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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament
1. Sources.-The documents of the life of St. Paul are the Book of Acts, of which his biography occupies nearly two-thirds, and his own Epistles. To these, however, the student has to add all he can of the history of the Jews and their sacred books, as well as of the state of the world in the time of St. Paul. New sources of information are constantly being opened up, as, e.g., by travel and exploration in the countries and cities in which St. Paul laboured, or by fresh knowledge of Roman law, either in general or in special application to the Jews.
i. The Book of Acts.-A first glance into the Book of Acts reveals that it is a continuation of a previous treatise, which is without difficulty identified as the Gospel according to St. Luke. From several passages in the book where the author writes in the first person plural (Acts 16:10-17; Acts 20:5-15; Acts 21:1-18; Acts 27:1 to Acts 28:15 -frequently referred to as the ‘we’ passages), it is manifest that he must, at certain stages, have been a companion of St. Paul on his missionary journeys; and a comparison of these with the references to St. Luke as a companion in the Epistles points to the conclusion that he was the man. This is also the testimony of tradition, and it is generally, though not universally, accepted.
(a) Purpose.-The Tübingen School conceived Acts to be a work written for a purpose-that of reconciling the rivalry between the Petrine and the Pauline elements in the primitive Church, and criticism has discovered in it, as in nearly every other biblical book, various separable documents, which were reduced by various editors and revisers to the form we now possess. But of late the current has been flowing strongly in an opposite direction. W. M. Ramsay, who began himself with the Tübingen views, found that the book answered better to the realities he was bringing to light with the spade in Asia Minor when it was assumed to be the work of one author, who was doing his best to tell the truth; and he has vindicated the claim of St. Luke to be one of the great historians of the world, possessed of the true historical insight, grasp, and accuracy; and Harnack, starting from prejudices equally pronounced, has arrived at practically the same conclusions. The latter, indeed, in summing up his investigations into the writings of St. Luke (Die Apostelgeschichte [= Beiträge zur Einleitung in das NT, iii.], 1908, p. 224 f.), charges conservative scholars, who have reached the same conclusions before him, with causing the truth to be suspected through their prejudices; and there is no doubt that interest attaches to the fact that he has reached the goal from so distant a starting-point. There are not wanting, indeed, scholars to support less conservative opinions. Even English-writing ones are found in J. Moffatt (LNT_, 1911) and B. W. Bacon (The Story of St. Paul, 1905), though the former at least has humour enough to laugh at certain critical views not very unlike his own. C. Clemen, the author of the latest important German book on the subject (Paulus. Sein Leben und Wirken, 1904), has no humour at all, but ploughs his way stolidly through the Book of Acts, accepting as fact whatever is natural and rejecting whatever is supernatural. Anyone may realize for himself what such a procedure will make of the book by reading on this principle the account of what happened on St. Paul’s first visit to Philippi, though, one would suppose, St. Luke must have had his eyes and ears specially on the alert there, as it was the first time he had seen his new master at work.
It is not so much a religious or a theological as a literary instinct that makes the present writer distrust the critical method of handling this book. He does not believe that books worth preserving were ever made in this way. Nor does he believe that they were so easily altered. There is a reverence which a completed book inspires; and the idea that there was no conscience about this in ancient times or in the land of Judaea is one with nothing to justify it; on the contrary, as regards the Jews, cf. Josephus, c. Apion. i. 8. Besides, the Acts must very soon have begun to be read in the assemblies of the Christians, and this would be a protection. It may, indeed, be said that this book is an unfortunate one about which to make such a stand, seeing that it has undoubtedly experienced considerable alteration in the Bezan text. But the explanation of this phenomenon may be the simple one that the author had made two copies of his own book, and permitted himself a natural liberty in writing the second of them.
(b) Plan.-The plan of Acts is indicated in Acts 1:8 : ‘But ye shall receive power, when the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be my witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea and Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth’; and the book divides itself as follows:-Acts 1:1 to Acts 6:6, in Jerusalem; ACTS Acts 6:8 to Acts 9:30, in Palestine (including Samaria); ACTS Acts 9:32 to Acts 12:23, from Judaea to Antioch; ACTS Acts 12:25 to Acts 16:4, in Asia Minor; ACTS Acts 16:6 to Acts 19:19, in Europe; ACTS Acts 19:21 to Acts 28:30, from Achaia to Rome. The author is fond of summarizing a period, before setting out on a new stage, and such resting-places will be found at the end of the above divisions, viz. in Acts 6:7, Acts 9:31, Acts 12:24, Acts 16:5, Acts 19:20, Acts 28:31. St. Paul first makes his appearance in Acts 7:58, but it is not till Acts 13:1 that he becomes the hero of the book, the story thenceforward being merely an account of his missionary travels and other fortunes. The author narrates with extraordinary conciseness, a striking instance being where the name ‘Saul’ is exchanged for ‘Paul’ without a word of explanation (Acts 13:13); and, when the traveller duplicates a journey, the second notice is of the briefest possible description. Yet the style is marked by ease and freedom, scene following scene with the variety and lifelikeness of painting. Indeed, there is a tradition that the author was a painter as well as a physician, this being at least a tribute to the picturesqueness of his narrative. The speeches attributed to St. Paul are often said to be free compositions of St. Luke; because ancient historians, especially Thucydides, took this liberty. But why should St. Luke have done so, when he had the speaker himself to consult, not to mention his own recollection or the conversations of those about St. Paul, which most often have turned on the great sermons of their hero? Ramsay is of opinion that the first verse of the book implies that the writer intended to pen a third volume, similar in bulk to the Gospel and the Acts; and this would account for the narrative breaking off where it does, with a brief notice of the two years of imprisonment which followed the arrival at Rome. This would, however, be still more naturally accounted for if the book was written about the date to which it brings the history down; and the present writer knows nothing which renders this impossible. The chief objection to this early date for Acts is that it must have been written before the Gospel of St. Luke, which, it is assumed, was not written till after the destruction of Jerusalem. The reasons, however, for assuming this date for the Gospel are less cogent than those for believing the Acts to have been penned before the trial at Rome; so that the alternative is between allowing a highly argumentative dating of the Gospel to fix a late date for the Acts and making a clearly indicated date of the Acts determine for the Gospel an earlier date than it has been usual to assign to it. Cf. A. Harnack, The Date of the Acts and of the Synoptic Gospels, Eng. tr._, 1911, Luke the Physician, Eng. tr._, 1911, and The Acts of the Apostles, Eng. tr._, 1909.
Moffatt’s explanation of the sudden breaking off of the narrative in the Acts is that the purpose of the book was to relate the progress of Christianity from Jerusalem to Rome; J. Weiss, in Das Urchristenthum, 1914, makes the suggestion that Acts was written for Roman Christians, who did not require to be informed of what had become of the hero; and Clemen actually brings in as an explanation Horace’s rule, in Ars Poetica, 185 f., about not slaughtering the characters of a tragedy in the sight of the audience, forgetting that, in the beginning of this book, an immortal scene is constructed out of the martyrdom of St. Stephen. If, as many now assume, St. Paul’s trial ended in condemnation and execution, it is easy to understand with what effect St. Luke could have used this as the winding-up of his story; and it is incredible that, knowing so pathetic and significant an event to have immediately followed the point to which he had brought his narrative down, he could have omitted to mention it. (On a supposed dependence on Josephus, throwing the composition of Acts late, see the remarks of J. Vernon Bartlet in Century Bible, ‘Acts,’ 1901, pp. 19, 181, 251, 340; also R. J. Knowling, EGT_, ‘Acts,’ 1900, p. 30 f.
The narrative, from the point of St. Paul’s arrest onwards, abandons its conciseness and gives an extraordinary amount of space to the incidents of his appearance before different tribunals. Bacon notes this in a tone of disapproval; but he falls too easily a victim to the temptation besetting critics who ascribe the form of biblical books to more or less incompetent editors, of attributing difficulties to these lay-figures, instead of exerting himself to find out the true explanation. Ramsay ascribes this amplitude to a deliberate plan, kept in view all through the book, by which St. Paul, the representative of Christianity, is made to appear a personage of consideration to Roman officials, who are nearly always favourable to him, not infrequently defending him not only from the violence of the mob but from officials who are not Roman; and from this he infers that the book was written at a date when persecution had been going on for a considerable time. It would be, however, a simpler explanation if the composition of the book had had in some way to do with St. Paul’s trial; for, in that case, it would have been important to dwell on the events since the date when he fell into the custody of Roman officials; J. Weiss (op. cit. p. 106 f.) leaves room for this possibility, assuming that the principal source stopped here, though insisting on later editorial operations.
(c) Chronology.-The chronology is an extremely difficult question, because the fixed points that seem to be obtained by the sacred history touching on profane history (Aretas, 2 Corinthians 11:32; Herod, Acts 12:20-23; Claudius, Acts 11:27-30, Acts 12:25; Felix and Festus, Acts 24:27) fail, when closely scrutinized, to remain fixed. The nearest to an absolutely certain date seems at present to be the consulship of Gallio (Acts 18:12), which is fixed by an inscription found at Delphi, of which A. Deissmann has given a detailed account in St. Paul, 1912, App_. I., p. 244 ff. From this it would seem that St. Paul must have been at Corinth, during his second missionary journey, in a.d. 50; and from this point the chronology can be traced both backwards and forwards. St. Paul cannot have been born very long after Jesus; and it is wonderful to think of any race having the fecundity to produce, within a few years or perhaps months, three such figures as John the Baptist, Jesus, and St. Paul. It is generally supposed that Jesus was three-and-thirty years of age at the time of His death; and we cannot be far wrong in thinking of St. Paul as about five-and-thirty at the time of his conversion. Few perhaps realize that between his conversion and the commencement of his missionary journeys there was an interval of not less than fourteen or fifteen years. To the three great missionary journeys may be assigned some ten years; whence it follows that, when he reached Rome, he must have been about sixty. In the last Epistle which proceeded from his pen he called himself ‘Paul the aged’; and, although this is a phrase elastic enough to have different meanings in the mouths of different men, the probability is that he was not far from the threescore years and ten at which the Psalmist placed the term of human life.
The dates of three recent chronologists (Lightfoot, Ramsay, Harnack, quoted in A. E. Garvie, Life and Teaching of Paul, 1910, p. 181) do not vary much-for the conversion, 34, 33, 30; for the first missionary journey, 48, 47, 45; for the second missionary journey, 51, 50, 47; for the third missionary journey, 54, 53, 50; for the arrival at Rome, 61, 60, 57.
ii. The Epistles.-Whereas an ordinary letter among us begins with a title of courtesy, addressed to the receiver, and ends with the signature of the writer, preceded by some phrase of courtesy or affection, while place and date stand either above or beneath the whole, an ancient letter commenced with the name of the sender, followed by the name of the recipient, together with a word of greeting, and it ended with the date and the place of writing. St. Paul developed the greeting into an elaborate form of his own, in which he described both himself and his correspondents in their relations to God and Christ, and wished them, instead of the goodwill of an ordinary letter, the primary blessings of the gospel. Sometimes he went on to express his thankfulness to God for their steadfastness in the faith and their progress in grape, and to pray for their further development. In one or two cases all this was not completed within fewer than a score of verses. If, at the end, he added date and place, these have been lost, with the exception perhaps of fragments; and the loss is to us a serious one, as it implies much research to fill up the blanks, and the results are more or less conjectural. As a rule the writer dictated to an amanuensis, who might be named in the superscription, as well as other comrades present when the Epistle was sent away. In one case (Romans 16:22) the amanuensis sent a greeting on his own account. The greetings at the close form a striking feature of the Apostle’s epistolary style, betraying as they do the width of his sympathies and the warmth of his heart. Sometimes he would take the pen from the amanuensis at the close and add a few weighty words in autograph, to which, we need not doubt, extraordinary interest would be attached by the first readers. From the close of Galatians we gather that his own penmanship was large and sprawling: read, in Romans 6:11, ‘See with how large letters I have written unto you with mine own hand.’
It is frequently repeated that the Epistles of St. Paul were just ordinary letters, Deissmann going furthest of late in this direction. But this is not the case. Ordinary letters are addressed to individuals, and much of their charm consists in the intimacies which they disclose. But the majority of St. Paul’s Epistles were composed for churches. Inevitably, therefore, they had edification in view; and some of them are little different from sermons. Indeed, some of them obviously reproduce the essence of his preaching, while the rhythmic and periodic flow of the more eloquent passages may be ascribed with confidence to the frequent repetitions of the wandering evangelist. As at all periods of his life their author was not only the propagandist of a definite faith but an opponent of contrary doctrines, a doctrinal or dogmatic character could not help appearing in what he wrote. The one bearing most resemblance to an ordinary letter is the brief Epistle to Philemon; but Philemon was not a very intimate friend, and this letter, though confidential, keeps a certain distance, as of one addressing a social superior. With Timothy and Titus St. Paul was on terms of much closer intimacy; but, in writing to them as youthful pastors, he could not help thinking of the churches over which they presided, and much of what he wrote was obviously intended for the general benefit. Still it remains true that St. Paul’s Epistles are neither sermons nor theological treatises, but are written with the freedom and realism of actual correspondence. They afford occasion for displaying the height and the variety of their author’s personality; for in them he is always himself-affectionate, irascible, passionate, radiant, and optimistic as long as his converts are faithful and his churches expanding, but ready to perish with vexation and foreboding should they be the reverse. His style adapts itself without constraint to the mood he is in and the situation to which he is addressing himself. It can be abrupt, headlong, abounding with interrogations and anacolutha, or it can follow closely the windings of an intricate argument and break out into a rapture of doxology at the close. It is always copious, filling the channel from bank to bank, yet only at rare intervals strikingly sublime or beautiful. Evidently the author is not straining after effect or aiming at excellency; yet here and there, through the sheer quality of the matter, his speech becomes a cascade, breaking in foam over the rocks, or it widens into a lake where plants of every hue dip into the water and birds of every note sing among the branches.
Much attention has of late been devoted to the language of St. Paul. It had long been known that it differed materially from the Greek of the classical age, and that it had been modified largely by the ideas of the Hebrew Scriptures and the language of the LXX_. But through the unearthing of the remains of the literature and correspondence of the time, in the rubbish-heaps of ancient cities or in the recesses of Egyptian tombs, it has been demonstrated that there prevailed over all the Greek-speaking world a development of Greek speech, common to all peoples and therefore now known as Koine, and that to this the language of the NT in general, and of St. Paul in particular, is so closely related that a knowledge of the one is the key to the other; and St. Paul takes his place as a master of this language. ‘He thinks in Greek, and it is the vernacular of a brilliant and well-educated man in touch with the Greek culture of his time, though remaining thoroughly Jewish in his mental fibre’ (A. T. Robertson, A Grammar of NT Greek in the Light of Historical Research, 1914, p. 2). See, in addition, Weiss, op. cit. ch. 13; also T. Nägeli, Der Wortschatz des Apostels Paulus, 1905.
(a) Galatians.-The Epistle to the Galatians, both in subject and treatment, bears so strong a resemblance to the Epistle to the Romans that it used to be assumed that the composition of both must be assigned to about the same time; and, as the latter indubitably belongs to the residence in Corinth at the close of the third missionary journey, it was taken for granted that Galatians must be placed there too. But, if its recipients were the churches of Antioch-in-Pisidia, Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe, evangelized during the first missionary journey, and if the visit to Jerusalem mentioned in Galatians 2 be identified with a visit to Jerusalem preceding the Council held there-these two being the conclusions of what is called the South Galatian theory (see below)-it seems a natural inference that the Epistle was written before the commencement of the second missionary journey and before the Council of Jerusalem. This inference was not, indeed, drawn by Ramsay himself, when he was developing the South Galatian theory; he still held to the old view that Galatians must be placed side by side with Romans. But it was perceived to be inevitable by others who had accepted the South Galatian theory (J. V. Bartlet, The Apostolic Age, 1900, p. 84 f., and Garvie, Studies of Paul and his Gospel, p. 23); and Ramsay, in his latest publications, has come round to it (e.g. The Teaching of Paul, 1913, p. 372 ff.), holding Galatians to be the earliest of all the Epistles. The brevity of the introduction and the absence therein of the courtesies which abound in the later Epistles used to be attributed to the excitement in which the Epistle was written; but, if this was the earliest of the Epistles, it may be that the complimentary style of address had not yet been developed. Certainly the author was writing in haste and in indignation; and there is more of what may be called the natural man, as well as of the Rabbi, in this than in any other of his writings. This was the commencement of the most heated and painful of all his controversies, and he enters the fray without the gloves. The Judaists had captured his churches, denied his apostolic authority, and overturned his gospel; and it is with the passion of a mother bereaved of her young that he throws himself at the feet of his converts, entreating them not to render his labour vain or allow themselves to be robbed of salvation; while he turns on the enemy to defy and to blast. The theme is the contrast between law and gospel. In the strongest language he can find, he repeats, in every variety of expression, that the former is abortive and abolished, but that the latter is the glorious revelation which is the end of all the ways of God with men. It is not difficult ‘to find in Galatians 1:5 to Galatians 2:21; Galatians 3:1 to Galatians 4:11; Galatians 4:12 to Galatians 6:10 three successive arguments upon (a) the divine origin of Paul’s gospel, (b) the complete right of Gentile Christians to the messianic inheritance, and (c) the vital connection between the Christian Spirit and the moral life’ (Moffatt, LNT_, p. 88, quoting Holsten, etc.).
(b) 1 and 2 Thessalonians.-At the time when Galatians was, on account of similarity in temper and ideas, kept beside Romans , 1 and 2 Thess. used to be treated as the first-fruits of the Apostle’s epistolary activity; and these two Epistles seemed to fit this position very well, being marked by extraordinary freshness and simplicity. They were written soon after the missionary left Thessalonica after his first visit. Their style is more like that of a lover to the object of his affection, from whom he has been unavoidably separated but to whom he longs to return. Indeed, he compares his own affection for his converts to that of a mother for her children; he declares that the newly made Christians are his glory and joy; and he tells them that he lives if they stand fast in the faith. He recalls his first meeting with them and their subsequent intercourse together; again and again has he tried to return to see them, and he still cherishes the same ardent desire. There are not a few indications of the amplitude of the gospel preached by him amongst them-as, for instance, in the very first lines of the Epistle, a reference to the trinity of Christian graces, faith, love, and hope. But he does not enlarge on doctrinal matters. Taking it for granted that the substance of his recent preaching amongst them must still be well remembered, he contents himself with the plainest exhortations to a life in harmony with the gospel of Christ-as, for instance, to abstain from the peculiarly pagan sin of fornication and to love one another. Special stress is laid on the duty of those who called themselves by the name of Christ to perform their ordinary daily work in such a way as to commend the gospel to those that are without; and this duty was not to be set aside by the fact that the time was short, and that Christ would soon return to judgment. He drew a vivid picture of the Second Advent, as he conceived it; but this appears to have acted on the minds of his correspondents in a way different from his intention. And this became the occasion for the Second Epistle, which succeeded the First after a brief interval and is occupied with the same themes, except that it gives a forecast of the history of the world, intended to calm the minds of those who had allowed themselves to become so excited about the Lord’s coming that they were neglecting their business and bringing scandal thereby on the new religion. This passage is among the most difficult in the whole compass of St. Paul’s writings, and has tested the competency of exegetes; but the drift of it is plain: the return of the Lord was not to take place as soon as had been expected; and, therefore, Christians, while always ready to meet Him, whenscever He might appear, must be prepared also for the other alternative-to perform the duties of their earthly callings with fidelity, if the coming was postponed. The Christians at Thessalonica were exposed to severe persecution, and the accounts in the Acts of St. Paul’s own experience in that city and at BerCEa make it easy to surmise from what quarter this came. Not only, therefore, does their spiritual father make use of every consideration fitted to comfort them, but he breaks out against the race to which he himself belonged in a style which reminds us of the manner in which even the loving St. John in his Gospel speaks of ‘the Jews.’
(c) 1 and 2 Corinthians.-1 Cor. was written from Ephesus during the author’s prolonged sojourn in that city in the third missionary journey. It would, however, appear that it was not the first letter sent by the Apostle to the same church. He had sent one which has not come down to us (see 1 Corinthians 5:9); and this raises the question whether he may not have written other Epistles which have shared the same fate. The sacredness now attaching to his writings might a priori be thought to render it impossible that anything as precious as a letter written by him to a church should perish; but it may be no more astonishing that writings of his should have been lost than that words of Jesus should have been carried irrecoverably down the wind. After receiving the Epistle now lost, the Corinthians had written to the founder of their church, describing their own condition and asking his opinion and advice about a number of problems and difficulties that had arisen among them. And this was not the only case in which a Pauline Epistle was evoked by a communication from those to whom it was addressed. Besides, St. Paul had heard of the condition of the Corinthians from ‘them of the household of Chlce’ (1 Corinthians 1:11), and he was far from being satisfied that all was well with his spiritual children. There is a tone of strain and anxiety in the Epistle from first to last; at the same time, the impression is conveyed that the author feels himself to be dealing with a church holding a great place in the world and destined for a great future. The intimate nature of the questions propounded in the letter received from the Corinthians leads him to enter into minute details; accordingly, this Epistle exhibits by far the fullest picture in existence of the interior of an apostolic church. We learn the different ranks and conditions of which the membership is composed; we see the gifts of the Spirit in full operation; we are made aware of the flaws and inconsistencies which, had we not been informed on such good authority, could hardly be believed to have disfigured the period of the Church’s first love; the rival parties and their wrangles, the backsliders and the sowers of tares among the wheat, all pass before our eyes. Yet it is this church and its affairs that draw forth from the Apostle the panegyric on love in ch. 13, the praise of unity in ch. 14, and the demonstration of the resurrection of the body in ch. 15. Such was the letter-writer’s power of illustrating great principles in small duties. Several passages (e.g. 1 Corinthians 6:12-13; 1 Corinthians 8:1-4; 1 Corinthians 10:33; 1 Corinthians 15:12; 1 Corinthians 15:35) become more intelligible if it be assumed that St. Paul is quoting the sentiments of the Corinthians, before replying to their queries.
Between 1 and 2 Cor., it is thought by some scholars, St. Paul paid a visit to Corinth not mentioned in Acts, and, returning to Ephesus after a stormy interview, wrote a tempestuous letter, part of which is preserved in 2 Corinthians 10:1 to 2 Corinthians 13:10. The bearer of this missive was Titus, who, on his way back to Ephesus, was met by St. Paul in Macedonia, and was able to give so cheering an account of the effect produced at Corinth that at once he was sent back with another letter, conceived in a totally different tone, which has come down to us under the title of 2 Corinthians. This new Epistle has all the appearance of having been written in a recoil from painful excitement and in the exultation caused by the receipt of good news. In it the author lays bare his innermost feelings more fully than in any other production of his pen. If anyone wishes to know the real St. Paul, this is the opportunity. It has been called the Ich-epistel, also St. Paul’s Apologia pro Vita Sua. A portion of it (2 Corinthians 2:12 to 2 Corinthians 6:10) has been taken by A. T. Robertson as a text for a treatise entitled. The Glory of the Ministry: Paul’s Exultation in Preaching, n.d.; and certainly it can hardly be fully understood except by those who have devoted their life to the salvation of others, and have felt what St. Paul calls the pangs of labour in bringing souls to the birth through the gospel. The mood throughout is one of triumph, but at the beginning of ch. 10 there is a sudden change to a tone of intense sharpness and even bitterness. By some this is accounted for by the supposition mentioned above; but others are satisfied with supposing an alteration in the mood of the writer, accompanied perhaps by some delay between the composition of the earlier and the latter halves of the Epistle. Happily, though the tone is changed, the autobiographical revelations still continue, and St. Paul completes the portrait of himself.
(d) Romans.-The Epistle to the Romans is, in not a few respects, the greatest of all the productions of St. Paul’s pen. It lacks, indeed, the personal and affectionate note so characteristic of his writings; for it is the only Epistle of his sent to a church not founded or as yet visited by himself. To this fact, however, is due in some degree its greatness; because, while in writing to churches already visited he could take it for granted that his correspondents knew his gospel so well that he did not require to repeat it, he was compelled, when writing to those who had never seen his face in the flesh, to state his gospel at full length. Of this opportunity advantage is taken to the full in the present case; and there is no question that in Rom. we have the essence of what he preached in every city which he evangelized. As at Miletus he declared to the elders from Ephesus that for three years he had preached in the capital of Asia ‘repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ’ (Acts 20:21), so in Romans the need which all men, whether Gentiles or Jews, have of repentance is first fully unfolded, and this is followed by an equally ample and convincing exhibition of the happy effects due to faith in the Saviour. Here we have illustrations from Hebrew history, and especially from the Father of the Faithful, such as would be welcome in every synagogue, as well as a philosophy of the history of mankind such as would be more likely to captivate Gentile hearers. Although, as has been mentioned, the personal note is absent, yet, after his demonstration is complete, at the close of ch. 8, he turns to discuss the tragic fact that the Jewish race had missed its destiny and allowed the gospel intended for them to pass over to the Gentiles. How was this to be reconciled with the election of God, in which St. Paul was a firm believer? The answer occupies no less than three chapters, and it permits us to see into the very heart of the writer, who, though with the indignation of a Christian he could speak as he had done in Thess. of the chosen people, yet was a Jew to the marrow of his bones, and was ready, he declares, to be himself ‘accursed from Christ,’ if by so being he could save his brethren according to the flesh. The same noble unselfishness pervades the discussion of ‘meats’ in the chapters that follow, though his ethical genius would be considered by many to rise to its culminating point in ch. 12. In the book as it now stands there is, at the close, an unusually long list of greetings to friends; and the question arises how he could have known so many in a city which he had never visited. It may be replied that Rome was, in that age, such a centre that visitors might be present in it from many of the cities and towns visited by him in other lands. But this will hardly suffice, and a different explanation seems to be at least possible. An Epistle like this, so impersonal and didactic, was well fitted to be sent to various churches, and several copies might be executed and dispatched to different communities. The greetings, then, which now stand in Rom. may have been intended for one of these. It may have been Ephesus, and a close scrutiny of the names is said to point to Ephesus rather than to Rome.
(e) Epistles of the Imprisonment.-The Epistles written up to this point belong to the years during which the Apostle was engaged in his missionary travels. There follow four to which has been given the common title of the Epistles of the Imprisonment, because they were written during the years, subsequent to his arrest at Jerusalem, when he was in the custody of the Roman authorities. In those years he was moved from prison to prison, but at two places-Caesarea and Rome-he experienced periods of imprisonment, lasting in each case about two years. Some of these letters may have been composed at the one place, some at the other; but the usual opinion has been that they were all written at Rome.
In one of his prisons St. Paul was visited by Epaphras, a minister from Colossae, a town in the Lycus Valley not far from Ephesus, who had come to consult him about the condition of the church over which he presided and to solicit from him a letter to the members, in order that these might be persuaded by the authority of an apostle to abandon errors into which they were falling and return to the simplicity of the truth as it is in Jesus. The new heresy was not that already so thoroughly confuted by St. Paul in Gal. and Rom., but a kind of speculation such as he had already encountered in some degree among the Corinthians, and which was destined to spread through the churches till it came to be known in history, after the Apostolic Age, under the sinister name of Gnosticism. It had its principal hold in the Gentile, as the earlier heresy had had in the Jewish, section of the Church. As yet, indeed, it was only incipient; but Epaphras was afraid of it, and he had little difficulty in communicating his fears to the Apostle; so that he secured and carried back to his flock what is now known as the Epistle to the Colossians.
The anxieties awakened in the mind of the prisoner by what he had heard from Colossae may easily have extended to other churches in the same quarter, and impelled him to write in the same strain to them also. Indeed, in the Epistle to the Colossians itself reference is made (Colossians 4:16) to a letter he had written to the Laodiceans, the significant request being added that the Colossian Epistle be read also at Laodicea, and the Laodicean one at Colossae. This may have suggested the idea of a circular letter to all the churches in that portion of Asia Minor; and the opinion has been held by not a few that what is now known as the Epistle to the Ephesians was originally a document of this description. This would account for the absence from it of the usual greetings at the end, which might have been expected to be more than usually profuse when he was writing to a church in the founding of which he had spent three years of his life. It might account also for an abstract and impersonal tone which undoubtedly clings to this Epistle. It is written at a great height above the common earth, and it may easily embody the ruminations of one who had long been in the solitude of a prison. It comes down, indeed, before it ends, to practical things, giving a more complete sketch of what may be called the ethics of Christianity than any other of the Epistles; but even in this portion of it there is something of the same abstract and distant tone, the author being less concerned with the duties themselves than with the motives out of which the discharge of these is to spring. To him the whole cosmical history of Christ is a source of motives, which he is constantly seeking to evoke in those whose spiritual welfare is his care. There is not much to commend the procedure of Moffatt (LNT_, p. 375) when he accepts Colossians as from St. Paul but rejects Ephesians; Bacon, though also prone to negative criticism, is here led by a truer instinct, feeling the spiritual power of the text with which he is dealing (op. cit. p. 298 ff.). It is obvious that both the thought and the phraseology of Colossians and Ephesians are largely alike; but every writer of letters is aware that he sometimes puts the same facts, thoughts, and even words into letters written about the same time; and this was specially liable to happen when one of the letters had the general character belonging to Ephesians. The estimate of this Epistle by S. T. Coleridge as ‘one of the divinest compositions of man’ (Table Talk, 25th May 1830) has commended itself to multitudes not unworthy to hold an opinion on such matters; and this raises the question, by whom the Epistle could have been written, if it be not to St. Paul we owe it. Coleridge considered the Epistle to the Colossians to be the overflowing of St. Paul’s mind upon the subjects already treated in Ephesians; but the present writer inclines to conceive the relation between them as the reverse. It is impossible, however, to do more than guess.
In Colossians there is a reference to one Onesimus (Colossians 4:9), who is described as a faithful and beloved brother and a member of the Colossian Church: and the same is the name of an escaped slave who is the subject of the Epistle to Philemon. It would appear that he had defrauded his master and run away to the capital of the world, where, through some providence to us unknown, he was thrown into the company of St. Paul, through whom he was converted. St. Paul would willingly have retained him, since he appeared to be a handy man such as the prisoner was at the time in need of; but he considered it his duty to send him back to his owner; and the Epistle to Philemon is the letter of introduction and excuse sent with him. In spite of its brevity, it is a perfect gem of tact and courtesy; and it is fitted to awaken many reflexions on the relations of employers and employed.
The last Epistle of this group is that to the Philippians; and, if in Colossians and Ephesians there be a lack of the personal element, this is amply made up for in this new Epistle, which assures us that imprisonment had in no way soured or damped the spirit of the writer, who was still as emotional and as optimistic as he had always been. In tone it bears a close resemblance to 1 Thess., and it is worthy of note that it was directed to the same quarter of the world, Philippi and Thessalonica being neighbouring cities. Though penned in a prison, it has joy for its keynote; and, though addressed to a persecuted church, it expects its recipients to be glorying in the Cross. It is of special value as a document of St. Paul’s prison-life. We can see with the mind’s eye the Roman soldier to whom he is chained, with the various articles of the panoply mentioned in the last chapter of Ephesians. As his guard would be changed every few hours, numbers of soldiers would be brought in contact with him; and among these there had broken out a work of grace, which had become a theme amongst the praetorian guards and had spread from them to the household of the Emperor, from the members of which the author is able to send greetings to his correspondents. (Cf. separate notes on ‘praetorium’ and ‘Caesar’s household’ in Lightfoot, Ph 4, 1878, pp. 99 ff., 171 ff.) Besides, his trial, certain stages of which were already past, was turning out favourably, and he was able to believe that he would soon be at large again, when he would use his freedom to revisit his beloved Macedonians. Because the Epistle seems about to end at the close of ch. 2, Bacon fancies there may be two letters united into one (op. cit. p. 368).
(f) Pastoral Epistles.-There remains another group, known by the name of the Pastoral Epistles and consisting of 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus. They owe this title to the fact that they are addressed to youthful pastors by the aged pastor St. Paul, who, out of his own rich and prolonged experience, instructs then how it is necessary to comport themselves in the house of God. From their internal structure and contents it can be easily seen that all the members of this group are of one piece and originated at the same time; but it is so difficult to find a place for them in the portion of St. Paul’s life covered by Acts that they have been assigned to a portion of it subsequent to this, when, it is supposed, being released from prison, he resumed his apostolic wanderings, till he was rearrested. In 2 Tim. he is seen in prison at Rome, not, as when he wrote Philippians, expecting release, but looking forward to immediate martyrdom. But in 1 Tim. and Tit. he is at large and in motion, having, when he wrote the one, just left Timothy in Ephesus, and, when he wrote the other, left Titus in Crete, an island which he visited on his way to Rome but could not have evangelized whilst he was a prisoner. About no other portion of St. Paul’s writings, however, has there been so much doubt as to whether he was really the author. In certain quarters it is at present taken for granted that these Epistles did not come from his pen. Thus, the latest book published in Germany on the subject (H. H. Mayer, Ueber die Pastoralbriefe, 1913) assumes this without discussion. But on such a subject votes require to be weighed as well as counted; and the completest and ablest discussion, by Zahn, the Nestor of NT criticism, takes the opposite view (Introduction to the NT, 3 vols., 1909, ii. 1-133), which is the prevalent one in England and America, though some recent scholars, like Moffatt (LNT_, p. 395 ff.), Bacon (op. cit., p. 375), and Garvie (Studies of Paul and his Gospel, p. 30 n._), have gone over to the other side. It cannot be denied that anyone passing from Col. and Eph. into these Epistles would feel himself in a different intellectual atmosphere, though he would feel this much less if he made the transition from 1 and 2 Cor., the subjects handled in which are more akin to those taken up here. The question is, whether the change can be sufficiently accounted for by the fact that the author is writing to individuals instead of churches, his correspondents being disciples intimately acquainted with his doctrine, so that he does not require to repeat what they already know. Much is made by opponents of the Pauline authorship of the number of words in these Epistles used by St. Paul only once, the number of these being stated by Moffatt at 180. This sounds fatal; but on reflexion the discerning reader will perceive that such a figure has no value unless we know what is the writer’s habit in this respect. Whatever may be the reason for it, St. Paul employs more of these ἅπαξ λεγόμενα, as they are called, the longer he writes, the proportion to the chapter being, roughly speaking, 5 in Thess., 7 in Romans , 8 in Eph. and Col., 10 in Phil., and 13 in the Pastoral Epistles; so that actually a convincing argument against the Pauline authorship could have been fashioned out of the number had it been small. There are frequent coincidences of thought such as would not easily have occurred to an imitator; note, e.g., the lists of sins in 1 Timothy 1:9-10 and 2 Timothy 3:1-5, and cf. Romans 1:24, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, Galatians 5:19-20; and there are passages which may be said to contain the very essence of Paulinism, such as 1 Timothy 2:4-6, 2 Timothy 1:9-10, Titus 2:12-14; Titus 3:4-7. Against the Pauline authorship it is contended that ecclesiastical development is more advanced than in the Epistles which are certainly St. Paul’s. But, with the exception of what is said about female officials-and what is said about them is the reverse of distinct-the office-bearers are the same as are found in Acts and Phil., and it is highly significant of an early date that not the slightest hint is given of any distinction between bishops and elders, Titus 1:5-7 clearly proving these to be identical; whereas in the Ignatian Epistles, at no great distance in time, the distinction has become very marked, if indeed the passages are genuine, as they are held to be by both Lightfoot (The Apostolic Fathers, pt. ii., ‘Ignatius,’ i.2 ) and Zahn (Ignatius von Antiochien, 1873). The principal consideration is, however, the moral one. Let anyone read the references to St. Paul himself in these Epistles (1 Timothy 1:11-20; 1 Timothy 2:7; 1 Timothy 3:14-15, 2 Timothy 1:3-18; 2 Timothy 2:9-10; 2 Timothy 3:10-11; 2 Timothy 4:6-21, Titus 1:1-5; Titus 3:12-15), and say whether anyone but St. Paul could have written these words without knowing himself to be guilty of misrepresentation and falsehood. It is obvious that the author is a good man, and that he writes for a holy purpose. Could such a person be guilty of such deceit? It is said that the ideas of literary property which we now recognize did not then prevail. But what proof of this is there? The nearest approach that Moffatt can think of to this pseudonymous authorship is the composition of the romance entitled Paul and Thecla; but the author of that foolish and lying production was deposed for his pains. Gnostics, it is true, composed abundance of pseudonymous literature, and weak adherents of orthodoxy sometimes imitated them; but in the Pastoral Epistles we have to do with a personage and an enterprise of a totally different character. As Ramsay has remarked, there are not a few traits of St. Paul’s genius which we should miss were it not for these unique writings.
The Epistle to the Hebrews has sometimes been attributed to St. Paul. But there is no superscription making this claim, and the language and ideas are so different from St. Paul’s that scholarship has long since, with practical unanimity, decided against the Pauline authorship.
(a) Early influences.-St. Paul was a Jew; he was born at Tarsus, in Cilicia; and he inherited the Roman citizenship. In these three clauses is indicated his connexion with the three great influences of the ancient world-the religion of Palestine, the language and culture of Greece, and the government of Rome.
In his case the first of these was the oldest and the deepest influence. We hear little or nothing of his parents; a sister’s son intervened at one point with good effect in his earthly fortunes; but all the indications suggest that he was reared in a religious home. He speaks of himself as ‘circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee’ (Philippians 3:5); and these terms betoken an intensely Jewish atmosphere. Still, he was born not in the land of the Jews, but in the territory of the heathen. Cilicia was not very far from Palestine; but any heathen country was ‘far off’ in a sense other than local. This distance St. Paul was sure to feel; yet he could boast of his birthplace as being ‘no mean city’ (Acts 21:39). It was beautifully situated at the foot of the Cilician hills and at the mouth of the Catarrhactes; it was a place of cosmopolitan trade; and it was a university city-the very place in which the man should be born whose destiny it was to be to break down ‘the middle wall of partition’ (Ephesians 2:14) and become the Apostle of the Gentiles. A freer air blew round his head from the first than if he had been born at Jerusalem. There were several ways in which the Roman citizenship could be acquired, and it is not known through which of these it came into St. Paul’s family; but he was ‘freeborn’ (Acts 22:28). Even to a Jewish boy of sensitive nature this would impart a certain self-consciousness; but it was to become of enormous consequence in his subsequent career, probably even saving his life.
In youth St. Paul learned the trade of tent-making, this being, it would appear, the characteristic industry of Cilicia, where a coarse haircloth was manufactured on a large scale, to be used for tents and other purposes. This circumstance might be supposed to indicate that he belonged to the lower class of the population. But it is said that among the Jews it was the custom at that time for even the sons of the wealthy to acquire skill in some manual art, as a resource against the possible caprices of fortune; and, in the sequel, the possession of this handicraft proved of eminent service to St. Paul, enabling him to earn his bread by the labour of his hands, when it was not expedient to accept support from those to whom he preached the gospel. Ramsay (St. Paul the Traveller and the Roman Citizen, p. 311 ff.) has accumulated evidence to prove that St. Paul’s relatives were persons of substance and social standing, and he considers himself able to show that, in later life, he came into possession of an inheritance, by which he was enabled to defray the heavy expenses of his trials before the Roman courts. Evidence more convincing of social standing is supplied by the fact that St. Paul was a member of the Sanhedrin, if this can be inferred with certainty from the statement in Acts 26:10 that, when the followers of Jesus were put to death, he gave his ‘vote’ against them. It is frequently stated that members of the Sanhedrin had to be married men, and from this the inference has been drawn that he was married in youth. If so, his wife must have died early, as there is no hint of a wife in the records of his life, the fancy that he married Lydia and addressed her in the Epistle to the Philippians as ‘true yokefellow’ being ridiculous, though it goes back as far as Eusebius (HE_ iii. 30) and has been revived in recent times by E. Renan (Saint Paul, 1869, p. 115).
So comparatively near to Jerusalem was Tarsus that, as a boy, St. Paul may have been taken by his parents to one of the annual feasts, as Jesus was at the age of twelve; and from the experience of the boy from Nazareth we may infer what were the feelings of this other Jewish boy at the first sight of the Holy City. It cannot have been very long afterwards that he was sent thither, to reside in the place, learning to be a Rabbi. Along with other aspirants to the same office he sat ‘at the feet of Gamaliel’ (Acts 22:3), whose intervention in the Book of Acts on the side of clemency and common sense is probably intended to be looked upon as a characteristic act. But, whatever else the disciple may have learned from this master in Israel, he did not copy this trait of his character; for the first thing we hear of him after the termination of his education is his persecution of the Christians.
There seems little doubt that Jesus and St. Paul were treading the soil of Palestine at the same time; and it is an old question whether they ever crossed each other’s path. Though Weiss (Paulus und Jesus, 1910) and Ramsay (The Teaching of Paul, p. 21 ff.) have recently attempted to make it probable that they did, there is little to be said for this view of the case. It is argued, indeed, that on the way to Damascus St. Paul could not have recognized Jesus, if he had not been already familiar with His appearance. But he did not recognize Him by sight: he had to ask, ‘Who art thou, Lord?,’ and it was only through the hearing of the ear that he ascertained who was speaking. It is true that, in one place, St. Paul demands, ‘Have I not seen Jesus our Lord?’ (1 Corinthians 9:1), but the sight referred to was that on the way to Damascus.
(b) Persecution.-The whole situation creates the impression that St. Paul’s first collision was not with Christ in the flesh, but with Christianity in the hands of its first representatives and apostles, and it is not difficult to understand the violence with which he opposed it. As a man of logic, he considered the case against Christianity complete. Jesus had died the cursed death of the Cross. This the Messiah could not have done. It was the destiny of the Messiah to live and to reign. A Messiah who dies and is buried must have been a pretender; and an exposed pretender is no very respectable figure. As a Pharisee and a patriot, Saul cherished Messianic hopes; indeed, these formed the most sacred part of his religion; but they had been turned to shame by One who died upon a tree. No doubt it was this resentment at the despite done to that which to him was so sacred that led to his taking up the rôle of grand inquisitor; and he fulfilled in his own person the prediction, made by Jesus to His disciples, that a day was coming when whosoever killed them would think he was doing God service (John 16:2). His zeal was winning for him golden opinions in the minds of the authorities of the nation, and he was confident that it was, at the same time, accumulating merit in the hands of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
It may be presumed that, in the course of the persecution, he became well acquainted with the state of mind of those whom he was subjecting to every kind of examination. Did it ever occur to him to think what would be the result if he ever came to have as clear proof as they believed they had that He for whose sake they were suffering was not dead but alive? St. Stephen was a singularly clear and forcible reasoner, who went far on the very pathway of revolution which St. Paul was afterwards to travel himself. Did Saul perceive the cogency of the logic, if it were not for one great assumption? But to him this assumption was not only an impossibility but a blasphemy; and so he emerges for the first time into history as the keeper of the clothes of the men who stoned Stephen.
(c) Conversion.-For a time, which was not very brief, the persecutor raged like a wolf in the fold of the followers of the Nazarene; and it was because there were no more victims left, as he supposed, in Jerusalem and Judaea that he begged for instructions from the authorities to go in quest of fresh victims as far as Damascus. Of what took place on the way thither the author of the Acts has given a most graphic account, and, as St. Paul turned out subsequently to be one of those religious persons who are not indisposed to narrate their most intimate experiences, there are in Acts no fewer than three accounts of the conversion, the other two being from the mouth of the subject himself (Acts 9:1-19; Acts 22:1-21; Acts 26:1-23). These accounts are not painfully alike. On the contrary, they might almost be said to be so constructed as to give the caviller a chance. Indeed, the event itself is exposed to obvious objections, for the persecutor was posting forward in the heat of midday, when he ought to have been taking a siesta, and what he saw might all have been the effect on an overstrained brain of the unnatural experiences through which he had been passing. Full advantage has, of course, been taken of these circumstances; but both St. Luke and St. Paul go forward with the utmost freedom, and there can be no question what they believed the event to be. St. Paul classes the vision vouchsafed to himself with the appearances of the Risen Saviour to the disciples after His resurrection, and those who regard the latter experiences as only subjective infer that his was only subjective also. But it is certain that he himself reasoned the opposite way: he believed the appearances to the Twelve and to the other disciples to be not visionary but actual, and he was convinced, at the time and ever afterwards, that he had himself seen the living Lord. This was the datum on which his entire subsequent life was based.
Accordingly, he appeared immediately after his conversion in the synagogue at Damascus, bearing the testimony of the Apostolic Church, that Jesus is the Messiah (Acts 9:20). Happily for us, however, he was not content with this simple statement, but, under the overpowering impression of what had happened to him, went away to Arabia, in order to think out all that it implied, and he did not consider the theme exhausted till he had pondered on it for three years (Galatians 1:17). Where was this retreat? No exact information is supplied, but the probability is that he betook himself to the scenes of the earlier revelations made to his forefathers. As Elijah the prophet, in a period of mental crisis, wandered southwards to Mount Sinai, feeling it congenial to be where the thunders and lightnings had gi
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Hastings, James. Entry for 'Paul'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/hdn/p/paul.html. 1906-1918.