Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

whereas his journey to Rome was ten years posterior to the conversion of the Galatians. And what, I think, is more conclusive, the author, though speaking of himself in this more than any other epistle, does not once mention his bonds, or call himself a prisoner ; which he had not failed to do in every one of the four epistles written from that city, and during that imprisonment.

III. The First Epistle to the Thessalonians was written, the subscription tells us, from Athens; yet the epistle refers expressly to the coming of Timotheus from Thessalonica (iii. 6. ;) and the history informs us, (Acts xviii. 5.) that Timothy come out of Macedonia to St. Paul at Corinth.

IV. The Second Epistle to the Thessalonians is dated, and without any discoverable reason, from Athens also. If it be truly the second ; if it refer, as it appears to do (ii. 2.,) to the first, and the first was written from Corinth, the place must be erroneously assigned, for the history does not allow us to suppose that St. Paul, after he had reached Corinth went back to Athens.

V. The First Epistle to Timothy the subscription asserts to have been sent from Laodicea; yet, when St. Paul writes, “ I besought thee to abide still at Ephesus,πορευομευορ ειρ Μακεδονιαν(when I set out for Macedonia,'') the reader is naturally led to conclude, that he wrote the letter upon his arrival in that country.

VI. The Epistle to Titus is dated from Nicopolis in Macedonia, whilst no city of that name is known to have existed in that province.

The use, and the only use, which I make of these observations, is to show how easily errors and contradictions steal in where the writer is not guided by original knowledge. There are only eleven distinct assignments of date to St. Paul's Epistles (for the four written from Rome may be considered as plainly contemporary ;) and of these, six seem to be erroneous. I do not attribute any authority to these subscriptions. I believe them to have been conjectures founded sometimes upon loose traditions, but more generally upon a consideration of some particular text, without sufficiently comparing it with other parts of the epistle, with

different epistles, or with the history. Suppose then that the subscriptions had come down to us as authentic parts of the epistles, there would have been more contrarities and difficulties arising out of these final verses, than from all the rest of the volume. Yet, if the epistles had been forged, the whole must have been made up of the same elements as those of which the subscriptions are composed, viz, tradition, conjecture, and inference; and it would have remained to be accounted for, how, whilst so many errors were crowded into the concluding clauses of the letters, so much consistency should be preserved in other parts.

The same reflection arises from observing the oversights and mistakes which learned men have committed when arguing upon allusions which relate to time and place, or when endeavouring to digest scattered circumstances into a continued story. It is indeed the same case ; for these subscriptions must be regarded as ancient scholia, and as nothing more. Of this liability to error I can present the reader with a notable instance; and which I bring forward for no other purpose than that to which I apply the erroneous subscriptions. Ludovicus Capellus, in that part of his Historia Apostolica Illustrata, which is entitled De Ordine Epist. Paul., writing upon the Second Epistle to the Corinthians, triumphs unmercifully over the want of sagacity in Baronius, who, it seems, makes St. Paul write his Epistle tó Titus from Macedonia upon his second visit into that province; whereas it appears from the history, that Titus, instead of being at Crete where the epistle places him, was at that time sent by the apostle from Macedonia to Corinth. An. imadvertere est,” says Capellus,“ magnam hominis illius aßasebrev, qui vult Titum a Paulo in Cretam abductum, illicque relictum, cum inde Nicopo. lim navigaret, quem tamen agnoscit a Paulo ex Macedonia missum esse Corinthum.” This probably will be thought a detection of inconsistency in Baronius. But what is the most remarkable, is, that in the same chapter in which he thus indulges his contempt of Baronius's judgment, Capellus him. self falls into an error of the same kind, and more gross and palpable than that which he reproves:

[ocr errors]

For he begins the chapter by stating the Second Epistle to the Corinthians and the First Epistle to Timothy to be nearly cotemporary ; to have been both written during the apostle's second visit into Macedonia ; and that a doubt subsisted concerning the immediate priority of their dates : “ Posterior ad eosdem Corinthios Epistola, et Prior ad Timotheum certant de prioritate, et sub judice lis est' utraque autem scripta est paulo postquam Paulus Epheso discessisset, adeoque dum Macedoniam peragraret, sed utra tempore præcedat, non liquet." Now, in the first place, it is highly improbable that the two epistles should have been written either nearly together, or during the same journey through Macedonia : for, in the Epistle to the Corinthians, Timothy appears to have been with St. Paul; in the epistle addressed to him, to have been left behind at Ephesus, and not only left behind but directed to continue there, till St. Paul should return to that city. In the second place, it is inconceivable, that a question should be proposed concerning the priory of date of the two epistles; for, when St. Paul, in his Epistle to Timothy, opens his address to him by saying, “as I besought thee to abide still at Ephesus when I went into Macedonia," no reader can doubt but that he here refers to the last interview which had passed between them; that he had not seen him since : whereas if the epistle be posterior to that to the Corinthians, yet written upon the same visit into Macedonia, this could not be true; for as Timothy was along with St. Paul when he wrote to the Corinthians, he must, upon this supposition, have passed over to St. Paul in Macedonia, after he had been left by him at Ephesus, and must have returned to Ephesus again before the epistle was written What misled Ludovicus Capellus was simply this.

that he had entirely overlooked Timothy's name in the superscription of the Second Epietle to the Corinthians. Which oversight appears not only i in the quotation which we have given, but from his telling us, as he does, that Timothy came trom Ephesus to St. Paul at Corinth, whereas the superscription proves that Timothy was already with St. Paul when he wrote to the Corinthians from Macedonia.

CHAP. XVI.

THE CONCLUSION. File In the outset of this inquiry, the reader was di

* rected to consider the Acts of the Apostles and the e thirteen epistles of St. Paul as certain ancient mai manuscripts lately discovered in the closet of some nd celebrated library. We have adhered to this view put of the subject. 'External evidence of every kind

has been removed out of sight; and our endeavours _ have been employed to collect the indications of

truth and authenticity, which appeared to exist in it the writings themselves, and to result from a com3 parison of their ditterent parts. It is not however

necessary to continue this supposition longer. The El testimony which other remains of cotemporary, or

the mouments of adjoining, ages afforded to the reception, notoriety, and public estimation of a book, form, no doubt, the first proof of its genuineness. And in no books whatever is this proof more complete, than in those at present under our consideration. The inquiries of learned men, and, above all, of the excellent, Lardner who never overstates a point of evidence, and whose fidelity in citing his authoities has in no one instance been impeached, have established, concerning these writings, the following propositions :

1. That in the age immediately posterior to that in which St. Paul lived, his letters were publicly read and acknowledged.

Some of them are quoted or alluded to by alınost every Christian writer that followed, by Clement of Rome, by Hermas, by Ignatius, by Polycarp, disciples or contemporaries of the apostles ; by Justin Martyr, by the churches of Gaul, by Irenze

us, by Athenagoras, by Theophilus, by Clement of $& Alexandria, by Hermias, by Tertullian, who occu

pied the succeeding age. Now when we find a book quoted or referred to by an ancient author, we are entitled to conclude, that it was read and received

in the age and country in which that author lived. me And this conclusion does not, in any degree, rest

pon the judgment or character of the author making such reference. Proceeding by this rule, we have, concerning the First Epistle to the Corinthions in particular, within forty years after the episIle was written, evidence, not only of its being ex. tant at Corinth, but of its being known and read at Rome. Clement, bishop of that city, writing to the church of Corinth, uses these words: “Take into your hands the epistle of the blessed Paul the aposile. What did he at first write unto you in the beginning of the gospel? Verily he did by the Spirit admonish you concerning himself and Cephas, and Apollos, because that even then you did form parties."'* This was written at a time when probably some must have been living at Corinth, who reinembered St. Paul's ministry there and the receipt of the epistle. The testimony is still more valuable, as it shows that the espistles were preserved in the cburches to which they were sent, and that they were spread and propogated from them to the rest of the Christian commmunity. Agreeably to which natural mode and order of their publication, Tertullian, a century afterward, for proof of the integrity and genuineness of the apostolic writings, bids" any one, who is willing to exercise his curiosity profitably in the business of their salvation, to visit the apostolical churches, in which their very authentic letters are recited, ipsæ authenticæ litiræ eorum recitantur.” Then he goes on : “Is Achaia near you? You have Corinth. If you are not far from Macedonia, you have Philippi, you have Thessalonica. If you can go to Asia, you have Ephesus; but if you are near to Italy, you have Rome.” I adduce this passage to show, that the distinct churches or Christian societies, to which St. Paul's epistles were sent, subsisted for some ages afterward; that his several epistles were all along respectively read in those churches; that Christians at large received them from those churches, and appealed to those crurches for their originality and authenticity.

Arguing in like manner from citations and allusions, we have, within the space of a hundred and tifty years from the time that the first of St. Paul's epistles was written, proofs of almost all of them

* See Lardner, vol. xii. p. 22.

Sur jardver's Recapitulation, vok zis. p. 3.

« НазадПродовжити »