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Bible Commentaries

Beet's Commentary on Selected Books of the New TestamentBeet on the NT

- Philippians

by Joseph Agar Beet


IN the present volume I have expounded the third group of St. Paul’s Epistles, those written during his first imprisonment at Rome. It is well that the four Epistles are expounded in one volume. For they are most closely related in thought and expression, and unitedly present a very definite phase of St. Paul’s thought; a marked development of the thought embodied in the great group already annotated. This rich development can be appreciated only by consecutive study of the whole group.

The distinctive features of my earlier volumes dominate this new work. As before, my aim has been not merely to reproduce the sense which the Apostle designed his words to convey, but also to use his letters as a means of reproducing his conception of the Gospel and of Christ, in order thus to reach the actual teaching of Christ and those unseen realities which He came to reveal to men. Consequently, as before, my exposition of the Epistles of Paul is a specific contribution to Systematic Theology. And, since these Epistles contain important evidence of the truth of the doctrines so firmly believed by the Apostle, my exposition of them is also a contribution to the Evidences of Christianity. This accounts for my long and full discussion of the authorship of the Epistles now annotated; and for the frequent indication, throughout the exposition, of words and phrases revealing the hand of Paul. For my method of research required me to prove that the doctrines set forth in these Epistles were actually taught by St. Paul. And it accounts also for the somewhat polemic form of the closing Dissertations in which I have embodied the chief results of our study.

For two classes of readers I have written expressly, for students of the Greek Testament and for intelligent readers of the English Bible. The former will find a careful grammatical exposition of the Greek text of the Epistles; and will catch the reason for many English renderings which to others will seem harsh or even ungrammatical. They will notice that at every point, both in my translation and in my frequent paraphrases and summaries of the language of St. Paul, I have endeavoured to reproduce the exact meaning and emphasis of the Greek words written by him. This frequent and careful reproduction of his meaning will also be of use to many who are unable to verify it by comparison with the original, but who wish to grasp, through the medium of their own language, as accurately and fully as possible the thoughts of the great Apostle.

My chief helpers have been, as before, Meyer and Hofmann among Germans, and Ellicott and Lightfoot among English commentators. To these I may add the very full and able commentary on the Epistle to the Colossians by Kloepper, and a most accurate and acute exposition of the same Epistle, in The Pulpit Commentary, by Findlay. So good is this last work that, but for the difference of aim noted above, it would have been needless for me to attempt another exposition. Dr. Maclaren’s volume on the same Epistle in The Expositor’s Bible is most excellent. But as a popular exposition for general readers, rather than for students, its aim differs widely from that of my own work. Of another kind, but also good, are the contributions to The Cambridge Bible for Schools by Moule.

On the genuineness of the Epistles now annotated, I am glad to refer to the very able and attractive Introduction to the New Testament by Dr. Salmon.

On the Christian Ministry, about which I have said something in my Dissertation on “Paul’s Conception of the Church,” I must express my great obligation to the very able Dissertation in Lightfoot’s Philippians. Although published twenty-two years ago, it seems to me to be still the best work on this important subject. Also of great value are a recent volume on the same subject by Dean Lefroy, and Dr. Hatch’s Bampton Lectures on The Organization of the Early Churches. I have also reed with care Gore’s Ministry of The Christian Church; but, for reasons given in my Dissertation, I am compelled to reject the most conspicuous conclusions of the author.

To all Christian readers I commend most earnestly a careful study of these profound Epistles. A commentary is but a guide-post pointing to something far better than itself, or at best a companion leading others along a path the writer has himself trodden. That path each one must tread for himself, if he is to gather the flowers which adorn it and to find the hidden treasures to which it leads. These treasures are beyond the price of rubies. And they are within reach of every one who, guided by the Spirit of the Truth, walks in the steps of the Great Teacher.

WESLEYAN COLLEGE, RICHMOND, 27th September, 1890.



IN former volumes I have endeavoured to expound the Epistles to the Romans, Corinthians, and Galatians. These Epistles we found accepted in the second century throughout the Christian Church without a shadow of doubt as written by the Apostle Paul. And the strong presumption of genuineness thus afforded was raised to absolute certainty by our examination of the contents of the Epistles; especially by comparison, one with another and with the statements of the Book of Acts, of various casual references to matters of fact, and by the harmonious and life-like portrait of the mental and moral character of the writer which we found depicted in clearest lines on the pages of each Epistle. We found that the four Epistles were written within a year, amid the activities and anxieties of Paul’s Third Missionary Journey. His movements during that year, we were able, in the light of these Epistles and of the Book of Acts, to trace with considerable accuracy.

At various points in our course we tried to reproduce, in a fragmentary way, Paul’s conception of the Gospel he preached and of Christ. This reproduced conception we compared here and there with other writings of the New Testament. Our comparison assured us that the doctrines so firmly held by Paul, or doctrines equivalent, were actually taught by Christ, and that Christ actually claimed the supreme dignity reflected so clearly in the entire teaching and thought of Paul. And the confident belief by Paul and others that Christ rose from the dead, taken in connection with its effect upon the entire subsequent history of mankind and with the fitness of the Gospel to supply our own spiritual need, convinced us of the truth of that which the Apostles so firmly believed, and assured us that Jesus of Nazareth actually rose from the dead and that He is in very truth the Uncreated Son of God.

2. These results we shall in the present volume assume, and make the basis of further theological research. Four other Epistles, each claiming to have been written by Paul, now demand attention. Unfortunately, we have not for them the clear historic light which illumined the circumstances, and enabled us to fix approximately the date, of the Epistles already annotated. And the contents of some of them have, rightly or wrongly, given rise in some minds to doubts about their authorship. The evidence of their genuineness, we shall therefore carefully sift.

If, as I hope to prove, we have good grounds for accepting with confidence these Epistles as from the pen which wrote those already expounded, our study of them will greatly enlarge our view of Paul’s conception of the Gospel and of Christ. Thoughts found only in germ in the earlier Epistles, we shall now find fully developed: and we shall find other thoughts not even suggested before, but when once suggested seen to be logically deduced from, or in harmony with, Paul’s earlier teaching. We shall thus be able to trace development in the thought of the Apostle. In the earlier Epistles we felt the earnestness of conflict: we shall now find the serene calm of victory. We shall find also the fulness of mature thought. Captivity of body has set the prisoner’s spirit free for loftier flights than were possible amid the activities of apostolic toil. The narrow limits of prison walls opened to him a vision farther reaching and more glorious than any he had seen while hasting over sea and land to proclaim the good news of salvation. This profounder teaching will greatly strengthen our hold of the fundamental truths already learnt, will quicken and delight our intelligence, and will raise us, amid the tumult and anxiety of earth, ourselves to share the calm which filled the breast of the imprisoned Apostle.


1. That each of the Epistles before us was accepted without a shadow of doubt throughout the Christian Church in the latter part of the second century as a genuine work of the Apostle Paul, is proved by frequent quotations in the extant works of Tertullian, Clement of Alexandria, and Irenæus.

2. So TERTULLIAN, Prescriptions against Heretics ch. 36: “the apostolic Churches… in which their authentic letters are read, uttering the voice and representing the face of each one. Is Achaia near to thee? Thou hast Corinth. If thou art not far from Macedonia, thou hast Philippi, thou hast Thessalonica. If thou art able to go to Asia, thou hast Ephesus. But if thou art near to Italy, thou hast Rome.” Here are omitted only Galatia and Colossæ, places far inland and therefore less accessible than those mentioned. Similarly On the Resurrection of the Flesh ch. 23: “The Apostle teaches, writing to the Colossians, that we were once dead, aliens, and enemies of the mind of the Lord, when we were engaged in the worst works; then, buried with Christ in Baptism, and risen together in Him through faith of the energy of God who raised Him from the dead. And you, when ye were dead in sins and uncircumcision of your flesh, He hath made alive with Him, all sins being forgiven to you. And again, If with Christ ye are dead from the elements of the world, how indeed as if living in the world do ye submit to another’s judgment?… Then, If ye have risen, says he, with Christ, seek those things which are above where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Think about the things which are above, not those which are below… He adds also, For ye are dead, i.e. to sins, not to yourselves, and your life is hidden with Christ in God… When he writes to the Philippians, If in any way, he says, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead: not that already I have obtained or am made perfect… But I follow after if I may lay hold of that in which I am laid hold of by Christ. More fully, Brethren, I do not reckon myself to have laid hold. But one thing I do, forgetting things behind, reaching after things before, I follow after the goal for the prize of blamelessness for which I run. So Against Marcion bk. v. 17 he speaks of “that Epistle sent to the Ephesians, not to the Laodiceans: but Marcion was eager to give it a false title, as though he were a very diligent student of it. But the title is of no importance, since the Apostle wrote as much to all men as to some.” He then quotes in chs. 17, 18 a great part of the Epistle, noting here and there Marcion’s mutilations. “Remembering that ye formerly were Gentiles in flesh. Ye were called uncircumcision by that which is called circumcision in the flesh made by hand, that ye were at that time without Christ, alienated from intercourse with Israel, strangers to their covenants and promise, having no hope and without God in the world… But now, says he, in Christ, ye who were far off have been made near in His blood… How does he prove that women ought to be subject to their husbands? Because man, says he, is head of womanas also Christ is head of the Church.

Similarly also when he says: He loves his own flesh who loves his wife, as also Christ loves the Church… No one, says he, hates his own flesh, unless indeed Marcion alone, but nourishes and cherishes it, as also Christ the Church.” In chs. 19, 20, Tertullian quotes at length the Epistles to the Colossians and Philippians as written by “the Apostle;” and says in ch. 21 that through its shortness the Epistle to Philemon alone escaped mutilation by Marcion.

3. CLEMENT of ALEXANDRIA in the Pædagogue bk. i. 6 (p. 311, ed. Migne) quotes almost word for word Philippians 3:12-15 as written by Paul: and in Miscellanies bk. iv. 13 (p. 1300) he quotes Philippians 1:29; Philippians 2:2; Philippians 1:7; Philippians 2:20-21, as written to the Philippians by “the Apostle.” So in bk. i. 1 (p. 705) he quotes Colossians 1:28 as written by “the Apostle… in the Epistle to the Colossians;” and similarly Colossians 2:4; Colossians 2:6-8 in ch. 11, p. 748f. The Epistle to the Ephesians he quotes very frequently: e.g. Pædagogue bk. i. 5, p. 269: “Most clearly, writing to the Ephesians, he (the Apostle) revealed the matter sought for, saying in some such way as this; “quoting almost word for word Ephesians 4:13-15.

So IRENÆUS in bk. v. 13. 3: “And again to the Philippians he (the Apostle) says; “quoting Philippians 1:20-21. Also in § 4: “the Apostle in the Epistle to the Philippians says;” quoting Philippians 3:10-11. As contained “in the Epistle to the Colossians” he quotes in bk. iii. 14. 1, Colossians 4:14, and in bk. v. 14. 2, Colossians 1:21-22. In bk. v. 2. 3, of which fortunately we possess the original, Irenæus says, “as the blessed Paul says in the Epistle to the Ephesians, Because members we are of the body, of His flesh and of His bones, word for word from Ephesians 5:30. Also in ch. xiv. 3: “as the Apostle says to the Ephesians, In whom we have redemption through His blood, even remission of sins. And again to the same persons, Ye, says he, who once were far off have been made near in the blood of Christ. And again, Making of no effect enmities, in His flesh, the law of precepts with decrees. (Ephesians 1:7; Ephesians 2:13; Ephesians 2:15.) But also in every Epistle the Apostle testifies,” etc.

The short Epistle to Philemon is not quoted by Clement of Alexandria or by Irenæus. But it is three times quoted word for word by ORIGEN as written by Paul to Philemon: On Jeremiah, Homily 19, p. 263; Series of comments on Matthew, § 66, p. 884, § 72, p. 889. JEROME in the Introduction to his commentary upon it defends the genuineness of the Epistle to Philemon against objections based on the unimportance of its matter.

4. In the letter sent in A.D. 177 from the Churches of Vienna and Lyons in Gaul and given at length by Eusebius, (Church Hist. bk. v. 2,) Philippians 2:6 is quoted word for word. In the FRAGMENT of MURATORI are enumerated among. “the Epistles of Paul” those to the Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon. JUSTIN MARTYR, in ch. 85 of his Dialogue with Trypho and again in ch. 138, calls Christ firstborn of every creature; referring evidently in each case to Colossians 1:15. There is an apparent reference to the same in chs. 84, 100. In ch. 3 of the Epistle of POLYCARP to the Philippians, a work probably genuine, we read of “the wisdom of the blessed and glorious Paul, who when he came among you… also when absent wrote to you letters;” or probably “a letter.” In the same Epistle, ch. 1, we read by grace ye are saved, not of works, word for word from Ephesians 2:8.

5. The above quotations, with multitudes similar, are complete proof that each of the three longer Epistles was well known by Christians throughout the Roman Empire before the end of the second century, and was accepted without a shadow of doubt as a genuine work of Paul. The quotations from Tertullian prove that they were accepted as in the main genuine before the middle of the century by Marcion, an avowed enemy of the Gospel. Throughout the literature of the early Church, there is no trace of doubt about their authorship.

It is right to say that the so-called Epistle of Barnabas is several times quoted confidently by Clement of Alexandria (e.g. Misc. bk. ii. 6, p. 965 Migne, and ch. 20, p. 1060, and bk. Philemon 1:10, p. 95) as written by the companion of Paul; and is quoted by Origen (Against Celsus bk. i. 63, On First Principles iii. 2. 4) as the Epistle of Barnabas. But it is not referred to by Irenæus: and, though apparently known to Tertullian, nothing is said by him about its authorship. It is reckoned as spurious by Eusebius (Church History bk. iii. 25) and by later writers. This case warns us not to accept, as decisive proof of authorship, the testimony of any one writer. The force of the above quotations lies in the unbroken and confident unanimity thus revealed in Churches widely separated.

This unanimous consent is at once a strong presumption of the genuineness of the Epistles before us. We ask whether it is confirmed or contradicted by their contents.

6. We consider first the Epistle to the PHILIPPIANS.

In Acts 28:31 we leave Paul in prison at Rome, after an appeal to Cæsar; and in Philippians 1:13 we find him in bonds, weighing the possibilities (Philippians 1:20-23) of life and death, and sending (Philippians 4:22) greetings from members of Cæsar’s household. In Philippians 1:1, as in 2 Corinthians 1:1, Timothy, who was present with Paul (Acts 17:14; Acts 18:5) at the founding of the Churches of Philippi and Corinth, is associated with him as joint author of the Epistle. The description of Timothy in Philippians 2:19-22, and his hoped-for mission to Philippi, are in close agreement with 1 Corinthians 4:17. The gift of money from Philippi to Paul at Rome accords completely with the statement in 2 Corinthians 11:8-9 that when he was in want at Corinth his needs were supplied by money sent from Macedonia, in which province was Philippi; and with the great liberality of another kind of which Paul boasts in 2 Corinthians 8:2. His deep anxiety about the Church at Corinth expressed in 2 Corinthians 2:13; 2 Corinthians 7:5 has its counterpart in the loving care for the Christians at Philippi which breathes in Philippians 1:7-8; Philippians 1:27; Philippians 2:19; Philippians 4:1. Paul’s reference in Philippians 3:6 to his past life recalls Galatians 1:13. Amid a somewhat changed tone, easily explained by changed surroundings and prospects, the careful student will find innumerable coincidences in theological thought and expression revealing the mind and hand of Paul. Many of these will be noted in our exposition. As examples I may here quote the word righteousness as used in Philippians 3:9 compared with Romans 10:3; Romans 3:21-22; emptied himself in Philippians 2:7 compared with 2 Corinthians 8:9; the cross of Christ in Philippians 3:18 and Galatians 6:14; the term children of God in Philippians 2:15 compared with Romans 8:16-17; Galatians 3:26; Galatians 4:6-7. In Philippians 3:14 we have a metaphor from the Greek athletic contests, as in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27. In Philippians 3:17 Paul points to himself as an example: a close coincidence with 1 Corinthians 11:1. Similarly, the boasting in Philippians 3:5-6 is in close agreement with 2 Corinthians 11:22-33.

This far-reaching coincidence of thought and expression will be the more significant if the Epistle before us be compared with those which do not bear the name of Paul. It is complete confirmation of the belief of the early Church. So convincing is this combined proof that almost all modern scholars, including many who like Renan and Pfleiderer reject the faith so firmly held by Paul, accept the Epistle to the Philippians as written by the great Apostle.

7. We turn now to the Epistle to the COLOSSIANS. And everywhere in it we meet with words, phrases, thought, and arrangement already familiar, and in great part peculiar to Paul. The greeting recalls at once Philippians 1:1-2; 2 Corinthians 1:1-2. As in Romans and Galatians, we have first doctrine and argument, then moral teaching. As in Philippians 1:3-11, the letter before us begins with thanks to God for the readers spiritual life, and passes on to prayer for their further progress. Notice the word redemption in Colossians 1:14; Romans 3:24; 1 Corinthians 1:30; reconciled to God in Colossians 1:20; Colossians 1:22, slightly modified from the word in Romans 5:10; 2 Corinthians 5:18-20; Christ the Image of God and Firstborn in Colossians 1:15 and in 2 Corinthians 4:4; Romans 8:29; the mystery once hidden but now manifested, in Colossians 1:26; Colossians 2:2; Colossians 4:3 as in Romans 16:25-26; 1 Corinthians 2:7; wealth in a metaphorical sense in Colossians 1:27; Colossians 2:2, as in Romans 2:4; Romans 9:23; Romans 11:12; Romans 11:33; the rudiments of the world in Colossians 2:8; Galatians 4:3; buried in Baptism and risen-with Christ in Colossians 2:11-12; Romans 6:4-5; puffed up in Colossians 2:18; 1 Corinthians 4:6; 1 Corinthians 4:18-19; 1 Corinthians 5:2; 1 Corinthians 8:1; 1 Corinthians 13:4; death with Christ a reason for no longer living the old life, Colossians 2:20; Romans 6:2; lists of sins in Colossians 3:5; Colossians 3:8, as in Romans 1:29-31; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10; Galatians 5:19-21, the old man in Colossians 3:9 as in Romans 6:6; and everywhere the intensely Pauline phrases in Christ and in the Lord. Paul’s earnest care and prayer in Colossians 2:1 for Christians he has never seen is in close agreement with Romans 1:9-11; as is his request in Colossians 4:3

for his readers’ prayers, with Romans 15:30-31; 2 Corinthians 1:11; Philippians 1:19. The metaphor, peculiar to Paul, of the Church as the body of Christ; found already in 1 Corinthians 12:12-27; Romans 12:4-5, meets us in Colossians 1:18; Colossians 1:24; Colossians 2:19, with a new development viz. Christ the Head. The admonition to women in Colossians 3:18 is in close harmony with 1 Corinthians 11:3; as is Colossians 3:15 with Philippians 4:7. In Colossians 4:7 Tychicus is said to have been sent to Colossæ: in Acts 20:4 he is a companion of Paul in travel, and is called a native of the province of Asia in which Colossæ was situated. That Mark was (Colossians 4:10) cousin of Barnabas, helps to explain Acts 15:37 : an important coincidence. That Luke, the reputed author (see my Corinthians p. 493) of the Third Gospel, is said in Colossians 4:14 to be a beloved friend of Paul, suggests a reason for occasional points of contact between that Gospel and the theology of Paul. The autograph in Colossians 4:18 recalls Galatians 6:11.

The real significance of the above coincidences can be fairly estimated only by careful and consecutive study of the Epistle itself and by comparison of it with the earlier Epistles of Paul and with other documents not from his pen. For some of these words and phrases are used by other writers. Their value as proofs of common authorship lies in their accumulation in this one short Epistle, and in their relation to the surrounding train of thought.

It is right to say that some good scholars, of whom Pfleiderer is perhaps the best representative, deny that the Epistle to the Colossians is from Paul, on the ground that the errors therein combated were not prevalent till long after his death; that it contains teaching not found in his acknowledged Epistles and in part contradicting them; and that it contains words and phrases not used in his earlier letters. The issue thus raised must be decided by judging whether it is more easy, accepting the Epistle as genuine, to explain these three grounds of objection, or, rejecting it as spurious, to account for the coincidences noted above and the universal and confident reception of the Epistle in the latter part, and probably in the middle, of the second century. This alternative we will now consider.

The words and phrases peculiar to this Epistle, when carefully examined, need cause little surprise. Surely a writer so versatile as Paul’s acknowledged Epistles prove him to have been would not exhaust his vocabulary in four epistles. Indeed the new topics now dealt with suggest and require words not used before. And, in spite of differences, the style is closely akin to that of the Epistle to the Philippians, and not far removed from that of the earlier Epistles. It is true that we have in this Epistle elements of teaching not found in the Epistles already annotated. But, as I shall endeavour to show in Diss. i., these new elements are legitimate and most valuable developments of the principles underlying the acknowledged Epistles. Is it not more likely that such developments would take place in the mind and thought of Paul than among disciples removed from him by more than a generation? Indeed the change from active evangelistic labour to the solitude of a prison would naturally suggest, in a man like Paul, profound investigation of the foundations of his faith. The wonder would be if such investigation were barren of results. On the other hand the entire extant literature of the second century presents nothing comparable for a moment to the solid advance in Christian thought embodied in this Epistle. To place it fifty years after the death of Paul, is an utter anachronism. Lastly, any argument based on the supposed later date of the errors here combated is most uncertain. For they were, as we shall see in a special note, an outgrowth of influences at work before the birth of Christ. And, so far as they can be traced in this Epistle, the errors at Colossæ were very rudimentary. Much more developed is the Gnosticism of Cerinthus who is said to have been a contemporary of the Apostle John. We see then that the objections noticed above have little weight as proofs that the Epistle is not from its professed writer.

Take now the other side of the alternative. We shall see that the developments of Paul’s teaching contained in this Epistle are of the utmost value. They are embodied in language which either is from his pen or is a servile imitation of his style. In this last point the Epistle before us presents a great contrast to that to the Hebrews. Could such profound thought and such servile imitation proceed from any one man? Or, again, can we conceive that such a teacher, a worthy successor to the Great Apostle and an illustrious exception to the intellectual barrenness of his age, would hide himself and bury his fame under the mask, and in the grave, of a forgery? Or, lastly, can we conceive a forged letter making its way to distant Carthage and to Gaul, and gaining acceptance everywhere, without a shadow of doubt, as a genuine work of Paul? Certainly, these accumulated improbabilities are infinitely greater than any difficulty in supposing that the Gnosticism of the second century existed in germ in the days of Paul and that the teaching of this Epistle is from the pen of the great thinker who expounded so grandly in the Epistle to the Romans the principles of which it is a logical development. We may therefore accept with confidence the Epistle to the Colossians as a genuine work of Paul.

8. The beautiful Epistle to PHILEMON contains nothing inconsistent with its genuineness, and bears everywhere marks of the hand and character of Paul. Among these last must be reckoned the absence of any request for the manumission of Onesimus. Tact so delicate belongs not to a forger. The names sending greeting to Philemon are a valuable coincidence with the same names in the Epistle to the Colossians.

9. The Epistle to the EPHESIANS bears nearly all the marks of genuineness adduced for that to the Colossians, and some others. We have a similar greeting, arrangement, and general style. Notice again the words redemption in Ephesians 1:7; wealth in Ephesians 1:18; Ephesians 2:7; Ephesians 3:8; Ephesians 3:16; mystery in Ephesians 1:9; Ephesians 3:3-4; Ephesians 3:9; Christ the Head of the Church, His body in Ephesians 1:22; Ephesians 4:12; Ephesians 4:16; the old man in Ephesians 4:22; desire for his readers’ prayers in Ephesians 6:19; and the phrases in Christ and in the Lord. As marked coincidences with the earlier Epistles, we notice also in Ephesians 1:4-5; Ephesians 1:11 the words purpose, chosen, predestined, embodying teaching in complete harmony with Romans 8:28-29; Romans 9:11; adoption in Ephesians 1:5, as in Romans 8:15; Romans 8:23; Romans 9:4; Galatians 4:5; sealed with the Spirit, the earnest of our inheritance in Ephesians 1:13-14; Ephesians 4:30, as in 2 Corinthians 1:22; surpassing in Ephesians 1:19; Ephesians 2:7; Ephesians 3:19 as in 2 Corinthians 3:10; 2 Corinthians 9:14 and its cognates in 2 Corinthians 1:8; 2 Corinthians 4:7; 2 Corinthians 4:17; 2 Corinthians 12:7, etc.; faith occupying in Ephesians 1:13; Ephesians 1:19; Ephesians 2:8; Ephesians 3:17; Ephesians 4:5 its familiar place in the theology of Paul; the covenants in Ephesians 2:12, a close parallel with Romans 9:4; Jews and Gentiles in common ruin and common salvation in Ephesians 2:3; Ephesians 2:11-22; Ephesians 3:6, as in Romans 1:16; Romans 3:9; Romans 10:12; Romans 15:8-9; the Church as a temple in Ephesians 2:20-22 as in 1 Corinthians 3:16; 1 Corinthians 6:19; 2 Corinthians 6:16; the grace of God given to Paul in Ephesians 3:2; Ephesians 3:7-8 as in Romans 12:3; Romans 15:15; 1 Corinthians 3:10; the less than least of all saints in Ephesians 3:8, compared with 1 Corinthians 15:9; edification in Ephesians 4:12; Ephesians 4:16; Ephesians 4:29 as in Romans 14:19; Romans 15:2; 1 Corinthians 14:3; 1 Corinthians 14:5; 1 Corinthians 14:12; 1 Corinthians 14:26; 2 Corinthians 10:8; 2 Corinthians 12:19; 2 Corinthians 13:10; and many others revealing throughout the Epistle the familiar hand of Paul. [Even the anaculothon in Ephesians 2:1 has a close parallel in Romans 5:12.]

A genuine mark of authorship, and a conspicuous feature of the Epistle to the Ephesians as compared with the others of the same group, is the reappearance and careful treatment of the distinction of Jew and Gentile so conspicuous in the earlier Epistles of Paul as compared with the works of all other N.T. writers. This distinction meets us in the outburst of praise (Ephesians 1:12-13) at the beginning of the Epistle. It is silently suggested by the change of pronoun between Ephesians 2:1-2 and Ephesians 2:3. The inferior position of the Gentiles before their conversion, and their union with Jews as now reconciled to God, are fully expounded in Ephesians 2:11-22. And this union is said in Ephesians 3:6 to have been a part of the eternal purpose of salvation.

This language reveals a mind long and deeply occupied with the different relations of Jew and Gentile to the Kingdom of God. How large a place this distinction had in the mind of Paul, we learn from Romans 1:16; Romans 2:9-10; Romans 2:25-29; Romans 3:1; Romans 3:9; 1 Corinthians 1:22-24; 1 Corinthians 10:32; Galatians 3:27; Colossians 3:11. And indisputably it is a mark of early date. For it is impossible to conceive that, after Jerusalem had been taken and the race scattered and after Gentile Christianity had gained a secure and independent position, any writer would lay so much stress on the equality in spiritual privilege of the Gentiles to the Jews. Jewish Christians who still clung to their ancient prerogatives would not place the Gentles on their own level. A Gentile writer who had witnessed the final dispersion of the Jewish race would consider it but small honour that God has placed the Gentiles on a level with the nation which had murdered the Son of God. Now early date is a strong presumption of genuineness. For it is in the last degree unlikely, while men were living who had known Paul, that the work of some unknown author would have been widely and confidently accepted as his.

Another mark of early date is the enumeration, in Ephesians 4:11, of Church officers as Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, and Pastors and Teachers. For, as we learn from the tone of the letters attributed with much probability to Ignatius and as we infer from later writers, monarchical episcopacy was firmly established early in the second century. Had there been in the Church an order of bishops distinct from the elders, whom we may here identify with the pastors and teachers, these could not have been passed over here in silence. On the other hand, this enumeration is in complete accord with 1 Corinthians 12:28. This last passage explains also the phrase apostles and prophets in Ephesians 2:20; Ephesians 3:5.

Against the unanimous and confident acceptance of the Epistle in the latter part of the second century, supported as it is by these internal marks of genuineness or of early date, the words and phrases and grammatical constructions more or less peculiar to this Epistle have no weight. For they are easily explained. Living thought ever clothes itself in new forms. Taken as a whole, the Epistle is incomparably nearer in diction and modes of thought to the acknowledged Epistles of Paul than is any document other than those which bear his name.

As in the Epistle to the Colossians, so in that to the Ephesians, we shall in Diss. i. find new and legitimate and most valuable developments of the principles unfolded in the earlier Epistles. These developments give to each Epistle great and independent worth. In each case they have been put forward as marks of a later hand. But, as we have already seen in the companion Epistle, they reveal the thought and hand of Paul. On the other hand, the argument against the genuineness of the Colossian Epistle based upon the late date of the errors therein combated has no force against the Epistle now before us. For it contains no definite refutation of specific error. Nor can any one say that the style of this latter Epistle is in any way more unlike that of Paul than is the Epistle to the Colossians.

One special argument, however, is brought against the Epistle to the Ephesians by not a few who accept its companion as genuine. The many close coincidences in thought and expression are appealed to in proof that it is a later imitation of the Epistle to the Colossians. These coincidences are indisputable. As important elements common to the two Epistles and peculiar to them, I note Christ the Head of the Church in Colossians 2:18 and Ephesians 1:23, in Colossians 2:19 and Ephesians 4:16; dead through trespasses but now made alive with Christ in Colossians 2:13 and Ephesians 2:5; the inward change described in Colossians 3:9-10 and Ephesians 4:22-24. Compare also Ephesians 4:32 to Ephesians 5:2 with Colossians 3:12-13; Ephesians 5:3-6 with Colossians 3:5-8; Ephesians 5:19 with Colossians 3:16; Ephesians 5:22 to Ephesians 6:9 with Colossians 3:18 to Colossians 4:1, a long and close parallel. Since the Epistle to the Colossians has a specific occasion in the definite errors therein refuted, nearly all who reject one of the Epistles as not genuine reject that to the Ephesians. Certainly, the close and sustained similarity proves either that one Epistle is a servile imitation of the other or that they are the twin offspring of one mind.

Our choice between these suppositions depends upon our estimate of the Epistle to the Ephesians as compared with that to the Colossians. That it has a distinctive and dominating and all-important mark of its own, Diss. i. will, I hope, make clear to us. The characteristic feature of the Epistle to the Colossians is its exposition of the Person of Christ: the chief matter of that to the Ephesians is the Church. This is very conspicuous in Ephesians 5:22-33 as compared with Colossians 3:18-19. The question before us turns on our estimate of the Epistle itself and of this independent element in it. It can therefore be answered only by careful study of it. I hope that the exposition before us will convince the reader that in grandeur and worth the Epistle to the Ephesians is unsurpassed by any human composition. Its great and independent value is admitted even by Pfleiderer who denies its genuineness. And its worth proves its genuineness. For we cannot conceive a man capable of the profound thought which breathes throughout this Epistle becoming so servile an imitator even of an Apostle. Independent thought always clothes itself in fitting language of its own.

On the other hand if our judgment be that the Epistle is a worthless imitation, we are at once met by an inexplicable difficulty, viz. the early and unanimous and confident acceptance of it as written by Paul. If the work were from a later hand, is it conceivable that every trace of its origin should have vanished utterly from the memory of the early Church? Certainly this is an historic difficulty which needs to be reckoned with. It is increased by the widespread and uncontradicted tradition which connects with Ephesus the last years of the Apostle John. For he would know whether the Church in which he lived had an Epistle from the hand of his departed colleague. Consequently, if not written by Paul, the Epistle must be a work of the second century. Yet in the middle of the century it was accepted as genuine, even by Marcion an enemy of the Gospel!

Some have suggested that the name of Paul was prefixed by some good man to a work of his own, not to deceive, but in order to call attention to sentiments similar to those of the great Apostle. This suggestion is completely overturned by comparison of evidently spurious documents bearing the names of Apostles. All these are worthless in themselves, never gained general reception, and nearly all were expressly rejected by Church writers. A more marked contrast than that between these wretched parodies and the Epistles before us cannot be conceived. The comparison attests the genuineness of the document so familiar and so precious to all Christians.

Another suggestion is that the Epistles to the Colossians and Ephesians have, one or both, been interpolated, that on the basis of a shorter work actually written by Paul have been erected, probably by one hand, the two documents we now possess. This suggestion will, I hope, be disproved by our study of the text of the Epistles, and by the harmony and order and life we shall find therein. It is also disproved by the complete general agreement of all our early copies. The Epistles attributed to Ignatius were interpolated. For the few existing copies of them reveal different recensions. But it is inconceivable that the original works of the great Apostle, which must have been prized and guarded by the Churches to which they were sent, should pass utterly out of view, and that one single corrupted recension should usurp and retain the place thus vacated.

It is worthy of note that these wild suggestions come only from those who have already persuaded themselves that Christ did not rise from the dead, and that Christianity with its mighty effect upon the world is a result of the preaching of men who were in most serious error touching the nature and teaching of their Master.

In view then of their universal and confident reception throughout the Roman Empire, by friends and enemies, in the latter part of the second century, of their deep and broad and minute agreement with the thought and phraseology of Paul, and of their matchless and independent worth, we may accept without a shadow of doubt each of the Epistles before us as a genuine work of the Apostle Paul.


1. The Greek text of the Epistle to the Philippians presents, touching the correctness of our copies, no difficulties worthy of mention. Of changes adopted without note by the Revisers, only the following have any practical importance:—

1. Philippians 1:11 : fruit for fruits.

2. Philippians 1:14 : the word of God for the word.

3. Philippians 1:16-17 : rearrange the sentence.

4. Philippians 1:16-17 : raise up for add.

5. Philippians 1:23 : but instead of for.

6. Philippians 1:23 : for it instead of which.

7. Philippians 2:4 : not looking for look not.

8. Philippians 2:9 : the name for a name.

9. Philippians 2:30 : hazard for not regarding.

10. Philippians 3:3 : by the Spirit of God for God in the Spirit.

11. Philippians 3:11 : from the dead for of the dead.

12. Philippians 3:16 : omit rule, let us mind the same thing.

13. Philippians 4:3 : Yes, for and.

14. Philippians 4:13 : Him for Christ.

15. Philippians 4:23 : your spirit for you all.

All these are accepted without doubt by all recent critical editors, i.e. by Lachmann, Tischendorf, Tregelles, and Westcott and Hort; except that about No. 6 Tregelles expresses in his margin a slight doubt. I think that all may be accepted with perfect confidence. On the other hand, no important reading which the editors agree to accept is overlooked by the Revisers.

The few readings open to doubt and of any importance whatever are noted in the Revisers’ Margin. They are as follows:—

1. Philippians 2:2 : of the same mind or of one mind.

2. Philippians 2:12 : omit or insert as.

3. Philippians 2:26 : add or omit to see you.

4. Philippians 2:30 : the Lord or Christ.

5. Philippians 3:13 : omit or insert yet.

All these are uncertain and unimportant.

No variations worthy of attention are overlooked by the Revisers.

2. The Epistle to the Colossians presents more important variations. The following list includes all changes adopted without note by the Revisers and worthy of attention here:—

1. Colossians 1:2 : omit and the Lord Jesus Christ.

2. Colossians 1:3 : omit and before Father.

3. Colossians 1:6 : after fruit insert and increasing.

4. Colossians 1:10 : by the knowledge of God for in or for the knowledge, etc.

5. Colossians 1:14 : omit through His blood.

6. Colossians 1:16 : twice omit that are.

7. Colossians 2:2 : omit and of the Father and.

8. Colossians 2:11 : omit of the sins of the flesh.

9. Colossians 2:13 : through for in the trespasses.

10. Colossians 2:13 : forgiven us instead of you.

11. Colossians 2:20 : omit wherefore.

12. Colossians 3:5 : the members for your members.

13. Colossians 3:15 : Christ for God.

14. Colossians 3:16 : to God for to the Lord.

15. Colossians 3:20 : in the Lord for to the Lord.

16. Colossians 3:22 : the Lord for God.

17. Colossians 3:24 : omit for before ye serve.

18. Colossians 3:25 : read for instead of but.

19. Colossians 4:8 : read that ye may know our estate.

20. Colossians 4:18 : omit amen.

Of these variations, there is among recent editors some difference about Nos. 2 and 6: about five more of them, the critical editors since Lachmann have been agreed: all the others are accepted by all editors, from Lachmann to Westcott and Hort. The entire list may, I believe, be accepted with perfect confidence.

The readings noted in the Reviser’s margin as open to doubt are:—

1. Colossians 1:7 : our or your.

2. Colossians 1:12 : us or you.

3. Colossians 1:21 : has He reconciled or ye have been reconciled.

4. Colossians 2:2 : general disorder.

5. Colossians 2:7 : omit or insert in it before in or with thanksgiving.

6. Colossians 2:18 : seen nor not seen.

7. Colossians 3:4 : our or your life.

8. Colossians 3:6 : omit or insert upon the sons of disobedience.

9. Colossians 3:13 : the Lord or Christ.

10. Colossians 3:16 : Christ or Lord or God.

11. Colossians 4:15 : their or her.

In each of these cases the balance of probability seems to me to incline somewhat to the Revisers’ preference; decidedly so in No. 1, a reading of some importance. In No. 4, a most important passage, the complete confusion of the oldest documents renders impossible a reliable decision: but the balance of probability inclines very decidedly to the Revisers’ preference. See note in Lightfoot’s Colossians. In No. 6, the word removed by the Revisers to their margin has been confidently rejected by all critical editors since Lachmann marked it as doubtful. Evidence external and internal seems to me decisive against it. In No. 8, the words noted in the margin as doubtful are supported by a preponderance of ancient documents so great as at first sight to exclude doubt. But they are omitted by the very excellent Vatican MS., and have the appearance of being copied from Ephesians 5:6; and are for this reason confidently rejected by all critical editors since Lachmann marked them as doubtful. Internal reasons seem to me to favour the genuineness of the words. See note. In No. 11, where the variations have considerable interest, the Revisers’ preference seems to me well grounded. The other readings noted in the margin are of little practical importance.

In Colossians 1:20, the words through Him are omitted in some of the best MSS. and versions, and by Lachmann and Tregelles without note and in the margin of Westcott. This omission might fairly claim a place in the Revisers’ margin. No other variation worthy of attention is omitted by them.

On the whole, in the Greek text of the Epistle to the Colossians, the only problems of importance not yet solved for us by Textual Criticism are the various readings in Colossians 1:7; Colossians 2:2; Colossians 4:15.

3. In the Epistle to PHILEMON, the only changes worthy of mention accepted without note by the Revisers are those in Philemon 1:2; Philemon 1:12, which are also adopted by all recent editors, without note except on Philemon 1:12 in the margin of Tregelles. It may be received with confidence. The only reading of any importance open to doubt is that noted in the margin of Philemon 1:6, where perhaps a slight probability inclines towards the Revisers’ preference: but certain decision is impossible.

4. In the Epistle to the EPHESIANS, the changes adopted without note by the Revisers and worthy of attention are:—

1. Ephesians 1:18 : heart for understanding.

2. Ephesians 2:1 : insert your before trespasses.

3. Ephesians 2:17 : insert peace before to those near.

4. Ephesians 2:19 : insert ye are before fellow-citizens.

5. Ephesians 2:21 : every building: instead of all the building.

6. Ephesians 3:3 : was-made-known for He made known.

7. Ephesians 3:6 : the for His.

8. Ephesians 3:8 : to the Gentiles for among the Gentiles.

9. Ephesians 3:9 : stewardship or dispensation for fellowship.

10. Ephesians 3:9 : omit through Jesus Christ.

11. Ephesians 3:14 : omit of our Lord Jesus Christ.

12. Ephesians 3:21 : insert and before in Christ Jesus.

13. Ephesians 4:6 : in all instead of in you all.

14. Ephesians 4:17 : omit other before Gentiles.

15. Ephesians 5:2 : you instead of us.

16. Ephesians 5:9 : light for Spirit.

17. Ephesians 5:21 : Christ for God.

18. Ephesians 5:23 : Himself Saviour for and He is Saviour.

19. Ephesians 5:27 : omit it before to Himself.

20. Ephesians 5:30 : omit of His flesh to end.

21. Ephesians 6:9 : for your read of them and of you.

22. Ephesians 6:10 : omit my brethren.

23. Ephesians 6:12 : read this darkness.

24. Ephesians 6:16 : read among all for upon all.

All these are accepted without note by all recent editors, except No. 15, a reading of no importance, adopted by all but Lachmann; and No. 20, about which Tregelles, while omitting the words in question, expresses doubt. All may, I think, be accepted with confidence.

The readings noted in the Revisers margin as open to doubt are:—

1. Ephesians 1:1 : insert or omit at Ephesus.

2. Ephesians 1:15 : omit or insert love.

3. Ephesians 2:5 : with Christ or in Christ.

4. Ephesians 3:9 : insert or omit all before men.

5. Ephesians 4:9 : omit or insert first before into the lower parts.

6. Ephesians 4:32 : you or us.

7. Ephesians 5:2 : for us or for you.

For Nos. 1 and 2, important and difficult variations, see notes. In No. 3, the oldest and best uncial, viz. the Vatican MS., the accurate Coptic version, and one of the best cursives, support the reading in the margin against all other authorities. But the practical difference is slight. The other marginal readings are unimportant.

No variations worthy of note and of any claim to genuineness are overlooked by the Revisers. In short, the Greek text underlying the four Epistles here annotated may be accepted throughout with full confidence was, within narrow limits, representing correctly the original text of these Epistles.

5. In the renderings of the REVISED VERSION of the Epistle to the PHILIPPIANS, among many improvements I note the following. In Philippians 1:13, the whole prætorian guard is much more accurate than all the palace. The rendering in Philippians 2:6, counted it not a prize to be on an equality with God is, in my view, not correct: but in Philippians 2:7 the rendering emptied himself instead of made himself of no reputation is an unspeakable gain, not merely as a more correct reproduction of Paul’s thought but as shedding light on the profound mystery of the Incarnation. In Philippians 3:9 a righteousness of my own is a most happy rendering, instead of the less accurate my own righteousness. Our citizenship, in Philippians 3:20, is much better than the misleading or almost meaningless word conversation: and the body of our humiliation, of his glory, in Philippians 3:21, corrects a serious misrepresentation. In Philippians 4:3, the rendering help these women, for they laboured with me in the Gospel, makes clear Paul’s reference to the two women just mentioned by name. In nothing be anxious (Philippians 4:6) is a good reproduction of Paul’s meaning and emphasis, and replaces a rendering very liable to be misunderstood, be careful for nothing. Even the change in Philippians 4:7 from through Christ Jesus to in Christ Jesus is not without significance. The rendering I have learnt the secret in Philippians 4:12 does something to reproduce the sense completely buried under the A.V. I am instructed. To these might be added many smaller improvements. And I do not know of anything to set against them.

In the Epistle to the COLOSSIANS, the marked improvements are not so many. But the change at the beginning and end of Colossians 1:16 from by Him were all things created to in Him, through Him is very important as stating more accurately the relation of the Son to the work of creation. The Revisers’ rendering of Colossians 2:15, having put off from Himself the principalities, reproduces fairly the meaning of Paul’s words, and thus calls attention to a difficulty quite concealed by the A.V.

having spoiled etc. Similarly, in Colossians 2:18 dwelling on the things which he hath seen is much nearer to Paul’s intention than intruding into etc. Severity to the body in Colossians 2:23 is better than neglecting of the body: and not in any value against indulgence of the flesh is intelligible and fairly correct, whereas the A.V. is unintelligible.

On the other hand, an aggravated form of the blemish mentioned on p. 541 of my Corinthians is found in Colossians 1:16, where the Revisers have displaced a very correct and idiomatic rendering for Him in favour of the meaningless words unto Him. They have also failed to make clear the evident reference of Colossians 4:11, viz. that the three men mentioned were the only Jews who had been a comfort to Paul.

In PHILEMON Philemon 1:12, my very heart is better than mine own bowels. Similarly, in Philemon 1:20. In Philemon 1:13, on thy behalf is more accurate than in thy stead.

The absence of any special errors of rendering in the A.V. of the Epistle to the EPHESIANS has left no occasion for improvements worthy of special mention here. But throughout these four Epistles are a multitude of minor changes (e.g. Ephesians 4:29 speech instead of communication) which, though not individually of great moment, give collectively a much better conception of Paul’s meaning than does the earlier Version.


1. PHILIPPI was situated some eight miles from Neapolis, now Kavala, on the northern shore of the Ægean Sea, in a level and well-watered and luxuriant plain surrounded by mountains and separated from the sea by a ridge of hills from 1,000 to 1,600 feet high. Over this range of hills and through Philippi passed the Egnatian Way, the great road from Asia Minor to the Adriatic and to Rome.

The city was rebuilt by Philip of Macedon, father of Alexander the Great, on the site of an older town called, from the many streams flowing through the plain, Crenides, or Springs of Water. On the plain of Philippi was fought after the death of Julius Cæsar the famous battle, renewed after twenty days on the same field, in which his murderers, Brutus and Cassius, were crushed by Octavius, who afterwards became the Emperor Augustus, and Mark Antony. To commemorate the battle Augustus afterwards made Philippi a Roman colony, and gave to it the further privileges known as the Italic right. On the Roman colonies, see my Corinthians p. 16. By an interesting coincidence, coins of Philippi have been found bearing, as was usual with colonies, Latin inscriptions, in marked contrast to other Macedonian coins with Greek inscriptions.

Philippi was the first European town in which Paul laboured. On his second missionary journey, probably in A.D. 52, (see my Galatians p. 193, {Diss. i.}) he arrived at Troas on the eastern shore of the Ægean Sea. From Troas, Mount Athos on the opposite coast of Macedonia, though distant more than eighty miles, is sometimes seen in the rays of the setting sun. And we can well believe that at Troas Paul’s thoughts went out after the mighty continent of Europe, now nearer to him than ever before. No wonder that in a dream a man of Macedonia besought his help. A rapid voyage of two days brought the little band to Neapolis. Thence, at once apparently, they passed on over the ridge to Philippi. That no synagogue is mentioned, suggests that not many Jews lived there. But Paul found some women, Jewesses or proselytes who were accustomed to meet together for prayer by the river-side. He was soon gladdened by the conversion of Lydia, apparently a woman of position, and later by that of the gaoler, and of their households. From this beginning sprang the Church at Philippi.

The reality of the good work thus begun was soon proved. The passing stranger was remembered after his departure by those to whom he had spoken words of life. Not only once but twice, even when he was at Thessalonica, the next city in which he preached, they sent a contribution of money for his support: Philippians 4:16. Nor was this all. During his eighteen months’ sojourn at Corinth, money was sent (2 Corinthians 11:9) to him from Macedonia, doubtless either altogether (cp. Philippians 4:15) from Philippi or stimulated by the liberality of the Philippians.

Paul’s second visit to Philippi was some six years later and along the same route. A fugitive from deadly peril at Ephesus he came to Troas, thinking not of his peril but of Titus whom he hoped to meet there with news about the unfaithful Church at Corinth: 2 Corinthians 2:12-13. But Titus was not at Troas: and Paul hurried across the Ægean to seek him in Macedonia. Landing at Neapolis he doubtless again pushed on to Philippi. And there or at least in Macedonia the wished-for messenger came, and with good news. In Macedonia Paul laboured for some time, and then went on to Corinth: Acts 20:2. On the return journey, accompanied by Luke who had been with him on his first visit to Philippi, (as we infer from we were and we sailed in Acts 16:12; Acts 20:6,) Paul spent Easter there, and went on his way, probably for the last time and with dark forebodings, to Jerusalem.

The curtain now falls on this most interesting Church until in some measure it is lifted by the Epistle before us. And with the close of this Epistle it falls again. The letter from Polycarp to the Church at Philippi, quoted on p. 5, says nothing about the state of the Church there except that Valens, a presbyter of it, and his wife, had been guilty of avarice. In subsequent history we hear nothing more. And to-day, amid quiet meadows, a few ruins are all that remain to mark the site of what once was Philippi.

2. Far more important than Philippi was EPHESUS, the splendid capital of the Roman province of Asia.

On the western coast of Asia Minor, some 300 miles due east of Corinth, into a bay partly closed by the island of Samos, the river Cayster flows through a plain about five miles across bounded to the north by low hills and to the south by the somewhat loftier range of mount Prion.* (* As these mountains are named by Mr. Wood, who was led by his discoveries to transpose the names previously given to them.) To the south of the river, upon and around a double hill called mount Coressus* {See * above} and upon the northern slopes of mount Prion stood Ephesus, a city built, together with others on the same coast, in the early dawn of the history of their nation, by Greeks from across the Ægean Sea.

Close outside the city, as we now know, from its earliest days stood a temple to the goddess Artemis. Even Herodotus in the fifth century B.C. speaks of the temple of Ephesus as worthy of note: bk. ii. 148. On or near the same site were successively erected and burnt several temples, of which all were famous but each surpassed in splendour its predecessor. One of these is said to have been burnt, apparently soon after its completion, in B.C. 356, on the day of the birth of Alexander the Great. This was followed, on the same site and a few years afterwards, by the temple standing in all its glory in the days of Paul. Of this temple Pausanias speaks as surpassing all buildings raised by men: bk. iv. 31. 8. And everywhere Ephesus was known as the sacristan of the great Artemis: Acts 19:35.

From the time of the Persian wars to that of Paul, Ephesus enjoyed great and increasing commercial prosperity. The rich country around supplied to the city abundant produce. And ships from every port filled its market with merchandise, to be exchanged for that borne along the great roads leading from Ephesus to the interior of Asia Minor. So Strabo says, “Owing to its good situation, the city increases day by day, being the greatest emporium on this side the Taurus mountains:” bk. xiv. p. 641. In the bloom of Greek art, Ephesus was famous for its painters and sculptors. And when art had faded, it was widely known as the chosen home of magic. So Clement of Alexandria speaks of “the so-called Ephesian letters,” a kind of charm, as being “far famed:” Misc. bk. v. 8, p. 72. The wealth of Ephesus and the luxuriant climate of the Asiatic coast produced also an unbridled self-indulgence for which the city was long notorious.

When the Roman province of Asia was formed, the commercial and religious importance of Ephesus, and the easy access to it from the west, made it the residence of the Roman Governor and the centre of Roman authority.

Such then was Ephesus when visited by Paul. Its temple, ancient and yet in full glory, was a wonder of the world and the veneration of all heathendom. Its quays and markets were crowded by men of every nation, enriching a city already rich. The soft climate invited to every kind of luxury. And over all the majesty of Rome shed the lustre of its mighty presence.

About A.D. 260, Ephesus was plundered and its temple set on fire by barbarian invaders. And from this time the temple passes from our view. It probably shared the fate of others in A.D. 399, when a decree was issued by the Emperors Arcadius and Honorius for the destruction of all temples except such as could be used for churches.

So complete was its destruction that until a few years ago no trace remained, nor was the site known, of the building which had been the glory of Ephesus and of Asia. A careful search for it was undertaken in the year 1863, under the auspices of the Trustees of the British Museum, by an English Architect, Mr. J. T. Wood, whose patient and well directed efforts were rewarded in 1869 by discovery of the long lost temple. During the next five years sufficient remains were found not only to place the site beyond doubt but to give a good and reliable idea of the building itself. These discoveries agree in the main with the scanty notices of Vitruvius, On Architecture bks. i. 2, iii. 1, iv. 1, and of Pliny, Natural History bk. xxxvi. 21. The temple was rectangular, 343 ft by 164 ft, not including the steps which surrounded it on all sides. It consisted of a central chamber, or Cella, containing the famous image of the goddess, with a vestibule in front and a large chamber behind. Around this building were two rows of Ionic fluted columns, about seven feet in diameter at the bottom of the shaft and about fifty-six feet high, supporting the roof of the temple. Pliny says that 36 columns were sculptured. And five drums or parts of drums of columns elaborately sculptured with life size human figures in high relief were found by Mr. Wood and may now be seen at the British Museum. Broken fluted drums in great abundance were brought to light. Portions of the marble pavement of the temple were found; as also parts of the pavements of two earlier temples on the same site. Also, with other inscriptions in the Theatre and other parts of the city, twenty-six inscriptions were found among the ruins of the temple conferring citizenship upon various foreigners who had rendered service to the Ephesians. A careful reprint and translation of these most interesting records of early Ephesian life, and a full account of the excavations, abundantly illustrated, are given in first-rate style in Wood’s Discoveries at Ephesus. Also interesting, and not superseded by Mr. Wood’s volume, is Falkener’s Ephesus.

We must now trace Paul’s connection with Ephesus. From Acts 16:6 we learn that, on his second missionary journey, he was hindered by the Holy Spirit from speaking the word in Asia. This suggests that his purpose was, after passing through Phrygia and Galatia, to carry the Gospel to that important province. And, if so, his eye must have rested on its great metropolis. But God had more pressing work for him to do, viz. to carry the Gospel at once to its future home, the great continent of Europe. On his return journey, as recorded in Acts 18:19, Paul paid a flying visit to Ephesus in company with his faithful helpers Aquila and Prisca who remained there, apparently for several years. That no Christians are mentioned, suggests that there was then no Church there. But as usual Paul went to the synagogue of the Jews, by whom he was well received and invited to remain. This he could not do, but promised soon to return.

Some time after Paul’s departure, there arrived at Ephesus an eloquent and earnest Alexandrian Jew, Apollos, who eagerly advocated, as he imperfectly understood them, the claims of Jesus. And, while doing so, he learnt from Aquila and Prisca the real significance of the Gospel he endeavoured to proclaim. Shortly afterwards he crossed the Ægean Sea to Achaia, and continued there his earnest work for Christ.

In the spring of A.D. 55, according to the reckoning on p. 193 of my Galatians, {Diss i.} Paul, fulfilling his promise, again arrived at Ephesus. Since Aquila and Prisca are referred to in 1 Corinthians 16:19 as with him at Ephesus, we may suppose that they were there to welcome his arrival. He found in the city some twelve disciples of Christ who had received neither Christian Baptism nor the distinctively Christian gift of the Holy Spirit. From his teaching they received the inspiration of a new life. Their Baptism was doubtless an important era in the history of the young Church.

As at Corinth, Paul began his work at Ephesus in the synagogue of the Jews. After three months, opposition arose. But already he had gathered round him a band of faithful men. These he now separated from the synagogue; and found for them a home in the school of Tyrannus, possibly a Greek teacher of philosophy or rhetoric. Here Paul laboured for two years, a longer time than he had before spent in one place; end with great success. From Ephesus as a centre the Gospel became known throughout the whole province. Asiatic superstition was confronted by the most wonderful miracles recorded of Paul. Certain Jews who attempted to use as a charm the name of Jesus were utterly confounded by the evil spirits they tried to exorcise. And many Christians, convicted by the manifested power of God, confessed that they had been secretly practising the magical arts of their former days; and proved their sincerity by bringing out and burning publicly their secret books to the value of some £2000 of our money.

From Ephesus, about Easter of A.D. 58 probably, (see Galatians p. 193, {Diss. i.}) Paul wrote his first extant Epistle to the Corinthians. He was then purposing to start soon for Macedonia and Achaia.

His departure was hastened by the tumult described in Acts 19:23-41 : see p. 511 of my Corinthians. I may now add that in the inscriptions reprinted in Wood’s Ephesus the birth-day of Artemis is several times said to be a religious festival, and said to be in the month of May. We have also frequent mention of silver images, which would find work for Demetrius and his companions. The word rendered town-clerk is also frequent as an official title at Ephesus. And the phrase temple-keeper of Artemis and others similar are frequently found (cp. Acts 19:35) as titles of the city.

On his return journey, Paul summoned to Miletus the elders of the Church at Ephesus, and gave them the address recorded in Acts 20:18-35. All this reveals the importance of that Church.

Then followed at Jerusalem Paul’s arrest and imprisonment, his voyage to Rome, and his imprisonment there. During that imprisonment, as we shall see, the letter before us was written.

From 1 Timothy 1:3 we learn that Paul had requested Timothy to remain at Ephesus to deal with church-matters there which needed special attention. And his words seem to imply that this request was made when Paul was himself at Ephesus, but starting for Macedonia. A multitude of reasons combine to assure us that this, and the similar request in Titus 1:5, were not earlier than Paul’s arrest at Jerusalem. If so, these Epistles, which I cannot but accept as genuine, prove that after his imprisonment at Rome, Paul was set free and again visited Ephesus. The circumstances of his visit are altogether unknown. But from the letter to Timothy we learn that the fears expressed at Miletus were only too well grounded and that the Church at Ephesus was then beset by many perils. The charges to Timothy and Titus by no means imply that they were permanently settled at Ephesus and in Crete as chief pastors, or bishops. And of any such office we have to hint in the New Testament. See Diss. ii. 10. Nor do we know whether the Second Epistle found Timothy still at Ephesus.

Our last glimpse of the Church at Ephesus in the New Testament is Revelation 2:1-7, where as metropolis of Asia it is addressed first among the seven Churches. From this we learn that, while still faithful in the main, the Church had lost something of its early fervour.

Beyond the limits of the New Testament a reliable tradition connects with Ephesus the last years of the Apostle John: see Irenæus bk. iii. 3, 4 and Clement of Alexandria. What rich man etc. § 42. It was afterwards the seat of an archbishop. Here was held in A.D. 431 amid much confusion the Third General Council; and, in A.D. 449, amid still greater confusion, a gathering summoned as a general council but afterwards not acknowledged as such and known ever since as the Robber Synod.

With this tumultuous assembly closes practically the history of Ephesus and of the Church at Ephesus. For long centuries the site of the city has been an utter solitude without inhabitant. But, strange to say, the railway from Smyrna to Aidin has a station little more than a mile from its ruins. Between the city and the railway station is the site of the temple.

The candlestick (Revelation 2:5) has been removed from its place. And even the splendid metropolis it once illumined has ceased to be counted among the cities of the world. But its name will never die. Throughout the world it is known, chiefly through the labours and letters of a Jewish tentmaker. But that tentmaker was an Apostle of Jesus Christ.

3. We now leave the beautiful coast of the Ægean and the splendid metropolis of the Roman province of Asia, through a gate of which there are still remains, and go inland over the hills to Magnesia and then eastward, some 120 miles in all, almost to the boundary of the province and into what was popularly and indefinitely known as Phrygia. On the banks of the Lycus, a stream flowing into the Mæander and now called the Tchoruk Su, are ruins which have been, with reasonable certainty, identified as those of COLOSSÆ, some three miles north of Chonos, a modern straggling village on the site of a mediæval town known as Chonai. See Hamilton’s Researches in Asia Minor vol. i. pages 509-523. Some ten miles lower down the stream, which here flows somewhat north of east, to the south of the stream and on the slopes of the Cadmus range, are important ruins of a racecourse, gymnasium, theatres, and other buildings, which have been identified as those of Laodicea; and six miles away, north by east, with the stream flowing about midway between the two sites, are the still nobler ruins of Hierapolis on the slope of lower hills bounding the valley of the Lycus on the north. The site of Hierapolis is described by Hamilton as one of special beauty. A weird strangeness is cast over the scene by thick incrustations in all grotesque forms deposited by a small stream strongly impregnated with lime which falls into the Lycus near this point. There is also a hot spring of some 100 degrees Fahrenheit. So near are the ruins of the three cities that all may be visited in one day.

COLOSSÆ is mentioned by Herodotus (bk. vii. 30) as a great city through which the army of Xerxes passed on its way to invade Greece. Xenophon (Anabasis bk. i. 2. 6) speaks of it as being, some 80 years later, “populous, prosperous, and great.” But the notices of later writers seem to imply that long before Paul’s time it had sunk into comparative decay. Lightfoot says, “Without doubt Colossæ was the least important church to which any Epistle of St. Paul was addressed.”

LAODICEA, till then an obscure town, had risen into great importance shortly before Paul’s day. So Strabo, bk. xii. p. 578. Under the Romans it became the political capital of the surrounding district. HIERAPOLIS seems to have been, owing to the beauty of its position and the medicinal properties of its springs, a favourite health resort.

The rich pastures around were famous for their large flocks of sheep. All three towns were enriched by their trade in dyed wool. For the rich colours of their dyes, Strabo tells us (bk. xii. p. 578) that Laodicea and Colossæ were specially famous; and that (bk. xiii. p. 630) for this they owed much to the mineral waters of Hierapolis. He says also that the country was specially liable to earthquakes. Of one such, which happened apparently shortly before this Epistle was written and which desolated Laodicea, we read in Tacitus, Annals bk. xiv. 27. From this, he tells us, Laodicea recovered without help from Rome.

From Josephus (Antiq. bk. xii. 3. 4) we learn that Antiochus the Great (B.C. 223-187) transplanted 2,000 Jewish families to Lydia and Phrygia. Doubtless some of these settled in the valley of the Lycus. Cicero says (For Flaccus § 28) that large sums of money were sent from Laodicea to the temple at Jerusalem. This reveals the presence of a large Jewish population. It is not unlikely that among the Phrygians (Acts 2:10) at Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost were some from these three cities.

About the founding of the Churches in these cities, we know nothing except from this epistle. We learn from Colossians 2:1 that Paul had never visited Colossæ or Laodicea. To these we may add by sure inference the neighbouring city of Hierapolis. He twice passed through Phrygia: Acts 16:6; Acts 18:23. But his route, so far as we can trace it, would not lead him near the valley of the Lycus.

Indirectly, however, the Churches of the Lycus were probably results of Paul’s labour. The Colossians received the Gospel from their fellow-citizen, Epaphras: Colossians 1:7; Colossians 4:12. The nearness of the three cities assures us that it would at once spread from one to the others. And the earnest interest of Epaphras embraced them all: Colossians 4:13. It is therefore probable that directly or indirectly he was founder of the three Churches. Now Paul laboured for three years at Ephesus: Acts 20:31. Through his continued preaching there all those inhabiting Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks: Acts 19:10. It is not unlikely that from the lips of Paul, on a visit to the metropolis of the province, Epaphras heard and accepted the Gospel which he afterwards preached in his own city and those around it. Possibly Paul charged him to do this. If so, we can the more easily understand his description of Epaphras in Colossians 1:7 as a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf.

Whether Paul paid his hoped-for (Philemon 1:22) visit to Colossæ, we do not know. But if the Pastoral Epistles be genuine, he was set free, and visited Ephesus and Miletus: 1 Timothy 1:3; 2 Timothy 4:20. And if so, he may have extended his journey to the Churches of the Lycus.

The only later reference in the New Testament to these Churches is the letter preserved in Revelation 3:14-22. Naturally it was addressed to the most important of the three cities. In Revelation 3:14, the beginning of the creation of God, we have a thought in close harmony with Colossians 1:15-16.

The subsequent history of these cities and Churches contains little worthy of note. With this Epistle the Church at Colossæ disappears altogether from view, except as here and there the name of its bishop is appended to the decrees of a council. The bishops of the more important sees of Laodicea and Hierapolis were present at the General Councils at Nicæa, Ephesus, and Chalcedon; and, two years before this last, at the Robber Synod at Ephesus. About A.D. 363 was held at Laodicea a provincial council which has left us, in its sixtieth Canon, a list of the books of the New Testament agreeing exactly with our English Bible except that it omits the Book of Revelation, the earliest list so nearly complete. And for some centuries the two sees retained their importance. A thin and scattered population, Turkish with a mixture of Greeks and Armenians, lives around the ruins of these once important cities, and cultivates the soil which still retains its ancient fertility. And, as of old, the country is still occasionally visited by earthquakes.


1. For the first time Paul now writes as a prisoner: Ephesians 3:1; Ephesians 4:1; Ephesians 6:20; Philippians 1:7; Philippians 1:13; Colossians 4:3; Colossians 4:18; Philemon 1:10; Philemon 1:13; Philemon 1:22-23. These frequent references to his bondage reveal the deep mark it had made in his thought and heart, and thus prove that his imprisonment lasted for some time. Now in the Book of Acts no long imprisonment of Paul is recorded earlier than his arrest at Jerusalem. This is a very strong presumption that these Epistles were later than his arrest. And this is the confident judgment of all scholars.

2. After his arrest, Paul remained for more than two years a prisoner at Cæsarea, was then taken to Rome, the journey occupying many months, and remained there in prison for not less than two years: Acts 24:27; Acts 28:30. Whether he was then set free, we have no sure information. This long imprisonment affording abundant leisure for writing letters suggests itself at once as the time when these Epistles of captivity were written. We therefore ask, were they written during the earlier or the later part of it, i.e. from Cæsarea or from Rome? That they were written from Rome, an early and unanimous tradition attests. With such scanty indications as we have, we will now test this tradition.

Cæsar’s household in Philippians 4:22 points very clearly to the imperial palace at Rome. And Philippians 1:13, manifest in the whole prætorium or prætorian guard suggests much more forcibly the pretorian guard at Rome than the narrow limits of the governor’s palace at Cæsarea. Against these indications there is nothing to set. It is therefore generally admitted that probably the Epistle to the Philippians was written from Rome during Paul’s imprisonment there.

That the Epistle to the Colossians was written at the same time as that to the Ephesians, is made almost certain by the reference in Ephesians 6:21 and Colossians 4:7 to Tychicus, a beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord, as evidently the bearer of each Epistle, taken in connection with the very close similarity of the Epistles in thought, order, and phraseology, a similarity without parallel in the New Testament, and with the proof given in Introd. ii. that both Epistles are from the pen of Paul.

The Epistle to Philemon was apparently (Philemon 1:12) taken by Onesimus, who is said in Colossians 4:9 to be accompanying Tychicus to Colossæ. Moreover, of six men with Paul who send greeting to the Church at Colossæ, we notice that five send greeting to Philemon. These remarkable coincidences prove conclusively that the short letter to Philemon was written and sent at the same time as those to Ephesus and Colossæ.

We now ask, were the three Epistles written from Cæsarea or from Rome? That they were written from Rome, an early and widespread tradition asserts. Meyer and others argue that they were written from Cæsarea, on the ground that it is more likely that a runaway slave would go to Cæsarea than to Rome which was much further and involved a long sea voyage, that from Rome to Colossæ Tychicus and Onesimus would pass through Ephesus and that if so Paul would have commended Onesimus to the Church there as he does to that at Colossæ, and that Paul’s request (Philemon 1:22) for a lodging implying hope of an early journey to Colossæ suggests Cæsarea, from which place, had Paul been set free, he might have travelled through Colossæ to Ephesus and to Rome.

These arguments have no great weight. In all ages longer routes to the metropolis have been more easy than shorter routes from one provincial town to another, and fugitives have ever preferred to hide themselves among the multitudes of a great city. Possibly Onesimus’ plan was to leave Tychicus at Ephesus and to pass on without delay to the master he had wronged at Colossæ. Reasons unknown to us may have given Paul hopes of early liberation. And his deep interest in the young Churches on the Lycus, acknowledged in Colossians 2:1, may have prompted him to plan an early visit to them.

On the other side I can adduce only one argument, viz. indications that the three Epistles were written later than that to the Philippians. Although in its tone of triumphant calm and in the absence of serious discussion about Jew and Gentile this last Epistle is closely related to those to Ephesus and Colossæ, it is in teaching and phraseology much more closely related than they are to the earlier Epistles and especially to that to the Romans. Compare Philippians 3:9, not having a righteousness of my own, even that which is from law, but that which is through faith of Christ, the righteousness which is from God on the condition of faith: a very close coincidence with Romans 1:17; Romans 3:21-22; Romans 10:3. Also compare Philippians 3:4-6 with 2 Corinthians 11:21-30; and note other phrases found only in the earlier Epistles. These coincidences seem to me far to outweigh the arguments adduced by Meyer.

Against this earlier date of the Epistle to the Philippians, but not necessarily against the other Epistles being written at Rome, it has been objected that Philippians 4:10 implies a long interval between Paul’s arrival at Rome and the letter to Philippi, an interval long enough for news of his imprisonment to reach Philippi, for delay there, for the journey and illness of Epaphroditus, for news of his illness to reach Philippi, and for Epaphroditus to know this. But probably, even for all this, a year would suffice. For the journey from Rome to Philippi along splendid Roman roads and across the narrow straits would occupy probably not more than a month and could be made at almost any time of the year. And the illness of Epaphroditus may have been on the eastern side of the straits where it might soon become known at Philippi.

Another objection is based on Philippians 1:20-26, which suggests that a crisis of Paul’s trial was near. From this, some have inferred that the letter was written near to the close of his imprisonment. But it is quite possible that in the mismanagement of Nero’s rule Paul’s trial was delayed after its decision had seemed to be near.

Reviewing the whole case, the balance of evidence seems to me to incline somewhat to the earlier date of the Epistle to the Philippians. And this implies that the other letters were written, not from Cæsarea, but from Rome. We may suppose that the letter to Philippi was written within the first year of Paul’s imprisonment at Rome and at a time when the decision of his case seemed to be near; that a further delay arose of more than a year; and that towards the close of it, when Paul was again hoping for liberty, Epaphras arrived with news about the Colossians and the Christians of Asia. This is to me much easier than to suppose that, after the remarkable development of thought embodied in the Epistles to the Ephesians and the Colossians, Paul could write the Epistle to the Philippians in which we find no trace of this development. Between the Epistles an interval must be allowed which if not very long was sufficient for a marked growth in the thought of the Apostle. Probably this growth was stimulated by the news brought by Epaphras. In Diss. iii. of my Corinthians we have seen that Paul arrived in Rome probably early in A.D. 62. If so, he may have written to the Philippians early in A.D. 63, and the other three letters a year later.

The occasion of the Epistles is involved in what has just been said. Paul is a prisoner in charge of the Pretorian guard at Rome, expecting an early decision of his case, but utterly uncertain whether it will bring him liberty and further work for Christ or sudden death. A messenger arrives with a contribution in money from the Church at Philippi which has already given several proofs of its care for him. Epaphroditus even apologizes for the lateness of the gift, by saying that circumstances had delayed it. On his way to Rome, he had been dangerously ill: and news of this had reached Philippi. The traveller is eager to return, in order to remove, by his own presence among them again, the anxiety thus caused to his fellow-Christians at home. And Paul sends with him, as an abundant recompense for their kindness to him, this beautiful letter in which he pours out his joy and gratitude for this remarkable proof of the Christian character of his beloved children in the faith.

The expected decision is deferred: and Paul lingers in prolonged bondage. But within the narrow walls of his prison he ponders the grandeur of the Eternal Son and the eternal purpose of salvation. During this long delay, probably near to its close, the Apostle is cheered by the arrival of Epaphras, an earnest Christian worker from the far off valley of the Lycus, who has himself planted the Gospel in its three cities and now narrates all this to Paul. The news fills him with joy. But the joy is mixed with anxiety caused by indications that at least in Colossæ serious error is taking root, error which threatens to undo the good work already begun. That the letter was addressed to Colossæ, suggests that there the danger was greatest. That Paul directs the letter to be read also at Laodicea, implies that this neighbouring city was infected. The one slight reference (Colossians 4:13) to Hierapolis suggests that it was the smallest of the three Churches.

Either for other reasons or at Paul’s request, Tychicus is going to Asia, his native province, and to Colossæ. Paul writes and sends with him a letter setting forth, in view of the errors there prevalent, the greatness and sufficiency of the Son of God in His relation to the Church and to the Universe. And since on his way Tychicus must pass through Ephesus and must cross the province of Asia, Paul writes, and sends with him, another letter to the Ephesians and to the various Churches of the province.

Before this time, a runaway slave of a Christian at Colossæ called Philemon, who apparently had robbed his master, had come to Rome and come within Paul’s influence and by him had been led to Christ. Already the young convert had been helpful to the imprisoned Apostle. But Paul now sends him back to his defrauded master, in company with Tychicus who was going to the same place, and sends with him a third letter begging his friend to receive back as a Christian brother the returning fugitive.

Bearing these documents, familiar now in every land and almost in every home and more precious than diamonds, the strange companions in travel started on their long journey over land and sea, leaving the great Apostle, whose loving and anxious heart and earnest prayers followed their steps, still in bonds at Rome.

In the following exposition, the Epistle to the Philippians is placed first, as being nearest in its teaching and phraseology to the Epistles already annotated. And this seems to me, as I have endeavoured to show, the most likely order of time. The Epistle to the Colossians comes next, as dealing with a specific matter, namely the news brought by Epaphras about the error spreading at Colossæ. Then follows the letter to Philemon, dealing with another specific, but less important, matter. Last of all I have placed the profound Epistle to the Ephesians which treats of no specific matter but sets forth, from its own point of view, the Eternal Purpose of Salvation and its realisation in the One Church of Christ.

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