( Gal 2:2 ) speaks of a conference which he had with the persons of most repute in the apostolic church these were, as we learn from the sequel, Peter and John the apostles, and James the Lord's brother, the head of the council of elders at Jerusalem; Paul explained to them in detail ( ἀνεθέμην ) the gospel as he preached it among the Gentiles, free from the enforcement of circumcision and legal ceremonies generally. He completes the account, Galatians 2:6, by subjoining that his three interlocutors found nothing to add to his mode of teaching ( οὐδὲν προσανέθεντο ). In Greek, the relation between this term added and that which precedes ( explained) is obvious at a glance. Paul's teaching appeared to them perfectly sufficient. Paul interrupts himself at Galatians 2:3, to mention in passing a corroborative and significant fact. The false brethren brought in, maintained that Titus should not be admitted to the church without being circumcised. In other circumstances, Paul, in accordance with his principle of absolute liberty in regard to external rites ( 1Co 9:20 ), might have yielded to such a demand. But in this case he refused; for the question of principle being involved, it was impossible for him to give way. Titus was admitted as an uncircumcised member. True, Renan draws from the same text an entirely opposite conclusion. According to him, Paul yielded for the time, and Titus underwent circumcision. This interpretation, which was Tertullian's, is founded on a reading which has no authorities on its side except the most insufficient; as little can it be maintained in view of the context. As to the apostles, they must necessarily have supported Paul's refusal, otherwise a rupture would have been inevitable. But not only were the bonds between them not broken; they were, on the contrary, strengthened. Paul's apostolic call, with a view to the Gentiles, was expressly recognized by those three men, the reputed heads of the church ( 1Co 9:7-9 ); Peter in his turn was unanimously recognized as called of God to direct the evangelization of the Jews. Then the five representatives of the whole church gave one another the hand of fellowship, thus to seal the unity of the work amid the diversity of domains. Would this mutual recognition and this ceremony of association have been possible between Paul and the Twelve, if the latter had really maintained the doctrine of the subjection of the Gentiles to circumcision? St. Paul in the Epistle to the Galatians ( Gal 1:8 ) makes this declaration: “Though we or an angel from heaven preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed!” Now the contents of this preaching of the gospel by Paul are also found thus stated in the Epistle ( Gal 1:2-4 ): “Behold, I say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing.” And he would have recognized, he, Paul, as coming from God equally with his own, the apostleship of Peter, and the teaching of Peter ( Gal 2:7-8 ), of Peter preaching circumcision! The result flowing from Paul's narrative is not doubtful. The liberty of the Gentiles in respect of circumcision was expressly recognized at Jerusalem by the apostles and the church. The narrow Judaizers alone persisted in their obstinacy, and formed a minority ever more and more hostile to this apostolic course.
It is less easy to know from Paul's account what was agreed on in regard to converts from among the Jews. The apostle's entire silence on this point leads us to suppose that the question was not once raised. Paul was too prudent to demand a premature solution on so delicate a point. His silence indicates that the old practice, according to which Jewish-Christians continued to observe the law, was tacitly maintained.
We pass now to the account given in Acts. Luke does not speak of the revelation which determined Paul to submit the question to the jurisdiction of the apostles. Natural as it is for Paul to mention this biographical detail, the explanation of its omission in a history of a more general character is equally easy.
Acts presents the picture of a plenary assembly of the church before which the question was discussed, especially by Peter and James. This account differs from that of Galatians, in which we read only of a private conference. Reuss does not think that this difference can be explained. But a private talk between the leaders of two negotiating parties does not exclude a public meeting in which all interested take part. After mentioning the exposition which he gave of his teaching, without saying exactly to whom, Galatians 2:2, Paul adds an explanatory remark in the words: “and that privately to them which were of reputation.” By this remark it would seem that he desires tacitly to contrast the private conversation which he relates with some other and more general assembly which the reader might have in his mind while perusing his narrative. The conclusion was therefore prepared in the private conversation, and then solemnly confirmed in the plenary council. Luke's narrative is the complement of Paul's. The interest of Paul, in his attitude to the Galatians, was to prove the recognition of his gospel and apostleship by the very apostles who were being opposed to him; hence the mention of the private conference. Luke, wishing to preserve the deeply interesting and precious document which emanated from the council of Jerusalem, required above all to narrate the latter.
According to Luke, the speeches of Peter and James conclude alike for the emancipation of the Gentiles. This is perfectly in keeping with the attitude ascribed to them by St. Paul: “ they added nothing to my communication.” James speaks of it in the Acts, at the close of his speech, as a matter of course, and about which there is no need of discussion, that as to the Christians of Jewish origin, the obligation to live conformably to the observances of the law remains as before. Now we have just seen that this is exactly what follows from Paul's silence on this aspect of the question.
Finally, in its letter to Gentile believers, the council asks them to abstain from three things, meats offered to idols, animals that have been strangled, and impurity (vv. 28, 29). Is not this demand in contradiction to the words of Paul: they added nothing to me? No, for the apostolical letter in the Acts immediately adds: “From which things if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. ” The phrase used would have been very different if it had been meant to express a condition of salvation added to Paul's teaching. The measure which is here called for is so on the ground of the interests of the church.
In fact, this was the price paid for union between the two parties of which Christendom was composed. Without the two former conditions, the life of Gentile believers continued, in the view of Jewish Christians, to be polluted with idolatry, and penetrated through and through with malign, and even diabolical influences. As to the third demand, it figures here because impurity was generally considered among the Gentiles to be as indifferent, morally speaking, and consequently as allowable, as eating and drinking ( 1Co 6:12-14 ). And we can the better understand why licentiousness is specially mentioned in this passage, when we remember that the most shameless impurities had in a manner their obligatory and religious part in idolatrous worships.
As to the delicate question whether this compromise should be merely temporary, or if it had a permanent value in the view of the church of Jerusalem, no one even thought of suggesting the alternative. They moved as the occasion demanded. Every one thought that he had fulfilled his task by responding to the necessities of the present situation. The really important fact was, that the emancipation of the Gentiles from legal observances was irrevocably recognized and proclaimed by the Jewish-Christian church. Paul might assuredly congratulate himself on such a result. For though Jewish believers remained still tacitly subject to the Mosaic ritual, no positive decision had been passed on the subject, and the apostle was too far-seeing not to understand what must eventually follow the liberty granted to the Gentiles. Once these were set free from the Mosaic discipline, it was thereby established that the Messianic salvation was not bound up with the institutions of the law. Entrance into the church was independent of incorporation with Israel. All that Paul desired was implicitly contained in this fact. Levitical ritual thus descended to the rank of a simple national custom. By remaining faithful to it, believing Jews kept up their union with the rest of the elect people, an indispensable condition of the mission to Israel, till the day when God, by a striking dispensation, should Himself put an end to the present order of things. Paul was too prudent not to content himself with such a result, the consequences of which the future could not fail to develop.
The conclusion to which we are thus brought, on this important and difficult question, is in its general features at one with that which has been recently stated by three men of undoubted scientific eminence, Weizsäcker, Harnack, and even Keim. The first, in his admirable treatise on the church of Corinth, thus expresses himself on the question: “The apostles remained Jews, and confined themselves to the mission among the Jews. But they granted to Gentile Christianity so thorough a recognition, that we must conclude that their religious life had its centre no longer in the law, but in their faith as such....In fact, Paul never reckoned the Twelve among his adversaries. He always distinguished them expressly from these, both before the conflict, by choosing them as arbiters, and after it” (Galatians 2:0). Harnack, the man of our day who perhaps best knows the second century, thus expressed himself recently: “The apocalyptic writings are the last strongholds within which a once powerful party still intrenches itself, whose watchword was: either Jewish-Christian or Gentile-Christian (the Tübingen school). The influence of Jewish-Christianity on the catholic church in the course of formation, must henceforth be estimated at an almost inappreciable quantity.” Keim, in a recent work, demonstrates the general harmony of the narratives given by Paul and Luke, except on one point (the conditions imposed on Gentile-Christians in the Acts, which he holds to be a gloss added to the original account); and he appreciates almost exactly as we do the mutual attitude of Paul and the Twelve. Impartial science thus returns to the verdict of old Irenaeus: “The apostles granted us liberty, us Gentiles, referring us to the guidance of the Holy Spirit; but they themselves conformed piously to the institutions of the law established by Moses.” The exposition of Renan, given under Baur's influence, is a mere fancy picture.
Returning to Antioch, Paul and Barnabas took with them Silas, one of the eminent men belonging to the church of Jerusalem, who was charged with delivering the reply of the council to the churches of Syria and Cilicia. Soon afterward Paul set out with Silas on his second missionary journey, after separating from Barnabas on account of Mark, the cousin of the latter (Colossians 4:10.) The texts give no ground for supposing that this rupture took place on account of any difference of view regarding the law, as some critics of a fixed idea have recently alleged. Barnabas and Paul had gone hand in hand in the conferences at Jerusalem, and the sequel will prove that this harmony continued after their separation. Paul and Silas together crossed the interior of Asia Minor, visiting the churches founded in the course of the first journey. Paul's destination now was probably Ephesus, the religious and intellectual centre of the most cultivated part of Asia. But God had decided otherwise. The country whose hour had struck was Greece, not Asia Minor; Paul understood this later. The two heralds of the gospel were arrested for some time, by an illness of St. Paul, in the regions of Galatia. This country, watered by the river Halys, was inhabited by the descendants of a party of Celts who had passed into Asia after the inroad of the Gauls into Italy and Greece, about 280 B.C. This illness led to the founding of the churches of Galatia ( Gal 4:14 ). When they resumed their journey the two missionaries were arrested in the work of preaching by some inward hindrance, which prevented them from working anywhere. They thus found themselves led without premeditation to Troas, on the Egean Sea. There the mystery was cleared up. Paul learned from a vision that he was to cross the sea, and, beginning with Macedonia, enter on the evangelization of Europe. He took this decisive step in company with Silas, young Timothy, whom he had associated with him in Lycaonia, and, finally, the physician Luke, who seems to have been at Troas at that very time. This is at least the most natural explanation of the form we which here meets us in the narrative of the Acts ( Act 16:10 ). The same form ceases, then reappears later as the author of the narrative is separated from the apostle, or takes his place again in his company (Acts 20:5; Act 21:1 et seq., Act 28:1 et seq.). Renan concludes from the passage, Romans 16:10, without the least foundation, that Luke was of Macedonian extraction. We believe rather (comp. p. 15) that he was a native of Antioch. Such also is the tradition found in the Clementine Recognitions and in Eusebius.
In a short time there were founded in Macedonia the churches of Philippi, Amphipolis, Thessalonica, and Berea. St. Paul was persecuted in all these cities, generally at the instigation of the Jews, who represented to the Roman authorities that the Christ preached by him was a rival of Caesar. Constantly driven forth by this persecution, he passed southward, and at length reached Athens. There he gave an account of his doctrine before the Areopagus. Thereafter he established himself at Corinth, and during a stay of about two years, he founded in the capital of Achaia one of his most flourishing churches. We may even conclude from the inscription of 2 Corinthians (Romans 1:1: “To the church of God which is at Corinth, with all the saints which are in all Achaia ”) that numerous Christian communities were formed in the country districts round the metropolis.
After having concluded this important work, the founding of the churches of Greece, Paul went up to Jerusalem. There is mention in the Acts of a vow fulfilled before his departure from Greece ( Act 18:18 ). By whom? By Aquila, Paul's companion? So some commentators have held. But if Aquila is the nearest subject, Paul is the principal subject of the clause. Was the religious act called a vow contrary to the spirituality of the apostle? Why should it have been so more than a promise or engagement (comp. 1Ti 6:12-14 )? Anyhow, Acts 21:0 shows us how he could find himself in a state of life so full of complications that Christian charity constrained him to find his way out of it by concessions of an external nature. From Jerusalem Paul went to Antioch, the cradle of the mission to the Gentiles.
Here we must place an incident, the character of which has been not less misrepresented by criticism than that of the conferences at Jerusalem. Peter was then beginning his missionary tours beyond Palestine; he had reached Antioch. Barnabas, after visiting the Christians of Cyprus along with Mark, had also returned to this church. These two men at first made no scruple of visiting the Gentile members of the church, and eating with them both at private meals (as had been done before by Peter at the house of Cornelius) and at the love-feasts. This mode of acting was not strictly in harmony with the agreement at Jerusalem, according to which believers of Jewish origin were understood to keep the Mosaic law. But, following the example of Christ Himself, they thought that the moral duty of brotherly communion should, in a case of competing claims, carry it over ritual observance. Peter probably recalled such sayings of Jesus as these: “Not that which goeth into the man defileth the man, but that which goeth forth from the man;” or, “Have ye not heard what David did when he was an hungered, and they that were with him...?” ( Mat 12:1-4 ). Finally, might he not apply here the direction which he had received from above at the time of his mission to Cornelius ( Act 10:10 et seq.)? As to Barnabas, since his mission in Asia, he must have been accustomed to subordinate Levitical prescriptions to the duty of communion with the Gentiles. Thus all went on to the general satisfaction, when there arrived at Antioch some believers of Jerusalem, sent by James. Their mission was, not to lay more burdens on the Gentiles, but to examine whether the conduct of Jewish-Christians continued true to the compromise made at Jerusalem. Now, according to the rigorous interpretation of that document, Peter and Barnabas, both of them Jews by birth, were at fault. They were therefore energetically recalled to order by the newcomers.
We know Peter's character from the Gospel history. He allowed himself to be intimidated. Barnabas, whose natural easiness of disposition appears in the indulgence he showed to his cousin Mark, could not resist the apostle's example. Both were carried the length of breaking gradually with the Gentile converts.
Here we have a palpable proof of the insufficiency of the compromise adopted by the council of Jerusalem, and can understand why Paul, while accepting it as a temporary expedient ( Act 16:4 ), soon let it fall into abeyance. This agreement, which, while freeing the Gentiles from Mosaic observances, still kept Jewish Christians under the yoke of the law, was practicable no doubt in churches exclusively Jewish-Christian, like that of Jerusalem. But in churches like those of Syria, where the two elements were united, the rigorous observance of this agreement must result in an external separation of the two elements, and the disruption of the church. Was this really meant by James, from whom those people came? If it is so, we ought to remember that James was the brother of Jesus, but not an apostle; that blood relationship to the Lord was not by any means a guarantee of infallibility, and that Jesus, though He had appeared to James to effect his conversion, had not confided to him the direction of the church. He was raised to the head of the flock of Jerusalem nothing more. But it is also possible that the newcomers had gone beyond their instructions. Paul instantly measured the bearing of the conduct of his two colleagues, and felt the necessity of striking a decisive blow. He had gained at Jerusalem the recognition of the liberty of the Gentiles. The moment seemed to him to have arrived for deducing all the practical consequences logically flowing from the decision which had been come to, and without which that decision became illusory. Insisting on the previous conduct of Peter himself at Antioch, he showed him his inconsistency. He who for weeks had eaten with the Gentiles and like them, was now for forcing them, unless they chose to break with him, to place themselves under the yoke of the law, a result which had certainly not been approved at Jerusalem! Then Paul took advantage of this circumstance at last to develop openly the contents of the revelation which he had received, to wit, that the abrogation of the law is involved in principle in the fact of the cross when rightly understood, and that it is vain to wait for another manifestation of the divine will on this point: “I am crucified with Christ; and by that very fact dead to the law and alive unto God” ( Gal 2:19-20 ). Baur and his school, and Renan with them, think that this conflict proves a contrariety of principles between the two apostles. But Paul's words imply the very reverse. He accuses Peter of not walking uprightly, according to the truth of the gospel that is to say, of being carried away by the fear of man. This very rebuke proves that Paul ascribes to Peter a conviction in harmony with his own, simply accusing him as he does of being unfaithful to it in practice. It is the same with Barnabas. For Paul says of him, that he was carried away into the same hypocrisy. Thus the incident related by Paul fully establishes the conclusion to which we had come, viz. that Peter did no more than Paul regard the observance of the law as a condition of salvation, even for the Jews. And it is evidently to draw this lesson from it that Paul has related the incident with so much detail. For what the disturbers of the Gentile Christian churches alleged was precisely the example and authority of the Twelve.
After this conflict the apostle entered on his third journey. This time he realized the purpose which he had formed when starting on his previous journey, that of settling at Ephesus, and carrying the gospel to the heart of the scientific and commercial metropolis of Asia Minor. He passed through Galatia. He found the churches of this country already disturbed by the solicitations of some Judaizing emissary, who had come no doubt from Antioch, and who by means of certain adepts sought to introduce circumcision and the other Mosaic rites among the Christians of the country. For the time being Paul allayed the storm, and, as Luke says ( Act 18:23 ), “he strengthened all the disciples” in Galatia and Phrygia. But this very word proves to us how much their minds had been shaken. At Ephesus there awaited him his faithful friends and fellow-workers, Aquila and his wife Priscilla; they had left Corinth with him, and had settled in Asia undoubtedly to prepare for him. The two or three years which Paul passed at Ephesus form the culminating point of his apostolical activity. This time was in his life the counterpart of Peter's ministry at Jerusalem after Pentecost. The sacred writer himself seems in his narrative to have this parallel in view (comp. Act 19:11-12 with Act 5:15-16 ). A whole circle of flourishing churches, that very circle which is symbolically represented in the apocalyptic description by the image of seven golden candlesticks with the Lord standing in the midst of them, rises amid those idolatrous populations: Ephesus, Miletus, Smyrna, Laodicea, Hierapolis, Colosse, Thyatira, Philadelphia, Sardis, Pergamos, and other churches besides, mentioned in the writings of the second century. The work of Paul at this period was marked by such a display of the power of the Holy Spirit, that at the end of those few years paganism felt itself seriously threatened in those regions, as is proved by the tumult excited by the goldsmith Demetrius.
But this so fruitful period of missionary activity was at the same time the culminating point of his contention with his Judaizing adversaries. After his passage through Galatia they had redoubled their efforts in those regions. These persons, as we have seen, did not oppose the preaching of the cross. They even thought it well that Paul should Christianize the Gentile world, provided it were to the profit of Mosaism. In their view the law was the real end, the gospel the means. It was the reversal of the divine plan. Paul rejected the scheme with indignation, though it was extremely well fitted to reconcile hostile Jews to the preaching of Christ. Not being able to make him bend, they sought to undermine his authority. They decried him personally, representing him as a disciple of the apostles, who had subsequently lifted his heel against his masters. It is to this charge that Paul replies in the first two chapters of the Epistle to the Galatians. Next, they maintained the permanence of the law. Such is the doctrine which Paul overthrows in chap. 3 and 4, by showing the temporary and purely preparatory character of the Mosaic dispensation. Finally, they denied that a doctrine severed from all law could secure the moral life of its adherents. Such is the subject of the last two chapters, which show how man's sanctification is provided for by the life-giving operation of the Holy Spirit, the consummation of justification, much better than by his subjection to legal prohibitions. This letter was written shortly after Paul's arrival at Ephesus (comp. the phrase: so soon, Rom 1:6 ). The passage, 1 Corinthians 16:1, seems to prove that it succeeded in reestablishing the authority of the apostle and the supremacy of the gospel in Galatia.
But the Judaizing emissaries followed Paul at every step. Macedonia does not seem to have presented a favorable soil for their attempts; they therefore threw themselves upon Achaia. They were careful here not to speak of circumcision or prescriptions about food. They knew that they had to do with Greeks; they sought to flatter their philosophical and literary tastes. A speculative gospel was paraded before the churches. Next, doubts were sown as to the reality of the apostleship of Paul, and by and by even as to the uprightness and purity of his character. The First Epistle to the Corinthians gives us all throughout, as Weizsäcker has well shown, the presentiment of a threatening storm, but one which the apostle seeks to prevent from bursting. Severe allusions are not wanting; but the didactic tone immediately becomes again the prevailing one. It is in the second letter that the full violence of the struggle is revealed. This letter contains numerous allusions to certain personal encounters of the utmost gravity, but posterior to the sending of the first. It obliges the attentive reader to suppose a sojourn made by Paul at Corinth between our two letters preserved in the canon, and even a lost intermediate letter posterior to this visit. The interval between the dates of First and Second Corinthians must, if it is so, have been more considerable than is usually held; the general chronology of Paul's life does not, as we shall see, contradict this view. The lost letter intermediate between our two canonical Epistles must have been written under the influence of the most painful experiences and the keenest emotions. Paul then saw himself for some time on the eve of a total rupture with that church of Corinth which had been the fruit of so many labors. Led away by his adversaries, it openly refused him obedience. Some dared to raise the gravest imputations against his veracity and disinterestedness; his apostleship was audaciously ridiculed; Paul was charged with being ambitious and boastful; he pretended to preach the gospel without charge, but he nevetheless filled his purse from it by means of his messengers: all this was said of the apostle of the Corinthians at Corinth itself, and the church did not shut the mouths of the insolent detractors who spoke thus! But who then were they who thus dared to challenge the apostle of the Gentiles in the midst of his own churches? Paul in his Second Epistle calls them ironically apostles by way of eminence [ chiefest, Eng. transl.]. This was, no doubt, one of the titles with which their adherents saluted them. Baur and his school do not fear to apply this designation to the Twelve in Paul's sense of it. “These apostles by way of eminence,” says the leader of the school, “undoubtedly denote the apostles themselves, whose disciples and delegates the false apostles of Corinth professed to be.” Hilgenfeld says more pointedly still: “The apostles by way of eminence can be no other than the original apostles.” This opinion has spread and taken root. We should like to know what remains thereafter of the apostleship of Paul and of the Twelve, nay, of the mission of Jesus Himself? Happily, sound criticism treats such partial and violent assertions more and more as they deserve. We have already stated the conclusion which has now been reached on this question by such men as Weizsäcker, Keim, Harnack. It is easy, indeed, to prove that the phrase: “apostles by way of eminence,” which St. Paul employs, borrowing it ironically from the language used at Corinth, could not designate the Twelve.
1. We read, 2 Corinthians 11:6, that Paul was described at Corinth as a man of the commonalty ( ἰδιώτης , rude, Eng. transl.) in language, as compared with the superior apostles. Now, what reasonable man could have put the Twelve above Paul in the matter of speech? Comp. Acts 4:13, where the apostles are called men of the commonalty, or unlettered, while Paul was regarded as a man of high culture and vast knowledge ( Act 26:24 ).
2. If it had been wished to designate the Twelve by the phrase: “the more eminent apostles,” the very word would have made a place beneath them for an apostle of an inferior order. And for whom, if not for Paul? Now, his adversaries were not content at this time to make him an apostle of an inferior order; they contrasted him with the Twelve, as a false apostle with the only true. We are thus led to conclude that the apostles par excellence, who were being exalted at Corinth in order to blacken Paul, were no other than those lofty personages from Jerusalem who, in the transactions related Acts 15:0 and Galatians 2:0, had openly resisted the apostles, and affected to give law to them as well as to the whole church, those very persons whom Paul has designated in Galatians as false brethren brought in. In Acts it is related that after Pentecost many priests ( Act 6:7 ) and Pharisees ( Act 15:5 ) entered the church. These new Christians of high rank and great theological knowledge brought with them their pretensions and prejudices, and they ill brooked the authority of simple and uncultured men like the Twelve. They looked upon them as narrow-minded. They treated them with disdain; and from the height of their theological erudition thought it deplorable that so glorious a work, from which they might have drawn so much advantage, had fallen into such poor hands. They therefore tried audaciously to snatch the direction of the church from the apostles. Thus, apostles by way of eminence, arch-apostles, far from being a name intended to identify them with the Twelve, was rather meant to exalt them above the apostles. It was they who, after the council of Jerusalem, in opposition to the Twelve no less than to Paul, though under their name, had organized the counter mission which Paul soon met in all the churches founded by him. Most commentators justly hold that these people and their adherents at Corinth formed the party which in 1Co 1:12 is named by Paul the party of Christ. In this case it is easy to understand the meaning of the designation. It means, in contradistinction to those who were carried away with enthusiasm for this or that preacher, those who would not submit either to Paul or the Twelve, and who appealed from them to the authority of Christ alone. Thus the party called that of Christ is contrasted ( 1Co 1:12 ) with that of Peter, as well as with that of Paul or Apollos.
At the time when Paul wrote our Second Epistle to the Corinthians, the hottest moment of the conflict was past. This Epistle in many of its parts is a shout of victory (comp. especially chap. 7). It was intended, while drawing closely the bond between the apostle and the portion of the church which had returned into communion with him, finally to reduce the rebellious portion to submission or powerlessness; and it appears to have gained its end. Paul, regarding this church as henceforth restored to him, came at length, in the end of the year 58, to make his long-expected sojourn among them; he passed the month of December of this year at Corinth, and the first two months of the following year. Then he set out, shortly before the feast of Passover, on a last visit to Jerusalem. For some time past vast plans filled his mind ( Act 19:21 ). Already his thoughts turned to Rome and the West. Paul was in the highest degree one of those men who think they have done nothing so long as anything remains for them to do. The East was evangelized; the torch of the gospel was at least lighted in all the great capitals of Asia and Greece, Antioch, Ephesus, Corinth. To these churches it fell to spread the light in the countries which surrounded them, and so to continue the apostolic work. Egypt and Alexandria had probably been visited, perhaps by Barnabas and Mark after their journey to Cyprus. The West remained. This was the field which now opened to the view and thoughts of the apostle. But already the gospel has preceded him to Rome. He learns the fact...What matters it? Rome becomes to him a mere point of passage. And his goal, receding with the rapid march of the gospel, will now be Spain. His Christian ambition drives him irresistibly to the extremity of the known world. A duty, however, still detained him in the East. He wished to pay Jerusalem a last visit, not only to take leave of the metropolis of Christendom, but more especially to present to it, at the head of a numerous deputation of Gentile Christians, the homage of the whole pagan world, in the form of a rich offering collected in all the churches during these last years in behalf of the Christians of Jerusalem. What more fitted to cement the bond of love which he had endeavored to form and keep up between the two great portions of Christendom!
All the deputies of the churches of Greece and Asia, his travelling companions, were already assembled at Corinth to embark with him for Syria, when he learned that the freighted vessel and its cargo were threatened with dangers by sea. He therefore took the way by Macedonia, celebrated the Passover feasts at Philippi, and hastened the rest of his journey so as to arrive at Jerusalem for Pentecost. There he solemnly deposited the fruit of the collection in the hands of the elders of the church presided over by James. In the conference which followed, James communicated to him the prejudices with which he was regarded by the thousands of believing Jews who were daily arriving at Jerusalem to celebrate the feast. Paul had been represented to them as a deadly enemy of the law, whose one aim was to destroy Mosaism among the Jews throughout the whole world. James proposed to him to give the lie to these rumors, by himself carrying out a Levitical ceremony in the temple before the eyes of all. The proposal was that he should join some Jews who were then discharging a vow of Nazariteship, and take upon himself the common expense.
M. Renan represents St. Paul as if he must have been greatly embarrassed by this proposition, because he could not conceal from himself that the rumor spread against him was thoroughly well founded. To consent to James's proposal was therefore deliberately to create a misunderstanding, “to commit an unfaithfulness toward Christ.” Yet this writer thinks that Paul, under constraint of charity, managed to overcome his repugnance; as if charity authorized dissimulation! M. Reuss seems to hesitate between two views: either Luke, incapable of rising to the height of Paul's pure spirituality, has not given an exact representation of the facts, or we must blame Paul himself: “If things really passed as the text relates,...it must be confessed that the apostle lent himself to a weak course of which we should hardly have thought him capable;...for the step taken was either a profession of Judaism or the playing of a comedy.” Both alternatives are equally false, we answer with thorough conviction. In fact, Paul could with perfect sincerity give the lie to the report spread among the Jewish-Christians of the East. If, on the one hand, he was firmly opposed to every attempt to subject Gentile converts to the Mosaic law, on the other, he had never sought to induce the Jews to cast it off arbitrarily. This would have been openly to violate the Jerusalem compromise. Did not he himself, in many circumstances when he had to do with Jews, consent to subject himself to legal rights? Have we not already quoted what he wrote to the Corinthians: “To those that are under the law I became as under the law” ( 1Co 9:20 )? The external rite being a thing indifferent in his eyes, he could use it in the service of charity. And if he sometimes conformed to it, it is perfectly certain that he could never allow himself to become its fanatical adversary. He left it to time to set free the conscience of his countrymen, and did not dream of hastening the hour by a premature emancipation. And therefore, whatever may be said to the contrary, he could protest without weakness and without charlatanism against the assertion which represented him in the East as the deadly destroyer of Mosaism among all the members of the Jewish nation.
The circumstance to which we have been referring was, as is well known, the occasion of his being arrested. Here begins the last period of his life, that of his imprisonments.
After his imprisonment and a show of trial at Jerusalem, Paul was transferred to Cesarea. In this city he passed two whole years, vainly expecting to be liberated by the governor Felix. In the year 60 the latter was recalled; and either in this year, or more probably the following, his successor, Festus, arrived. Here is the second principal date in the apostle's life, which, with the aid of the Roman historians, we can fix with tolerable certainty. In the year 61 (some say 60) Paul appeared before Festus, when, to put an end to the tergiversations of the provincial authority, he appealed to the imperial tribunal. It was a right which his Roman citizenship gave him. Hence his departure for Rome in the autumn following the arrival of Festus. We are familiar with the circumstances of his voyage, and of the shipwreck which detained him at Malta for the winter. He did not arrive at Rome till the following spring. We learn from the last two verses of the Acts that he continued there for two years as a prisoner, but enjoying much liberty of action. He could receive his fellow-workers who traversed Europe and Asia, who brought him news of the churches, and in return carried to them his letters (Colossians, Ephesians, Philemon, Philippians).
Here Luke's history closes abruptly. From this time we have nothing to guide us except patristic traditions of a remarkably confused character, or suppositions still more uncertain. Some assert that Paul perished, like Peter, in the persecution of Nero, in August of the year 64; on the other hand, certain statements of the Fathers would lead us to think that Paul was liberated at the close of the two years mentioned in the Acts; that he was able to fulfil the promise which he had made to Philemon and to the Philippians to visit them in the East (Philemon 1:22; Php 2:24 ); and that he accomplished his final purpose, that of carrying the gospel to Spain. If the pastoral Epistles are really by the apostle, as we cannot help thinking, they are the monument of this last period of his activity. For it does not seem to us possible to place them at any period whatever of Paul's ministry anterior to his first captivity at Rome.
As no church in Spain claims the honor of being founded by the apostle, we must hold, on this supposition, that he was seized shortly after his arrival on Iberian soil, and led prisoner to the Capital to be judged there. The Second Epistle to Timothy would, in that case, be the witness of this last captivity; and Paul's martyrdom, which, according to the testimony of the Roman presbyter Caius (second century), took place on the Ostian Way, must be placed about the year 66 or 67. This is the date indicated by Eusebius.
We have thus, for fixing the chronology of the life of the apostle, two dates which are certain: that of his journey to Jerusalem with Barnabas at the time of Herod Agrippa's death (Acts 12:0), in 44; and that of his appearing before Festus on the arrival of the latter in Palestine (Acts 25:0), in 61 (or 60). It remains to us, by means of those fixed points, to indicate the approximate dates of the principal events of the apostle's life.
Festus died the same year as he arrived in Palestine, consequently before the Passover of 62.
Paul cannot therefore have been sent by him to Rome, at the latest, till the autumn of the year 61. Paul's arrest at Jerusalem took place two years earlier, at Pentecost, consequently in the spring of 59.
The third missionary journey, which immediately preceded this arrest, embraces his stay at Ephesus, which lasted about three years (Acts 19:8; Acts 19:10; Act 20:31 ), and various journeys into Greece besides, perhaps more important and numerous than is generally thought. If to this we add his stay in Achaia ( Act 20:3 ), and the last journey to Jerusalem, we are led backward to the autumn of the year 54 as the beginning of his third journey.
His second mission, the Greek one, of which Corinth was the centre, cannot have lasted less than two years, for the Book of Acts reckons eighteen months and one or two more to his sojourn at Corinth alone (Acts 18:11; Act 18:18 ). We may therefore ascribe to this second missionary journey the two years between the autumn of 52 and that of 54.
The council of Jerusalem, which was held very shortly before this time, must consequently be placed at the beginning of 52, or about the end of 51.
The first missionary journey, that of Paul and Barnabas in Asia Minor, as well as the two sojourns at Antioch before and after, filled the few years preceding.
Thus, going back step by step, we reach the other date which must serve as a guiding-point, that of Herod Agrippa's death, in 44. Now the time at which we arrive, following Paul's career backwards, is exactly the date when Barnabas seeks him at Tarsus, to bring him to Antioch, where they labored together in the church, and whence they were delegated to Jerusalem in regard to the approaching famine; the date of Herod Agrippa's death, in 44.
The length of Paul's stay at Tarsus before Barnabas sought him there is not exactly indicated, but it seems to have been considerable. We may reckon it at three or four years, and we come to the year 40 as that in which Paul's first visit to Jerusalem, after his conversion, took place.
This visit was preceded by Paul's journey to Arabia ( Gal 1:18 ), and his two sojourns at Damascus before and after it; he himself reckons this period at three years ( Rom 1:18 ). Paul's conversion would thus fall about the year 37.
Paul must then have been at least thirty years of age. We may therefore place his birth about the year 7; and if he died in 67, assign to his earthly life a duration of sixty years.
This entire series of dates appears to us in itself to be clear and logical. But, more than that, history in general presents a considerable number of points of verification, which very interestingly confirm this biographical sketch. We shall mention six of them.
1. We know that Pilate was recalled from his government in the year 36. This circumstance serves to explain the martyrdom of Stephen, which is intimately connected with Saul's conversion. Indeed, the right of pronouncing sentence of death having been withdrawn from the Jews by the Roman administration prior to the death of Jesus, it is not likely that they would have indulged in so daring an encroachment on the power of their masters as that of putting Stephen to death, if the representative of the Roman power had been in Palestine at the time. There is therefore ground for thinking that the murder of Stephen must be placed in the year 36, the time of the vacancy between Pilate and his successor. An event of the same kind took place, according to Josephus, about the year 62, when the high priest Ananias put James the brother of Jesus to death, in the interval which separated the death of Festus from the arrival of Albinus his successor. The absence of the governor, it would seem, awoke in the heart of the people and their leaders the feeling of their ancient national independence.
2. The journey of Paul and Barnabas to Jerusalem, recorded in Acts 11:12 (on occasion of the famine announced by Agabus), must have taken place, according to our chronology, in the year 44 (Herod Agrippa's death). Now we know from the historians that the great famine overtook Palestine in the reign of Claudius, in 45 or 46, which agrees with the date assigned to this journey.
3. St. Paul declares, Galatians 2:1, that it was fourteen years after his conversion (such is the most probable meaning of the passage) when he repaired to Jerusalem with Barnabas to confer with the apostles (Acts 15:0). If, as we have seen, this conference took place in 51, it really falls in the fourteenth year after the year 37, the date of the apostle's conversion.
4. We have been led to the conclusion that the apostle arrived at Corinth about the end of the year 52. Now it is said ( Act 18:1 ) that Paul on arriving at this city made the acquaintance of a family of Jewish origin, that of Aquila and Priscilla, who had recently come from Italy in consequence of the decree of the Emperor Claudius commanding the expulsion of Jews from Rome. “Claudius,” says Suetonius, “banished from Rome the Jews, who were perpetually raising insurrections.” From various indications furnished by Roman historians, this decree must belong to the last days of the life of Claudius. Now this emperor died in 54; the date of the decree of banishment thus nearly coincides with that of Paul's arrival at Corinth.
5. Towards the end of his stay at Corinth, Paul was charged before the proconsul of Achaia, called Gallio. This proconsul is not an unknown personage. He was the brother of the philosopher Seneca, a man of great distinction, who plays a part in his brother's correspondence. He was consul in the year 51; his proconsulship must have followed immediately thereafter. Gallio was thus really, at the time indicated in Acts, proconsul of Achaia.
6. Josephus relates that, while Felix was governor of Judea, an Egyptian excited several thousands of Jews to insurrection, and proceeded to attack Jerusalem. The band was destroyed by Felix, but the leader escaped. Now we know from Acts that, towards the end of Felix's government, the Roman captain who was commanding at Jerusalem suspected Paul of being an Egyptian who had incited the people to rebellion ( Act 21:38 ). All the circumstances harmonize. It was the very time when the escaped fanatic might have attempted a new rising.
If we recapitulate the principal dates to which we have been led, we find that the apostle's life is divided as follows:
From 7-37: His life as a Jew and Pharisee.
From 37-44: The years of his preparation for his apostleship.
From 44-51: His first missionary journey, with the two stays at Antioch, before and after, and his journey to the council of Jerusalem.
From 52-54: His second missionary journey; the founding of the churches of Greece (the two Epistles to the Thessalonians).
From 54-59: The third missionary journey; the stay at Ephesus, and the visits to Greece and to Jerusalem (the four principal Epistles, Galatians , 1 st and 2d Corinthians, Romans).
From 59 (summer) to 61 (autumn): Arrest at Jerusalem, captivity at Cesarea.
From 61 (autumn) to 62 (spring): Voyage, shipwreck; arrival at Rome.
From 62 (spring) to 64 (spring): Captivity at Rome (Colossians, Ephesians, Philemon, Philippians).
From 64 (spring) to 66 or 67: Liberation, second captivity, martyrdom (pastoral Epistles).
How are we to account for the institution of this extraordinary apostleship side by side with the regular apostleship of the Twelve?
The time had come, in the progress of the kingdom of God, when the particularistic work founded in Abraham was at length to pass into the great current of humanity, from which it had been kept apart. Now, the normal mode of this unparalleled religious revolution would have been this: Israel itself, with the work of the Messiah before it, really and joyfully proclaiming throughout the whole world the completion of salvation, and the end of the theocratic economy. It was to prepare Israel for this task, the glorious crown of its history, that Jesus had specially chosen the Twelve. Apostles to the elect nation, they were to make it the apostle of the world.
But man seldom answers completely to the task which God has destined for him. Instead of accepting this part, the part of love, in the humility of which it would have found its real greatness, Israel strove to maintain its theocratical prerogative. It rejected the Redeemer of the world rather than abandon its privileged position. It wished to save its life, and it lost it.
Then, in order to replace it, God required to call an exceptional instrument and found a special apostleship. Paul was neither the substitute of Judas, whom the Twelve had prematurely replaced (Acts 2:0), as has been thought, nor that of James the son of Zebedee, whose martyrdom is related Acts 12:0. He is the substitute for a converted Israel, the man who had, single-handed, to execute the task which fell to his whole nation. And so the hour of his call was precisely, as we have seen, that, when the blood of the two martyrs, Stephen and James, sealed the hardening of Israel and decided its rejection.
The calling of Paul is nothing less than the counterpart of Abraham's.
The qualities with which Paul was endowed for this mission were as exceptional as the task itself. He combined with the power of inward and meditative concentration all the gifts of practical action. His mind descended to the most minute details of ecclesiastical administration (1 Corinthians 14:26-37, e.g.,] as easily as it mounted the steps of the mystic ladder whose top reaches the divine throne (2 Corinthians 12:1-4, e.g.,).
A not less remarkable combination of opposite powers, which usually exclude one another, strikes us equally in his writings. Here we meet, on the one hand, with the dialectical rigor which will not quit a subject till after having completely analyzed it, nor an adversary till it has transfixed him with his own sword; and, on the other, with a delicate and profound sensibility, and a concentrated warmth of heart, the flame of which sometimes bursts forth even through the forms of the severest argumentation. The Epistle to the Romans will furnish more than one example.
The life of St. Paul is summed up in a word: a unique man for a unique task.
CHAPTER II. THE CHURCH OF ROME.
AFTER having made acquaintance with the author of our Epistle, it is important for us to form a just idea of the church to which it was addressed. Three questions arise here: 1. How was the church of Rome founded? 2. Were the majority of its members of Jewish or Gentile origin? 3. Was its religious tendency particularistic or Pauline?
These three subjects, the foundation, composition, and tendency of the church, are undoubtedly intimately related. They may, however, be studied separately. To avoid repetition, we shall treat the last two under a common head.
I. Foundation of the Roman Church.
Among the apostolic foundations mentioned in the Book of Acts, that of the church of Rome does not appear. Reuss sees a lacuna in this silence. But is not the omission a proof of the real course of things? Does it not show that the foundation of the Roman church was not distinguished by any notable event such as the historian can lay hold of; that it took place in a sort of stealthy manner, and was not the work of any individual of mark?
What are the oldest known proofs of the existence of a Christian church at Rome?
In the first place, our Epistle itself, which assumes the existence, if not of a completely organized church, at least of several Christian groups in the capital; in the second place, the fact related in the first part of Acts 28:0. On his arrival at Rome in the spring of the year 62, Paul is welcomed by brethren who, on the news of his approach, come to receive him at the distance of a dozen leagues from the city. How was such a Christian community formed?
Three answers are given to the question.
I. The Catholic Church ascribes the founding of the Church of Rome to the preaching of Peter. This apostle, it is said, came to Rome to preach the gospel and combat the heresies of Simon the magician, at the beginning of the reign of the Emperor Claudius (41-54). But it is very probable that this tradition rests in whole or in part on a gross mistake, of which Justin Martyr is the first author. If the apostle had really come to Rome so early, and had been the first to propagate the gospel there, Paul evidently could not write a long letter to this church without mentioning its founder; and if we consider that this letter is a didactic writing of great length, a more or less complete exposition of the gospel, we shall conclude that he could not, in consistency with his own principles, have addressed it to a church founded by another apostle. For he more than once declares that it is contrary to his apostolic practice “to enter into another man's labors,” or “to build on the foundation laid by another” (Romans 15:20; 2Co 10:16 ).
Strange that a Protestant writer, Thiersch, is almost the only theologian of merit who still defends the assertion of Peter's sojourn at Rome in the beginning of the reign of Claudius. He supports it by two facts: the passage Acts 12:17, where it is said that, delivered from his prison at Jerusalem, Peter went into another place, a mysterious expression used, according to this critic, to designate Rome; and next, the famous passage of Suetonius, relative to the decree of Claudius banishing the Jews from Rome, because they ceased not “to rise at the instigation of Chrestus. ” According to Thiersch, these last words are a vague indication of the introduction of Christianity into Rome at this period by St. Peter, and of the troubles which the fact had caused in the Roman synagogue. These arguments are alike without solidity. Why should not Luke have specially named Rome if St. Peter had really withdrawn thither? He had no reason to make a mystery of the name. Besides, at this period, from 41 to 44, Peter can hardly have gone so far as Rome; for in 51 (Acts 15:0) we find him at Jerusalem, and in 54 only at Antioch. Paul himself, the great pioneer of the gospel in the West, had not yet, in 42, set foot on the European continent, nor preached in Greece. And the author of the Acts, in chaps. 6-13, enumerates very carefully all the providential circumstances which paved the way for carrying the gospel into the Gentile world. Assuredly, therefore, Peter had not up to that time crossed the seas to evangelize Rome. As to the passage of Suetonius, it is very arbitrary to make Chrestus a personification of Christian preaching in general. The true Roman tradition is much rather to be sought in the testimony of a deacon of the church who lived in the third or fourth century, and is known as a writer under the name of Ambrosiaster or the false Ambrose (because his writings appear in the works of St. Ambrose), but whose true name was probably Hilary. He declares, to the praise of his church, that the Romans had become believers “without having seen a single miracle or any of the apostles. ” Most Catholic writers of our day, who are earnest and independent, combat the idea that Peter sojourned at Rome under the reign of Claudius.
After all we have said, we do not mean in the least to deny that Peter came to Rome about the end of his life. The testimonies bearing on this stay seem to us too positive to be set aside by judicious criticism. But in any case, his visit cannot have taken place till after the composition of the Epistle to the Romans, and even of the letters written by Paul during his Roman captivity in 62 and 63 (Col. Phil. Eph. Philem.). How, if Peter had at that time labored simultaneously with him in the city of Rome, could Paul have failed to name him among the preachers of the gospel whom he mentions, and from whom he sends greetings? Peter cannot therefore have arrived at Rome till the end of the year 63 or the beginning of 64, and his stay cannot have lasted more than a few months till August 64, when he perished as a victim of the persecution of Nero. As Hilgenfeld says: “To be a good Protestant, one need not combat this tradition.”
It is even probable that, but for the notoriety of this fact, the legend of the founding of the church of Rome by St. Peter could never have arisen and become so firmly established.
II. The second supposition by which it has been sought to explain the existence of this church for in the absence of everything in the form of narrative one is reduced to hypothesis is the following: Jews of Rome who had come to Jerusalem at the time of the feasts were there brought into contact with the first Christians, and so carried to Rome the seeds of the faith. Mention is made indeed, Acts 2:10, of Roman pilgrims, some Jews by birth, the others proselytes, that is to say, Gentiles originally, but converted to Judaism, who were present during the events of the day of Pentecost. At every feast thereafter this contact between the members of the rich and numerous Roman synagogue and those of the church of Jerusalem must have been repeated, and must have produced the same result. If this explanation of the origin of the church of Rome is established, it is evident that it was by means of the synagogue that the gospel spread in this city.
M. Mangold, one of the most decided supporters of this hypothesis, alleges two facts in its favor (1) the legend of Peter's sojourn at Rome, which he acknowledges to be false, but which testifies, he thinks, to the recollection of certain original communications between the apostolic church, of which Peter was the head, and the Roman synagogue; (2) the passage of Suetonius, which we have already quoted, regarding the troubles which called forth the edict of Claudius. According to Mangold, these troubles were nothing else than the violent debates raised among the members of the Roman synagogue by the Christian preaching of those pilgrims on their return from Jerusalem.
But, as we have seen, the legend of Peter's preaching at Rome seems to have an entirely different origin from that which Mangold supposes; and the interpretation of the passage of Suetonius which he proposes, following Baur, is very uncertain. According to Wieseler and many other critics, Chrestus the name was a very common one for a freedman simply designates here an obscure Jewish agitator; or, as seems to us more probable, Suetonius having vaguely heard of the expectation of the Messias (of the Christ) among the Jews, regarded the name as that of a real living person to whom he ascribed the constant ferment and insurrectionary dispositions which the Messianic expectation kept up among the Jews. The word tumultuari, to rise in insurrection, used by the Roman historian, applies much more to outbreaks of rebellion than to intestine controversies within the synagogue. How could these have disturbed the public order and disquieted Claudius?
There are two facts, besides, which seem to us opposed to this way of explaining the founding of the church of Rome.
1. How comes it that no circumstance analogous to that which on the above hypothesis gave rise to the Roman church, can be proved in any of the other great cities of the empire? There were Jewish colonies elsewhere than at Rome. There were such at Ephesus, Corinth, and Thessalonica. Whence comes it that, when Paul arrived in these cities, and preached in their synagogues for the first time, the gospel appeared as a thing entirely new? Is there any reason for holding that the Christianity of Palestine exercised a more direct and prompt influence on the synagogue of Rome than on that of the other cities of the empire?
2. A second fact seems to us more decisive still. It is related in Acts 28:0 that Paul, three days after his arrival at Rome, called together to his hired house, where he was kept prisoner, the rulers of the Roman synagogue. The latter asked him to give precise information as to the doctrine of which he was the representative. “For,” said they, “we have heard this sect spoken of, and we know that it meets with opposition everywhere” (in every synagogue). The narrative does not state the inference drawn by them from these facts; but it was evidently this: “Not knowing the contents of this new faith, we would like to learn them from lips so authoritative as thine.” What proves that this was really the meaning of the Jews' words is, that they fixed a day for Paul when they would come to converse with him on the subject. The conference bore, as is stated in the sequel of the narrative, “on the kingdom of God and concerning Jesus,” taking as the starting-point “the law of Moses and the prophets” ( Act 28:23 ). Now, how are we to understand this ignorance of the rulers of the synagogue in respect of Christianity, if that religion had really been preached among them already, and had excited such violent debates as to provoke an edict of banishment against the whole Jewish colony?
It has been sought to get rid of this difficulty in different ways. Reuss has propounded the view that the question of the rulers of the synagogue did not refer to Christianity in general, but to Faul's individual teaching, and the opposition excited against him by the Jewish-Christian party. But this view would have imperatively demanded the Greek form ἃ σὺ φρονεῖς , and not merely ἃ φρονεῖς . Besides, the sequel of the narrative very clearly shows that Paul's exposition bore on the kingdom of God and the gospel in general, and not merely on the differences between Paulinism and Judaizing Christianity.
Others have taken the words of the Jews to be either a feint, or at least cautious reserve. They measured their words, it is said, from the fear of compromising themselves, or even, so Mangold thinks, from the desire of extorting some declaration from the apostle which they might use against him in his trial. The rest of the narrative is incompatible with these suppositions. The Jews enter very seriously into the discussion of the religious question. On the day fixed they come to the appointed place of meeting in greater numbers than formerly. During a whole day, from morning till night, they discuss the doctrine and history of Jesus, referring to the texts of Moses and the prophets. On the part of men engaged in business, as must have been the case with the rulers of the rich Jewish community established at Rome, such conduct testifies to a serious interest. The result of the interview furnishes like proof of the sincerity of their conduct. This result is twofold; some go away convinced, others resist to the last. This difference would be inconceivable if they had come to Paul already acquainted with the preaching of the gospel merely to lay a snare for him.
Olshausen has proposed a different solution. According to him, the banishment of the Jews by Claudius led to a complete rupture between the synagogue and the Jewish-Christians. For the latter naturally sought to evade the decree of expulsion. And so it happened that, when the banished Jews returned to Rome, there was no longer anything in common between them and the church; the Roman Jews soon lost all recollection of Christian doctrine. But Baur and Mangold have thoroughly refuted this supposition. It ascribes much more considerable effects to the edict of Claudius than it can ever have had in reality. And how could a short time of exile have sufficed to efface from the minds of the Jewish community the memory of Christian preaching, if it had already made itself heard in full synagogue?
Baur has discarded all half measures. He has struck at the root of the difficulty. He has pronounced the narrative of the Acts a fiction. The author desired to pass off Paul as much more conciliatory to Judaism than he really was. The true Paul had not the slightest need of an act of positive unbelief on the part of the Jews of Rome, to think himself authorized to evangelize the Gentiles of the capital. He did not recognize that alleged right of priority which the Jewish-Christians claimed in favor of their nation, and which is assumed by the narrative of the Acts. This narrative therefore is fictitious. The answer to this imputation is not difficult: the Paul of Acts certainly does not resemble the Paul of Baur's theory; but he is assuredly the Paul of history. It is Paul himself who proves this to us when he writes thrice with his own hand, at the beginning of the Epistle to the Romans (Romans 1:16, Rom 2:9-10 ), the: “to the Jews first,” which so completely confirms the course taken by him among the Jews of Rome, and described so carefully by the author of the Acts.
All these explanations of the account, Acts 28:0, being thus untenable, it only remains to accept it in its natural meaning with the inevitable consequences. The rulers of the synagogue of Rome had undoubtedly heard of the disputes which were everywhere raised among their co-religionists by the preaching of Jesus as the Christ. But they had not yet an exact acquaintance with this new faith. Christianity had therefore not yet been preached in the Roman synagogue.
III. Without altogether denying what may have been done in an isolated way for the spread of Christianity at Rome by Jews returning from Jerusalem, we must assign the founding of the Roman church to a different origin. Rome was to the world what the heart is to the body, the centre of vital circulation. Tacitus asserts that “all things hateful or shameful were sure to flow to Rome from all parts of the empire.” This law must have applied also to better things. Long before the composition of the Epistle to the Romans, the gospel had already crossed the frontier of Palestine and spread among the Gentile populations of Syria, Asia Minor, and Greece. Endowed as it was with an inherent force of expansion, could not the new religious principle easily find its way from those countries to Rome? Relations between Rome and Syria in particular were frequent and numerous. Renan himself remarks them: “Rome was the meeting-point of all the Oriental forms of worship, the point of the Mediterranean with which the Syrians had most connection. They arrived there in enormous bands. With them there landed troops of Greeks and Asiatics, all speaking Greek....It is in the highest degree probable that so early as the year 50 some Jews of Syria already become Christian entered the capital of the empire.” In these sentences of Renan we have only a word to correct. It is the word Jews. For it is certain that the churches of Antioch and Syria were chiefly composed of Greeks. Those Christians of Gentile origin might therefore very soon make their way to Rome. And why should it have been otherwise with members of the Christian communities of Asia and Greece, who were much nearer still?
There are some facts which serve to confirm the essentially Gentile origin of the Roman church. Five times, in the salutations which close our Epistle, the apostle addresses groups of Christians scattered over the great city. At least five times for once to the contrary, the names of the brethren whom he salutes are Greek and Latin, not Jewish. These bear witness to the manner in which the gospel had gained a footing in the capital. This wide dissemination and those names of Gentile origin find a natural explanation in the arrival of Christians of Greece and Asia, who had preached the word each in the quarter of the city where he lived. The course of things would have been quite different had the preaching of the gospel proceeded from the synagogue. A still more significant fact is related in the first part of Acts 28:0. On hearing of St. Paul's approach, the brethren who reside at Rome haste to meet him, and receive him with an affection which raises his courage. Does not this prove that they already loved and venerated him as their spiritual father, and that consequently their Christianity proceeded directly or indirectly from the churches founded by Paul in Greece and Asia, rather than from the Jewish-Christian church of Jerusalem? Beyschlag, in his interesting work on the subject before us, raises the objection that between the composition of the Epistle to the Romans, about the end of the year 57 or 58, and the founding of the churches of Greece, about 53 or 54, too little time had elapsed to allow the gospel to spread so far as Rome, and to make it possible for the whole world to have heard of the fact ( Rom 1:8 ). But the latter phrase is, of course, somewhat hyperbolical (comp. 1 Thessalonians 1:8; Col 1:6 ). And if the founding of the churches of Syria goes back, as we have seen, to about the year 40, and so to a date eighteen or nineteen years before the Epistle to the Romans, the time thus gained for this Christian invasion is certainly not too short. Even the five or six years which intervene between the evangelization of Greece and the composition of our Epistle sufficed to explain the arrival of the gospel at Rome from the great commercial centres of Thessalonica and Corinth.
It may be asked, no doubt, how came it, if it did so happen, that the representatives of the Christian faith in the capital had not yet raised the standard of the new doctrine in the synagogue? But it must be remembered that for such a mission it was not enough to be a sincere believer; one required to feel himself in possession of scripture knowledge, and of a power of speech and argument which could not be expected from simple men engaged in commerce and industry. We read in Acts ( Act 18:26 et seq.) that when Apollos arrived at Ephesus, and when, supported by his eminent talents and biblical erudition, he made bold such is the word used to speak in the synagogue, Aquila, the disciple and friend of Paul, did not attempt to answer him in the open assembly, but thought it enough to take him unto him to instruct him privately in the knowledge of the gospel. This is easily understood; it was a paradoxical proclamation which was in question, being, as St. Paul says, to the Greeks foolishness, and still more to the Jews a stumbling-block. The first-comer was not fitted to proclaim and defend it before the great Rabbins of capitals such as Antioch, Ephesus, or Rome. So true is this, that some expressions in the Epistle to the Romans would lead us to suppose that Paul himself was accused of shrinking from the task. Is it not indeed to a suspicion of this kind that he is alluding, when, after speaking of the delays which had hitherto prevented his visit to Rome, he declares ( Rom 1:16 ) “that he is not ashamed of the gospel of Christ”? Only a very small number of men exceptionally qualified could essay an attack such as would tell on the fortress of Roman Judaism, and not one of those strong men had yet appeared in the capital.
We have in the Book of Acts an account of the founding of a church entirely analogous to that which we are supposing for the church of Rome. It is that of the church of Antioch. Some Christian emigrants from Jerusalem reach this capital of Syria shortly after the persecution of Stephen; they turn to the Greeks, that is to say, the Gentiles of the city. A large number believe, and the distinction between this community of Gentile origin and the synagogue is brought out so pointedly that a new name is invented to designate believers, that of Christian ( Act 11:19-26 ). Let us transfer this scene from the capital of Syria to the capital of the empire, and we have the history of the founding of the church of Rome. We understand how Greek names are in a majority, such being borne by the most distinguished of the members of the church (in the salutations of chap. 16); we understand the ignorance which still prevailed among the rulers of the synagogue in relation to the gospel; we understand the extraordinary eagerness with which the Christians of Rome come to salute Paul on his arrival. All the facts find their explanation, and the narrative of the Acts is vindicated without difficulty.
II. Composition and Tendency of the Roman Church.
It was generally held, till the time of Baur, that the majority of the Roman church was of Gentile origin, and consequently sympathized in its tendency with the teaching of Paul; this view was inferred from a certain number of passages taken from the Epistle itself, and from the natural enough supposition that the majority of the church would take the general character of the Roman population.
But Baur, in a work of remarkable learning and sagacity, maintained that on this view, which had already been combated by Rückert, it was absolutely impossible to explain the aim and construction of the Epistle to the Romans; that such a letter had no meaning except as addressed to a church of Jewish-Christian origin, and of Judaizing and particularistic tendency, whose views Paul was concerned to correct. He sought to give an entirely different meaning from the received one to the passages usually alleged in favor of the contrary opinion; and he succeeded so well in demonstrating his thesis, that he carried with him the greater number of theologians (MM. Reuss, Thiersch, Mangold, Schenkel, Sabatier, Holtzmann, Volkmar, Holsten, etc.). Even Tholuck, in the fifth edition of his Commentary, yielded, up to a certain point, to the weight of the reasons advanced by the Tübingen critic, and acknowledged the necessity of holding for the explanation of the Epistle the existence at Rome, if not of a majority, at least of a very strong minority of Judaizers. Philippi made a similar concession. Things had come so far three years ago, that Holtzman could assert without exaggeration that “Baur's opinion now hardly found any opponent.”
Yet even in 1858 Theodore Schott, while making large concessions to Baur's view regarding the tendency and arrangement of the Epistle, had energetically maintained that there was a Gentile-Christian majority in the church of Rome. Several theologians have since then declared for the same view; so Riggenbach in an article of the Zeitschrift für die Lutherische Theologie (1866), reviewing Mangold's work; Hofman (of Erlangen) in his Commentary on our Epistle (1868); Dietzsch in an interesting monograph on Romans 5:12-21, Adam und Christus (1871); Meyer in the fifth edition of his Commentary (1872). Even Hilgenfeld in his Introduction (p. 305) has thought right to modify Baur's opinion, and to acknowledge the existence of a strong Gentile-Christian and Pauline element in the Roman church; finally, in the very year in which Holtzmann proclaimed the final triumph of Baur's view, two authors of well-known erudition and independence as critics, Schultz and Weizsäcker, declared in the Jahrbücher für deutsche Theologie (1876) for the preponderance of the Gentile-Christian element.
After all these oscillations an attempt at conciliation was to be expected. Beyschlag has proposed such a solution in a work in which the facts are grouped with a master-hand, and which concludes, on the one side, that the majority of the Roman church, in conformity with Paul's express statements, was of Gentile origin; but, on the other, that this Gentile majority shared Judaizing convictions, because it was composed of former proselytes.
According to the plan which we have adopted, and not to anticipate the exegesis of the Epistle, we shall not here discuss the passages alleged either for or against the Gentile origin of the majority of the readers; either for or against the Judaizing tendency of this majority.
But outside the exegesis properly so called we have some indications which may serve to throw light on the double question of the composition and tendency of the majority of the church.
1. The letter itself which we have to study. St. Paul, who would not build on the foundation laid by another, could not write a letter like this, containing a didactic exposition of the gospel, except to a church which he knew belonged to him at least indirectly in its composition and tendency as well as origin.
2. The ignorance of the rulers of the synagogue in regard to the gospel. Baur himself, in rejecting Luke's narrative as a fiction of the author of the Acts, has acknowledged the incompatibility of this fact with the preponderance of a majority in the Roman church having a Jewish-Christian tendency.
3. The persecution of Nero in 64. This bloody catastrophe smote the church of Rome without touching the synagogue. “Now,” says Weizsäcker, “if Christians had not yet existed at Rome, except as a mere Jewish party, the persecution which fell on them, without even ruffling the surface of Judaism, would be an inexplicable fact both in its origin and course.”
4. The information given by the apostle as to the state of the church in the beginning of his Roman captivity in Philippians 1:0. He tells how the somewhat drowsy zeal of the Christians of the capital had been reawakened by his presence. And in this connection he mentions some Christians ( τινές ) who set themselves fervently to preach, but from envy ( Php 1:15 ). Who are they? The common answer is: the Judaizers of the Roman church. Well and good. But in that case, as they form an exception to the majority of the faithful whom Paul has just mentioned ( τοὺς πλείονας , the majority, Php 1:14 ), and who have received a holy impulse from confidence in his bonds, the Judaizers can only have been a minority. Here, then, is an express testimony against the prevalence of Jewish-Christianity in the church of Rome. Against it is Weizsäcker, who exhibits this proof in all its force.
5. The composition of Mark's Gospel. It is generally admitted that this narrative was composed at Rome, and for the Christians of the capital. Now the detailed explanations contained in the book as to certain Jewish customs, and the almost entire absence of quotations from the Old Testament, do not sanction the view that its author contemplated a majority of readers of Jewish origin.
6. The Epistle of Clement of Rome. This writing, which is some thirty odd years posterior to the Epistle to the Romans, breathes in all respects, as Weizsäcker says, the spirit of the Gentile-Christian world. Such is also the judgment of Harnack in his introduction to the Epistle. No doubt it is far from the strong spirituality of Paul, but still it is substantially his conception of Christianity. Now, the national type of this great church cannot, as Weizsäcker says, have become transformed in so short a space of time. This writing is therefore a new proof of the predominance of the Gentile element in this church from its origin.
7. The Easter controversy of the second century. Rome put herself at the head of all Christendom to root out the Paschal rite established in the churches of Asia Minor. And whence came the offence caused by the mode of celebrating Easter in those churches? From the fact that they celebrated the holy Easter supper on the evening of the 14th Nisan, at the same moment when the Jews, in obedience to the law, were celebrating their Paschal feast. Certainly, if the Roman church had been under the sway of a Judaizing tradition, it would not thus have found itself at the head of the crusade raised against them.
8. The catacombs of Rome. There are found at every step in those burying-places names belonging to the noblest families of the city, some of them even closely related to the imperial family. The fact shows the access which Christianity had found from the first to the upper classes of Roman society, who assuredly did not belong to Judaism. Another proof, the full force of which has been brought out by Weiszäcker.
To support his view, Baur has quoted the passage of Hilary, which we have already mentioned, p. 37, and particularly the following words: “It is certain that in the time of the apostles there were Jews dwelling at Rome. Those of them who had believed, taught the Romans to profess Christ, while keeping the law.” But the contrast which the passage establishes between Jews and Romans shows clearly that Hilary himself looked on the latter, who, according to him, formed the great body of the church, as of Gentile origin. So the fact is precisely the reverse of what Baur affects to prove from the words. And as to the legal tendency which, according to Hilary, the Jewish-Christian instructors had inculcated on the Romans, it is clear that in the third or fourth century this writer possessed no tradition on the subject; nothing positive was known at Rome in the second century regarding facts otherwise of great importance, such as Paul's journey to Spain. It was therefore a conclusion which he drew from the anti-Jewish polemic which he thought he could trace in the Epistle to the Romans.
If any one is entitled to appeal to this passage, it would seem to be not Baur, but Beyschlag. Yet even that would not be exact; for Hilary nowhere says that those Romans who had been converted by the believing Jews of Rome formerly belonged to Judaism as proselytes. The contrary is rather to be inferred from the words he uses. Besides, Beyschlag's solution, during the twenty years that have elapsed since it was proposed, has found only a single supporter, M. Schürer (in his review of Hilgenfeld's Introduction). And the fact is easily understood. For either the gospel reached Rome through the synagogue and then how would the proselytes have been in such a majority that the church could have been, as Beyschlag admits, regarded as an essentially Gentile-Christian community? or the gospel spread to the capital from the churches of Greece and Asia Minor, in which the spiritualism of Paul was supreme and in that case whence came the legal character with which Beyschlag supposes it to have been impressed? The hypothesis asserts too much or too little. So Weizsäcker and Schultz have not stopped for an instant to refute it.
The result of our study is, that the Roman church was mostly of Gentile origin and Pauline tendency, even before the apostle addressed our letter to it. The formation of the church was indirectly traceable to him, because its authors proceeded for the most part from the churches of the East, whose existence was due to his apostolic labors. Besides, the recruiting of the church having taken place chiefly in the midst of the Roman, that is to say, Gentile population, Paul was entitled to regard it as belonging to the domain of the Apostle of the Gentiles. Of course this solution will not be valid until it has passed the ordeal of the texts of the Epistle itself.
The result which we have just reached renders it at once more difficult and more easy to explain the course adopted by the apostle in writing such a letter to this church.
For if it is easier to explain how he could by writing instruct a church which came within the domain assigned to him by the Lord, on the other hand it is more embarrassing to say with what view he could repeat in writing to this church all that which it should already have known.
CHAPTER III. THE EPISTLE.
To study the composition of this Epistle, which establishes for the first time a relation between the apostle and the church, we shall have three points to consider: (1) the author; (2) the circumstances of his life in which he composed the letter; (3) the aim which he set before him. We shall continue to avoid interrogating our Epistle except in so far as the data which it may furnish are obvious at a glance, and demand no exegetical discussion.
I. The Author.
The author declares himself to be Paul, the apostle of the Gentiles (Romans 1:1-7, Romans 11:13, Rom 15:15-20 ). The sending of the letter pertains, in his view, to the fulfilling of the commission which he has received, “to bring all the Gentiles to the obedience of the faith” ( Rom 1:5 ).
The unanimous tradition of the church is in harmony with this declaration of the author.
Between the years 90 and 100 of our era, Clement, a presbyter of the church of Rome, reproduced in chap. 35 of his Epistle to the Corinthians the picture of the vices of the Gentiles, such as it is traced in Romans 1:0; in chap. 38 he applies to the circumstances of his time the exhortations which are addressed to the strong and the weak in chap. 14 of our Epistle. Our letter was therefore preserved in the archives of the church of Rome, and recognized as a work of the apostle whose name it bears.
It cannot be doubted that the author of the Epistle called the Epistle of Barnabas (written probably in Egypt about 96), when writing his third chapter, had present to his mind Rom 4:11 et seq.: “I have set thee to be a father of the nations believing in the Lord in uncircumcision.”
The letters of Ignatius again and again reproduce the antithesis in the twofold origin of Jesus as Son of David and Son of God, Romans 1:3-4.
In the Dialogue with Trypho, chap. xxvii., Justin, about the middle of the second century, repeats the enumeration of the many biblical passages whereby Paul, Romans 3:0, demonstrates the natural corruption of man.
The Epistle to Diognetus says, chap. ix., not without allusion to Romans 5:18-19: “That the iniquity of many may be covered through righteousness, and that the righteousness of one may justify many sinners.”
The churches of Lyon and Vienne, in their letter to the churches of Pontus (about 177), speak of their martyrs (Eus. Rom 5:1 ): “Really proving that the sufferings of this present time,” etc. ( Rom 8:18 ).
Many features of the picture of Gentile infamies, Romans 1:0, reappear in the Apologies of Athenagoras and of Theophilus, shortly after the middle of the second century. The latter quotes Romans 2:6-9; Rom 13:7-8 textually.
The so-called Canon of Muratori (between 170 and 180) places the Epistle to the Romans among the writings which the church receives, and which should be read publicly.
The quotations made by Irenaeus (56 times), Clement of Alexandria, and Tertullian, are very numerous. It is only from this time forward that Paul is expressly named in these quotations as the author.
In the third century Origen, and in the fourth Eusebius, do not mention any doubt as expressed on the subject of the authenticity of our Epistle.
The testimony of heretics is not less unanimous than that of the Fathers.
Basilides, Ptolemaeus, and very particularly Marcion, from the first half of the second century onward, make use of our Epistle as an undisputed apostolical document.
Throughout the whole course of the past centuries, only two theologians have contested this unanimous testimony of the church and the sects. These are the English author Evanson, in a work on the Gospels, of the last century, and Bruno Baur, in our own day, in Germany. They ask: 1. Why does the author of the Acts of the Apostles not say a word about a work of such importance? As if the Book of Acts were a biography of the Apostle Paul! 2. How are we to understand the numerous salutations of chap. 16 addressed to a church in which Paul had never lived? As if (granting that this page of salutations really belongs to our Epistle) the apostle could not have known all these persons in Greece and the East who were now living at Rome, as we shall prove in the case, for example, of Aquila and Priscilla! 3. How can we hold the existence of a church at Rome so considerable as our Epistle supposes before the arrival of any apostle in the city? As if the founding of the church of Antioch did not furnish us with a sufficient precedent to solve the question!
Thus there is nothing to prevent us from accepting the testimony of the church, which is confirmed, besides, by the grandeur which betrays a master, and the truly apostolic power of the work itself, as well as by its complete harmony in thought and style with the other writings acknowledged to be the apostle's.
II. The Date.
The external circumstances in which this letter was composed are easily made out.
1. Paul had not yet visited Rome ( Rom 1:10-13 ); this excludes every date posterior to the spring of the year 62, when he arrived in the city.
2. The apostle is approaching the end of his ministry in the East. From Jerusalem to Illyria he has filled every place with the preaching of the gospel of Christ; now he must seek a field of labor westward, at the extremity of Europe, in Spain, Romans 15:18-24. Paul could not have written these words before the end of his residence at Ephesus, which lasted probably from the autumn of 54 to the Pentecost of 57.
3. At the time he wrote he was still free; for he was discussing his plans for travelling, Romans 15:23-25. It was therefore at a period previous to his arrest at Jerusalem (Pentecost of the year 59).
The interval which remains available is thus reduced to the short period from the year 57 to 59.
4. At the time when he wrote, he was about to start for Jerusalem, at the head of a numerous deputation charged with carrying to the mother church the fruits of a collection organized on its behalf in all the churches of the Gentile world ( Rom 15:24-28 ). When he wrote his first Epistle to the Corinthians (Pentecost 57), and a year and a half later (unless I am mistaken) his second (summer 58), the collection was not yet finished, and he did not know at that time whether it would be liberal enough to warrant his going himself to present it to the church of Jerusalem (1 Corinthians 16:1-4; 2 Corinthians 8:9.). All is completed when he writes the Epistle to the Romans, and the question of his taking part personally in the mission is decided ( Rom 15:28 ). This indication brings us to the time immediately preceding Paul's departure from Corinth for Jerusalem, which took place in March 59.
5. Finally, we are struck with the sort of anxiety which appears in the words used, Romans 15:30-32: “Strive together with me in your prayers to God for me, that I may be delivered from them that do not believe in Judea.” We recognize in this passage the disquieting presentiments which came out in all the churches at that point in the apostle's life, when he went to face for the last time the hatred of the inhabitants and authorities of Jerusalem (comp. Acts 20:22-23; Acts 21:4; Act 21:10-12 ). The Epistle to the Romans was therefore written very shortly before his departure for that city.
To fix the point exactly, it remains only to attempt to determine the place of its composition.
1. Romans 16:1; Romans 16:1, he recommends Phebe, a deaconess of Cenchrea, the port of Corinth, on the Egean Sea. It is therefore probable that if this passage really belongs to the Epistle to the Romans, Paul wrote from Corinth or its neighborhood.
2. He names Gaius as his host ( Rom 16:23 ). This is probably the same person as is mentioned in the first Epistle to the Corinthians ( 1Co 1:14 ) as being one of the earliest converts of that city.
3. He sends a greeting from Erastus, treasurer of the city, Romans 16:23. It is probable that this person is the same as we find mentioned, 2 Timothy 4:20, in these words: “Erastus abode at Corinth. ”
These indications lead us to conclude with great probability that Corinth was the place of composition. This result agrees with the preceding one relative to the date. In fact, mention is made in Act 20:2 of a three months' stay made by Paul in Hellas, that is to say, in the southern part of Greece, of which Corinth was the capital. This stay immediately preceded Paul's departure for Jerusalem, and took place, consequently, in the months of December 58, and January and February 59.
So it was during this time of repose that the apostle, after so many anxieties and labors, found the calm necessary for composing such a work. The time was solemn. The first part of his apostolic task was finished. The East, wholly evangelized in a way, lay behind him; he had before him the West still enveloped in the darkness of paganism, but which belonged also to the domain assigned him by the Lord. In the midst of this darkness he discerns a luminous point, the church of Rome. On this he fixes his eye before entering on the journey to Italy in person.
We shall see if the Epistle to the Romans corresponds to the solemnity of the situation.
III. The Aim.
Critics differ as much in regard to the aim of our Epistle as they are agreed about its date and authenticity. Since Baur's time the subject has become one of the most controverted in the whole range of New Testament criticism.
The question stands thus: If we assign a special practical aim to the Epistle, we put ourselves, as it seems, in contradiction to the very general and quasi-systematic character of its contents. If, on the contrary, we ascribe to it a didactic and wholly general aim, it differs thereby from the other letters of St. Paul, all of which spring from some particular occasion, and have a definite aim. The author of the oldest critical study of the New Testament which we possess, the so-called Fragment of Muratori, wrote thus about the middle of the second century: “St. Paul's letters themselves reveal clearly enough, to any one who wishes to know, in what place and with what view they were composed.” If he had lived among the discussions of our day, he would certainly not have expressed himself thus about our Epistle. What increases the difficulty is, that the letter is not addressed to a church which Paul had himself founded, and cannot be regarded, like his other Epistles, as the continuation of his missionary work. Let us add, finally, the sort of obscurity which, as we have seen, rests on the founding of this church, and consequently on the nature of its composition and its religious tendency, and we shall understand how an almost numberless multitude of opinions should have been broached, especially in the present day, regarding the intention of the letter. It seems to us possible to distribute the proposed solutions into three principal groups.
The first starts from the fact that all the other Epistles of the apostle owe their origin to some special occasion, and ascribes to this one a practical and definite aim. In the situation of Paul's work, and at the time when he was preparing to transfer his mission to the West, it concerned him to acquire or to make sure of the sympathy of the Roman church, destined as it was to become his point of support in those new countries, as Antioch had been in the East. Our Epistle, on this view, was the means chosen to obtain this result. Its aim was thus apologetic.
Diametrically opposed to this first group is a second, which takes account especially of the general and systematic character of the Epistle. Such contents do not seem to be compatible with the intention of obtaining a particular practical result. The apostle, it is therefore held, simply proposed to instruct and edify the church of Rome. The aim of the letter was didactic.
Between these two groups stands a third, which admits, indeed, the aim of teaching, but that with a definite intention, namely, to combat the legal Jewish-Christianity which was already dominant, or at least threatening to become so, within the Roman church. Our Epistle, consequently, had a polemic intention.
We proceed to review these three groups, each containing numerous shades of opinion. That which we have indicated in the third place, evidently forming the transition between the other two, we shall treat second in the following exposition.
First Group: Apologetic Aim.
The way was opened in this direction at one and the same time (1836) by Credner and Baur. The apostle wishes to prepare for himself a favorable reception in the principal church of the West; such is the general viewpoint, which is variously modified by the different adherents of this conception.
I. The most precise and sharply defined situation is that supposed by Baur. The church of Rome, being in the great majority of its members Jewish-Christian by origin, and particularistic in tendency, could not look on Paul's mission to the Gentiles otherwise than with dislike. No doubt, Jewish-Christianity no longer desired at Rome, as it had done formerly in Galatia, to impese circumcision on the Gentiles; it did not attack, as at Corinth, Paul's apostolic dignity and moral character. But the Christians of Rome asked if it was just and agreeable to God's promises to admit the Gentiles en masse into the church, as Paul was doing, before the Jewish people had taken their legitimate place in it. It was not wished to exclude the Gentiles. But it was maintained that, in virtue of the right of priority granted to Israel, they ought not to enter till the chosen nation had done so. Paul feels deeply that a church so minded cannot serve as the point of support for his mission in the West, that it will rather put a hindrance in his way. And hence, at the last stage of his sojourn in Greece, during the three months of rest which are allowed him at Corinth, he writes this letter to the Romans, with the view of completely rooting out the prejudice from which their repugnance to his mission springs. Not only has the right of priority, to which Israel pretends, no existence, since the righteousness of faith has now for all time replaced that of the law, but the conversion of the Gentiles, for which Paul is laboring, will be the very means which God will use to bring back the hostile Jews to Himself. It will be seen that, on this view, the great outline of the ways of God, ix.-xi., far from being, as is commonly thought, a simple appendix, forms the central part of the letter, that in which its true intention is expressed. The whole preceding exposition of the righteousness of faith forms its admirable preface.
The treatise of Baur produced at the time of its appearance an effect similar to that caused eight years afterward by a like work on the Gospel of John. The learned world was as it were fascinated; men thought they were on the eve of a sort of revelation. From the dazzling effect then produced criticism is only slowly recovering at the present day. Credner's work was less developed and less striking; he only added to the idea which we have just indicated in the form presented by Baur an original feature, which has recently been revived by Holsten. We mean the relation between the composition of the Epistle to the Romans and the large amount of the collection made in behalf of the church of Jerusalem at the same period. At the very time that he was endeavoring by this work of love to influence the metropolis of Jewish-Christianity in the East, his practical genius sought by means of our Epistle to acquire a point of support for his mission in the most important Jewish-Christian church of the West. So understood, the letter becomes an act, a real and serious work, as is naturally to be expected from a man like Paul composing such a treatise.
The following, however, are the reasons which have prevailed with science more and more to reconsider its verdict:
1. It has been found impossible to accept the very forced explanations by which Baur has labored to get rid of the passages attesting the Gentile origin and the Pauline tendency of the church of Rome.
2. An attempt at conquest, such as that which Baur ascribes to Paul, has been felt to be incompatible with the principle professed by him in our very Epistle, not to build on another man's foundation. In this case Paul would be doing even worse; he would be introducing himself into a house wholly built by strange hands, and would be seeking to install himself in it with his whole staff of apostolic helpers; this, no doubt, with a view to the work of Christ, but would the end justify the means?
3. The idea which Baur ascribes to the Christians of Rome, that of restricting the preaching of the gospel to the Jews until the whole elect people should become believers, is a strange and monstrous conception, of which there is not the slightest trace either in the New Testament or in any work of Christian antiquity. The Judaizers, on the contrary, strongly approved of the conversion of the Gentiles, insisting only on the condition of circumcision (Galatians 5:11; Gal 6:13 ). To refuse to the Gentiles the preaching of salvation till it should please the Jews to become converts, would have been an aggravation, and not at all, as Baur says, an attenuation of the old Jewish pretensions.
4. It is impossible from this point of view to account for the detailed instruction with which the Epistle opens (1-8), and in particular for the description of the corruption of the Gentiles (chap. 1). If all that was only intended to provide a justification of the missionary course followed by the apostle, stated 9-11, was not Schwegler right in saying “that such an expenditure of means was out of proportion to the end in view?” It is not less difficult to explain from this standpoint the use of the moral part, especially of Romans 12:5. In general, the horizon of the Epistle is too vast, its exposition too systematic, its tone too calm, to allow us to ascribe to it the intention of making a conquest, or to see in it something like a mine destined to spring the ramparts of a hostile position.
6. This explanation comes very near to compromising the moral character of Paul. What Baur did not say, his disciple Holsten frankly confesses in our day. After quoting these words of Volkmar: “that the Epistle to the Romans is the maturest fruit of Paul's mind,” this critic adds: “But it must, at the same time, be confessed that it is not its purest work. Under the pressure of a practical want, that of reconciling the Jewish-Christians to his gospel..., Paul has not kept and he knows it well himself at the height of his own thought...; he has blunted the edge of his gospel. ” If, to bear out the exposition of Baur and his school, one must go the length of making the Epistle to the Romans a work of Jesuitism, we think that this solution is judged.
Baur has cited the testimony of Hilary ( Ambrosiaster), who says of the Romans: “Who, having been wrongly instructed by the Judaizers, were immediately corrected (by this letter).” But even on this point it has been shown that Hilary's opinion was wholly different from Baur's; since, according to the former, the Judaizers, who had led the Romans into error in regard to the law, were absolutely the same as those who had troubled Antioch and Galatia; while, according to Baur, those of Rome made entirely different pretensions.
II. The difficulties which had led even Baur to modify his view have forced critics who are attached in the main to his opinion to soften it still more considerably. The critic whom we may regard as the principal representative of Baur's corrected exposition is Mangold. According to this author, the church of Rome, while Jewish-Christian in its majority and legal in its tendency, had not the strictly particularistic conception which Baur ascribes to it. It was merely imbued with certain prejudices against Paul and his work; it did not know what to think of that wide propagation of a gospel without law in the Gentile world. The general abandonment of Mosaism, which the missionary action of the apostle brought in its train, appeared to it to endanger the Lord's work, and even the morality of those multitudes of believing Gentiles. Paul, therefore, on the eve of transferring his activity to the West, felt the need of reassuring the Romans as to the spirit of his teaching, and the consequences of his work. In 1-8 he seeks to make them understand his doctrine; in ix.-xi. he explains to them his mission. He hopes thereby to succeed in gaining a powerful auxiliary in his new field of labor.
This view has obtained a pretty general assent; it is found wholly or in part in Thiersch, Holtzmann, Ritschl, Beyschlag, Hausrath, Schenkel, Schultz, as also in Sabatier. It has its best support in the anti-Judaistic tendency, which may, with some measure of probability, be ascribed to various parts of the Epistle. But it has not the perfect transparency of Baur's view; it is hard to know wherein those prejudices of the Roman church against Paul's work consist, neither springing from Judaizing legality, properly so called, nor from the exceptional point of view imagined by Baur.
Besides, as directed to a church not strictly Judaizing, what purpose would be served by the long preface of the first eight chapters, pointed against the righteousness of the law? What end, especially in the line of justifying Paul's missionary practice, would be served by the moral part, xii.-xiv., which has not the slightest connection with his work? Here, certainly, we can apply the saying of Schwegler, “that the expenditure of means is disproportioned to the end.” There remain, finally, all the reasons which we have alleged against the Jewish-Christian composition of the church.
III. While acknowledging the Gentile origin of the majority of the church, and the Pauline character of its faith, Schott and Riggenbach think that the object of the Epistle is simply to awaken and quicken its sympathy with Paul's work, on the eve of his passing to the West.
But in that case the extravagance of the means employed becomes still more startling. To demonstrate in the outset in eight long chapters the truth of Paul's gospel to a Pauline church, in order to obtain its missionary cooperation, would not this be idle work labor lost?
It is true that Schott, to meet this difficulty, images an objection raised at Rome to Paul's future mission in the West. The East, says he, was full of Jewish communities; so that, while laboring in these countries for the Gentiles, Paul was at the same time laboring, up to a certain point, in the midst of Jews, and for their good. But it was wholly otherwise in the West, where the Jews were not so plentifully scattered. Here Paul's work must necessarily be severed from action on the Jewish people. Paul, anticipating the accusations which would arise from this fact, writes the Epistle to the Romans in order to obviate them.
But the difference which Schott lays down on this head between the East and the West does not rest on any historical proof. And, as Beyschlag rightly asks, “What strange believers those Christians of Rome must have been, who, while themselves enjoying the blessings of salvation, notwithstanding their Gentile origin, imagined that those same blessings could not be offered to the other Western Gentiles till after Israel had been wholly converted!”
IV. Hofmann has given to the apologetic intention an altogether particular complexion. Our letter, he would have it, is the personal justification of Paul in reference to the long delays which had retarded his arrival at Rome. It was intended to prove that a gospel such as his leaves no room in the heart of its apostle for feelings of shame or lukewarmness. And thus it sought to secure a favorable reception for his person and mission. The object of his letter is consequently to be found revealed in Romans 1:14-16.
But is it possible to conceive so broad and authoritative a scheme of doctrine as that of the Epistle to the Romans, given with a view so narrow and personal? The passage, Romans 1:14-16, may have served as a preface for Paul to his subject; but it cannot express the aim of the Epistle.
In general, Paul might certainly expect, as a fruit of this letter, an increase of sympathy for his person and mission; and the great change which was about to pass over his life and work would naturally lead him to desire this result. But it must have been a more urgent reason which led him to take pen in hand, and to give a fuller and more systematic exposition of his gospel than he had bestowed on any other church.
Second Group: Polemic Aim.
The authors belonging to this group do not find in our Epistle the proof of any aim relating to the apostle himself and to his missionary work. The aim of the letter, in their view, is to be explained solely by the state of the church to which it is addressed. The object to be accomplished was to destroy the legal tendency at Rome, or to render its introduction impossible; and so, according to some, to bring about union and peace between the two parties of the church.
I. Thus Hilary spoke in this direction: “The Christians of Rome had allowed Mosaic rites to be imposed on them, as if full salvation were not to be found in Christ; Paul wished to teach them the mystery of the cross of Christ, which had not yet been expounded to them.” Similar words are to be found in many of the Fathers, as well as in some Reformers and modern theologians (Augustine, Melanchthon, Flatt, etc.). The opinion of Thiersch is also substantially the same: “The church of Rome having been left by Peter in a state of doctrinal inferiority, Paul sought to raise it to the full height of Christian knowledge.” Volkmar, too, would seem to adhere to this opinion. He calls our Epistle “ a war and peace treatise, intended to reconcile a strictly Jewish-Christian church to the free preaching of the gospel.” This explanation suits the grave and didactic character of the fundamental part, i.-viii., as well as the express statement of the theme, Romans 1:16-17. Only it is not easy to understand how Paul could have congratulated his readers on the type of doctrine according to which they had been taught, as he does Romans 11:17, if his intention had been to substitute a new conception of the gospel for theirs. We have found, besides, that the majority of the church was not Jewish-Christian in tendency.
II. From early times down to our own day, many have thought that Paul's polemic against Jewish legalism was intended to bring about the union of the two parties at Rome. We shall cite in particular, in the Middle Ages, Rabanus Maurus and Abélard; in modern times, Eichhorn (partly), Flatt, Hug, Bleek, Hilgenfeld, Hodge, etc. Hug thinks that after the Jews, who had been banished from Rome by the edict of Claudius, returned, a new treaty of union became necessary between the Christians of Gentile and those of Jewish origin. This Eirenicon was the Epistle to the Romans, which revolves entirely round this idea: “Jews and Gentiles are equal before God; their rights and weaknesses are similar; and if any advantage existed in favor of the one body, it was abolished by Christ, who united all in one universal religion.” Hilgenfeld ascribes to Paul the intention of uniting the rich Jewish-Christian aristocracy with the numerous plebs of Gentile origin. Hodge, the celebrated American commentator, denies the prevalence of a Judaizing tendency in the church of Rome, but thinks, nevertheless, “that conflicts now and again arose, both regarding doctrine and discipline, between the believers of the two races,” and that this was the occasion of our Epistle. The view of Baumgarten-Crusius is almost the same: “This exposition of the Pauline conception is intended to unite believing Jews and Gentiles in forwarding the common work.” From this point of view the passage, Rom 14:1 to Romans 15:13, must be regarded as containing the aim of the Epistle. But this piece, bearing as it does the character of a simple appendix, cannot play so decisive a part; and it would be inconceivable that, up to that point, Paul should have given neither in the preface nor in the course of the letter the least sign of this conciliatory intention; for, finally, when he demonstrates the complete parity of Gentiles and Jews, both in respect of the condemnation under which they lie and of the faith which is the one condition of salvation for all, he nowhere thinks of bringing Jews and Gentiles into union with one another, but of glorifying the greatness of salvation and the mercy of God its author.
III. Weizsäcker (see at p. 42) also holds the anti-Jewish tendency of our Epistle. But as he recognizes the Gentile-Christian composition of the church, and cannot consequently admit the predominance of the legal spirit in such a community, he supposes that the time had come when the Judaizing attack which had assailed all the churches of Paul was beginning to trouble it also. “The church was not Judaizing, but it was worked by Judaizers.” This situation, supposed by Weizsäcker, is perfectly similar to that described in Philippians 1:0. Paul's aim, accordingly, was this: he does not wish to attack, as Baur thought, but to defend; he wishes to preserve, not to acquire. Thus the fundamental part on the righteousness of faith and the sanctification flowing from it (1-8) finds an easy explanation. Thus, too, we have no difficulty in understanding the famous passage, 9-11, which is intended, not, as most modern critics since Baur suppose, to justify the missionary practice of Paul, but to solve this problem raised by the progress of events: How does it happen, if this gospel of Paul is the truth, that the Jews, the elect people, everywhere reject it?
One has a feeling of satisfaction and relief after reading this excellent work, so judicious and impartial; one feels as if he had reached shelter from the sweeping current, the spirit of prejudice which has swayed criticism for forty years. And yet it is impossible for us to accept this solution. How, if our Epistle was occasioned by a violent Judaizing aggression, is there no trace of the fact throughout the whole of the letter, and especially in the introductory passage, Rom 1:8-15 ? St. Paul there congratulates the Romans on their faith, and yet makes not the slightest allusion to the dangers which it runs at that very moment, and which form the occasion of his writing! How could the moral part, from chap. 12 onward, present no trace whatever of this polemical tendency? Weizsäcker confesses the fact, but explains it by saying that Jewish legalism had only just been imported into the church, and had not yet affected its moral life. This answer is not sufficient; for it is precisely by forms and observances that ritualism strives to act. In the Epistle to the Galatians, written in a similar situation to that which Weizsäcker supposes, the anti-Judaistic polemic is quite as emphatically brought out in the moral part as in the doctrinal exposition; comp. Gal 5:6 et seq.; then Galatians 5:14, and especially the interjected remarks, Galatians 5:18: “If ye are led by the Spirit, ye are not under the law;” Galatians 5:23: “The law is not against such things” (the fruits of the Spirit); comp. also Galatians 6:12-16. We shall have to examine elsewhere in the course of exposition the passage, Romans 16:17-20, where Paul puts the church on its guard against the arrival of Judaizers as a probable fact, but one yet to come. Finally, notwithstanding all the ability of this critic, we think that he has not entirely succeeded in explaining the complete difference between the Epistle to the Romans, so calm and coldly didactic, and that to the Galatians, so abrupt and vehement in its tone.
IV. There is a view which to some extent gives weight to these objections, while still maintaining the anti-Judaistic character of the Epistle. We mean the solution which was already propounded at the time of the Reformation by Erasmus, and reproduced in our day by Philippi, Tholuck (last edition), and in a measure by Beyschlag. Paul, who found himself pursued by Judaizing emmissaries at Antioch, in Galatia, and at Corinth, naturally foresees their speedy arrival at Rome; and as, when a city is threatened by an enemy, its walls are fortified and it is prepared for a siege; so the apostle, by the powerful and decisive teaching contained in our Epistle, fortifies the Roman church, and puts it in a condition to resist the threatening attack victoriously. Nothing more natural than this situation and the preventive intention of our Epistle connected with it; the explanation harmonizes well with the term strengthening, which the apostle frequently uses to express the effect which he would like to produce by his work within the church (Romans 1:11, Rom 16:25 ). The only question is, whether so considerable a treatise could have been composed solely with a view to a future and contingent want. Then there is not in the whole letter more than a single allusion to the possible arrival of the Judaizers ( Rom 16:17-20 ). How could this word thrown in by the way at the close, after the salutations, reveal the intention which dictated the letter, unless we are to ascribe to the apostle the course which ladies are said to follow, of putting the real thought of their letter into the postscript?
V. An original solution, which also belongs to this group of interpretations, has been offered by Ewald. According to him, Christianity had remained hitherto enveloped in the Jewish religion; but Paul began to dread the consequences of this solidarity. For he foresaw the conflict to the death which was about to take place between the Roman empire and the Jewish people, now becoming more and more fanaticized. The Epistle to the Romans is written with the view of breaking the too close and compromising bond which still united the synagogue and the church, and which threatened to drag the latter into foolish enterprises. The practical aim of the writing would thus appear in chap. 13 in the exhortation addressed to Christians to obey the higher powers ordained of God in the political domain; and the entire Epistle would be intended to demonstrate the profound incompatibility between the Jewish and the Christian spirit, and so to establish this application. One cannot help admiring in this theory the originality of Ewald's genius, but we cannot make up our mind to attach such decisive importance to the warning of chap. 14; for this passage is only a subdivision of the moral instruction, which is itself only the second part of the didactic exposition. So subordinate a passage cannot express the aim of the Epistle.
We are at the end of the solutions derived from the danger which the Roman church is alleged to have been then incurring from the legal principle, whether as a present enemy or a threatening danger. And we are thus brought to the third class of explanations, composed of all those which despair of finding a local and temporary aim for Paul's Epistle.
Third Group: Didactic Aim.
According to the critics who belong to this group, the Epistle to the Romans is a systematic exposition of Christian truth, and has no other aim than to enlighten and strengthen the faith of the Christians of Rome in the interest of their salvation.
Thus the author of the ancient Muratori Fragment says simply: “The apostle expounds to the Romans the plan of the Scriptures by inculcating the fact that Christ is their first principle.”
The ancient Greek expositors, Origen, Chrysostom, Theodoret, with those of the Middle Ages, such as John of Damascus, Oecumenius, Theophylact, seek no more mysterious aim than this: to guide men to Christ. But why especially address such instruction to the church of Rome? Theophylact answers: “What does good to the head, thereby does the same to the whole body.” This answer betrays a time when Rome had come to occupy the central place in the church.
Our Reformers and their successors have almost the same idea of our Epistle: “The whole of this Epistle,” says Calvin, “is composed methodically.” Paul, says Melanchthon, has drawn up in the Epistle to the Romans “the summary of Christian doctrine, though he has not philosophized in this writing either on the mysteries of the Trinity, or on the mode of the incarnation, or on creation active and passive. Is it not in reality on the law, on sin, and on grace, that the knowledge of Christ depends?”
Grotius thus expresses himself: “Though addressed strictly speaking to the Romans, this letter contained all the supports ( munimenta) of the Christian religion, so that it well deserved that copies of it should be sent to other churches.” So he thinks he can explain the use of the Greek instead of the Latin language. He thus anticipates a recent hypothesis, of which we shall speak by and by. Tholuck in his first editions, and Olshausen in his excellent commentary, also think that Paul's aim was wholly general. He wished to show how the gospel, and the gospel only, fully answers to the need of salvation attaching to every human soul, a want which neither paganism nor Judaism can satisfy. Glöckler, Köllner, Reiche, and de Wette likewise adhere to this view; the latter at the same time establishing a connection between the evangelical universalism expounded in our Epistle, and the position of Rome as the centre of the empire of the world. Meyer also, while fully sharing this view, feels the need of showing how the teaching was rooted in actual circumstances. He thinks that Paul has here expounded the gospel as it appeared to him at the close of the great struggle with Judaism from which he had just emerged, and as he would have preached it at Rome had he been able to go thither personally.
M. Reuss in his last work ( Les épîtres pauliniennes) escapes from Baur's view, which had previously exercised a very marked influence over him. The absence of all polemic in our Epistle indicates, he thinks, that the apostle addresses this exposition of the essence of the gospel to an ideal public. In reality, are not the wants of all the churches substantially the same? Only he ascribes to the apostle the special desire of making the church of Rome “the focus of light for the West.”
M. Renan explains our Epistle by the importance of the church of Rome and the apostle's desire to give it a token of his sympathy. “He took advantage of an interval of rest to write in an epistolary form a sort of résumé of his theological teaching, and he addressed it to this church, composed of Ebionites and Jewish Christians, but embracing also proselytes and Gentile converts.” This is not all. The careful analysis of chap. 15 and 16 leads M. Renan to conclude that the letter was simultaneously addressed to three other churches, that of Ephesus, that of Thessalonica, and a fourth church unknown. This writer draws a picture of Paul's disciples all occupied in making copies of this manifesto intended for the different churches ( Saint Paul, p. 481).
The force of all these explanations lies in the general and systematic tenor of the Epistle to the Romans. It is this characteristic which distinguishes it from all the others, except that to the Ephesians. But the weakness of these solutions appears 1. In the difference which they establish between this letter and Paul's other writings. “Such an Epistle,” says Baur, “would be a fact without analogy in the apostle's career. It would not correspond to the true Pauline epistolary type.” 2. In the fact that all these explanations utterly fail satisfactorily to answer the question: Why this systematic teaching addressed to Rome and not elsewhere? 3. In the serious omissions from the system. Melanchthon was struck with this. We instance two of them especially: the omission of the doctrines relating to the person of Christ and to the end of all things, Christology and Eschatology.
But these objections do not appear to us to be insoluble. What, indeed, if these two characteristics which seem to be mutually contradictory, the local destination and the generality of the contents, were exactly the explanation of one another? In the so varied course of apostolic history might there not be found a particular church which needed general teaching? And was not this precisely the case with the church of Rome?
We know that Paul did not omit, when he founded a church, to give those who were attracted by the name of Christ profound and detailed instruction regarding the gospel. Thiersch has thoroughly demonstrated this fact. Paul refers to it in the question so frequently repeated in his Epistles: Know ye not that...? which often applies to points of detail on which a pastor does not even touch in our day in the instruction which he gives to his catechumens. The Book of Acts relates that at Ephesus Paul gave a course of Christian instruction in the school of the rhetorician Tyrannus every day for two whole years. What could be the subject of those daily and prolonged conferences, and that in a city like Ephesus? Most certainly Paul did not speak at random; he followed some order or other. Starting from the moral nature of man, his natural powers of knowledge and his indestructible wants, he showed the fall of man, the turpitude of the Gentile world, and the inadequacy of Judaism to supply an efficacious remedy for human misery. Thus he came to the means of salvation offered by God Himself. From this point he cast a look backwards at the ancient revelation and its several aspects, the patriarchal promise and the Mosaic law. He showed the essential unity and the radical difference between the law and the gospel. In this retrospective glance he embraced the entire history of humanity, showing the relation between its fall in one man and its restoration in one. Finally, on this basis he raised the edifice of the new creation. He revealed the mystery of the church, the body of the glorified Christ, the sanctification of the individual and of the family, the relation between Christianity and the State; and unfolding the aspects of the divine plan in the conversion of the nations, he led up to the restitution of all things, physical nature itself included, and to the glory to come.
He did what he does in his Epistles, and particularly in the most systematic of all, the Epistle to the Romans. Baur has alleged that the apostles had no time, in the midst of their missionary labors, to systematize the gospel, and to compose a Christian dogmatic. But could Baur suppose that a mind of such strength as Paul's was could have lectured for two years before an audience like the cultivated class of the Ephesian population, without having at least traced an outline of Christian doctrine?
Now, this apostolic instruction which Paul gave with so much care in the churches which he founded, and which was the real basis of those spiritual edifices, he had not given at Rome. Thessalonica, Corinth, and Ephesus had enjoyed it; the church of the Capital of the world had been deprived of it. Here the message had preceded the messenger. A community of believers had been formed in this city without his assistance. No doubt he reckoned on being there himself soon; but once more he might be prevented; he knew how many dangers attended his approaching journey to Jerusalem. And besides, should he arrive at Rome safe and sound, he had too much tact to think of putting the members of such a church as it were on the catechumen's bench. In these circumstances, how natural the idea of filling up by means of writing the blank which Providence had permitted, and of giving, in an epistolary treatise addressed to the church, the Christian instruction which it had missed, and which was indispensable to the solidity of its faith! The apostle of the Gentiles was not able to establish the church in the metropolis of the Gentile world..., the work was taken out of his hands; what shall he do? He will found it anew. Under the already constructed edifice he will insinuate a powerful substruction to wit, his apostolic doctrine systematically arranged, as he expounds it everywhere else viva voce.
If such is the origin of the Epistle to the Romans, we have in it nothing less than the course of religious instruction, and in a way the dogmatic and moral catechism of St. Paul. In this explanation there is no occasion for the question why this instruction was addressed to Rome rather than to any other church. Rome was the only great church of the Gentile world to which Paul felt himself burdened with such a debt. This is the prevailing thought in the preface of his Epistle, and by which he clears the way for the treatment of his subject ( Rom 1:13-16 ). After reminding the Romans that they too, as Gentiles, belong to the domain confided to his apostleship, Romans 1:1-6, he accounts, from Romans 1:8, for the involuntary delays which have retarded his arrival at Rome; and so comes at length to speak of the evangelical doctrine which he desired to impart viva voce, and which he now addresses to them in writing. Nothing could explain more naturally the transition from Rom 1:15 to Romans 1:16. The systematic form of the treatise which begins here, the expressly formulated theme which serves as its basis ( Rom 1:16-17 ), the methodical development of the theme, first in a dogmatic part, Romans 1-11, then in a moral part, Rom 12:1 to Romans 15:13 (which is not less systematically arranged than the former), all these features demonstrate that the author here intends to give a didactic exposition.
No doubt there are blanks, as we have already acknowledged, in this summary of Christian truth, and we cannot in this respect compare it with our modern dogmatic systems. But the limits which Paul traced for himself are not difficult to understand. They were indicated by those of the personal revelation which he had received. The phrase: my gospel, which he uses twice in this Epistle (and only once again in his other letters), sufficiently indicates the domain within which he intended to confine himself. Within the general Christian revelation with which all the apostles were charged, Paul had received a special part, his lot, if one may so speak. This is what he calls, Ephesians 3:2, “the measure of the grace which had been committed to him.” This part was neither the doctrine of the person of Christ, which belonged more particularly to the apostles who had lived with Him, nor the delineation of the last things, which was the common property of the apostolate. His special lot was the way of gaining possession of the Christian salvation. Now Paul wished to give to the church only that which he had himself received “through the teaching of Christ, without the intervention of any man” ( Gal 1:11-12 ). And this is what has naturally determined the contents of the Epistle to the Romans. The limit of his divinely received gospel was that of this Epistle. This certainly did not prevent its contents from touching at all points the general teaching of the apostles, which included Paul's, as a wider circumference encloses a narrower. One sees this in the christological and eschatological elements contained in the Epistle to the Romans, and which harmonize with the general apostolic teaching. But it is not from this source that the substance of our Epistle is derived. The apostle wishes to give to the Romans his gospel, and, if I may so speak, his Paul.
From this point of view we can also account for the elements of anti-Jewish polemic which have misled so many excellent critics, Mangold and Weizsäcker for example, as to the aim of his letter. Paul wished to expound the mode of individual salvation; but could he do so without taking account of the ancient revelation which seemed to teach a different way from that which he was himself expounding? Could he at this moment of transition, when the one of two covenants was taking the place of the other, say: by faith, without adding: and not by the law? The anti-legal tendency belonged inherently to his teaching, as much as the anti-papal tendency belonged to Luther's. Would a Reformer have been able, even without intending to write polemically, to compose a system of dogmatics without setting aside the merit of works? The aim of Paul's treatise was didactic and world-wide; the introduction proves this (the description of the corruption of the Gentile world); the middle confirms it (the parallel between Adam and Jesus Christ); the close completes the demonstration (the systematic exposition of morals, without any allusion to the law). But beside this way of salvation, which he was anxious to expound, he saw another which attempted to rival it, and which professed also to be divinely revealed. He could not establish the former without setting aside the latter. The anti-Judaizing pieces do not therefore oblige us to ascribe this tendency to the whole letter. They have their necessary place in the development of the subject of the Epistle.
It need hardly be said that our explanation does not exclude what truth there is in the other proposed solutions. That Paul desired by this system of instruction to secure a favorable reception at Rome; that he hoped to strengthen this church against the invasion of Judaizers, present or to come; that he had it before him to gather into his letter the whole array of biblical and logical arguments which a hot conflict and incessant meditation had led him to collect during the years which were just closing; that this treatise was like a trophy raised on the field of battle, where he had gained such signal triumphs, since the opening of hostilities at Antioch to his complete victory at Corinth; and that, finally, no part of the world appeared to him more suitable for receiving this monument erected by him than the church of the Capital of the world, of all this I make no doubt. But it seems to me that those various and particular aims find their full truth only when they are grouped round this principal one: to found afterhand, and, if one may so speak, morally to refound the church of Rome.
To set free the kingdom of God from the Jewish wrapping which had served as its cradle, such was the work of St. Paul. This task he carried out by his life in the domain of action, and by the Epistle to the Romans in the domain of thought. This letter is, as it were, the theory of his missionary preaching, and of his spiritual life, which is one with his work.
Does the course of the Epistle really correspond to the aim which we have now indicated? Has it the systematic character which we should be led to expect from a strictly didactic purpose?
CHAPTER IV. ARRANGEMENT AND PLAN OF THE EPISTLE.
LIKE St. Paul's other letters, the Epistle to the Romans begins with a preface ( Rom 1:1-15 ), which includes the address and a thanksgiving, and which is intended to form the relation between the author and his readers. But in this letter the address is more elaborate than usual. This difference arises from the fact that the apostle did not yet know personally the church to which he was writing. Hence it is that he has strongly emphasized his mission to be the Apostle of the Gentiles; for on this rests the official bond which justifies the step he is taking ( Rom 1:1-7 ). The thanksgiving which follows, and which is founded on the work already accomplished among them, leads him quite naturally to apologize for not yet having taken part in it himself, and to express the constant desire which he feels of being able soon to exercise his apostleship among them, as well for the confirmation of their faith and his own encouragement, as for the increase of their church ( Rom 1:8-15 ).
After this preface of an epistolary character, there begins, as in the other letters, the treatment of the subject, the body of the writing. But here again the Epistle to the Romans differs from all the rest, in having the central part detached from the two epistolary pieces, the introduction and the conclusion, much more sharply. The Epistle to the Romans is thus, properly speaking, neither a treatise nor a letter; it is a treatise contained in a letter.
The treatise begins with Romans 1:16, the first words of which form the skilfully-managed transition from the introduction to the treatment. The latter extends to Romans 15:13, where the return to the epistolary form indicates the beginning of the conclusion.
Romans 1:16-17 .
Before entering on the development of his subject, the apostle expounds it in a few lines, which are, as it were, the theme of the entire treatise. This summary is contained in Romans 1:16-17. The apostle proposes to show that the salvation of every man, whoever he may be, rests on the righteousness which faith procures; he supports this proposition immediately by a scripture declaration.
With Rom 1:18 the development of the subject begins; it is distributed under two heads, the one relating to principles, this is the doctrinal treatise; the other containing the application, this forms the moral treatise. The first proceeds from Rom 1:18 to the end of chap. 1; the second from Rom 12:1 to Romans 15:13.
The doctrinal treatise is the positive and negative demonstration of the righteousness of faith. It comprehends three parts: the one fundamental, from Rom 1:18 to the end of chap. 5; the other two supplementary (chap. 6-8 and 9-11).
Rom 1:18 to Romans 5:21 .
In this first part Paul gives the positive demonstration of justification by faith. He develops the three following thoughts:
1. Rom 1:18 to Romans 3:20. The need which the world has of such a righteousness. For the whole of it is under the wrath of God; this fact is obvious as to the Gentiles (chap. 1); it is not less certain in regard to the Jews (ii.), and that in spite of their theocratic advantages ( Rom 3:1-8 ). The Holy Scriptures come, over and above, to shut the mouth of all mankind ( Rom 3:9-20 ). Summary: Wrath is on all, even on the Jews.
2. Rom 3:21 to Romans 5:11. The free and universal gift of the righteousness of faith given by God to men. This gift has been made possible by the expiatory work of Jesus Christ ( Rom 3:21-26 ). It is offered to Gentiles as well as Jews, in accordance with the principle of Jewish monotheism ( Rom 3:27-31 ). This mode of justification is, besides, in keeping with the decisive example, that of Abraham (iv.). Finally, the believer is assured that, whatever may be the tribulations of the present, this righteousness of faith will never fail him. It has even been provided by the faithful mediation of Jesus Christ, that it shall suffice in the day of final wrath ( Rom 3:1-11 ). Summary: the righteousness of faith is for all, even for the Gentiles.
3. Romans 5:12-21; Romans 5:12-21. This universal condemnation and this universal justification (which have formed the subject of the two preceding sections) are both traced up to their historical points of departure, Adam and Christ. These two central personalities extend their opposite influences, the one of condemnation and death, the other of justification and life, over all mankind, but in such a way that the saving action of the one infinitely exceeds the destructive action of the other.
The righteousness of faith without the works of the law is thus established. But a formidable objection arises: Will it be able to found a rule of holiness comparable to that which followed from the law, and without having recourse to the latter? After having excluded the law as a means of justification, are we not obliged to return to it when the end in view is to lay a foundation for the moral life of believers?
The answer to this question is the subject of the first of the two supplementary parts (vi.-viii.).
This part, like the preceding, contains the development of three principal ideas:
1. Rom 6:1 to Romans 7:6. The relation to Christ on which justification by faith rests, contains in it a principle of holiness. It carries the believer into communion with that death to sin and life to God which were so perfectly realized by Jesus Christ ( Rom 6:1-14 ). This new principle of sanctification asserts its sway over the soul with such force, that the flesh is disposed to regard this subjection to holiness as slavery ( Rom 6:15-23 ). And the believer finds in this union with Christ, and in virtue of the law itself, the right of breaking with the law, that he may depend only on his new spouse ( Rom 7:1-6 )
2. Romans 7:7-25; Romans 7:7-25. This breaking with the law should occasion us neither fear nor regret. For the law was as powerless to sanctify man as it showed itself (see the first part) powerless to justify him. By discovering to us our inward sin, the law exasperates it, and slays us spiritually ( Rom 7:7-13 ). Once it has plunged us into this state of separation from God, it is powerless to deliver us from it. The efforts which we make to shake off the yoke of sin serve only to make us feel more its insupportable weight ( Rom 7:14-25 ).
3. Chap. 8. But the Spirit of Christ is the liberating power. It is He who realizes in us the holiness demanded by the law, and who, by rescuing our bodies from the power of the flesh, consecrates them by holiness for resurrection ( Rom 7:1-11 ). It is He who, by making us sons of God, makes us at the same time heirs of the glory which is to be revealed ( Rom 7:12-17 ). For the sufferings of the present do not last always. The universal renovation, which is prayed for by the threefold sigh of creation, the children of God, and the Holy Spirit Himself, draws near; and, notwithstanding the tribulations of the present hour, this state of glory remains as the assured goal of God's eternal plans in favor of His elect ( Rom 7:18-25 ).
As at the end of the preceding part the apostle, in his parallel between Adam and Christ, had cast a comprehensive glance over the domain which he had traversed; so, from the culminating point which he has just reached, he embraces once more in one view that entire salvation through the righteousness of faith which is rendered for ever indestructible by the sanctification of the Spirit; and he strikes the triumphant note of the assurance of salvation (vv. 31-39).
But now that this first objection has been solved, there rises another more formidable still: If salvation rests on the righteousness of faith, what becomes of the promises made to the people of Israel, who have rejected this righteousness? What becomes of the divine election of which this people was the object? Is not the faithfulness of God destroyed? The second supplementary part (ix.-xi.) is intended to throw light on this obscure problem.
St. Paul resolves this objection by three considerations, the details of which we cannot reproduce here even approximately.
1. The freedom of God cannot be restricted by any limit external to itself, nor in particular by any acquired right or privilege (chap. 9).
2. The use which God has made of His liberty in this case has a perfectly good reason: Israel obstinately refused to enter into His mind; Israel determined to maintain its own righteousness, and rejected the righteousness of faith, which it should have possessed in common with the Gentiles (chap. 10).
3. The partial and merely temporary rejection of Israel has had the most salutary consequences for the world, and shall one day have the same for Israel itself. For the unbelief of this people has opened wide the gate of salvation to the Gentiles, and their salvation will be the means to that of Israel; so that these two halves of mankind, after having both in their turn made the humiliating experience of disobedience, shall be reunited in the bosom of eternal mercy (chap. 11).
Thus God was free to reject His people; in doing so He used His freedom justly; and this exercise of it, limited in all respects as it is, will be salutary, and will show forth the wisdom of God. All the aspects of the question are exhausted in this discussion, which may be called the masterpiece of the philosophy of history. In closing it, the apostle, casting his look backwards a third time from this new culminating point, and surveying the labyrinths of ways and judgments by which God realizes His plans of love, breaks out into a cry of adoration over this ocean of light ( Rom 11:32-36 ).
Justification by faith, after having been positively established, has come forth triumphant from the two trials to which it has been subjected. The question was asked: Could it produce holiness? It has shown that it could, and that it was the law which, in this respect, was powerlessness itself. The question was, Could it explain history? It has proved that it could. What remains to be done? One thing only: To show the new principle grappling with the realities of existence, and to depict the life of the believer who by faith has obtained justification. Such is the subject of the second of the two courses of instruction contained in the body of the Epistle, that is to say, of the moral treatise.
Rom 12:1 to Romans 15:13 .
In the piece vi.-viii., St. Paul had laid the foundations of Christian sanctification. He describes it now as it is realized in everyday life.
Two grave errors prevail in the estimate ordinarily formed of this portion of the Epistle. Most people regard it as a simple appendix, foreign to the real subject of the work. But, on the contrary, it rests, not less than the doctrinal exposition, on the theme formulated Romans 1:17. For it completes the development of the word shall live, begun in the part, chap. 6-8. The other error which is fallen into not less frequently, is to see in these chapters only a series of practical exhortations, without any logical concatenation. But Calvin's epithet on our Epistle: Methodica est, applies not less to the practical than to the doctrinal instruction, as we shall immediately see. The moral treatise embraces a general part ( Rom 12:1 to Rom 13:14 ) and a special part ( Rom 14:1 to Rom 15:13 ).
Rom 12:1 to Romans 13:14 .
In this passage four principal ideas are expounded.
1. Romans 12:1-2; Romans 12:1-2. The apostle lays down, as the basis and point of departure for the redeemed life, the living sacrifice which the believer, moved by the mercies of God, makes of his body, in order to do His perfect will, which is revealed more and more to his renewed understanding.
2. Romans 12:3-21; Romans 12:3-21. This gift of himself the believer accomplishes, in the first place, as a member of the church, the body of Christ, by humility and love.
3. Romans 13:1-10; Romans 13:1-10. He carries it out, in the second place, as a member of the state, the social body instituted by God; and he does so in the two forms of submission to the authorities, and justice to all.
4. Romans 13:11-14; Romans 13:11-14. What sustains and animates him in this double task, as a Christian and a citizen, is the point of view which he has unceasingly before him, Christ coming again, and with Him the day of salvation breaking, a day which shall be such only for those who are found clothed with Christ.
This moral teaching thus forms a complete whole. It sets forth clearly, though briefly, the starting-point, the way, and the goal of the life of the redeemed.
To this general teaching the apostle adds a supplementary part, which is a sort of example side by side with precept. It is an application of the great duty of self-sacrifice, in the forms of humility and love, to the existing circumstances of the church of Rome ( Rom 14:1 to Rom 15:13 ).
Rom 14:1 to Romans 15:13 .
A divergence of views was manifested at Rome between the majority, who were heartily spiritual and Pauline, and the minority, who were timorous and Judaizing. Paul points out to each party what its conduct should be according to the law of love, of which Christ has left us the model ( Rom 14:1 to Rom 15:7 ); then, contemplating in spirit the sublime unity of the church realized in this way of love, he once more sounds the note of adoration ( Rom 15:8-13 ).
This local application, while closing the practical treatise, restores the author and his readers to the midst of the church of Rome; it thus forms the transition to the epistolary conclusion, which corresponds to the introduction ( Rom 1:1-15 ). From Romans 1:14, indeed, the style again becomes that of a letter.
Rom 15:14 to Romans 16:25 .
This conclusion treats of five subjects.
1. Romans 15:14-33; Romans 15:14-33. After having anew justified the very considerable didactic work which he had written them by the commission which he has received for the Gentiles, the apostle reminds the Romans that his apostolic work is now finished in the East. He hopes, therefore, soon to arrive at Rome, on his way to Spain. This piece corresponds exactly to the passage, Romans 1:8-15, of the preface.
2. Romans 16:1-16; Romans 16:1-16. He recommends to his readers the bearer of his letter, and charges them with greetings for all the members of the church known to him. To these personal salutations he adds, for the whole church, those with which he has been charged by the numerous churches which he has recently passed through.
3. Romans 16:17-20; Romans 16:17-20. He invites them in passing, and in a sort of postscript, to be on their guard against the Judaizing emissaries, who will be sure to make their appearance as soon as they hear of a work of the Lord at Rome.
4. Romans 16:21-24; Romans 16:21-24. He transmits the greetings of those who surround him, and even lets his secretary Tertius have the word, if one may so speak, to greet them in his own person.
5. Romans 16:25-27; Romans 16:25-27. He closes with a prayer, which corresponds to the desire with which he had opened his letter, when he said, Romans 1:11, how much he longed to be able to labor for their strengthening. He did what he could with this view by sending them such a letter. But he knows well that his work will not produce its fruit except in so far as God himself will do His part in working by it: “Now to Him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel.”...
Plan of the Epistle.
Epistolary Introduction ( Rom 1:1-15 ).
The Body of the Work ( Rom 1:16 to Rom 15:13 ).
Summary: 1:16, 17.
I. The Doctrinal Treatise ( Rom 1:18 to Rom 11:36 ).
Salvation by the righteousness of faith.
Fundamental Part: Rom 1:18 to Romans 5:21.
The righteousness of faith without the works of the law.
First Supplementary Part: 6-8.
Sanctification without the law.
Second Supplementary Part: 9-11.
The rejection of Israel.
II. The Practical Treatise ( Rom 12:1 to Rom 15:13 ).
The life of the justified believer.
General Part: Rom 12:1 to Romans 13:14.
Exposition of Christian holiness.
Special Part: Rom 14:1 to Romans 15:13.
Divergences among Christians.
Epistolary Conclusion ( Rom 15:14 to Rom 16:27 ).
Such is the plan or scheme which the apostle seems to me to have had steadily before him in dictating this letter.
If such is the method of the work, it could not correspond better to the object which, on our supposition, its author had in view.
CHAPTER V. PRESERVATION OF THE TEXT.
CAN we flatter ourselves that we have the text of our Epistle as it proceeded from the apostle's hands?
1. A preliminary question has been raised on this head: Is not our Greek text the translation of a Latin original? This view is given forth so early as by a Syrian scholiast on the margin of a manuscript of the Peshito (Syrian translation), and it has been received by some Catholic theologians. But this is a mere inference, founded on the erroneous idea that in writing to Romans it was necessary to use the Latin language. The literary language at Rome was Greek. This is established by the numerous Greek inscriptions in the catacombs, by the use of the Greek language in the letter of Ignatius to the church of Rome, in the writings of Justin Martyr composed at Rome, and in those of Irenaeus composed in Gaul. The Christians of Rome knew the Old Testament ( Rom 7:1 ); now they could not have acquired this knowledge except through the Greek version of the LXX. Besides, it shows the utter want of philological discernment to call in question the original character of the Greek of our Epistle, and to suppose that such a style is that of a translation.
2. A second question is this: Have there not been introduced into the text of our Epistle passages which are foreign to the work, or even composed by another hand than Paul's? No doubt the exposition which we have just given of the method of the work seems to exclude such a suspicion by showing the intimate connection of all its parts, and the perfectly organic character of the entire letter. Nevertheless, doubts have been raised from the earliest times in regard to some passages of the last parts of the Epistle; and these suspicions have been so aggravated in the most recent times, that from chap. 12, where the moral part begins, all at the present day is matter of dispute.
It is often alleged that Marcion, about 140, in the edition of ten of Paul's Epistles, which he published for the use of his churches, rejected from the Epistle to the Romans the whole conclusion (our chaps. 15 and 16). Origen says of him as follows ( ad 16.24): “Marcion entirely rejected ( penitus abstulit) this piece; and not only that, but he also lacerated ( dissecuit) the whole passage from the words: Whatsoever is done without faith is sin ( Rom 14:23 ), to the end.” But was not F. Nitzsch justified in bringing out the difference between the words lacerate ( dissecuit) and wholly reject ( penitus abstulit)? It is quite possible, therefore, that Marcion only rejected the doxology which closes the Epistle, Romans 16:25-27, and that in xv. and xvi. he had only made some excisions to accommodate them to his system. Such was his course in regard to the biblical books which he used. An expression of Tertullian's has also been advanced ( adv. Marcion, 5.14), which speaks of the passage, Romans 14:10, as belonging to the clausula (the conclusion of the Epistle). But it is not to be supposed that Tertullian himself agreed with his adversary in rejecting the last two chapters, and 14 is so near the end of the Epistle that nothing whatever can be proved from this phrase. What appears certain is (1) that Marcion rejected the final doxology, Romans 16:25-27, for it seemed in contradiction to his system from the way in which it mentions the prophetical writings; (2) that he cut and carved freely on the same principle in chaps. 15 and 16.
Yet the many conclusions which are found at the close of our Epistle no less than five are reckoned (Romans 15:13; Romans 15:33, Romans 16:16; Romans 16:20; Rom 16:24-27 ) the textual displacements in the manuscripts, the greeting so difficult to explain, have awakened the doubts of criticism, and till now have not been satisfactorily settled.
Semler, at the end of the last century, supposed that the Epistle closed at Romans 14:23, which explains, he thinks, why the final doxolgy, Romans 16:25-27, is found here in several manuscripts. The passage containing the salutations, Romans 16:3-16, he holds to have been a special leaf committed to the bearers of the letter, to indicate the persons whom they were to greet in the different churches through which their journey led them. Hence the phrase: “ Salute N. N.”...And what more was contained in those two chapters was addressed to the persons saluted, and was intended to be transmitted to them with a copy of the letter.
Paulus saw in chaps. 15. and 16 a supplement intended solely for the leaders and the most enlightened of the members of the Roman church.
Eichhorn and a great number of theologians in his train have held that the whole of chap. 16, or at least the passage Rom 16:1-20 or 3-20 (Reuss, Ewald, Mangold, Laurent), could not have been addressed to Rome by the apostle. It is impossible to explain these numerous greetings in a letter to a church where he never lived. Thus we have here a fragment which has strayed from an Epistle addressed to some other church, either Corinth (Eichhorn) or Ephesus. But there remained a difficulty: How had this strange leaf been introduced from Asia or Greece into the copies of a letter addressed to the church of Rome?
Baur boldly cut the knot. Founding on the alleged example of Marcion, he declared xv. and xvi. wholly unauthentic. “They present,” he said, “several ideas or phrases incompatible with the apostle's anti-Judaistic standpoint.” One cannot help asking, however, how the Epistle to the Romans could have closed with the passage Romans 14:23. A conclusion corresponding to the preface is absolutely indispensable.
Schenkel ( Bibellexikon, t. v.) thinks he finds this conclusion in the doxology, Romans 16:25-27, which he transposes (with some documents) to the end of xiv., and the authenticity of which he defends. Chap. 15 is, according to him, a letter of recommendation given to Phoebe for the churches through which she was to pass on her way from Corinth to Ephesus, and from Ephesus to Rome.
Scholten holds as authentic only the recommendation of Phoebe ( Rom 16:1-2 ) and the greetings of Paul's companions, with the prayer of the apostle himself ( Rom 16:21-24 ).
Lucht adheres to Baur's view, while modifying it a little. The Epistle could not close with Romans 14:23. Our chaps. 15 and 16 must therefore contain something authentic. The true conclusion was so severe on the ascetic minority combated in xiv., that the presbyters judged it prudent to suppress it; but it remained in the archives, where it was found by a later editor, who amalgamated it by mistake with a short letter to the Ephesians, thus forming the two last chapters.
Of this theory of Lucht, Hilgenfeld accepts only the unauthentic character of the doxology, Romans 16:25-27. For his part, with the exception of this passage, he admits the entire authenticity of xv. and xvi.
M. Renan has given forth an ingenious hypothesis, which revives an idea of Grotius (p. 55). Starting from the numerous conclusions which these two chapters seemingly contain, he supposes that the apostle composed this Epistle from the first with a view to several churches, four at least. The common matter, intended for all, fills the first eleven chapters. Then come the different conclusions, intended for each of the four churches. For the first, the church of Rome, chap. 15; for the second, that of Ephesus, xii.-xiv., and the passage, Romans 16:1-20; for the third, that of Thessalonica, xii.-xiv., and the greeting, Romans 16:21-24; and for the fourth, unknown, xii.-xiv., with the doxology, Romans 16:25-27. Thus, indeed, all is Paul's; and the incoherence of the two last chapters arises only from the amalgamation of the various conclusions.
Volkmar presents a hypothesis which differs little from that of Scholten. The Epistle properly so called (composed of a didactic and hortatory part) closed at Romans 14:23. Here came the conclusion which must be discovered among the unauthentic conglomerates of xv. and xvi. And Volkmar's sagacity is at no loss. The three verses, Romans 15:33, Romans 16:2, and the four verses, Romans 16:21-24, were the real conclusion of the Epistle. All the rest was added, about 120, when the exhortation of xiv. was carried forward by that of Romans 15:1-32, and when the passage Rom 16:3-16 was added. Later still, between between 150 and 160, there was added the warning against heresy, Romans 16:17-20.
Finally, Schultz has just proposed a very complicated hypothesis. He ably maintains that all the particular passages are composed by the apostle, starting in his argument from Romans 16:17-20, passing therefrom to Romans 16:3-16, to Romans 16:21-24, to Romans 16:1-2, and, finally, to Romans 15:14-33. But it is to demonstrate immediately afterward that Rom 16:17-20 can only have been addressed to a church instructed and founded by Paul, which was not the case with that of Rome. Hence he passes to the numerous salutations of chap. 16, which can only have been addressed to a church known by the apostle, probably Ephesus. Thus there existed a letter of Paul to the Ephesians which closed with these many greetings ( Rom 16:3-20 ). But they could not be more than the conclusion of a fuller letter. Where was this letter? In chapters 12, 13, 14, Romans 15:1-6, and in the conculsion, Romans 16:3-20, of our Epistle. This letter was written from Rome by the apostle during his captivity. A copy, left in the archives of the church, was joined, after the persecution of Nero, with our Epistle to the Romans. Hence the form of our present text. The probability attaching to this hypothesis at the first glance is so slight that we can hardly suppose its author to have propounded it with much assurance.
Let us sum up our account. Opinions on chaps. 15 and 16 fall into four classes:
1. All is Paul's, and all in its right place (Tholuck, Meyer, Hofmann, etc.).
2. All is Paul's, but with a mixture of elements belonging to other letters (Semler, Eichhorn, Reuss, Renan, Schultz).
3. Some passages are Paul's, the rest is interpolated (Schenkel, Scholten, Lucht, Volkmar). 4. All is unauthentic (Baur).
We shall have to examine all those opinions, and weigh the facts which have given rise to them (see on xv. and xvi.). Meanwhile, we may be allowed to refer to the account we have given of the general course of the Epistle, and to ask if the entire work does not produce the effect of a living and healthful organism, in which all the parts hold to and dovetail into one another, and from which no member can possibly be detached without arbitrary violence.
3. The reader of a commentary is entitled to know the origin of the text which is about to be explained to him.
The text from which our oldest editions and our versions in modern tongues have been made (since the Reformation) is that which has been preserved, with very little divergency, in the 250 copies of Paul's Epistles in cursive or minuscular writing, later consequently than the tenth century, which are found scattered among the different libraries of Europe. It was from one of these manuscripts, found at Basle, that Erasmus published the first edition of the Greek text; and it is his edition which has formed for centuries the groundwork of subsequent editions. It is obvious that the origin of what has so long borne the name of the Received text is purely accidental.
The real state of things is this. Three classes of documents furnish us with the text of our Epistle: the ancient manuscripts, the ancient versions, and the quotations which we find in the works of ecclesiastical writers.
These are of two kinds: those written in majuscular letters, and which are anterior to the tenth century; and those which have the cursive and minuscular writing, used since that date.
The majuscules in which Paul's Epistles have been preserved are eleven in number:
Two of the fourth century: the Sinaïticus ( א ) and the Vaticanus (B);
Two of the fifth century: the Alexandrinus (A) and the Cod. of Ephrem (C);
One of the sixth century: the Claromontanus (D);
Three of the ninth century: the Sangermanensis (E), a simple copy of the preceding; the Augiensis (F); the Boernerianus (G);
Three of the ninth to the tenth century: the Mosquensis (K), the Angelicus (L), and the Porfirianus (P).
We do not mention a number of fragments in majuscular writing. We have already spoken of the documents in minuscular characters. As soon as men began to study these documents a little more attentively, they found three pretty well marked sets of texts, which appear also, though less prominently, in the Gospels: 1. The Alexandrine set, represented by the four oldest majuscules ( א A B C), and so called because this text was probably the form used in the churches of Egypt and Alexandria; 2. The Greco-Latin set, represented by the four manuscripts which follow in order of date (D E F G), so designated because it was the text circulating in the churches of the West, and because in the manuscripts which have preserved it it is accompanied with a Latin translation; and, 3. The Byzantine set, to which belong the three most recent majuscules (K L P), and almost the whole of the minuscules; so named because it was the text which had fixed and, so to speak, stereotyped itself in the churches of the Greek empire.
In case of variation these three sets are either found, each having its own separate reading, or combining two against one; sometimes even the ordinary representatives of one differ from one another and unite with those, or some of those, of another set. And it is not easy to decide to which of those forms of the text the preference should be given.
Moreover, as the oldest majuscules go back no farther than the fourth century, there remains an interval of 300 years between them and the apostolic autograph. And the question arises whether, during this long interval, the text did not undergo alterations more or less important. Fortunately, in the two other classes of documents we have the means of filling up this considerable blank.
2. The Versions.
There are two translations of the New Testament which go back to the end of the second century, and by which we ascertain the state of the text at a period much nearer to that when the autographs were still extant. These are the ancient Latin version known as the Itala, of which the Vulgate or version received in the Catholic Church is a revision, and the Syriac version, called Peshitto. Not only do these two ancient documents agree as to the substance of the text, but their general agreement with the text of our Greek manuscripts proves on the whole the purity of the latter. Of these two versions, the Itala represents rather the Greco-Latin type, the Peshitto the Byzantine type. A third and somewhat more recent version, the Coptic (Egyptian), exactly reproduces the Alexandrine form.
But we are in a position to go back even further, and to bridge over a good part of the interval which still divides us from the apostolic text. The means at our command are
3. The quotations from the New Testament in the writers of the second century.
In 185, Irenaeus frequently quotes the New Testament in his great work. In particular, he reproduces numerous passages from our Epistle (about eighty-four verses).
About 150, Justin reproduces textually a long passage from the Epistle to the Romans ( Rom 3:11-17 ).
About 140, Marcion published his edition of Paul's Epistles. Tertullian, in his work against this heretic, has reproduced a host of passages from Marcion's text, and especially from that of the Epistle to the Romans. He obviously quoted them as he read them in Marcion's edition. In this continuous series of quotations (L. V. cc.13 and 14), embracing about thirty-eight verses, we have the oldest known evidence to a considerable part of the text of our Epistle. Tertullian himself (190-210) has in his works more than a hundred quotations from this letter.
One writer carries us back, at least for a few verses, to the very age of the apostle. I mean Clement of Rome, who, about the year 96, addresses an Epistle to the Corinthians in which he reproduces textually (c. 35) the entire passage, Romans 1:28-32. The general integrity of our text is thus firmly established.
As to variations, I do not think it possible to give an a priori preference to any of the three texts mentioned above. And in supporting the Alexandrine text as a rule, Tischendorf, I fear, has made one of his great mistakes. When publishing this seventh edition he had to a certain extent recognized the error of his method, which had gradually become prevalent since the time of Griesbach. But the discovery of the Sinaïticus threw him into it again more than ever. This fascination exercised by the old Alexandrine documents arises from several causes: their antiquity, the real superiority of their text in a multitude of cases, and, above all, the reaction against the groundless supremacy of the Byzantine text in the old Textus receptus.
Any one who has had long experience in the exegesis of the New Testament will, I think, own three things: 1. That all preference given a priori to any one of the three texts is a prejudice; 2. That the sole external reason, having some probability in favor of a particular reading, is the agreement of a certain number of documents of opposite types; 3. That the only means of reaching a well-founded decision, is the profound study of the context.
In conclusion, it must be said the variations are as insignificant as they are numerous. I know only one in the Epistle to the Romans a work so eminently dogmatic which could exercise any influence on Christian doctrine, that of Romans 8:11. And the point to which it refers (to wit, whether the body is raised by or on account of the Spirit who dwells in us) is a subject which probably no pastor ever treated, either in his catechetical instruction or in his preaching.
Ancient church: Origen (third century), in Latin translation. Chrysostom (fourth century), thirty-two homilies. Theodoret (fifth century). Ambrosiaster, probably the Roman deacon Hilary (third or fourth century). OEcumenius (tenth century). Theophylact, bishop of Bulgaria (eleventh century). Erasmus (sixteenth century), Annotationes in N. T.
After the Reformation: Calvin and Theodore Beza. Luther (his celebrated Preface). Melanchthon, Annotationes (1522) and Commentarii (1532). Bucer, Enarrationes (1536). Grotius, Annotationes (1645). Calov, Biblia illustrata (1672). Bengel, Gnomon (1742).
Modern times: Tholuck (1824, 5th ed. 1856). Rückert (1831, 2d ed. 1839). Stuart, American theologian (1832). Olshausen (1835). De Wette (1835, 4th ed. 1847). Hodge, of Princeton (1835, published in French 1840). Fritzsche (1836). Meyer (1836, 5th ed. 1872). Oltramare, chaps. i.5.11 (1843). Philippi (1848). Nielsen, Dane (1856). Umbreit (1856). Ewald, die Sendschreiben des apostels Paulus (1857). Theod. Schott (1858). Lange and Fay in the Bibelwerk (1865, 3d ed. 1868). Hofmann (1868). Ph. Schaff, work published in English after Lange's Commentary (1873). Volkmar (1875). Bonnet, le Nouveau Testament, 2d ed. Epîtres de Paul (1875). Reuss, La Bible, Epîtres pauliniennes (1878). [Shedd, 1879.]
Here we mention in addition three remarkable monographs, two of them on the passage, Romans 5:12-21. Rothe, Neuer Versuch einer Ausl. der paul. Stelle, 5.11-21 (1836), and Dietzsch, Adam und Christus (1871). The third is the work of Morison, of Glasgow, Critical Exposition of the Third Chapter of Paul's Epistle to the Romans (1866).
The ancient Commentaries are well known; to attempt to characterize them would be superfluous. I shall say a word on the most important of the moderns. Tholuck was the first, after the blighting epoch of rationalism, who reopened to the church the living fountains of evangelical truth which spring up in our Epistle. Olshausen, continuing his friend's work, expounded still more copiously the treasures of salvation by faith, which had been brought to light again by Tholuck. De Wette has traced the links of the apostle's reasoning with admirable sagacity. Meyer has brought to the study of our Epistle all the resources of that learned and vigorous philology, the application of which Fritzsche had demanded in the study of our sacred books; to these he has added a sound exegetical sense and an understanding of Christian truth which makes his work the indispensable Commentary. Oltramare has a great wealth of exegetical materials; but he has not elaborated them sufficiently before composing his book. Ewald, a paraphrase in which the original spirit of the author lives again. Theod. Schott; his whole work turns on a preconceived and unfortunately false point of view. Lange; every one knows his characteristics, at once brilliant and arbitrary. Hofmann brings a mind of the most penetrating order to the analysis of the apostle's thought, he does not overlook the slightest detail of the text; his stores of philological knowledge are not inferior to those of Meyer. But he too often lacks accuracy; he dwells complacently on exegetical discoveries in which it is hard to think that he himself believes, and to appreciate the intrinsic clearness of the style requires a fourth or fifth reading. Schaff happily remedies Lange's defects, and completes him in an original way. Volkmar's treatise is an analysis rather than an interpretation. The best part of it consists of criticism of the text, and of a beautiful reprint of the Vatican text. Bonnet, on the basis of very thoroughgoing exegetical studies, has, with considerable self-denial, composed a simple Commentary for the use of laymen. Reuss explains the essential idea of each passage, but his plan does not admit of a detailed exegesis. Morison's monograph, as it seems to me, is a unique specimen of learning and sound exegetical judgment.
Title of the Epistle.
The authentic title is certainly that which has been preserved in its simplest form in the seven oldest Mjj., the four Alex., and the three Greco-Latin: Πρὸς ῾Ρωμαίους , to the Romans. In later documents there is a gradual increase of epithets, till we have the title of L: Τοῦ ἁγίου καὶ πανευφήμου ἀποστόλου Παύλου ἐπιστολὴ πρὸς ῾Ρωμαίους ( Epistle of the holy and everywhere blessed Apostle Paul to the Romans).
I ANNOUNCED a chapter of conclusions, in which the results of the exegesis should be summed up. These conclusions will bear on three points
1. The critical questions stated and left open in the Introduction.
2. The importance of the writing.
3. Its true character.
I. Critical Results.
The integrity of the commonly transmitted text has been verified as a whole. We have found, in particular, how little weight there is in the numerous and contradictory suppositions by which modern criticism seeks to dismember the last part of the Epistle from chap. 12. But we have pointed out in detail a considerable number of variants; about 270 in all, and among them a certain number on which it has been impossible for us to pronounce with certainty. We have remarked with tolerable distinctness three principal varieties of text: that which bears the name of Alexandrine; that which represents the form received in the countries of the West; and the third, which reproduces the text adopted in the Byzantine Church. The comparison of these three forms of the text has not made it possible for us to give in a general way the preference to any one over the two others. In every particular case in which they diverge we have been obliged to try them by the context, without being unduly influenced either by antiquity or number; and that all the more because we have frequently found the representatives of each of the three groups at variance with one another, and allying themselves capriciously with some members of the two other families to support one and the same variant. In the few cases in which the three texts are well distinguished, and the witnesses of each precisely grouped, if our exegetical appreciation has not deceived us, the preference must be given to the Alexandrine text. In fourteen cases in which some documents of the three texts are at one, the true reading has, in every case, been preserved by their means. The Alexandrines are found in twenty-one cases in harmony with the Greco-Latin against the Byzantine, which in these cases has been judged thrice only superior to the two others. The Greco-Latins and the Byzantines are agreed eighteen times in opposition to the Alexandrine, which has proved in six cases superior to its two rivals. The Alexandrines and Byzantines harmonize thirty-five times against the Greco-Latin, which in four cases appears to us to have preserved the better reading.
In many cases experience has proved that a weakly supported and apparently more recent reading may be that which exegetical tact forces us to prefer.
In no case has a variant appeared to us of a nature to modify the apostolic conception of the gospel.
Relatively to the founding, composition, and religious tendency of the church of Rome, we have found in the way of exegesis the confirmation of the results to which we were led in the Introduction by the historical data.
Though we knew absolutely nothing of the history of the church of Rome during the first two centuries, we should be forced by our Epistle itself, impartially consulted, to recognize in its founding the work of Paul's disciples and friends, in the majority of its members Gentiles by birth, and in its religious conception the type of the apostle to the Gentiles. For the first point we refer especially to Rom 16:3 et seq.
For the second, to Romans 1:5-6; Romans 1:13-15, Romans 7:1, Romans 11:1; Romans 11:13-14; Romans 11:28; Romans 11:30-31, Romans 15:12-13; Romans 15:15-16, Romans 16:26.
For the third, to Romans 1:8; Romans 1:11-12, Romans 6:17, Romans 14:1, Romans 15:1; Romans 15:14-15, Romans 16:25.
The manner in which Paul expresses himself in these passages forces us to choose between two alternatives: to accept the results which we have just expressed, or to ascribe tactics to the apostle according to which he would deliberately represent the state of things in such a way as to make it appear different from what it really was. Who would not judge such procedure unworthy of the character of such a man?
A third critical result is consequently this: The aim of our Epistle cannot have been to transform the convictions and tendency of the majority of the church of Rome, but solely, as St. Paul himself declares, both in beginning and concluding ( Rom 1:11 and Rom 16:25 ), to strengthen them. He wished to confirm the believers of Rome by making the church rest on the foundation of solid and thorough instruction.
Neither does the Epistle present the least trace of a struggle already existing within the church. For this name cannot be given to the secondary ground of difference to which chap. 14 applies; and the only passage which is directed against the Judaizing adversaries is found quite at the end of the Epistle ( Rom 16:17-20 ), and speaks of them as of enemies still at a distance. But it follows from this same passage that St. Paul foresaw their arrival as a thing certain, which naturally explains the need he felt of putting the church in a condition to resist such an attack. He had just seen his most flourishing creations in Galatia and Achaia threatened with destruction by these relentless disturbers; and yet he had lived among those churches; he had himself founded and instructed them; what, then, was there not to be dreaded for the church of the capital of the world, founded merely by apostolic fellow-workers, when once it was put to the proof? It is also quite natural that before setting out for Jersualem he should calmly propound his dogmatical and practical catechism, as he teaches it in all the churches which he is called to found, the gospel of salvation by faith which was revealed to him personally by the Lord, and that while taking account of the experiences made in the hot conflict which he has just been maintaining. The Epistle to the Romans is thus found to be at once the most perfect expression of his preaching and of his inner life, the triumphal arch raised on the battle-field after his recent victory, the normal conclusion of that period of his apostleship now brought to an end, and, if one may so speak, the Ebenezer of the apostle of the Gentiles.
II. Importance of the Epistle.
From the theological point of view, the Epistle to the Romans appears to us as the first powerful effort of human thought to embrace in one survey the divine salvation realized in Jesus Christ, and to sum it up in a few fundamental points connected with one another by the closest possible rational and moral bond. It is not only the first Dogmatic which has continued to be the basis of all others, but also the first Christian Ethic. For, as we have seen, the practical part is not less systematically arranged than the doctrinal part. The plan of both is perfectly logical. Salvation in its objectivity in Christ, and as it is freely apprehended by faith; salvation realized in the individual by sanctification, the work of the Holy Spirit; salvation wrought out in the whole of humanity through the great passages of history, the plan of which God's finger has traced; such is the doctrinal part. The life of the saved believer, explained first in its inward principle: consecration to God by the sacrifice of the body; this life manifesting itself in the two spheres, the religious and civil, there by humility and love, here by submission and righteousness; this life finally moving on to its glorious goal: the return of Him who is to impress on it the seal of perfection; such is the practical part. We doubt whether the precision of this primordial conception of Christ's work has ever been surpassed.
Apologetic also finds in this Epistle the most precious materials. Twenty-nine years after our Lord's death, Christianity had traversed continents and seas, and created a new society at Rome. What power of expansion and renovation!
A quarter of a century after the earthly existence of Jesus, His life was regarded as that of the second Adam, as the appearance of a new personal centre of the human species, as the principle of a universal restoration. The contemporaries of Jesus were still living, and His death was, in the eyes of the church, the expiatory sacrifice offered for all mankind, the supreme manifestation at once of God's righteousness and mercy. The fact of His resurrection was not only accepted and believed without question, but regarded as the revelation of a justification virtually pronounced in favor of every sinful man. Jesus had scarcely disappeared when already the eye of faith followed Him to the invisible world, and contemplated Him there as the Sovereign who, from the midst of His glory, filled all things, from heaven to the very place of the dead (chap. 14); the expectation of His return was the soul of the collective and individual life of all believers. The facts of His human life were still present to all minds, and already from Jerusalem to Rome the church recognized Him as a being whose name was to be invoked like that of God Himself ( Rom 10:12 ), and to whom the title of God could be applied without blasphemy ( Rom 9:5 ). What an impression, then, must have been produced by that public activity of two or three years! And what must He have been, who in so short a time had graven so profound a mark in the consciousness of humanity?
It is not theology only, but human thought in general, which, by coming to this writing of Paul, drinks from new fountains. In the first two chapters, the Philosophy of religion can learn these two decisive truths: primitive revelation and human responsibility in the origin of polytheism. In chap. 5 Anthropology can gather the fruitful propositions of the unity of the human species and of the successive concentration of our race in two manifestations of a character at once generic and individual, the one issuing in ruin, the other in salvation. In pondering chap. 6, Psychology finds itself face to face with the terrible law in consequence of which man is every moment alienating something of his liberty of choice, by spontaneously subjecting himself to the good or bad principle to which he surrenders himself, and which will not fail henceforth to control him ever more completely. Chap. 7 furnishes the same science with an incomparable analysis of the natural state of the human soul created for good, and yet the slave of evil. Chap. 8 hands over to the Philosophy of nature the great idea of a future renovation of the universe, proceeding from the physical and moral regeneration of humanity. In chap. 11 there are traced the great lines of the Philosophy of history, and chap. 13 is a no less sure guide for the Philosophy of law in investigating its fundamental notion, that of the state. On all these points, in regard to which human thought labors in all directions, the thought of Paul goes straight to the mark. The entire domain of truth seems to lie unveiled before him, while that of error seems on all sides to be closed to him.
But the essential matter, when it is sought to estimate the importance of such writing, is the full light which it casts on the way of salvation opened to sinful man. The apostle knows the unrest which troubles the depths of the human heart, and which keeps it separate from God and imprisoned in evil. And he understands that it is within those depths of the conscience, where the echo of divine condemnation resounds, that a saving transformation must first of all be wrought. Hence the first gift of grace which the gospel offers to man is, according to him, the gift of his justification, without any other condition than that which every one may fulfil at once faith. This first act done, man is free from his guilt in relation to his God; no cloud any longer troubles his relation to Him; peace takes the place of the inward unrest; and in this state of inward tranquillity there may be sown the fruit of righteousness, sanctification. The reconciled man becomes open to the communication of the Divine Spirit. As naturally as this guest must withdraw from a condemned heart, so necessarily does He come to dwell in the man whom nothing any longer separates from God; and he realizes within him Christ's life and death in the measure in which this life and death have been apprehended by his faith. Finally, to him who walks in this way there opens up in the distance a new gift, the renewing of his body and the inheritance of glory, through his complete transformation into the likeness of the glorified Christ. What clearer, what simpler, what at once more really divine and human, than this order of salvation traced by the apostle; and what a seal has not the experience of ages impressed on this exposition contained in the first eight chapters of our Epistle! Let not him who desires to see such a work accomplished within himself, or who proposes to carry it out in others, emancipation from guilt and victory over sin, take to the task in any other way, if he would not fail miserably!
III. The True Nature of this Apostolic Writing.
There remains to us a last question to be examined: Is the conception of the way of salvation, which St. Paul has expounded in the Epistle to the Romans, a creation of his powerful understanding, or a revelation of God's mind on the subject? This dilemma may be thought imperfect; it may be said that a certain divine illumination does not exclude the exercise of the understanding, and that inward meditation is a means of bringing help from above. Of this there is no doubt, and yet in the case before us the question must be pressed more closely. Does Paul give us here a view to which he has raised himself by the exercise of his mind, or, on the contrary, the thought of God which was communicated to him by a direct operation of the Spirit for the purpose of initiating him, and through him the world, into the eternal plan of divine salvation? In the latter case we have a witness speaking, in the former a genius speculating. In this case we find here a sublime thought, but a thought which may some day be surpassed by one more elevated still; in the former case, it is the thought of God re-thought and expounded by man at a given time, not to be perfected in the future, but to be appropriated as it is by every soul desirous of salvation. In the first case, the Epistle of Paul deserves our admiration; in the second, our faith. It is clear that the difference is great, and that the question cannot be declared idle.
We know of no peremptory answer to this question except that which Paul's own consciousness gives to it. With the first words of his Epistle, he places the contents of this writing under the warrant of the Christ who called him to it, that Christ who, born a son of David, has by His resurrection recovered His essential dignity as the Son of God, by means of which He embraces in His salvation not only the Jews, but the whole Gentile world. His apostleship is the work of this universal Lord, and his writing the fruit of this apostleship. To this first word of the Epistle must be added the last, Romans 16:25: “according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery which was kept secret during eternal ages, and now is made manifest.” The evangelical conception which the apostle develops is therefore, according to him, God's eternal thought, which He had kept secret from the creation, and which, after the coming of Jesus Christ, was revealed to him to him, Paul with the mission to make it known to the Gentiles whom it more directly concerned; and hence it is that he can justly call it his gospel. Such is the apostle's inward conviction. It is likewise expressed, Galatians 1:11-12: “I certify you that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man; for I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.” And hence he writes to the Thessalonians (First Epistle, Rom 4:8 ): “He that despiseth us, despiseth not man, but God;” and to the Ephesians ( Rom 3:2-4 ): “It was by revelation God made known unto me the mystery, as I wrote afore in few words;” and this is what constitutes the allotment of evangelical grace and light which God has specially imparted to him for the accomplishment of his task within the apostleship common to him and to the Twelve ( Rom 3:2 ). By appearing to him on the way to Damascus, Christ made Saul an apostle; and by the revelation which followed, He bestowed on him the endowment necessary for the fulfilling of his apostleship.
In all this, could Paul have been the victim of an illusion? Could this divine calling, this supernatural revelation, be only a fruit of his pious imagination? We have examined this question in the Introduction of this commentary, and from the historical viewpoint at least we have not to return to it. But there are two points which we feel bound to bring out here, which seem to us in a peculiarly striking way to characterize the Epistle to the Romans. The first is the penetrating logic, the sure sweep of vision which the apostle shows in the discussion of the different subjects which he takes up. Not an exaggeration, not a digression. The hot conflict which he had been maintaining in the previous years with the partisans of the legal system, might have predisposed him to go beyond the limit of truth on some points in estimating Judaism The incline was slippery; of this we may easily convince ourselves, by seeing into what errors it carried the authors of the so-called Epistle of Barnabas and of the letter to Diognetus, and finally Marcion. And yet these men had guides before them, Paul's writings and the Epistle to the Hebrews, which might have helped them to weigh their judgments. Paul had none but himself; he was under the influence of the strong reaction against the law into which his sudden change had thrown him, and of the violent resentment which must have been produced in him by the injustice and hatred of his Judaizing adversaries. And yet he moves, without wavering for an instant, on the straight line of truth, exhibiting the divinity of the ancient dispensation, and at the same time its profound contrast to the new, so that the result of his exposition is a complete view both of the difference and of the harmony between the two economies of salvation. And the same is the case, as we have seen, in all the questions which he touches. In matters where we still detect our modern writers, even the most sagacious and Christian, flagrantly guilty of exaggeration to the right or to the left, we discover in the apostle's view a fulness of truth which constantly excludes error.
The second feature which strikes us in his writing is the perfect calmness with which he seems to handle truth. He does not seek it, he has it. Compare the Epistle to the Romans with Pascal's Thoughts, and the distance will be seen between the apostle and the thinker of genius. It is also evident that the apostle himself draws his life from the faith which he preaches; he has faith in his faith as one cannot have in his thought, for the very simple reason that this faith is not his discovery, but the gift of God. Besides, St. Paul was not unaware of the illusions which a man may form in regard to false inspirations. If we bear in mind how he has put the Corinthians on their guard against the abuse of the gifts of the Spirit (First Epistle, xiv.), it will suffice to show us that in such a domain he could not easily be the dupe of his imagination.
And let us not forget that the experience of ages has spoken. It has put its seal to the conviction which the apostle bore within him, that in his Gospel he was giving to the world, not his own thought, but that of God. For history shows that a truly powerful and healthy Christianity has never developed except on the way of salvation traced by St. Paul. Where can we find a sinner who has found full relief for his conscience in relation to God, otherwise than by the gift of free justification? A sinner who has been put in possession of a sanctification decisively cutting short the dominion of sin over the heart and body, otherwise than through the spirit of life bestowed in Jesus Christ on the sinner justified by Him?
The New Testament contains two writings which admirably complete one another, the Epistle to the Romans and the fourth Gospel. The one presents for our contemplation the object of faith in its grander and perfect beauty: the union of man with God realized in One, in order to be at length realized through Him, in all; the other initiates us into the means of apprehending the salvation thus realized in one for all, and of appropriating it: the act of faith. There, the ideal realized, shining as on a celestial summit; here, the arduous pathway by which sinful man may succeed in reaching it. Let the church constantly possess herself of the Christ of John by means of the faith of Paul and she will be preserved, not from persecution, but from a more terrible enemy, death.
A. Probation after Death. (P. 119.)
THE author appends some peculiar views to his discussion of the apostle's assurance of eternal life to those who continue in well doing ( Rom 2:7 ). He remarks, justly enough, that the apostle does not here treat of the means of attaining to well doing, but merely affirms that no one will be saved apart from the doing of good. But then he adds that Paul “assumes that the man who is animated with this persistent desire will not fail, some time or other, in the journey of life, to meet with the means of attaining an end so holy and glorious. This means is faith in the gospel.” But how does Professor Godet know that Paul makes this assumption? It is not expressed or implied anywhere in his writings. If it had been, doubtless the author would have quoted the words. But he has not done so, and we are compelled to think that he has attributed to the apostle what is only his own assumption. There was no call in this portion of the Epistle to consider the question as to the dependence of salvation upon faith. That matter was not before the apostle's mind at this time. He is treating not of the gospel, but of the law. In the entire section from the 6th verse to the 16th he is describing the legal position of the race by their creation, quite irrespective both of apostasy and of redemption. He simply sets forth the principles of divine legislation for moral beings. At first blush the utterances do seem to be inconsistent with the doctrine of gratuitous salvation by faith. But the answer to an objection made on this ground is not the weak and illogical escape of our author, but the simple and truthful affirmation that the apostle treats one thing at a time, that the whole Epistle is an emphatic denial of the notion that fallen man can attain salvation as the reward of his merits, and that here there was no necessity of interposing a caveat on the point, since the single theme is the ethical ground of judgment for the whole human race. This is given in the 6th verse with the 11th: “Who will render to every man according to his deeds:...for there is no respect of persons with God.” All that Dr. Godet says about “the love of goodness which is the spring of life” is quite aside from any utterance of the apostle. It is not implied in his words, or even suggested by them. The whole atmosphere of the passage is filled with the strict administration of law, nor is there even a hint that “the desire of goodness is the acceptance of the gospel by anticipation.”
There is then no room for the corollary which the author draws, that the gospel is to be preached “before the judgment to every human soul, either in this life or next.” That position does not rest upon anything said by the apostle Paul, here or elsewhere. Yet if it has anything like the importance attached to it in our day, it ought to have been enunciated clearly and unequivocally, or at least we should naturally expect such a distinct statement. It assumes that every human being is entitled to an offer of the divine mercy. But this reverses the very idea of mercy, which is the bestowment of that to which there is no claim. Mercy that may be demanded is no longer mercy. And every unsophisticated conscience speaks to the contrary. Such a conscience condemns a man for violating his own sense of duty without any regard to the fact whether he had or had not access to any remedial provision. A healthy moral nature acknowledges at once that sin deserves punishment per se. And this is what the apostle affirms: “As many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law.” Not having possession of the written or Mosaic law, they will of course not be judged by it, but still having violated the law of conscience they must suffer its penalty, and therefore perish. If hereafter they are to have an offer of salvation, this was the place to mention it. The silence of the author of the Epistle on this point is unaccountable if he held the view of Dr. Godet. His theodicy would be different from what it is if this feature belonged to it, and I submit that it is not reasonable to interpret into his utterances a sentiment which contradicts their general tenor and their underlying principles, and which, moreover, is not reasonable in itself, and has never in any age found admission into the creeds of the church.
The author finding no citation from Paul suitable to his purpose gives us two from Peter. The first one (I. Rom 3:19-20 ), as given in the Revised Version, speaks of our Lord as “being put to death in the flesh, but quickened in the spirit; in which also he went and preached to the spirits in prison, which aforetime were disobedient when the long-suffering of God waited in the days of Noah while the ark was a preparing.” The meaning of these words has long been stoutly contested, but there is a general agreement now among critical expositors that the translation above given is correct, and indeed the only one possible of the true text (which omits the article before pneumati). They hold therefore that the passage relates an experience of our Lord's human soul after death, and cannot be explained consistently or grammatically of the preaching of the pre-existent Logos through the agency of Noah, although that opinion has been held by eminent men in all ages, such as Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Beza, Pearson, and Hofmann. These scholars seem to have been influenced more by their theological views, or what is called the analogy of faith, than by the laws of exegesis. It may be said in opposition to this explanation, that (1) it is not the natural sense of the passage, that which would occur to an unprejudiced person on first reading it. (2) It is inconsistent with the word πνεύματι as contrasted with σαρκὶ ; not that these two words do not at times denote respectively the divine side of Christ's person and the human, but that here the exact balance of the clauses requires both datives to be rendered in the same way. If the one is to be understood as meaning in the flesh or as to the flesh, then the other must be, in the spirit or as to the spirit. Consequently, the latter cannot be interpreted of Christ's divine nature or of the Holy Spirit, for in no conceivable sense could He be said to be made alive in either of these. (3) No account is made of πορευθεὶς which here, just as in Romans 3:22, “who is on the right hand of God, having gone into heaven,” must refer to a local transfer, a real change of place, which certainly did not occur in what was done through Noah. (4) There is an unauthorized and capricious separation of ποτε from the word ἀπειθησασί , to which it must belong by Greek usage (=“which aforetime were disobedient”), and an equally capricious connection of it with ἐκήρυξεν (=“aforetime preached”). Followed as ποτε is immediately by ὅτε , it is impossible to allow such a violent disjunction as is here proposed: (5) Moreover, the occurrence of πνεύμασι in Romans 3:19, in the undoubted sense of human spirits, gives a very strong probability that the same noun in the singular in Rom 3:18 is used in the same sense.
On the other hand, it must be admitted that there is a difficulty in the word ζωοποιηθεὶς on the modern critical view. For how could Christ's human be said to be made alive, when as we all believe it never died? Some escape the difficulty by rendering “preserved alive,” but this is not the fair, natural sense of the word. It is better to regard the term as stating that while Christ did really die as to the flesh i.e., ceased to live any longer in the body yet as to his human soul he was quickened to fresh energies, to a higher spiritual life than was compatible with an existence hampered by flesh and blood.
It may be added that any reference to our Lord's resurrection is out of the question, for that change takes place in the body and not in the spirit, which alone is spoken of in this clause.
This is the view taken by Alford, by Froumüller in Lange, by Hüther in Meyer, by the Speaker's Commentary, and by Ellicott's Commentary. Nor can it well be doubted by any one who will consider the well-marked antithesis of the two modal datives and the force of the participle represented by the verb “went.” The act reported must have been performed by our Lord in person i.e., by his disembodied spirit and therefore took place between His death and His resurrection. But as the statement stands alone in the New Testament, and we have no aid from parallel passages, it must be interpreted strictly, neither adding to nor taking from the natural force of the words employed. The “spirits in prison” of course were those of the persons who perished in the flood, and it is of little consequence whether we consider them as being in penal durance as condemned criminals, or simply in custody as prisoners awaiting the day of doom. It is enough to know that they were persons who had died in sin. The question is, What did Christ do to them? Prof. Godet would answer at once, He preached the gospel. But this is by no means clear. It is true that the Greek word κηρυσσω is often employed without an object to denote preaching the gospel, but in all such cases the omitted object is easily or rather necessarily supplied from the connection. There are, however, other instances in which it neither has nor can have such a meaning. Matthew 10:27: “What ye hear in the ear, proclaim upon the housetops.” Mark 1:45: “He went out and began to publish it much;” Mark 7:36: “So much the more a great deal they published it.” Revelation 5:2: “I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a great voice.” It is certain, therefore, that our Lord made a proclamation in the unseen world, but what the tenor of that proclamation was is not said, nor is it necessarily implied. To assume that it was the gospel is to beg the question. Some have said that he went there to proclaim his own triumph, or to predict his deliverance from Sheol, or to announce the completion of the work for which he became incarnate. But no man can pronounce authoritatively in favor of any of these views. The materials for a decision are not at hand.
But whatever may be concluded on this point, it is very certain that the parties our Lord addressed were not of the class who had been left to themselves, and who had sinned only against the law written on their hearts. For they had enjoyed the teaching of Noah, whom the apostle ( 2Pe 2:5 ) expressly styles a preacher of righteousness ( δικαιοσύνης κερυκα ). It is obvious then that their experience can shed no light upon the fate of others differently situated, such as the heathen. And it is very singular that they who insist that every man must have the opportunity of learning God's revealed will, appeal to a case which is not at all in point, even if their interpretation of its meaning be correct. For the impenitent in the antediluvian world had a very prolonged space in which to obtain the divine favor. The long-suffering of God waited upon them for more than a century. “His days [ i.e., the days of the race then existing] shall be an hundred and twenty years.” During all this period Noah uttered the warning message by his voice, by his walking with God, and still more by his patient perseverance in the building of the ark. But all was vain. Even the very workmen who labored upon the singular vessel gave no heed to its purpose. All filled up the measure of their iniquity, and when the appointed time was accomplished, the overwhelming flood came, and every soul perished. And that this was final and irrevocable seems to be plain from the use which our Lord twice makes of the fact, as recorded in the address given by Luke ( Luk 17:26-27 ), and also that given by Matthew ( Mat 24:37-39 ). The former runs thus: “And as it was in the days of Noah, even so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man. They ate, they drank, they married, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, and the flood came and destroyed ( ἀπώλεσεν ) them all.” It is impossible to see the force of this historical reference if it does not imply the spiritual overthrow of the antediluvians. If our Lord intended, and knew that He intended, to give them another opportunity of salvation by a personal summons made after His death in the unseen world, how could He with any show of reason adduce their case as an example of the danger of neglecting spiritual things and giving oneself up to the pursuit of the earthly and the perishing? Such a course would seem like trifling with his hearers.
But again, even admitting (which, however, is not admitted) that the words do mean or may mean that our Lord proclaimed a gospel to the spirits in prison, this proves nothing in respect to the case of others, before or since the time of the proclamation in question, for the simple reason that then the circumstances were peculiar and extraordinary. And what is done on momentous occasions is no precedent for ordinary days. Because the conduits run wine instead of water when the king receives his crown, we are not to expect that they will do the same after the coronation is over. If on the completion of our Lord's humiliation by His death, His disembodied spirit passed the interval before his resurrection in setting forth the fruits of His now finished work to some of the other disembodied spirits to be found in Hades, what reason is there for thinking that such an exceptional experience will ever be repeated, much less become a normal feature in the administration of the divine government? Exceptional procedures are to be confined to exceptional occasions.
Still further, there is no intimation anywhere that the preaching, if made was successful, nor is it at all necessary for the purposes of the connection of the passage that it should have been. The apostle is setting forth the sufferings of Christ together with His subsequent exaltation, and He simply intercalates between the death on the cross and the exaltation to God's right hand, something that was done in the intermediate state. Our Lord's disembodied spirit did not, even in the short interval during which it was fitting that His flesh should dwell in the grave, lie in a state of unconsciousness, or simply be in expectancy of the victory of the third day, but, in triumphant and assured conviction of that victory, did make announcement to other disembodied spirits of the work of redemption. The point in question is not what they did, but what He did; and even if, as we suppose and as other Scriptures show, they neither received nor accepted an offer of salvation, yet the other fact remains, that our Lord's human soul did while apart from the body make statements to other like souls; and the reason why this particular class of sinners viz., the antediluvians is mentioned, is that the flood was to be cited presently as a figure of baptism. The cause, therefore, of Peter's silence as to the result of the proclamation is that that result had no bearing upon the matter in hand. It may then, upon all these grounds, be safely asserted that this solitary text cannot be made to bear the huge weight of dogma attached to it; that the premises are far too small for the conclusion that is drawn, and that therefore the question of a new probation after death must be determined altogether by other Scriptures in detail or the general tenor of revelation as a whole.
Nor is the case otherwise in respect to the other obscure utterance of the apostle, in the 6th verse of the next chapter: “For unto this end was the gospel preached even to the dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit.” It is argued that here is a plain case of the preaching of the gospel to the dead. But if so, how could it be said of these dead persons thus preached to and converted that they should be judged according to men in the flesh? How can such a result in the case of any be made known on earth so as to be followed by any kind of judgment here? It is therefore far more reasonable and consistent to understand the passage as referring to what took place during the life-time of the dead. They had the good news efficaciously declared to them, so that they might indeed be condemned by their fellows in “the fiery trial” ( Mat 24:12 ), but nevertheless their spirits enjoyed immortal life with God. If, however, it be insisted that “the dead” here spoken of were dead when the gospel was preached unto them, then the rest of the verse is made to teach that these and all the dead of preceding generations (for there is no limit annexed) not only heard the gospel offer, but accepted it and were saved a conclusion at war with all the teachings of our Lord and His apostles. The same reasoning would apply to all the dead of following generations, and so we would reach the conclusion that the day of judgment is a day of general jail-delivery. None are condemned. And then what becomes of our Lord's solemn utterance: “These shall go away into everlasting punishment”?
The only other passage of Scripture referred to is the well-known utterance of our Lord in Matthew ( Mat 12:32 ): “Whosoever shall speak against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, nor in that which is to come.” From this it is inferred that there are sins which if not forgiven in this world may be in the next. To which the answer is, that this is turning rhetoric into logic. The 32d verse is merely a repetition in concrete form of what was said in the 31st verse, but in that verse the Lord simply says that “blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven,” an utterance that is complete and states the whole point at issue viz., whether for a certain class of sins there was or was not forgiveness. What is added in the 32d verse is an emphatic rhetorical expansion of the foregoing. This is made apparent by considering the origin of the phrase. The Jews divided time into two portions ( א = ὁ αἰὼν οὗτος , ὁ αἰὼν μέλλων ), this world or age, and the world or age that is to come. In the former they comprehended all duration up to the time of the Messiah's appearance, and in the latter all that followed up to the judgment day. Now our Lord avails Himself of this usage in order to give force and vividness to His declaration. He combines these two great periods in order to express an absolute negation, and show that the sin He is speaking of shall never be forgiven.
Nor does it make any difference if we take the age to come ( αἰὼν μέλλων ) as referring to the period that follows the general judgment a reference which it and its equivalents undoubtedly have in the New Testament. Mark 10:30, Luke 18:30: “In the world to come ( αἰῶν . τῷ ἐρχομ .), eternal life.” In Luk 20:34 our Lord contrasts the children of this age or world with those counted worthy to obtain that age or world and the resurrection from the dead. 1 Timothy 4:8, Paul speaks of the life that now is and of that which is to come. Even in this view of the words, it is still apparent that our Lord is not using them with exegetical exactness. The question He was considering was not the time of forgiveness, but the fact whether there was forgiveness at all in certain cases. First, he says there is no forgiveness; then he adds that there never shall be. This view is confirmed by the parallel passage in Mark ( Mar 3:29 ), where it is said, according to the accurate rendering of the New Revision, “Whosoever shall blaspheme against the Holy Spirit hath never forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin.” No one would infer from the language of Mark any idea of the kind which has been drawn from Matthew's, and we have a right to interpret the obscure passage by that which is plain, and to conclude that both evangelists mean the same thing, though they express it in somewhat different ways. That is, to say that a sin hath never forgiveness is precisely equivalent to saying that it shall not be forgiven, neither in this world nor in that which is to come.
It is further to be said that this notion of a possible forgiveness after death, or a fresh probation in the unseen world, stands opposed to the whole current of gospel teaching. Take as an illustration the commencement of the gospel. John the Baptist began, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Our Lord followed him with the very same words (Matthew 3:1; Mat 4:17 ). Now what John meant is very plain from his reference to the threshing-floor and the winnowing shovel. Wheat is destined to the garner, but the chaff to the fire unquenchable. The ground, the urgency of the call, lies in the consequences of neglect. To repent means escape, but to refuse and turn away means irretrievable ruin. And what John said our Saviour approves. But if forgiveness is possible after death, how are we to explain the solemn warning of the Baptist? All the life is taken out of his tremendous imagery. There is a new seed-time, a new harvest, a new cleansing of the threshing-floor. Such a view strikes out the entire underpinning of the gospel. Again, Paul in 2Co 5:10 says that in the judgment each one is to “receive the things done in the body, according to what he hath done, whether good or bad.” But persons in the intermediate state are not “in the body,” and therefore cannot do or receive anything to interfere with the result determined by their previous lives. So, in Hebrews 9:24, it is said, “It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this cometh judgment,” an appointment which leaves no room for a fresh probation between these two dread events.
In truth, the whole subject is treated in the wrong way. Men conclude from their subjective views of what is right and becoming on the part of their Maker and Judge, that every human soul must hear the gospel in this life or the next, and then look around for Scripture to buttress up this view. Yet it appears that the passage to which all with one consent first turn is one that says nothing about persons who lived and died without a revelation, but is confined to those who heard an inspired preacher of righteousness, and which therefore, if it proves anything, proves, not a probation to those who had none before, but a second to those who had one and abused it. Then they appeal to another divine utterance, which, if it means what they say it means, teaches that to all the dead, past, present, and future, the gospel is preached, and therefore the next life, instead of being a period of retribution, merely reproduces the characteristic features of the present. Finally, recurrence is had to an utterance of our Lord, which, interpreted without reference to its connection or to its form in the second Gospel, might allow the vague and dubious inference that there is some kind of forgiveness in the life to come, although our Lord's parabolic teachings, especially that of the Rich Man and Lazarus, are clear and strong against any such inference. It is proper, therefore, to insist that the provisions of mercy being purely matter of revelation, the divine oracles are to be consulted in the first instance as decisive. They are to be regarded as original and all-sufficient sources of truth, and not to be employed merely as lending support to conclusions reached in some other way.
B. The Christian Conflict. (P. 176.)
The precise application of this remarkable passage has been a subject of dispute for fifteen hundred years. It was hotly debated in the days of Augustine, and many centuries afterward was the pivotal point in the conflict between the Remonstrants and the Contra-Remonstrants in Holland. And the division of opinion still continues. Prof. Shedd's able exposition (1879) and Dr. Sanday in Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers (1880) take one view, while Dr. Gifford in the Speaker's Commentary (1881) takes the other viz., that which is presented with so much force by Prof. Godet. In a matter of so much difficulty, one in which men of equal learning, acuteness, and piety have differed so widely, it does not become any to speak with dogmatism. Having, however, come to a conclusion different from that reached by the author of this book, I venture to suggest some considerations in reply to the argument with which he closes the seventh chapter.
1. The Professor speaks of the studied avoidance by the apostle of every expression specially belonging to the Christian sphere. Such avoidance certainly occurs, but it is to be accounted for by the nature of the case. The object of the apostle was to show the impossibility of securing sanctification by the law. Being occupied with this negative side of the subject, he does not anticipate what is to be said afterward in setting forth the positive side. This is done in the eighth chapter, which continues and completes his view of the relation between justification and progressive sanctification.
2. As to the very striking parallels found in profane literature, their aptness and force are just the same whether we compare them with the struggle between inclination and duty in an unregenerate man, or with that between the new nature and the old in the regenerate.
3. The change of tense in this passage is very remarkable, and is by no means explained away by Prof. Godet's reasoning. In the former part of the chapter ( Heb 9:7-14 ) the apostle uses past tenses describing a former condition viz., that of one still unregenerate, as all admit but in the remainder he persistently uses the present, “I am carnal,” “sin is present,” etc. It is hardly conceivable that this sudden and total change of the tenses can have been accidental, and if it was intentional, then the only explanation of it is a change of the point of view. Before, the apostle was discussing his condition prior to conversion; now, he is setting forth his condition after that change.
4. This view suits admirably the general scope of the Epistle and the course of the argument. The apostle, having shown that the law is helpless as a means of justification, proceeds to set forth its utter inability as a method of sanctification. This is done in the seventh chapter by a vigorous statement of its working, first in relation to original sin in man in a state of nature ( Heb 9:7-14 ), and then in relation to indwelling sin in one who is in a state of grace. In neither case does the law manifest any power to conquer depravity. A new element is necessary, which is introduced with great fulness in the eighth chapter, where the inward struggle is once more described, but with growing assurances of success which finally culminate in a song of unmingled triumph.
5. Particular expressions occur in the section which cannot without great violence be applied to the natural man. For example, the words with which Rom 7:22 opens: “For I delight in the law of God after the inward man.” The force of the verb here is very inadequately given in Prof. Godet's translation, “I applaud” ( j'applaudis). To praise a person or a thing is by no means the same as to delight in them. Natural men may and often do admire and commend the law of God, but they do not have pleasure in it. Nay, the full approbation of the conscience may coexist with deadly hatred in the heart. Again, in the last verse, the apostle says, “With the mind I serve the law of God.” The word serve ( δουλεύω ) is very strong, denoting a total subjection of the will. The man voluntarily enslaves himself to righteousness. Can this be said of any mere natural man?
6. The view which denies that this section describes a Christian experience goes to wreck on the Scripture account of man's condition apart from grace. That view supposes an element of holiness, slight and weak but real, still remaining in man after the fall, which accounts for the struggle here recounted. But there is no basis for this opinion. Fallen man's condition is one of total alienation from God. The fearful ungodliness and immorality described in the first chapter is the natural development of the evil heart cut off from God and seeking its gratification in the creature. Now this inborn corruption, however veiled or qualified by outward graces, or domestic affections, or civic virtues, or actings of conscience, cannot possibly be the subject of such a conflict as is here described. Consent to sin, the act and dominion of sin, is the permanent condition of the unregenerate. Hence the Scripture defines so sharply everything truly spiritual in man as a supernatural, gracious effect. What is born of the flesh only is flesh ( Joh 3:6 ); the psychical (or natural) man understands nothing of spiritual things ( 1Co 2:13 ); he is one having not the Spirit ( Jud 1:19 ); his mind is enmity against God. No such man in the innermost centre of his personality is at one with the law of God. He neither knows nor feels what is its interior essence, the very secret of its excellence, its exact reflection of the nature of its divine author.
7. On the other hand, the view of the passage here contended for puts it in harmony with the frequent representation of S. S. that there is a remnant of corruption in the believer and that this occasions a continual conflict. Witness the outcry of the prophet beholding the heavenly vision ( Isa 6:5 ): “Woe is me! for I am undone,” or the pleading of David (Psalms 19:0): “Cleanse thou me from secret faults: keep back thy servant from presumptuous sins.” The same writer who says (Psalms 139:0): “How precious are thy thoughts unto me, O God!” adds the entreaty, “Search me and know my heart, and see if there be any wicked way in me.” Our Lord said to the Twelve, “The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak,” and in Gal 5:17 the apostle sets forth this perpetual struggle in very plain words: “The flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are contrary one to the other; that ye may not do the things that ye would.” As Lightfoot ( in lo.) says, “Between the spirit and the flesh there is not only no alliance, there is an interminable feud. You feel these antagonistic forces working in you: you would fain follow the guidance of your conscience, and you are dragged back by an opposing power.”
It may be added in conclusion that while mediatizing views are apt to be a snare, yet there is one given in this case by Prof. M. B. Riddle (Schaff's Pop. Com. 3:74), which is worthy of attention. It is here subjoined in the author's own words: “It seems best to hold that the apostle does not have in mind any sharp distinction between the unregenerate and regenerate states, but gives the experience of man attempting to become better through the law; of an awakened man, before he comes to Christ; but also of a Christian man so far as he feels the pressure of law rather than the power of the Spirit. Hence it is not always possible to discriminate, if the distinction between the regenerate and unregenerate states is emphasized. Yet the apostle himself, as a Jew, before his conversion, probably passed through this entire experience.”
C. Foreordination. (P. 329.)
The learned author says that some may hold a different view of predestination from the one he advocates, but if so, he frankly expresses his conviction that “it will not be that of the apostle.” To which it may be replied with equal frankness that the great objection to his view is that it is not Pauline, being opposed alike to the words of the great apostle and to the general tenor of his teaching. The opinion which resolves divine foreordination into a mere prescience of human volition makes man the originator of his own salvation a doctrine contradicted on every page of Scripture, and nowhere more directly than in the utterances of Paul. With him God is ever on the throne. Of Him and through Him and to Him are all things. Salvation is by grace from beginning to end, and the apostle delights to trace its origin back to a period before the foundation of the world ( Eph 1:4 ). He is not concerned about any metaphysical difficulties, but presses the divine efficiency even where one would least expect it, as when he tells the Philippians, “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God which worketh in you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” Repentance is a divine gift, faith results from divine illumination, every excellence of the Christian is a fruit of the Spirit, and no man has anything which he has not received. It is therefore in exact consistency with the unvarying purport of the apostle's doctrine that the Agent who is supreme in all the believer's history in this life should have the same pre-eminence in all that preceded. He who is sovereign in bestowing grace is equally sovereign in the determination to bestow it. And that determination runs back to the ages before time, indeed is pronounced strictly eternal ( Eph 3:11 ). The difficulty with Prof. Godet is that he cannot reconcile this view with human liberty. But he is under no necessity of doing this, any more than he is obliged to explain how Peter's assertion at Pentecost that Christ was delivered up by God's deliberate counsel and foreknowledge is consistent with his charge in the same breath that his death was effected by the hand of lawless men. As Prof. Riddle well says, “The difficulty which arises in reconciling God's sovereignty and man's free will confronts us whenever we accept the existence of a Personal God, and is not peculiar to Christianity, much less to some one school of Christian theology.” (Pop. Com. 3:39.) It is every way better to take the Scripture just as we find it, boldly insisting in all cases on the two factors, divine causation and human freedom, but refusing to draw the line between them or to insist that we have the means of adjusting their respective claims.
In the passage immediately before us the entire difficulty arises in the first clause, Whom He did foreknow (v. 29). Of course it cannot mean that prescience of which all men and all things are the objects. For then it would say nothing, and the bitterest of Paul's enemies never charged him with writing nonsense. Nor can the phrase mean whom he determined upon, both because there is nothing in the usage of the word to sustain this meaning, and because in this way it would be confounded with the next verb, whereas the Scripture keeps the two ideas of foreknowledge and election distinct, as in 1 Peter 1:2: “Elect according to the foreknowledge of God.” Nor can it mean, as Godet says, that God foreknows those who were sure to fulfil the condition of salvation viz., faith. For this adds an idea which is contained neither in the word itself nor in the context. And besides, this would directly contradict what Paul says elsewhere. For example ( 1Ti 1:9 ): “Who hath called us not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace, given us in Christ Jesus, before the world began.” Nor is it of any avail to say that faith is not a work, but rather a renunciation of all merit; for it certainly is an act or work, and, according to the Professor, is a free adherence of man to the solicitation of God. And if it be assumed here, it puts as the ground of our calling and election something in ourselves, which is just what the Scripture emphatically denies. Cremer in his Biblico-Theological Lexicon suggests a meaning drawn from the word itself. He says that γινωσκω in New Testament Greek often denotes a personal relation between the person knowing and the object known = to suffer oneself to be determined thereby; for anything is known only so far as it is of importance to the person knowing and has an influence upon him, so that a personal relationship is established between the knowing subject and the object known. The prefix of προ to this word simply carries us back to an anterior period, and here it denotes that the γινωσκειν is already present in the divine decree before its manifestation in history i.e., the union takes place between God and the objects of his sovereign grace. Hence we may render, “Whom God had beforehand entered into fellowship with.” Thus the word is a conception complete in itself and needing no addition from without. This view preserves the distinction between foreknowledge and foreordination, the former being an act of conscious perception, the latter one of specific volition. Augustine insists upon this distinction: Praedestinatio...sine praescientia non potest esse; potest autem esse sine praedestinatione praescientia (De Praed. Sanctorum, cap. 4.). Whatever is implied in God's knowing His people now (“The Lord knoweth them that are His.” 2Ti 2:19 ) existed from all ages in the divine mind, and was the ground of His gracious decree. That decree depended upon something in God, but in no sense or degree upon anything in man.
And this is the uniform voice of Christian experience. Whatever the devout believer's head may say, his heart is right, and he feels instinctively that he owes everything to God and nothing to himself. The simple but touching stanzas of Faber express the religious consciousness of Christendom in every age from the apostle's to our own.
“O gift of gifts! O grace of faith!
My God! how can it be
That Thou who hast discerning love
Shouldst give that gift to me?
“How many hearts Thou mightest have had
More innocent than mine:
How many souls more worthy far
Of that sweet touch of Thine!”
The author's conception of foreordination, if I understand him rightly, limits the divine purpose to the future glory of the redeemed as its object. That is, it secures to them who endure to the end a blessed reward in the life to come. But their repenting and believing, their calling and justification, their growth in grace, their victory over sin and death and the devil all these are outside of the divine decree, and depend simply upon the due exercise of their freedom. At any moment they may be lost. There is nothing to secure the believer that he shall not one day fall into the hand of the Philistines. Surely such a truncated election as this, such a bald and useless foreordination, is not what the apostle is laboring upon. Something larger, grander, more comprehensive is required to reach the full meaning of his fervid rhetoric, his profound thought, his acute dialectic. His vision takes in the whole range of the believer's experience from first to last. In his view foreknowledge, foreordination, calling, justification and glorification are simply successive links in one and the same chain, stretching from before times eternal down to the ages of ages, world without end. The child of God delights to trace each step of his progress to “the sweet will of God,” conceived in eternity but manifested in time, choosing alike the means and the end, and securing not simply future glory to those who are worthy, but the grace that renders them worthy, thus making the crown of life only the natural culmination of all that had gone before.
D. Freedom and Sovereignty. (P. 373.)
The ingenious statement of the author in this résumé of opinions seems to require some further notice. All admit that the apostle teaches a predestination of some kind, and the only, or certainly the chief, question is in respect to its nature? Is it absolute or conditional? The former is the common faith of the Reformed. This is not quite accurately expressed by the author when he says that in the salvation of some and the perdition of others it sees only the effect of the divine decree. A more correct statement is that the decree is the direct and efficient cause of the salvation of the saved; it is only negatively concerned with the perdition of the lost, since it simply passes them by. Their own sin is the direct cause of their ruin. A sovereign God leaves them to themselves. It is different with the others. These he foreordains not simply to glory, as Prof. Godet says, but to salvation, that term comprehending their whole experience from the first act of saving faith to the final acquittal in the great day. This foreordination is absolute, i.e., depending only on God, but is not therefore arbitrary or capricious, i.e., exercised without reason. The nature of God forbids such a thought. The infinite Mind always acts in accordance with its own perfections. But here, as in many other cases, the Lord does not see fit to inform us of the ground of His procedures, but that there is such a ground seems a just and necessary inference from His own very being as a God of infinite wisdom and holiness.
Now that the apostle teaches such a self-determination on the part of God, entirely independent of anything external to himself, is apparent alike from a cursory and a critical reading of his words. This is the natural meaning of his language, and it is confirmed by careful and prolonged study, as is shown by the fact that many of the learned who reject the doctrine yet admit that Paul taught it. An opinion held by such scholars as De Wette and Meyer must have some basis, and cannot be so unceremoniously dismissed.
It is declared that the future of Jacob and Esau (and of the peoples who sprang from them) was decided before they were born, and that the very reason of this was that it might be seen that God's purpose was not founded on works, but on His own good pleasure. For neither of the two had done either good or evil, and the choice of the one and the rejection of the other was determined by the will of “Him that calleth.” Prof. Godet says that the matter of eternal salvation was not in view in this case. Even if this were true it would not affect the principle involved, for the point at issue is whether God's sovereignty is unconditional or not, and that can be determined as well in reference to temporal as to spiritual benefits. And besides, the choice to the means is usually a choice to the end, and the blessings by which Jacob was distinguished were the sine qua non of eternal life to multitudes of his descendants. But the assertion is incorrect. For what reason did the apostle cite the case except to show the liberty of God to choose whom He pleases to be the recipients of His blessing? Apart from its illustration of this principle, the case had no bearing upon his argument.
So again ( 2Ti 2:16 ) it is expressly declared that salvation is not the result of human will or human effort, but simply the fruit of God's mercy. Now mercy is indeed a necessary feeling in the divine nature, but its manifestation in any given case is optional. As Charnock finely says: “God is not like the sun, which shines indiscriminately because it has no choice in the matter, being an unintelligent agent, whereas God, as a being of infinite understanding, has a sovereign right to choose His own subjects, nor would His goodness be supreme unless it were voluntary.” Indeed: the whole doctrine is but the expansion of the words in our Saviour's parable, “Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own” ( Mat 20:15 )? The entire race being involved in guilt and ruin, God is pleased for reasons known only to Himself to have mercy upon some, and to leave others to the just and natural result of their evil ways.
The same thing appears from the character of the objections raised against the doctrine. “Why doth He yet find fault, for who hath resisted His will?” A reference to the original here shows that it is the will of decree and not the will of desire that is intended. Now this question evidently implies that it is God's sovereignty that is complained of. If it were otherwise, how easily could the apostle have set aside the objection by showing that God was not the final arbiter in the case. But he does no such thing, but rather reaffirms his previous assertions. After rebuking the folly which leads weak and erring man to call to account his infinite Creator, he introduces the striking figure of the potter, as if to say, the sovereignty I claim is inherent in the commonest artificer, how much more in the Lord of all! The potter claims not only the power but the right ( exousian) to put the clay to a noble or an ignoble use at his pleasure, and the form it is to take rests solely with him. Now, the apostle reasons, fallen humanity is before God just as the clay is before the potter. All sinners are alike destitute of claim; they are “the same lump.” If God chooses to save some and not others, He does no injustice to those who are left. He did not make them sin. But when they had sinned and became guilty, He, acting as a moral governor, forbore to interpose, and so they became vessels of wrath. And so far from His procedure here being questionable, it displays His glory. For on one hand He endures with much long-suffering and patience the evil courses of some, long delaying their punishment. and on the other He magnifies the riches of His mercy in the salvation of the rest.
The chief difficulty which Prof. Godet finds in accepting the Augustinian view, which, as shown above, is the correct exegetical view, of the apostle's reasoning, is philosophical and speculative. He says that it cannot be reconciled with “man's entire freedom in the acceptance or rejection of salvation” (Romans 2:4; Romans 2:6-10, Rom 6:12-13 ). But this is no reason for denving the plain meaning of words. The apostle may have seen and felt this antinomy, and have decided not to touch it. The Professor indeed thinks that Paul's logical power would not have allowed him “to stop short in the study of a question until he has thoroughly completed its elucidation.” But it is much safer to reason from what he did say than from what our view of the nature of his mind would lead us to deem him likely to say. He does touch the very point at issue ( Rom 6:19-20 ), but how? Not by a metaphysical inquiry into the nature and limits of human freedom, but by an animated declaration that the created being cannot investigate the causes which may have determined the will of his Creator. His language implies that man is compelled by the constitution of his nature to acknowledge that certain actions are sinful and deserve punishment, and this being so, no view of his dependence upon God can make these actions innocent; hence it is vain to argue against incontrovertible facts. And this is all that need be said on the subject. “Scripture considers men under two points of view: first as created by God, and secondly, as free moral agents themselves. These two points of view are, to the intellect of man, irreconcilable; yet both must be true, since the reason convinces us of the one, and the conscience of the other” (Conybeare). It is necessary therefore to hold both, whether we can frame a system of reconciliation or not. In fact, the serious errors on the subject have arisen from the tendency to neglect or deny one side of the complex facts for the sake of making a consistent theory. Pelagians and Arminians have denied the dependence of man's will on God, and Fatalists have denied the freedom of moral agency. Our author sides with the former by making certain “moral conditions” in men the ground of their election. We prefer the method of the apostle, who sides with neither.
Another of his arguments is “the possibility of one converted falling from the state of grace through want of vigilance or faithfulness” (Romans 8:13; 1 Corinthians 10:1-12; Galatians 5:4; Colossians 1:23; a passage where he says expressly: “ if at least ye persevere”). This he thinks wholly inconsistent with an unconditional decree of election. But the particle in the case last cited (which he thinks decisive), “ If indeed,” does not express doubt (compare Ephesians 3:2; Ephesians 4:21, where it rather means certainty by challenging the opposite), but is simply intended to call attention to the necessity of faith to secure the result spoken of in the preceding verse. And so with all the hypothetical statements and promises in the Scripture. These are simply parts of the series of means by which the Lord carries out His eternal purpose. That purpose cannot fail, simply because it is God's purpose. If it rested upon man's strength or resources, it would utterly fail. But believers are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation, ready to be revealed in the last time.
“Finally,” the Professor says, “the decree of the rejection of the Jews is explained, not by the impenetrable mystery of the divine will, but by the haughty tenacity with which they affected to establish their own righteousness,” etc. This is very true, but nothing to the purpose. The rejection of the Jews and the perdition of any that are lost are the just results of their own sin. This is a real and sufficient cause, and none farther need be sought. The relation of sovereignty to the event is simply negative. God refuses to interfere, and justice takes its course.
E. The Mystery respecting Israel's Future. 11:25, 26. (P. 411.)
The importance of this utterance of the apostle in its bearing upon eschatology suggests some further remark. It is not an incidental statement, nor a burst of rhetoric, nor yet a lofty poetical expression like Romans 8:19-23, but a link in a sustained argument carried all through the chapter, and is therefore to be interpreted strictly. It is the explanation of what is called a mystery, i.e., as well stated by our author, not a truth incomprehensible by reason, which is the accepted theological sense of the word, but one which can be known only by revelation from above, yet when revealed can be fully understood by those who receive it. It is stated in plain words, without the use of metaphor, by one who well knew the force of language. It treats of a point in the future which man's unaided faculties could never have discovered, and it was intended to vindicate the divine purpose in the application of redemption, and to furnish guidance and admonition to the believers not of the stock of Israel. Occurring, then, as it does in the course of the most didactic portion of the New Testament, and being the last utterance in that book on the subject, it is not to be explained by other preceding Scriptures, but to be used to explain them, and this the more as the inspired author was fully acquainted with the prophecies of the Old Testament, and indeed proceeds at once to cite from them in confirmation of his views. So that we have here in brief a divine interpretation of what is contained in the writings of the holy men of old.
The passage asserts ( a) a fact, ( b) a limitation of the time of its continuance, and ( c) the final result. The fact is that Israel in part has been hardened against the gospel, or rather are subjects of a process going on in this direction, a process in which God judicially withdraws the providential and gracious influences by which men are restrained. Now there are cases in which this hardening is allowed to work out its natural result in the utter destruction of its subjects, as is seen in the cities of the plain, in Tyre and Sidon, in Nineveh, etc. But in the case of the Jews it is otherwise. Their induration has a limit. It will come to an end upon the occurrence of a certain event: until the fulness of the Gentiles come in i.e., to the church or people of God. (Comp. Luke 13:24, where the verb is used absolutely, as it is here.) The meaning of the phrase rendered until is clear and certain. But the Reformers were led, by their fears of Chiliastic ideas, which in their age assumed a very dangerous form, to depart from the natural sense and give the meanings, in order that, or as long as, which, however, are now universally repudiated on the ground of both etymology and usage. And, as the author shows, such a rendering is against the whole sense of the passage. The event, then, which is to limit the hardening of Israel is the coming in of the fulness of the Gentiles. The term fulness may be understood, like the verb from which it is derived, either relatively, as complementum, that which fills up what is lacking, like the patch put upon a rent in a garment ( Mar 2:21 ), or absolutely, as totality, completeness. It is in this latter sense that it is usually employed by the apostle, as in Colossians 2:9: “All the fulness of the Godhead.” Ephesians 1:23: “The fulness of him that filleth all in all.” Here, then, the meaning must be the totality of the Gentiles, not necessarily including every individual, but the nations as a whole. It will not do to render it “a great multitude” ( magna caterva), for this is a limitation for which there is no warrant. It is “the full number,” “the whole body,” as contrasted with the part which had already been gathered into the church. Opinions may reasonably differ as to the intensive force of this expression i.e., to what degree the coming in of the Gentiles reaches in respect to their practical appropriation of saving truth but as to the extensive import there can be little or no doubt. The gospel must extend its sway over the peoples who sit in darkness; it must penetrate every continent; it must be spoken in every tongue, and have its adherents in every nation and tribe. Nothing less than this would seem to answer the legitimate scope of the apostle's words.
When this takes place, a blessed result is to follow viz., the salvation of all Israel. This does not deny the occurrence of conversions among the Jews previously. Such are to be expected, but not any widespread or general movement. Dogmatic views and perhaps anti-Semitic prejudices have led many to endeavor to limit the natural meaning of the words: “And so all Israel shall be saved.” Sometimes, and that even by such astute men as Augustine and Calvin, the term has been understood spiritually as denoting the whole number of believers, Jews and Gentiles, a sense which Israel certainly has in certain cases (as in Romans 9:6; Gal 6:16 ), but which here is simply impossible, since there is an express contrast between Jews and Gentiles in the immediate connection. Nor can the term when understood of the national Israel be narrowed down to “the remnant according to the election of grace,” understanding by this the number of those who from time to time in the course of the ages shall be brought into the fold. Had this been the meaning, the apostle would have expressed it otherwise. Nor, on the other hand, can the phrase be extended so as to include the whole nation numerically without any exception. For this would be contrary to usage. When Rehoboam went to Shechem, all Israel came there to make him king ( 1Ki 12:1 ), and when David brought up the ark from Kirjath Jearim ( 1Ch 13:5 ), it is said that he gathered all Israel together; but in neither case is it necessary or even possible to hold that every individual of the nation was included. It was enough that the people as a whole could be this described. And so the passage before us must be understood as indicating a national conversion, forever ending the old division into “an elect remnant” and “the rest who were hardened,” and uniting the entire body with the Gentiles as fellow-heirs in the grace of life. Nothing less than this can be the meaning of the apostle, and certainly it is sustained by that great miracle of Providence, the preservation of the nation in its distinctive life amid defeats, exiles, dispersions, persecutions, and enmities, such as in any other case would have caused an utter extermination of the sufferers.
But with this conversion of the Jews as a nation there have often been conjoined other views which receive no countenance from this passage, such as their restoration to Palestine, the renewal of the theocratic royalty, and the re-erection of the temple with its priesthood and its ritual just as in the palmiest days of the old Covenant. There is not a word of this in the New Testament, but much that points the other way. As Meyer well says, “Israel does not take in the church, but the church takes in Israel.” And this is all that need be asked. The self-invoked curse which has rested upon the race is to be removed, and dawn breaks in at last upon the long, long night of affliction. If all Israel is to be saved, if anti-Semitic prejudices and hatreds are to be removed, if the old distinction which has outlived all other differences of nation or of race and run the deepest groove in human society the world has seen, is to be forever effaced, and Jew and Gentile are to become really one in Christ Jesus, then the domicile of the covenant people is of small consequence. Whether they live in Canaan or elsewhere, they still would retain the ancestral glories recited by the apostle ( Rom 9:4-5 ), would still be beloved for their fathers' sakes, and would still feel the tie of the elder brother more than any others, because as to His human nature He too was of the stock of Israel. No earthly priority, no civil distinctions, no headship in ritual services, no national privilege of any kind, would be anything more than a wretched exchange for the adoption and the blessed hope which belong to all Christians as fellow-heirs and fellow-members of the body and fellow-partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus.
the Fifth Week after Easter