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- 1 Thessalonians
by Arthur Peake
I. AND II. THESSALONIANS
BY PROFESSOR H. T. ANDREWS
The City of Thessalonica (the modern Salonika) was situated at the end of the Thermaic Gulf on the famous Via Egnatia, the highway which connected Italy and the East. I was the most populous city in Macedonia, and therefore, both by reason of its size and its position, specially suitable as a base of operations when Paul commenced his task of evangelizing Greece ( Acts 17:1 *). We know little about the intellectual or religious condition of the town. It was within sight of Olympus, and Cicero tells us that when he visited the district where Homer and the Greek poets had seen the home of the gods, he saw only snow and ice. From what we know of the general condition of religion at the time, we may be sure that Cicero’ s opinion was very largely shared by the natives of Thessalonica. There is one interesting fact known to us, which throws some light upon certain statements in the epistle, i.e. the existence of a religious sect in Thessalonica known as the Chabiri, which was patronised by the Roman Empire, and which seems to have regarded immorality as an important element in the cultus.
Paul’ s Work at Thessalonica.— Paul came to Thessalonica after his ill-treatment at Philippi ( 1 Thessalonians 2:2). A brief account of his visit is given in Acts 17:1-1 Samuel :.* He preached on three successive Sabbaths in the Jewish synagogues, and then apparently (though Ac. is silent on this point) began to work among the Gentiles. His converts were made up of three classes: ( a) some Jews, ( b) a great multitude of devout Greeks, ( c) not a few of the chief women of the city. The epistles give us the impression that the Greek element predominated ( 1 Thessalonians 1:9). Paul’ s work was interrupted by an attack by the Jews ( Acts 17:5) on political rather than religious grounds. The politarchs, jealous for the reputation of the city, compelled Jason to give a surety that the disturbance should not be repeated. This made it necessary for Paul to leave the town (p. 795 ).
Paul’ s Subsequent Movements.— Paul went first of all to Berœ a, then to Athens, and finally to Corinth. There is reason to believe that his heart was set on returning to Thessalonica ( 1 Thessalonians 2:17-Proverbs :). He knew that his converts were being subjected to a severe persecution, and was afraid lest they would give way under the fiery trial. At last the suspense became too terrible to bear ( 1 Thessalonians 3:1), and Paul despatched Timothy from Athens to Thessalonioa to comfort the Christians and bring back word with regard to their condition.
The Occasion for the First Epistle.— Timothy returned and met Paul at Corinth with varied information. ( 1 ) In spite of the persecution, the Christians at Thessalonica were standing firm. ( 2 ) Some of them, however, had died in the interval, and the problem had been raised, “ Would their death rob them of the glory of the promised Parousia?” ( 3 ) The opponents of the Church were doing their best to malign and blacken the character of Paul. ( 4 ) There was a tendency on the part of some Christians, in view of the Parousia, to neglect the ordinary duties of life.
It was as the result of this message brought by Timothy that the first epistle was written, and the four points of information contained in the message give us the key for understanding it. The substance of the letter ranges round the four points: ( 1 ) Paul congratulates the Thessalonians on their steadfastness in the face of persecutions; ( 2 ) assures them that death will not rob their friends of a share in the Parousia; ( 3 ) replies to the charges which had been brought against his own person and work; ( 4 ) exhorts the Thessalonians to “ increase and abound,” and “ to study to be quiet.”
Genuineness of the First Epistle.— The external evidence is quite satisfactory. The letter was recognised by Marcion and the Muratorian Canon, quoted by name by Irenæ us, and used by Clement of Alexandria and Tertullian. There is no evidence that there was the slightest hesitation in ancient times about accepting it as a genuine Pauline work. Modern scholars who have questioned the Pauline authorship have done so on internal grounds, chiefly because it lacks some of the doctrinal marks of the later epistles. The absence of these characteristic marks may be explained partly by the circumstances which called for a letter of practical exhortation and not for theological discussion, partly by the fact that the epistle was written before the theological controversy had become acute. It would be much more difficult to explain the absence of these elements on the supposition that the epistle is a later forgery. It bears on its face traces of its early origin. No later writer would have credited Paul with the belief that the Parousia would happen in his own lifetime. The problem with regard to the relation of the dead to the Parousia could have arisen only at the very earliest stage. The organisation of the Church is in the most rudimentary condition. And, finally, there is no motive in the contents of the epistle which can explain its invention by a later writer.
The Occasion of the Second Epistle.— The second epistle seems to have been written soon after the first, though the interval between the two cannot be definitely fixed. Its object was to correct the misapprehension about the Parousia, which is alluded to in the first epistle, and which seems to have produced disastrous effects upon some sections of the Church. The real motive for the letter is the apocalyptic section in ch. 2 . Paul is anxious to allay the disorder which the belief in the near approach of the Parousia had caused, and to show that it cannot take place till certain preliminary events had happened.
The Apocalyptic Section.— 2 Thessalonians 2 belongs to the region of Apocalyptic (see art. on Apocalyptic Literature, p. 431 ), and reminds us of the Book of Revelation. It is the most striking illustration of Apocalyptic in the writings of Paul, though apocalyptic elements are to be found elsewhere in his epistles, notably in 1 Thessalonians 4 and 1 Corinthians 15 . Its subject is the events that must precede the Parousia. Antichrist, or the Man of Sin as Paul calls him, must first appear, but this appearance is impossible at present, because of “ the power that restrains.” The time will come, however, when that power will be removed and the Man of Sin will manifest himself. After this, Christ will reappear and slay Antichrist “ with the breath of his mouth.” Reasons are given in the notes for supposing that “ the restraining power” is to be identified with the Roman Empire and that the Man of Sin is likely to arise from the Jewish people.
The Genuineness of the Second Epistle.— The external evidence is, if anything, a little stronger than in the case of 1 Th., since in addition to the attestation in support of the first letter, the second appears to have been cited by Polycarp and Justin Martyr. The reasons which have led some modern scholars to reject it are derived from its contents. It is argued, for instance, that its conception of the Parousia differs from the statements of 1 Th., and that it postpones what 1 Th. regarded as imminent. This, however, is not really the case. 1 Th. does not state that the Parousia is to happen immediately. It lays the stress on its “ suddenness,” and there is nothing in 2 Th. which denies the “ suddenness” of the Parousia. Besides, if there were a discrepancy, it would not be fatal to the Pauline authorship. Paul was always quick to grasp a situation, and it would not be beyond the bounds of possibility that the disorders which arose in Thessalonica might have led him to modify his teaching in some degree. Again it is argued that the presence of the apocalyptic section stamps the epistle as un-Pauline. As we have seen, however, other epistles contain at any rate germs of Apocalyptic, and it is by no means unreasonable to suppose that the apocalyptic side of Paul’ s theology should have come to full expression in this passage. Another reason which has led some scholars to reject 2 Th. is the dissimilarity of the tone of the two epistles. The first is warmer and more sympathetic than the second, and it is obviously written to a Gentile community, while the second seems to be addressed to Jewish readers. To meet these difficulties, Harnack has recently propounded a theory that the two epistles were written for different sections of the Church, the first for the Gentile element, and the second for the Jewish Christians. There is an interesting reading preserved in some MSS. in 2 Thessalonians 2:13, “ God chose you as a firstfruit.” This expression does not seem applicable to the Church as a whole, because there is no reasonable sense of the term in which it can be described as a “ firstfruit;” but it is very applicable to the Jewish section of the Church, because the first converts at Thessalonica were certainly Jews. There are two serious objections to the hypothesis: ( a) 2 Th., like its predecessor, is addressed to “ the Church of the Thessalonians,” and there is nothing to indicate that the phrase was intended to cover only a section of the Church. ( b) We have no reason to suppose that the Church at Thessalonica was divided into two well-defined communities, each with its own particular problems and needing special apostolic advice. Nor have we any other precedent for supposing that Paul was in the habit of writing to a particular group of Christians within a Church and not to the Church as a whole.
Another interesting theory which has been revived in recent times is that of Grotius, who argued that tradition has inverted the true order of the epistles, and that the second epistle ought to be regarded as the first, and vice versa.
Literature.— Commentaries: ( a) Jowett, Mackintosh (WNT), Adeney (Cent.B), Findlay (CB), Drummond (IH), Plummer; ( b) Milligan, Moffatt (EGT), Findlay (CGT), Frame (ICC), Lightfoot, Notes on Epistles of St. Paul; ( c) Bornemann (Mey., 1894 ), Schmiedel (HC), Wohlenberg (ZK), von Dö bsehutz (Mey., 1909 ); ( d) Denney (Ex.B). Other Literature. As on 1 Cor. Also studies by Askwith, von Soden ( 1 Th.), Spitta ( 2 Th.), Harnack, ( 2 Th.). Das Problem des Zweiten Thessaloni-cherbriefs (Sitzungsberichte der kö nig. Preuss. Akad. d. Wissenschaften zu Berlin), Lake, The Earlier Epistles of St. Paul.
BY PROFESSOR H. A. A. KENNEDY
I. Presuppositions. ( a) Pharisaic Training.— It is true even of the most gifted thinker that his ideas are permanently influenced by his early training. Such influence will be more marked when the training is determined by a sacred tradition. As the son of devout Hebrews ( Php_3:5 ), and probably destined to be a religious teacher, Paul’ s acquaintance with the OT was that of an expert. In the Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms, he had found spiritual nurture and intellectual illumination. He had learned to use the Scriptures as absolutely authoritative for faith and life. When he became a Christian he did not abandon, but only modified his attitude. The fulfilment of the earlier revelation in Christ confirmed its value and gave him fresh insight into its meaning. Its regulative importance for his thought is evident from his constant use of Scripture proofs in establishing his arguments ( e.g. Romans 3:10 f., Galatians 3:6; Galatians 3:8, Galatians 3:10-1 Chronicles :). This method had been carried to extravagant lengths in the Pharisaic schools. Their main business was commenting on the text of the OT. These comments, remarkable for their ingenuity and pedantry, had accumulated into a mass of tradition, chiefly occupied with the Law, and possessing an equal authority. Traces of the Rabbinic exegesis in which Paul had been trained appear in such arguments as Galatians 3:16; Galatians 4:21-Obadiah :. But nothing more completely reveals the completeness of his religious transformation than the manner in which he has shaken off the limitations of his professional education.
The Law was not, however, studied by the Pharisees for its historical interest. Its strict observance was the most pressing question of the national life. To outward appearance the Jews were a conquered, broken people. There was nothing in their present experience to kindle expectations of a happier future. But that was to reckon without God. For God and God’ s Covenant were the supreme factors in their history. The Law was the visible expression of God’ s relation to them, God’ s will for them. To obey the Law was to hold God to His promises. And these promises were summed up in the Messianic Hope which had preserved their vitality in the midst of overwhelming disasters. Hence those who ignored the claims of the Law were a positive hindrance to the realisation of the nation’ s splendid destiny. But there were also serious consequences for the individual. The conception of personal retribution had by this time come into the forefront. God’ s final verdict on each life at the day of reckoning was based on its obedience or disobedience to the legal standards. Thus the religious experience of a Pharisee largely consisted in his consciousness of blamelessness or transgression when confronted with the prescribed requirements of the authoritative code.
The central place of the Messianic Hope in the Pharisaic outlook reminds us that the devout Jew of Paul’ s day was constantly engrossed with the future. When the woes of the present had reached a climax, he expected a catastrophic intervention of God, in which the existing evil age should be transformed, and the Divine rule established once for all in righteousness. The pictures of the coming age are confusingly varied. At times its basis is earthly, at times it belongs to a new heavenly order. Perhaps more often than not it is associated with the figure of a personal Messiah. Throughout his epistles, Paul reveals the influence of this strain of thought.
( b) Diaspora-Environment.— While Paul took his theological curriculum, if we may so describe it, in the Rabbinic schools of Jerusalem, he was by birth a Jew of the Diaspora. There can be little doubt that the more liberal atmosphere of Hellenism was not without effect even upon so exclusive a temperament as the Jewish. Recent discoveries have shown a closer touch with Greek life than was formerly recognised. In any case, the fringe of Greek enquirers attached to the synagogues in important centres formed a medium for the communication of Hellenistic ideas. Paul’ s native city of Tarsus was famous for its school of Stoic philosophy. Whether, in his earlier days, his eager spirit was affected by the doctrines of Stoicism which were being diffused among all classes of society we cannot tell. The occasional points of contact between Paul and the popular philosophy of his time can quite well be accounted for by his inevitable intercourse, as a Christian missionary, with men and women whose thought had been influenced by the current beliefs of the day. To the same source must be referred those traces of affinity with influential mystery-cults which are occasionally discernible in his conceptions and (still more) in his terminology.
( c) Pre-Christian Religious Experience.— The influences described in the preceding paragraphs must be regarded as secondary factors in shaping the Pauline theology, as compared with the crisis of Paul’ s conversion which cleft his life in twain. But the significance of his conversion can scarcely be grasped, apart from a brief survey of his pre-Christian religious experience, so far as that may be inferred from the hints supplied by his letters. Two considerations ought here to be emphasized. First, Paul’ s experience must not be regarded as typical of the average Judaism of his day. That explains why so many Jewish Christians failed to understand him. And, secondly, the account which he gives of his pre-Christian life, notably as regards the operation of the Law ( e.g. Romans 7:7-Jeremiah :), could only have been given by a Christian believer. Still, we have sufficient data from which to compose a rough picture.
It is plain that before the revelation of Christ to him, Paul was in a state of spiritual unrest. The religion of legalism did not satisfy his conscience. Rather did it intensify its sensitiveness to sin. And he found himself further and further removed from a standard of obedience whose claims grew ever more exacting. He was oppressed by that consciousness of failure so poignantly expressed by another devout Jew, almost a contemporary of his own, in the Ezra-Apocalypse ( e.g. 71:18 f., 9:36 ). We possess only his Christian explanation of the situation. Probably that reveals elements prominent to his mind in the earlier epoch. Why was he unable to keep the Law? Because of “ the flesh” ( Romans 8:3). Paul’ s use of this term has its roots in the OT. There human nature in its weakness and transiency is designated “ flesh,” and contrasted with the might and eternity of God, who is “ spirit.” The same word is employed in a disparaging sense of the body in the Platonic schools. Paul discloses no theory of the inherent evil of matter as such, and it is difficult to determine his idea of the origin of evil ( Romans 5:12 ff.). But as a fact of practical experience, he has found his bodily life to be tainted and weakened by sin ( Romans 7:18), and this condition is universal. Thus, when the Law utters its prohibitions, so far from obeying, his sinful nature feels resentment. What, then, can be the meaning of such an order of things?
As accepting the Pentateuch in the most literal sense as a Divine revelation, Paul can only pronounce the Law to be “ holy and righteous and good” ( Romans 7:12). But through his marvellous spiritual intuition he penetrates to the foundations of OT religion, and discovers there a higher element than legalism. He is led to the discovery by his own experience. As a Pharisee under the Law, his attitude to God was largely one of fear. As a believer in Christ he has exchanged this for an attitude of freedom and joy. There can be no comparison between the two kinds of relationship. With extraordinary boldness as well as insight he finds in the OT the foreshadowing of the higher attitude. This is illustrated in the religious life of the patriarch Abraham. He is not hemmed in by legal sanctions. He is content simply to cast himself upon the gracious promises of God ( Galatians 3:16-Job :). Legalism, therefore, was only a temporary phase of OT religion ( Romans 5:20). It was meant to intensify men’ s consciousness of sin ( Romans 7:13). It was intended to be a discipline preparatory for Christ ( Galatians 3:23 f.). Here, by the sheer power of his religious sensibility, the Apostle anticipates the discovery of modern investigation, that legalism was not the foundation of OT religion, but rather a phase in its development. Naturally, therefore, in his controversy with Jewish Christians whose experience of Christ was far less profound than his own, and who failed to recognise the essential limitations of legalism as a religious system, he uses language which appears inconsistent with his fundamental recognition of the Law as an expression of the Divine will.
But, as a Pharisee, he had not come within sight of such conclusions. Nay, he had striven with might and main to be blameless, according to the accepted standards ( Php_3:5 f.), and was recognised as a leader in his sect ( Galatians 1:14) The tumult of dissatisfaction within would at first spur him on to an excess of outward zeal. It is not, therefore, surprising to find him “ beyond measure persecuting” ( Galatians 1:13) the followers of the crucified Nazarene, who, in defiance of all national expectations, had claimed to be Messiah. In an attitude like that of Stephen ( Acts 6:8 to Acts 7:53), which seemed to make light of the hereditary ritual of Judaism, Paul would find the inevitable outcome of a Messianic claim that appeared so scandalous. He was not yet aware that the majority of those who adhered to the new sect had in no sense departed from allegiance to the Law of their fathers.
II. The Crisis of Paul’ s Conversion. ( a) Revelation of the living Christ.— The story of Paul’ s conversion belongs to his biography. What concerns us here is its significance for his theology, a significance which the Epistles show to be primary. In one of the most illuminating passages that he ever wrote, he speaks of the good pleasure of God, who had separated him from his birth and called him by His grace, “ to reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the Gentiles” ( Galatians 1:16). That sentence is a crucial description of his epoch-making experience. Whatever else it was, it meant a revelation of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, in the depths of his being, with the high purpose of inspiring him with a Gospel which should appeal to the heathen world. We have considered what may be called the silent preparation for this crisis. In that there were psychological factors of real importance. But Paul always regarded the event as a wonder of the Divine grace ( e.g. 1 Corinthians 15:8-2 Samuel :). For him it was no culmination of a subjective process. It was the condescension of a love that passeth knowledge, which suddenly checked him in a career of ignorant folly. Perhaps the “ call” referred to in the passage quoted embraces all the providential circumstances which unconsciously were shaping Paul for his great vocation. At any rate, the idea of a “ choice” or “ call” of God is central for his thought. We are apt to estimate his conception of Election from the famous section of Romans (chs. 9– 11 ) in which he attempts to explain the acceptance or rejection of salvation on traditional Jewish lines. But even in that discussion, with its apparently arbitrary outlook, he asserts that “ the gifts and the calling of God are not things about which he changes his mind” ( Romans 11:29). Here is the worth of the idea for his personal life. For him Election means that his salvation is not an accident. It forms an element in a mighty Divine purpose for the world. The power and grace of God are behind it. Surely he has a right to believe that that purpose will not fall to the ground, that God will be faithful to the end ( Romans 8:29 f.). He is quite conscious of his own frailty and of the fickleness of his converts. Yet he can assure the Philippians of his confidence “ that he which began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Jesus Christ” ( Php_1:6 ). So his election does not stand for a capricious favouritism. Rather is it the bulwark of his faith and hope, when with fear and trembling he applies the standard of Christ to his life.
( b) Missionary Call.— The crowning-point of his call is the revelation to him of the living Christ. We must examine the content of that revelation immediately. Meanwhile, let us note its bearing on his career, for that career shaped his theology. Why did Paul directly associate with the revelation a summons to preach Christ to the heathen? To begin with, the experience transformed his whole existence, above all things in the matter of his relation to God. He now knew the joy of coming as a son to his Father. In Jesus Christ he understood the Divine heart, and found it to be infinite love. How could he refrain from proclaiming the good news far and wide? “ Necessity is laid upon me; for woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel” ( 1 Corinthians 9:16). But this Gospel could be no national privilege. The very nation whose history had led up to Christ had rejected Him. The invitation to sonship which Paul recognised to be the core of the love of God could in no way be affected by difference of status or sex or race. Ye are all one in Christ Jesus” ( Galatians 3:28). Thus it is of small importance to ask at what point Paul realised his obligation to be a foreign missionary. Whether it laid constraint upon him sooner or later, it was inherent in his new conception of the Christian’ s relation to God.
( c) Paul’ s Theology as Mission-Theology.— What must be the character of the message which Paul should present to Jew and Gentile alike? That was determined by his aim— to lead men out of sin and failure into that relation to God which had been made possible for him by his contact with the living Christ, to prepare them for the great day of Christ’ s appearing. He must hold up before them the Divine influences and operations which had made all things new for him, that they might share in his victorious experience. But the environment in which his work was carried on, and the fact that he was the pioneer of a new faith, compelled him to do more than preach the Gospel. He must clarify for his own thought the meaning of those redemptive facts and processes which formed the content of his preaching, for they had constantly to be justified to critical as well as hostile audiences. So his message must be to some extent a Christian apologetic, opening a pathway by which the revelation of God in Christ might find access to mind and heart alike. Apart, no doubt, from the needs of the moment, Paul’ s nature was such as to seek for an organic unity in his own life. Still, the practical aim seems always apparent. Many of his conceptions have been elaborated in his keen controversies with Jewish and Jewish-Christian opponents; many have taken shape through his effort to reveal the saving power of Christ to Greeks, both learned and ignorant. So that his theology may justly be designated Mission-Theology, a working instrument rather than a technical system. It is worthy of observation that when the Apostle enters upon any more or less theoretical speculations, as he enlarges on the facts of his religious experience, he shows a tendency to make use of the typical thought-forms of Judaism. That feature of his method must be reckoned with in the investigation of his theological conceptions.
III. Convictions reached through his Conversion.— In view of the fact that Paul’ s theology is mainly the outcome of reflection on his Gospel, and that his Gospel is an invitation to his fellows to share in the experience which has made him a “ new creature,” we are justified in looking for his central conceptions among the convictions most powerfully borne in upon him at the crisis of his conversion.
( a) Jesus as risen.— The first thing of which he became sure was that Jesus of Nazareth, whose high claims he had counted blasphemous, and whose followers he had relentlessly persecuted, was living and exalted to Divine glory. For this Jesus appeared to him in wonderful fashion ( 1 Corinthians 15:8; 1 Corinthians 9:1), and laid hold of his nature with compelling power ( Php_3:12 ). All manner of consequences were involved in such an experience. Jesus had triumphed over death. The dim hope of resurrection which belonged to the eschatological picture of Judaism was an accomplished fact. But it was stripped of the crude materialism with which Jewish thought had depicted it. The risen Jesus was for Paul “ life-giving spirit” ( 1 Corinthians 15:45). This disclosure brought the spiritual order close beside him. He could already realise that the commonwealth to which he belonged was in heaven ( Php_3:20 ). For here and now he was in contact with Divine energies. God was no longer far off, to be approached through the elaborate ceremonial of the Law. In this revelation of love and life to his soul he knew that God was at work. The living Lord was the channel to him of the Divine communion. It was, therefore, possible for men to enter into a fellowship with the Eternal such as had never been dreamed of. The Divine condescension subdued his soul. He could not yet explain it all. But he was aware that he stood on a wholly new footing with God. The grasp of Christ upon his life had redeeming power in it. He was liberated from the sense of bondage to sin under which he had groaned in the days of his legalism. “ The law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus made me free from the law of sin and death” ( Romans 8:2). Henceforward he conceives of Jesus pre-eminently as “ Son of God” and “ Lord.”
( b) Jesus as Messiah.— Before we examine the significance of these titles, “ Son of God” and “ Lord,” we must observe the bearing of the revelation of Jesus to Paul upon the Messianic Hope which, as already indicated, was central for the religious thought of Pharisaism. A crucified Messiah was for Paul in his pre-Christian days a contradiction in terms. Death on the gallows was pronounced accursed by the Law ( Deuteronomy 21:23). Jesus was not only an impostor but marked out as under the ban of God. But the assurance that He was risen shed a transforming light on all His circumstances. Plainly, this glorified Man was the chosen of God. The testimony of His followers was true. He had claimed to be Messiah, and God had vindicated His claim.
It is impossible to determine what conception of Messiah Paul held as a Pharisee. The evidence of apocalyptic literature, scanty as it is, indicates the variety of forms which the expectation assumed. Wherever a personal Messiah was looked for, he was regarded as Divinely equipped for his vocation. But in such writings as 1 Enoch and the Ezra-Apocalypse, he is represented as a being of heavenly origin, revealed supernaturally for judgment. It is conceivable that such a notion may have appealed to Paul in his pre-Christian days, but the fact that in Romans 13 he emphasizes the Davidic descent of Jesus makes it more likely that he shared the prevalent idea of a prince of the royal house. In any case, his Messianic conceptions, like all the rest, were revolutionised. In Jesus the crucified and risen, God’ s high purpose for His people is consummated. “ How many soever be the promises of God, in Him ( i.e. the exalted Jesus) is their yes” ( 2 Corinthians 1:20). But this certainly meant for Paul a remoulding of the Messianic Hope. Not that its eschatological features cease to be of importance for him. Throughout the Epistles his eyes are fixed upon the end. “ We eagerly look for a saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ” ( Php_3:21 ). Again and again he appeals to the great climax of the Second Advent as supplying a motive for serious watchfulness ( 1 Thessalonians 5:4 f., Romans 13:11 f.). But Christians are placed in a new attitude towards that coming age, in which God’ s will shall be supreme. In Christ Jesus they have already a foretaste of the final salvation. The new epoch has projected itself into “ this present evil age.” The future, which means being “ with Christ,” is the culmination of their present experience, which means being “ in Christ.”
( c) Jesus as Son of God and Lord.— We are now in a position to estimate the significance of Paul’ s favourite designation of Jesus Christ as “ Son of God” and “ Lord.” No doubt he was familiar with the former as a Messianic title in his pre-Christian days. But as such it had little more than an official connotation. Apart altogether from the probability that he became acquainted with the tradition of the Church that Jesus had called Himself “ the Son,” Paul filled the description with fresh content as the result of his own experience. This marvellous Person, who had recreated his life, who had lived a man among men well known to Paul, stands solitary in the world of being. He has disclosed to Paul the heart and purpose of God. He must be placed on the side of Deity. And the unique relationship cannot be more adequately expressed than by the name of “ Son.” Plainly, metaphysical implications will ultimately be involved in the designation, and the Apostle does not fail to emphasize them. But in his formulation of this title he starts not from metaphysics but from religious faith ( Romans 1:3 f.).
For Paul “ Lord” is pre-eminently the name of Christ as exalted. In the great passage which describes His glory as the result of His humiliation, God is said to have given Him “ the name which is above every name.” Every tongue is to confess “ that Jesus Christ is Lord” ( Php_2:9 ; Php_2:11 ). The word has an interesting background. The Egyptian Jews who made the translation of the OT known as the Septuagint, the Bible of Paul, rendered the Heb. Yahweh by Kyrios. It has been suggested that they did so because the chief deities of Egypt, like many prominent gods of the Hellenistic epoch, received this designation. It was certainly prevalent on Hellenistic soil among religious associations as well as in the worship of the Emperor. Possibly, as Bousset has recently argued, Paul found the term in the worship of Christian communities in the Diaspora. In any case, he delighted to call Christ “ Lord,” the being to whom as bondservant ( doulos) he had consecrated his life without reservation. He exulted in the thought of being led captive through the world in Christ’ s triumphal procession ( 2 Corinthians 2:14).
( d) The Spirit.— Paul lays stress on what he regards as the objective side of the revelation of Jesus to him only as an argument for the resurrection. It was something solitary in his history. But the main result of the experience, the contact of his spirit with the Divine life in Jesus, remained as a permanent possession. It is from this point of view that he described Him as “ life-giving Spirit.” In the earlier narratives of the OT all sorts of abnormal phenomena in human lives, such as exceptional skill or physical strength, were referred to the “ Spirit” of God ( e.g. Exodus 35:31, Judges 14:6). The same origin was assigned to the ecstatic experiences both of primitive and later prophets ( 1 Samuel 10:10, Ezekiel 11:24). Occasionally, equipment with the Spirit is associated with a special call to service ( e.g. Isaiah 11:2) and with the needs of the religious life ( Psalms 51:11; Psalms 143:10). Closely akin is the conception of Wisdom, which, in the Wisdom-literature, is regarded as a quasi-personal medium of Divine influence to the world. In Rabbinic tradition the “ spirit of holiness” is the endowment of specially gifted teachers. Of peculiar importance for our discussion is the expectation of a rich outpouring of the Spirit in the Messianic age ( e.g. Joel 2:28 f.). The evidence of the early Palestinian source which is used in the first half of Acts reveals the extraordinary prominence which this idea occupied in the thought of the primitive Church. The remarkable ferment of spiritual power and enthusiasm which prevailed among believers was directly ascribed to the action of the Spirit. Perhaps Paul was influenced by the conception as he found it in the Church, when attempting to formulate his individual experience. And he must have been acquainted with the OT and Jewish belief in the Spirit as the channel of Divine energies to the world. But the fundamental explanation of his emphasis upon the Spirit must be sought in his new consciousness of spiritual power as the result of contact with the risen Christ. This was a contact with the unseen Divine order which generated in him a high moral energy such as he had never before conceived. The consequence was that the vague idea of the Spirit, through its intimate association in this crisis with the living Lord, became for Paul far more concrete and personal. Indeed, in several passages he does not hesitate to identify the Spirit with Christ ( e.g. 2 Corinthians 3:17, Romans 8:9 f.). At a later point we must note the significance of the identification.
( e) New Relationship to God.— We cannot surmise the actual stages of thought and feeling by which Paul reached his mature conception of the God whom he met in Christ, but it is plain that the earlier one of his legalistic days was shattered by his conversion-experience. For the direct result of the crisis was a transformed religious attitude. And a transformation of religious attitude means a fresh vision of God. We have seen that the outcome of this vision was the consciousness of a vocation to the heathen. That was involved in Paul’ s discovery of what God was. The revelation of the living Christ to him was really an interpretation of the character of God. He never doubts that all that has happened to him must be traced to the Divine grace. Grace, for Paul, means primarily the loving, generous disposition of the Almighty. But as a rule he thinks of it in concrete form as embodied in the gift of His Son, Jesus Christ, to mankind. And often it cannot be separated in his thought from the bestowal of the Spirit. Brü ckner is right in saying that “ God is for Paul first and chiefly the Father of Jesus Christ.” In virtue of their perfect harmony, all that Christ does is the expression of the Father’ s will. Hence the experience of love and joy and praise kindled in his soul by the condescension towards him of the exalted Lord is a mirror of the Divine purpose. That is to say, God shows Himself eager to forgive a man conscious of his own failure and powerlessness to attain the ideal which his conscience holds up to him. He does not stand behind the Law, reckoning up in aloofness a man’ s transgressions. He yearns to draw him into fellowship with Himself, to be able to deal with him as a son. Paul was assured of this in the crisis of his conversion. He felt he owed all to Christ. But not to Christ as distinct from the Father. The profoundest utterance in the Epistles is this: “ God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself” ( 2 Corinthians 5:19). The attitude which corresponds to his epoch-making discovery is described from varying points of view by such terms as justification, adoption, peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. When he reflects upon this new and blessed condition from the Godward side he exults in the fatherly love which made it possible ( e.g. Romans 5:6-Ruth :). When he considers it from the human, he finds in it a sacred obligation laid upon men to present themselves to God a living sacrifice ( e.g. Romans 12:1). This is the doom of legalism. The Christian obeys not by compulsion but by inspiration.
( f) The Cross.— The crucifixion of Jesus was a paralysing blow to His chosen disciples, although He had emphasized in His training of them the necessity of self-sacrifice. When Paul was compelled to revise his estimate of a crucified Messiah, he was confronted by a problem which must have profoundly exercised his thinking in the days that followed his conversion. The death of Jesus was not that of a malefactor. It was the Son of God who had been nailed to the tree. Such an event must possess unfathomable significance. It must have an integral place in the wonderful redeeming purpose of Christ which had illumined his own soul. Perhaps, as he sought to adjust his mind to the facts, the first impression which remained with him was that of unspeakable love. For Jewish feeling the death of the Cross was the climax of degradation. Put the Holy Son of God, the chosen Redeemer, in the place of the criminal for whom such a fate was reserved. Thought must almost fail in presence of such an event. But if the risen Jesus was, as Paul had found Him to be, the medium of the Divine grace to men, this could not be merely an awful tragedy. It must be the voluntary self-dedication of one who loved human souls better than life. This perception would at once fall into line with what Paul had felt from the moment of his first contact with the risen Lord, that he had passed into an atmosphere of ineffable mercy and grace. Possibly we may go further, and suggest that from the first, Paul, on the basis of his inward crisis, would associate this death of self-sacrificing devotion with the destruction of the old order of sin and weakness which circled round a merely legal relation to God.
IV. Influence of Early Christian Thought on Paul’ s Fundamental Convictions.— No careful reader of Paul’ s Epistles is in danger of supposing that any vital element of his thought came to him at second-hand. His fearless words in Galatians 1:11 f. assert a position which he never relinquished And yet we must remember that, at his conversion, Paul entered a community which included several at least of the Twelve, besides many men and women who had been personal followers of Jesus. It would be unsafe to fix a date for the earliest written records of Jesus’ words and deeds; but when Paul became a Christian he would at once be brought into touch with living traditions of the Lord. By this time, also, manifold efforts would be made to grasp the meaning of the death of Jesus, to re-shape the current Messianic expectations in the light of His eschatological utterances, to understand more fully those portions of His teaching which the Master was wont to emphasize. More than once Paul reveals his attitude to the existing situation, e.g. 1 Corinthians 15:3 f.: “ I delivered unto you first of all that which also I received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures; and that he was buried; and that he hath been raised on the third day according to the Scriptures” ( cf. 1 Corinthians 11:23 f.). This shows that the early Christians went back to the OT for light on such crucial events as Christ’ s death and resurrection. Peter’ s speeches in the opening chapters of Acts supply details of the method which they followed. Nothing could be so effective for mission work among adherents of Judaism as the exhibition of proofs from Scripture for the essential verities of the new faith.
( a) What light did Paul receive in the Christian Church on the central fact of the Death of Christ? It is not by accident that the Passion occupies so large a space in the Synoptic tradition. It would be natural that these early disciples should explore the recognised Messianic passages of the OT to find clues to the significance of this overwhelming event. But Peter’ s addresses indicate that it was easier to discern references to the glory of the risen Christ than to His Bufferings and death ( e.g. Acts 2:25 f., Acts 2:34 f.). The second Psalm, indeed, is quoted ( Acts 4:25 f.), but a suffering Messiah was an anomaly. Very early, however, they must have been impressed by the figure of the Servant of Yahweh, and especially by the marvellous delineation in Isaiah 53. In Acts 8:32-Habakkuk : the foreshadowing in him of Jesus is definitely recognised. Soon it would dawn upon them that many of the Master’ s words and thoughts ( e.g. Mark 10:45 || Isaiah 53:10 ( mg.) , Mark 14:24 || Isaiah 49:8) circled round this mysterious redeeming personality. Then the redemptive idea, so central in the prophetic picture, and finding expression there in terms so significant as “ wounded for our transgressions,” “ bruised for our iniquities,” “ making an offering for sin,” “ bearing the sin of many,” would link itself on to the great sacrificial system of Jewish ritual. The whole range of propitiatory sacrifices would receive a new importance as pointing to “ a sacrifice of nobler name and richer blood than they.” This process of theological reflection must have been at work when Paul entered the Church. It presented a basis on which his eager mind could build. And when he received the tradition of Jesus’ solemn words at the Supper concerning the “ new covenant” in His blood, he would recognise that Jesus’ thoughts had also been moving among the symbols of OT religion. The forms in which his reflections took shape remain to be considered in a subsequent paragraph.
( b) Eschatological Ideas.— The Synoptic Gospels supply ample evidence of the eager eschatological interest which possessed the mind of the primitive Church. It is safer to make such a statement than to attempt to determine the precise scope of Jesus’ outlook on the Last Things. Still, the extraordinary place of eschatological expectations in the earliest period of Christianity testifies to a definite impression made by Jesus’ teaching concerning the Future. Probably Paul, as a genuine scion of the prophetic line, could never dissociate God’ s saving purpose for the world from catastrophic events which, like Jesus, he described in the traditional language of Apocalyptic. Here, again, he took common ground with the Church. Like the Church, he retained pictures of the Judgment, the Resurrection, the Parousia. Yet side by side with these he conceived a process of salvation which was really independent of these pictures. Perhaps he scarcely realised the contrast. The conception of the Parousia, in any case, expressed the ardent yearning that the will of God should speedily triumph. It was left for the writer of the Fourth Gospel completely to spiritualise eschatology. But he was only carrying to its logical issue the development begun by Paul.
( c) The Spirit.— We have already indicated the inevitable association with his conversion of Paul’ s conception of the Spirit. For the revelation of the living Lord was for him pre-eminently a baptism of power. At the same time it ought to be noted that when Paul entered the Christian Church, the idea was in the air. Nay more. The emergence of abnormal phenomena such as speaking with tongues” (p. 648 ), “ prophesying” ( i.e. disclosing profound religious truth), works of healing,” was evidence of the Spirit’ s operation. And this was, in turn, a remarkable demonstration that the Messianic age, the age when unique spiritual energies should be liberated, was already at the door. It is in the Fourth Gospel alone that we find specific teaching of Jesus on the Spirit, and that has no doubt been re-shaped in the mould of the wonderful individuality which stands behind the Gospel. But we are inclined to agree with Titius that more emphasis was laid by the Master on the Spirit than the scanty hints of the Synoptics would suggest. So that Paul may have been helped in clarifying for his own mind this most fruitful conception by the tradition of Jesus in the Church and those religious experiences which put the seal upon the tradition.
( d) Life and Teaching of Jesus.— One of the most baseless utterances of recent NT criticism is that which declares that Paul was not interested in the life and teaching of Jesus: that for him Jesus was simply a heavenly Being who came to the world to die. It is true that the crucified and exalted Lord stands nearer to him because He had been the channel of that new life which transformed him. But any attentive student of the Epistles will discover that virtually in every section of his thought, Paul has been influenced by the Church tradition of the historical Jesus. The incidental fashion in which he refers to traits in His character ( e.g. 2 Corinthians 10:1), the authority he assigns to His precepts for details of conduct ( e.g. 1 Corinthians 7:10; 1 Corinthians 9:14), the direct parallel of his ethical ideal to that of Jesus ( Galatians 5:14) whom he daily strives to imitate ( 1 Corinthians 11:1), are more impressive proofs of the value he assigned to the Man who had walked in Galilee than any elaborate argument he might have constructed in support of the historical basis of the faith. Perhaps nothing so clearly attests the dependence of the disciple upon his Lord as his conception of the sonship of Christians. We know that Paul entered on a relationship of inward freedom towards God in that crisis which made him a new man. The whole circumstances of his call were shot through with the Divine love. But it is much easier to understand such classical passages as Romans 8:14-Esther : and Galatians 3:26-Joel :, if we suppose that Paul’ s mind was prepared by the tradition of Jesus’ fundamental teaching on the Fatherhood of God, which was one of the priceless memories of the first disciples. A noteworthy corroboration of this view is found in the fact that the idea of the Kingdom of God, so characteristic of the preaching of Jesus, while appearing in Paul, has to a large extent been replaced by that of the Divine family of believers. In this identification he was anticipated by his Master.
V. Fundamental Conceptions of Paul’ s Theology.— Let us now attempt to elaborate the fundamental conceptions of the Pauline theology, intimately related, as we have seen, to his conversion-experience, and influenced at various points by the tradition of Jesus which he found in the Christian Church. Our survey must follow the growth of those convictions, already outlined, which were born of his spiritual crisis.
( a) Union with Christ as life-giving Spirit.— The result of the revelation of the living Christ to Paul was, for him, the establishing of a new and all-satisfying condition which he describes as being “ in Christ” : e.g. 2 Corinthians 5:17, “ If any man is in Christ he is a new creature.” The description is interchangeable with another, “ Christ in me” : e.g. Galatians 2:20, “ It is no longer I that live but Christ liveth in me, and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith, faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” This passage is extraordinarily significant for Paul’ s religious thought and life. It shows that, on the side of the Christian, union with Christ is constituted by what the Apostle calls “ faith.” Faith, for him, is not mere assent to certain truths. Of course an intellectual element is involved in it, and may be regarded as its presupposition. But from Paul’ s standpoint that is overshadowed by the act of feeling and will, the surrender of the whole personality in trust and love to the living Lord. This attitude means the throwing open of the soul to the entire range of Divine influences and energies concentrated in Christ. Hence for faith all the Divine gifts are available. Chief among them, in Paul’ s estimate, is that of the Spirit, which finds its sphere of operation in what he calls “ the mind,” the higher element in human nature as it is. Accordingly, the phrases, “ we in the Spirit” or “ the Spirit in us” may be substituted for those mentioned above. Thus, in a sense, the living Christ and the Spirit are identified ( e.g. 2 Corinthians 3:17). But the identification is not conceived metaphysically. It is, to use Titius’ apt expression, “ dynamic.” Each is regarded equally as producing the new life. And in Paul’ s thought “ life” is synonymous with salvation ( e.g. Romans 6:23).
( b) The Death of Christ.— The Apostle is never weary of drawing out the consequences involved in this wonderful relation of profoundest intimacy with Christ. They will confront us in the various sections which follow. Meanwhile, let us work back from the initial experience of Paul’ s conversion to that which constituted its indispensable condition, and, in its soul-subduing power, inspired him with a confidence which nothing could daunt, the Death of Christ. The Christ whom Paul knew as life-giving Spirit had met and conquered death. Only as raised above earthly limitations could He operate in the hearts of men. But He, the risen Lord, the source of Paul’ s life, is pre-eminently “ the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me.” What had taken place in His death of agony and shame? It is probable that Paul had earnestly pondered that question before he was able fully to realise or to express to himself the meaning of his new experience. At any rate, this new experience invariably stands out against the background of the Cross.
The Apostle starts with certain assumptions. Christ was sinless. That was involved in his own experience of Him, and was corroborated by the testimony of the Church. For Paul as a Jew, death, viewed synthetically in what we are accustomed to distinguish as its “ physical” and “ spiritual” aspects, and regarded as separation from God, was the penalty of sin ( Romans 5:12). And the death of the Cross, more especially, involved the curse of the Law ( Galatians 3:13, Deuteronomy 21:23). But Christ was not liable to this penalty. There must, therefore, be some larger interpretation of His experience possible. Now already, in the most remarkable delineation of OT religion, the Servant of Yahweh was represented as “ bearing the sins of many” ( Isaiah 53:12). Indeed, the idea of righteous men atoning for sinners finds noteworthy expression in 4 Mac. ( 17:22 , 62:9 ), a Jewish document probably earlier than A.D. 50 . So Paul’ s fundamental theory of the death of Christ seems to be that, in accordance with the will of the Father, Christ identified Himself so completely with sinful men that He took upon Himself the load of their transgressions, and suffered in their stead the penalty of the broken Law, becoming an atoning sacrifice. The Law, personified as an imperious power, exhausted its claims on the vicarious Redeemer. Those who by faith identify themselves with the Redeemer are thereby relieved from its obligation. They can face the final verdict of God without faltering. Crucial passages for Paul’ s central standpoint are 2 Corinthians 5:21 and Romans 3:19-Ezekiel :.
But his treatment of the theme is so manifold as to suggest that he is endeavouring by means of imperfect analogies to set forth the awe-inspiring fact which he had discovered in the depths of his experience, that the Divine heart suffers in and for the sin of the world. Paul does not attempt to explain the bearing of the “ propitiation” or “ sin-offering” ( Romans 8:3) upon God. It is rather the Divine attitude exhibited in it towards men that he depicts from various standpoints. Sometimes he emphasizes the fact of Christ’ s love in dying ( e.g. Galatians 2:20), sometimes the love of God in making this sacrifice, torn from His own heart ( Romans 5:8). Closely akin to this is the idea of Christ’ s death as mediating God’ s purpose of reconciling men to Himself ( 2 Corinthians 5:19). Occasionally, it is described as redemptive ( Galatians 3:13), this conception, of course, underlying all its aspects. One point of view is of speculative interest. We have already seen that for Paul “ the flesh,” i.e. human nature as known in experience, is invariably sinful. If sin is to be vanquished, “ the flesh” must in some way be robbed of its vitality ( Romans 6:6). Christ, in becoming incarnate, entered into the living organism of human flesh in order to redeem it. In His death, a Divine judgment is pronounced upon “ the flesh,” that sinful human nature which He represents as the second Adam. Those who are united to Him by faith are therefore set free from condemnation ( Romans 8:1-Numbers :). They have been crucified with Christ ( Galatians 2:20). And thus we have come back to the point from which we started. For, what the Apostle seeks to bring out by argument is that the soul linked to Christ by faith shares in all His experiences. In Him it dies to sin (and the bondage of a legal relation to God). With Him it rises to newness of life (see especially Romans 6:3-1 Kings :). This is an exposition of Paul’ s discovery of a gracious, forgiving God in Jesus Christ, the risen Lord. No wonder that the “ word of the Cross” becomes on the Apostle’ s lips a summons to repentance, faith, love, and obedience.
( c) Interpretations of the new Relation to God and its Issues.— Paul had entered upon the new relation to God, set open to him in Christ, before he attempted to make an analysis of it. His descriptions vary according to the aspect of the experience which is uppermost in his mind. Each reflects his situation at the time. Now the most “ theological” of his Epistles are those to the Romans and the Galatians, documents which at every turn reveal the influence of his burning controversy with Judaism, both within and outside the Christian Church. We know that in his missionary labours his footsteps were dogged by representatives of the Mother Church at Jerusalem, who urged that no man could be accepted by God as righteous apart from obedience to the Mosaic Law Christianity they regarded as a supplement of Judaism. For many the difference between the old faith and the new consisted mainly in the recognition of Jesus of Nazareth as Messiah. Paul had discovered that not only had legalism given him no help in attaining righteousness but that it was a positive hindrance. But in communion with the risen Lord he felt himself able to do all things ( Php_4:13 ). So he concludes that the legal order has come to an end in Christ ( Romans 10:4). Righteousness, the attitude in man which God approves, is reached apart from the Law ( Romans 3:21 f.). A man is “ justified” by faith in Christ ( Galatians 2:16). By justification, which is a term of Pharisaic theology, Paul means the pronouncing by God of a verdict of acquittal instead of condemnation. Under the religion of the Law men looked forward with apprehension to the great day of reckoning. Would their good deeds outweigh their transgressions? Would they be acquitted, i.e. have a share in the Messianic age, or would they be condemned? Paul declares that, tested by the legal standard, no man can be accepted by God. He cannot win merit with the Almighty. Sin is too subtle and persistent for that. The revelation which has illumined the soul of the Apostle is that God “ justifies” sinners. What does that imply? Not, of course, that He condones evil. Sinners are justified by faith in Christ. That is, God accepts them as linked to Christ, as taking Christ’ s attitude to sin, as welcoming Christ’ s revelation of God in the Cross as the all-loving and all-holy. This is what he means by a “ righteousness of God” which has been revealed to men ( Romans 1:17; Romans 3:21). Although as yet they may be far from perfection, God sees the end in the beginning. In matchless grace He anticipates the result of this new direction which, through faith in Christ, their life has taken. Hence their salvation is present as well as future. “ We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” and “ we rejoice in hope of the glory of God” ( Romans 5:1 f.). In effect, justification is really a more positive aspect of forgiveness. The soul becomes once for all conscious that there are no barriers between it and God.
The result of this relation of acceptance Paul describes by the term adoption. It has a more juristic flavour than the “ birth from above” of the Fourth Gospel. But it stands for the same spiritual reality. The man who, through trusting Christ and identifying himself with Him, discovers that God is not against but for him, approaches God no longer with the hesitating fear of a slave but with the glad freedom of a son. This is the greatest conception in the Pauline theology, just as it is the supreme revelation of Jesus. In the parable of the Lost Son, the father, who stands for Jesus’ view of religion as against that of the Pharisees, represented by the elder brother, says, “ Son, thou art always with me, and all that I have is thine” ( Luke 15:31). Paul has a similar splendour of outlook. “ He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things” ( Romans 8:32). No instance of the “ all things” is more impressive than the inward liberty which Paul claims for the Christian. This is his rightful heritage ( Galatians 5:1 f.). Its only limitation lies in the claims of love ( Galatians 5:13, Romans 14:13-Ecclesiastes :).
It is plain that a relation which begins with faith in Christ, in Paul’ s profound sense of the word, must issue in likeness to Christ. That is to say, from the nature of the case, the new status in God’ s sight involves a break with sin. The purpose of the far-reaching discussion of Romans 6 is to make that unmistakable. Paul does not often dwell on the stages in the experience of the “ justified” man. But incidental references such as Php_3:12 , “ Not that I have already attained . . . but I press on,” reveal the current of his thought. No more profound description of the process has been given than 2 Corinthians 3:18: “ We all, with unveiled face, reflecting as a mirror the glory of the Lord, are transformed into the same image from glory to glory, even as from the Lord the Spirit.” When we remember that “ glory” in the Pauline Epistles means the nature of God as manifested, we can realise the loftiness of the consummation which in his view awaits the redeemed soul. Hence, the designation, “ sons of God,” is found to express the richest reality.
We have seen that Paul keeps his gaze directed towards the accomplishment of salvation in the Second Advent of Christ. It is difficult, however, to find in his writings any consistent scheme of eschatology. Such questions as the fate of those who reject the Gospel, an intermediate state, and the like, are never discussed. But he seems to agree with the fragmentary hints to be found in the teaching of Jesus as to the basis and the nature of the Future Life. Its basis is communion with God in Christ (or, by the Spirit). Believers are “ alive unto God in Christ Jesus ( Romans 6:11). But “ flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God” ( 1 Corinthians 15:50). Therefore Paul postulates a transformation of the fleshly” organism of the Christian by the Divine power into a “ spiritual” organism ( 1 Corinthians 15:44), which will be a fit instrument for his perfected spirit. There are gaps in his account of this fascinating speculation, but it is noteworthy that he speaks of it as “ the image of the heavenly,” i.e. of the exalted Christ ( 1 Corinthians 15:49). Possibly his reflection on the whole theme was influenced by the picture of the living Lord which had stamped itself upon his mind in the crisis of his conversion. The final victory will be over death in its fulness of meaning. Then shall believers, conformed to His likeness, be “ ever with the Lord” ( 1 Thessalonians 4:17).
( d) Christian Conduct.— The new relation to God involves the control of the whole nature no longer by the “ flesh” but by the Spirit. The “ sons of God” are those “ led by the Spirit” ( Romans 8:14). One of Paul’ s most memorable achievements as a Christian teacher was his transformation of the conception of the Spirit as an abnormal, fitful energy, manifested in strange outbursts of religious enthusiasm, into that of the abiding principle of the Christian’ s moral life. The effect of the Spirit’ s indwelling for him is not, primarily, “ speaking with tongues” or gifts of healing or prophetic power. It is “ love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, self-control” ( Galatians 5:22 f.). “ Paul,” says Harnack, “ has created an unsurpassable moral ideal.” This he accomplished by following close in the footsteps of his Master. At no point is he more loyal to Jesus’ teaching than here. As might be expected from the genesis of his Christian experience, the Apostle makes love the cardinal virtue. It is essentially the response of the soul to the love of God demonstrated in the Cross of Christ, and will resemble that love in spending itself upon the needs of others ( Romans 13:9 f., 1 Corinthians 13 ). Hence, like all wholesome moral energy, Paul’ s ethic is largely social. Its sphere is determined by the existing situation. Paul was an indefatigable missionary. All his unresting activity was absorbed in the evangelising of new communities or the discipline of converts, already won. They depended on him for moral direction. And the closing sections in all the Epistles show how seriously he regarded his responsibility. It is futile to look for ethical theory in his writings. In his relation to the State, the conception of justice, and the order of nature, he reveals affinities with the popular philosophy (Cynic-Stoic) of his time. But his positions are invariably determined by religious motives.
( e) The Body of Christ.— It was inevitable that from the idea of the union of the believer to Christ as mediated by the Spirit, Paul should advance to that of the communion of believers in Christ through the same Spirit. Thus he arrives at his great conception of the Christian society as the Body of Christ. “ As we have many members in one body, and all the members have not the same office, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and severally members one of another” ( Romans 12:4 f.). The conception is most fruitfully elaborated in 1 Corinthians 12 and Ephesians 4:1-Nehemiah :. The following features may be noted: ( 1 ) External organisation is barely referred to. No doubt that was in a thoroughly flexible condition when Paul wrote. He is chiefly concerned with the spiritual health of the Church. ( 2 ) He lays stress on the unity of spirit which must pervade the organism of which the exalted Christ is Head. Already he had ample experience of friction in Christian communities. But the will of the Head cannot be realised if His members are at cross-purposes. ( 3 ) Nevertheless, unity of spirit does not mean unity of function. The limbs and organs of a body have an endless variety of functions. Each of them, when rightly discharged, ministers to the well-being of the body as a whole. None, however humble, may be dispensed with. ( 4 ) The Church is Christ’ s special representative upon earth. The sacred responsibility is laid upon her members of giving a faithful picture of the spirit and purpose of their Lord ( Colossians 1:24, 1 Corinthians 14:24 f.). ( 5 ) The union of Jews and Gentiles in one body is for the Apostle a unique revelation of the manifold wisdom of God ( Ephesians 3:3-1 Kings :).
The unity of the Body of Christ, which counted for so much in a heathen environment, finds solemn expression in Baptism and the Lord’ s Supper ( 1 Corinthians 12:13; 1 Corinthians 10:17). Paul found these rites in the Church when he became a Christian. As a Jew of the Diaspora he was familiar with sacred lustrations and sacred meals, both in his own religion and in heathen cults. Baptism marked the entrance of the convert into the Christian society. More than once, Paul points to the immersion of the candidate in the baptismal water as an impressive picture of his passing out of relation to the old life, an experience which he compares with the burial of Christ ( Romans 6:4, Colossians 2:12), while the emerging from the pool suggests the new life on which he enters in fellowship with the risen Lord. But Baptism was more than a symbol. It constituted the decisive step by which the individual deliberately identified himself with Christ and the Church. He was baptized “ into the name of Christ,” i.e. made himself over to Christ’ s ownership and protection. Hence the rite was possessed of very definite religious value. It intensified faith and was thus the occasion of a fresh spiritual quickening. But Paul associated no magical efficacy with it. For him baptizing is altogether secondary to the preaching of the Gospel ( 1 Corinthians 1:17). What concerns him is the faith which Baptism presupposes, and the enhancing of that faith which is its accompaniment.
He takes a similar attitude towards the Lord’ s Supper. Participation in that ordinance, which goes back to Jesus Himself, is a “ representation” of the Lord’ s death, till He come ( 1 Corinthians 11:26). That is to say, the bread and wine in the celebration represent not the flesh and blood of Christ as such, but His human person as slain on the Cross for the sin of the world. Hence, communion with the body and blood of Christ means for Paul communion with the Lord as crucified, and all that that involves. Here there is concentrated in a solemn, visible act the supreme spiritual experience described in Galatians 2:20. Only, the action is peculiarly fitted to invigorate faith. To the believing soul the symbols become a sacrament, a convincing pledge of the mercy of God in Christ the crucified. But the effect is not magical. It is the response which is never denied to an adoring faith.
( f) Inferences as to Christ.— If Christ is for Paul the medium of human redemption, redemption from the guilt and power of sin and from the dominion of spiritual hierarchies of evil which work destruction for men ( Ephesians 6:12, Colossians 2:15), if through Him humanity attains its Divine destiny ( 1 Corinthians 15:20 f., Romans 5:10; Romans 8:23, Ephesians 1:10, Colossians 1:20), it is a natural inference to find in Him the centre of the cosmic order, the constitutive principle of universal life. Accordingly, in the Imprisonment Epistles, written towards the close of his career, Paul broods with wonder and adoration over the cosmic functions of Christ. In the Wisdom-literature of Judaism, Wisdom had been almost personified as the instrument and vicegerent of God in creation ( e.g. Proverbs 8:22-Obadiah :). In contemporary Hellenistic thought similar functions were assigned to the Logos or Reason of God. These influences may have helped to shape the form of Paul’ s thought, but the genuine basis of his speculations is that in Christ he feels he has been brought into touch with ultimate reality Hence he describes Him as “ the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation” : “ all things have been created through him and unto him; and he is before all things, and in him all things hold together” ( Colossians 1:15; Colossians 1:17). His supreme office in the Divine order is to reconcile all things unto God, whether things on earth, or things in the heavens, “ having made peace through the blood of his Cross” ( Colossians 1:20). This high purpose may also be characterised as the “ summing-up” of all things in Christ ( Ephesians 1:10).
One moment in the reconciling process is of primary interest for the Apostle. In a single passage only does he dwell upon it (but cf. 2 Corinthians 8:9), and he introduces the subject almost incidentally. In urging lowliness upon the Christians at Philippi, he appeals to the example of Christ, “ who, although by nature in the form of God [i.e. sharing in the Divine essence], counted not equality with God [ i.e. as manifest to men and constituting a claim on their worship] a thing to be snatched, but emptied himself, taking the form of a bond-servant . . . and being found in fashion as a man, humbled himself, becoming obedient even unto death, yea, the death of the Cross” ( Php_2:6-8 ). This is Paul’ s most explicit statement of his belief in the pre-existence of Christ. He has reached his position along the lines already described. But, true to his fundamental outlook, he lays the chief emphasis on the Divine lowliness which stooped to earth for the salvation of men. Yet the path of lowliness was for the Son of God, as for His followers, the path to glory. Because of His self-renunciation (in which the purpose of the Father found expression), “ God highly exalted him and gave unto him the name which is above every name [in the Hellenistic world the names of deities were supposed to have magical power ( Genesis 32:29 *)]: that in the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven and things on earth and things under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” ( Php_2:9-11 ).
The closing words of the passage echo the final chord of the Pauline theology, “ that God may be all in all” ( 1 Corinthians 15:28). Such, for the Apostle, is the goal of the universe.
Literature.— In addition to works on NTT (esp. Stevens and Holtzmann 2 ), Histories of the Apostolic Age (esp. J. Weiss, Das Urchristentum, Pfleiderer, Primitive Christianity) , Dictionaries (esp. Findlay, Paul in HDB), Lives of Paul (esp. Weinel, Bacon), the following: Pfleiderer, Paulinism; Stevens, The Pauline Theology; Bruce, St. Paul’ s Conception of Christianity; Sabatier, The Apostle Paul; Wrede, Paul; Titius, Der Paulinismus unter d. Gesichtspunkt d. Seligkeit; Garvie, Studies of Paul and his Gospel; Moffatt, Paul and Paulinism; Wernle, The Beginnings of Christianity, and his criticism of Bousset’ s Kyrios Christos in Zeitschrift fü r Theologie und Kirche (April 1915 , pp. 1– 90 ); P. Gardner, The Religious Experience of St. Paul; Schweitzer, Paul and his Interpreters; R. H. Strachan, The Individuality of S. Paul; Morgan, The Religion and Theology of Paul. On special topics: Kaftan, Jesus und Paulus; Jü licher, Paulus und Jesus; A. Meyer, Jesus or Paul; J. Weiss, Paul and Jesus; H. W. Robinson, The Christian Doctrine of Man, pp. 104– 136 ; Dickson, St. Paul’ s Use of the Terms Flesh and Spirit; Somerville, St. Paul’ s Conception of Christ; Olschewski, Die Wurzeln der Paulinischen Christologie; Gunkel, Die Wirkungen des Heiligen Geistes; Everling, Die paulinische Angelologie und Dä monologie; Dibelius, Die Geisterwelt im Glauben des Paulus; Kabisch, Die Eschatologie des Paulus; H. A. A. Kennedy, St. Paul’ s Conceptions of the Last Things; Reitzenstein, Die hellenistischen Mysterien-religionen; H. A. A. Kennedy, St. Paul and the Mystery Religions; Denney, The Theology of the Epistle to the Romans ( Exp., 6 th Series, vols. iii. and iv.).
THE PAULINE EPISTLES
BY THE EDITOR
THE present article is concerned with a general statement as to the criticism of the Pauline Epistles. For a discussion of the New Testament Epistles in general and the Pauline Epistles in particular the reader should consult the article on “ The Development of New Testament Literature.” The first point that calls for examination is the alleged spuriousness of all the letters attributed to Paul. This is asserted by very few scholars, and it is commonly regarded as a mere eccentricity. It is in truth nothing better, but since the issue has been raised it is desirable to meet it. Moreover, the ordinary reader is in no position to explain why, if doubt rests on part of the literature, it may not equally be extended to the whole. Obviously the matter is in itself very important, but its importance is greatly enhanced by its bearing on the question as to the historical existence of Jesus. Here again denial is the mere craziness of historical scepticism, but this also, for similar reasons, it is unwise to treat with the contempt which it nevertheless deserves.
It must not be forgotten, in all questions of this kind, that the burden of proof lies on the assailant of the authenticity. A piece of literature which comes to us from antiquity, bearing the name of a definite author and claiming to be his work, is assumed to be genuine unless some cogent reason to the contrary can be offered. Even if positive evidence could not be offered, the failure of the counter-argument would leave the authorship incontestably where the document itself placed it. In the case of the Pauline Literature, however, not only has the attack broken down, but there are numerous positive arguments on the other side. For a fuller statement than can here be given, reference may be made to The Bible: its Origin, its Significance, and its Abiding Worth, pp. 198– 202 . In the next place, the responsibility lies on the opponents to supplement their destructive by constructive criticism. In other words, they must not content themselves with cavilling at the received opinions, they must substitute a view of their own and give some reasonable account of the origin of the documents. The fundamental ground for the negative view is that the epistles carry back into the middle of the first century A.D. an attitude to Judaism which could not have emerged before the second century. Christianity, it is urged, developed only very slowly out of Judaism, and the historical Paul could not have formulated so far-reaching a vindication of the Gospel’ s independence or elaborated his doctrine of the Law. It will be observed that this is sheer dogmatism. Paul cannot have written these epistles, it is asserted, because the new movement cannot have advanced with the rapidity this would imply. The scientific historian, however, is not at liberty to impose his arbitrary preconceptions on the facts. Moreover, these critics vitally misread the actual situation. It is quite untrue that Christianity cannot have been disengaged from Judaism so early. On the contrary the forces which worked for its rapid detachment were implicit in the situation. In the first place, Jesus was Himself, according to our earliest sources, engaged in controversies with the representatives of contemporary Judaism, and these touched the central problem as to the true nature of righteousness and the means of attaining it. Even more decisive is the fact that the mode of His death brought upon Him the curse of the Law. It needed only an intellect sufficiently powerful and courageous to think out what was involved in this, to cut the Gospel loose from the Law. If it be urged that this assumes the historicity of the controversies and the fact of the crucifixion, the answer is easy. As a rule, indeed, the ultra-radical critics admit the historical existence of Jesus and His crucifixion. Since, however, there are some who deny these, it may be pointed out in a few words why such a denial lands us in historical absurdities. No movement arising out of Judaism, and led by Jews, could have invented the story that its alleged Founder had been crucified. This would have been to create, quite gratuitously, insuperable difficulties. A crucified Messiah came under the curse of the Law ( Deuteronomy 21:23, Galatians 3:13). The fact of the crucifixion, of course, involves the historicity of the person crucified. But it does more than this: it makes it probable that the Jewish authorities were hostile to Jesus, and their hostility is most naturally explained by such controversies as are related in the gospels and the antagonism He aroused among the Sadducees. The attitude to the Law in the Pauline Epistles was therefore, to some extent, anticipated by the Founder, while the mode of His death raised in an acute form the issue, “ In what relation does the new religion stand to the Law which pronounces its Founder accursed?” Paulinism, therefore, was a position likely to be reached very early rather than late.
Not only does the fundamental argument break down, but there are convincing positive reasons for the authenticity of some epistles at least. These may be summarised as follows: ( a) Marcion ( c. A.D. 145 ) was an ultra-Paulinist who was regarded by the great majority of Christians as a most dangerous heretic. He formed a Canon which contained ten Pauline Epistles and a mutilated Gospel of Luke. This attests not only their existence but a fairly long previous history. They cannot have originated with Marcion, otherwise the Church would have repudiated them. Moreover, he was conscious that the copies of the epistles which were in circulation were out of harmony with his own theory of what genuine Paulinism was; accordingly he revised them in accordance with his views. Had he manufactured them, this situation could not have arisen. ( b) The literature of the time when the epistles are alleged to have originated lends no support to the theory of their second-century origin. It is remarkably inferior in power to them, and an author capable of producing them must have played something more than a pseudonymous role in the Church. But we have no trace of such a person’ s existence. ( c) The first Epistle of Clement was probably written before the close of the first century A.D. In it 1 Cor. is definitely mentioned as the work of Paul. ( d) It is difficult to believe that the epistles, if spurious, could have been got into circulation and general acceptance in the Church in view of the fact that most of them were addressed to definite communities. These communities would know whether they had received these letters from Paul or not. ( e) The numerous details, often in themselves trivial, are not likely to have been invented or, if invented, to have successfully defied detection. There was no need for such invention since no purpose was to be served by it, and unless it was done with incredible skill the writer was almost certain to betray himself. So intricate a situation as that which lies behind 2 Cor. was certainly no fiction. ( f) We have a good deal of spurious literature which differs in the most striking way from the Canonical Epistles. Moreover, these spurious epistles were never, so far as we know, accepted in the churches to which they profess to be addressed. ( g) The problems in the second century were not those which are most prominent in the Pauline Epistles.
F. C. Baur, the founder of the Tü bingen School, and his followers recognised that at least four epistles, Galatians , 1 and 2 Cor., Rom. (apart from 15 f.) were authentic. To these Hilgenfeld added Romans 15 f., 1 Th., Phil., and Phm. This modification has been amply justified by later criticism. But the prevalent attitude is more favourable to some of the other epistles. Probably few would now reject Col., rather more 2 Th., still more Eph., while there is a large consensus of critical opinion that the Pastoral Epistles are not in their present form authentic. Heb., which does not claim to be by Paul, is denied to him by common consent. A few words may be added with reference to these epistles; for a more detailed statement the commentaries on them must be consulted. 2 Th. has been rejected partly on the ground of inconsistency with 1 Th. In the one case the Second Coming is represented as imminent and sudden. In 2 Th. there is to be a considerable development, which is depicted especially in the eschatological section ( 2 Thessalonians 2:1-2 Kings :). This section was itself regarded as pointing to a later historical situation. Neither objection is now urged with the same confidence. The ideas in 2 Thessalonians 2:1-2 Kings : are probably much older than Paul’ s lifetime, and, even when an event has been long expected, it often happens suddenly at the last. Difficulty is now felt on account of the similarity to 1 Th. rather than the unlikeness. But in view of the similarity of conditions, the similarity of treatment and language is not so surprising, especially as the second letter was written with reference to what had been said in the first, and no reasonable explanation has been given why a spurious epistle should have been written. 2 Th. is, therefore, probably genuine.
It was formerly supposed that the false teaching attacked in Col. was a form of second-century Gnosticism, and therefore that the epistle belongs to the second century. This was confirmed by the style, which was heavier and moved much less rapidly than that in the four chief epistles: by the vocabulary, which contained a number of unusual words; by the theology, especially the doctrine of the Person of Christ; and, finally, by its relation to Eph. Probably the heresy is purely Jewish in character, without traces of Gnosticism, and can be fully explained from the circumstances of Paul’ s own time. The Christology is fundamentally Pauline, is not higher than that of Phil., and, where it shows advance, is a simple development of what was implicit in the Christology of the undoubted epistles. The style is really different, but the difference of circumstances fully accounts for this. It was one thing to dictate letters in the rush of a busy life to churches in rebellion or in danger of losing the faith, quite another to write to a loyal church in the enforced leisure of a prison. The relation to Eph. presents a unique phenomenon, but it tells rather against Eph. than Col., since Col. is generally recognised as the more original. And, even if Eph. were an imitation by another writer, it is surely improbable that he would imitate an epistle that was not genuine.
This brings us to Eph., and here it must be frankly owned that a large number of scholars remain convinced of its spuriousness. The grounds on which this opinion is held are as follows: First, there is the suspicious relation to Col. Secondly, its style, which even Godet confesses often to have excited doubts in his mind. Thirdly, there is its doctrine of the Church, which is supposed by many to be too advanced for Paul’ s time. Its doctrine of redemption is regarded as un-Pauline, in that “ reconciliation” is here used in the sense of the reconciliation of Jew and Gentile. Further, Paul is hardly likely to have spoken of “ the holy apostles,” or to have associated the other apostles with himself in the revelation of the calling of the Gentiles. These arguments are of varying value. Several rest on assumptions as to what Paul is, or is not, likely to have written, which ignore the versatility of his genius, and make the generally-recognised epistles a type to which everything must be made to conform in order to be recognised as his. There is no more Gnosticism in this epistle than in Col. Why Paul should not have grasped the idea of the universal Church one can hardly see. Why, with his sense of the greatness of redemption, he should not have insisted that the Cross reconciled Jew and Gentile, as well as man to God, is incomprehensible. The term “ the holy apostles” is strange, but it carries different associations to us from what it would have conveyed to Paul’ s readers, and the adjective might very well be a later addition. And, while the association of the other apostles with him may seem a little strange, it is a fact that he asserted the identity of his general gospel with theirs.
The arguments alleged against the Pastoral Epistles ( 1 and 2 Tim., Tit.) are of unequal value. The false teaching attacked may well have existed in Paul’ s day. The objection that they belong to a period in Paul’ s lifetime unknown to us, depends for its validity on the answer we give to the question whether the imprisonment, recorded in Acts, was terminated by release or death. The latter alternative seems, on the whole, the more probable. Setting aside difficulties of this kind, there remains the unique style of the letters— the stress laid on ecclesiastical organisation, the moralistic rather than evangelical tone, the strangeness of Paul’ s assurance to his companion Timothy that he was a preacher, apostle, and teacher of the Gentiles; and, above all, the absence of the Pauline ring. On the other hand, they are well attested, and contain numerous personal details (see especially 2 Tim.) which are too trivial to have been invented. The view which finds favour now with many scholars, and is probably correct, is that these epistles are not forgeries, but also are not, in their present form, Paul’ s. This type of letter, dealing largely with Church organisation, lent itself readily to expansion, and probably some of Paul’ s notes to his fellow-workers were expanded by later writers into the Church manuals we now possess.
One point of detail may be mentioned, the interchange of the first person singular and the first person plural. It is sometimes thought that the plural is to be taken strictly, and that Paul speaks in his own name only where the singular is used. Paul associates others with himself in the salutation of some of his epistles, and it is not improbable in 1 and 2 Th. that the plural has this significance. But elsewhere Paul seems to speak for himself alone. The interchange of the singular and plural where one person alone is intended is quite common in the epistolary literature of the time. And, while no rigid rule can be laid down, Paul seems frequently to have conformed to this usage.
Literature.— Godet, Introduction to the NT, The Pauline Epistles; Shaw, The Pauline Epistles; Knowling, The Witness of the Epistles and The Testimony of St. Paul to Christ; Findlay, The Epistles of Paul the Apostle; R. Scott, The Pauline Epistles; Lake, The Earlier Epistles of St Paul; Hayes, Paul and his Epistles. Also discussions in Dictionaries of the Bible, Introductions to the New Testament, Histories of the Apostolic Age, and Lives of Paul.
( See also Supplement)
the Week of Proper 13 / Ordinary 18