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New Testament Into- part 4,Pastoral epistels – via Archbishop Uwe Ae.Rosenkranz

The Pastoral Epistles



In the case of these Epistles it seems best to consider the question of authorship first, and to treat them as a unity in the discussion of their authenticity. When we examine the external testimony to these letters we find that this is in no way deficient. If many have doubted their genuineness, it was not because they discovered that the early Church did not recognize them. It is true that some early heretics, who acknowledged the genuineness of the other letters attributed to Paul, rejected these, such as Basilides and Marcion, but Jerome says that their adverse judgment was purely arbitrary. From the time of Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria and Tertullian, who were the first to quote the New Testament books by name, until the beginning of the nineteenth century, no one doubted the Pauline authorship of these letters. The Muratorian Fragment ascribes them to Paul, and they are included in all MSS., Versions and Lists of the Pauline letters, in all of which (with the single exception of the Muratorian Fragment) they are arranged in the same order, viz. I Timothy, II Timothy, Titus.
As far as the internal evidence is concerned we may call attention in a preliminary way to a few facts that favor the authenticity of these letters and take up the consideration of other features in connection with the objections that are urged against them. They are all self-attested; they contain the characteristic Pauline blessing at the beginning, end with the customary salutation, and reveal the usual solicitude of Paul for his churches and for those associated with him in the work; they point to the same relation between Paul and his spiritual sons Timothy and Titus that we know from other sources; and they refer to persons (cf. 2 Tim. 4. Titus 3) that are also mentioned elsewhere as companions and co-laborers of Paul.
Yet it is especially on the strength of internal evidence that these Epistles have been attacked. J. E. C. Schmidt in 1804, soon followed by Schleiermacher, was the first one to cast doubt on their genuineness. Since that time they have been rejected, not only by the Tübingen school and by practically all negative critics, but also by some scholars that usually incline to the conservative side, such as Neander (rejecting only I Timothy), Meyer; (Introd. to Romans) and Sabatier. While the majority of radical critics reject these letters unconditionally, Credner, Harnack, Hausrath and McGiffert believe that they contain some genuine Pauline sections; the last named scholar regarding especially the passages that contain personal references, such as 2 Tim. 1:15–18; 4:9–21; Titus 3:12, 13, as authentic, and surmising that some others may be saved from the ruins, The Apostolic Age p. 405 ff. The genuineness of the Pastorals is defended by Weiss, Zahn, Salmon, Godet, Barth, and nearly all the Commentators, such as Huther, Van Oosterzee, Ellicott, Alford, White (in The Exp. Gk. Test.) e. a.
Several arguments are employed to discredit the authenticity of these letters. We shall briefly consider the most important ones. (1) It is impossible to find a place for their composition and the historical situation which they reflect in the life of Paul, as we know it from the Acts of the Apostles. Reuss, who provisionally accepted their Pauline authorship in his, History of the New Testament I pp. 80–85; 121–129, did so with the distinct proviso that they had to fit into the narrative of Acts somewhere. Finding that his scheme did not work out well, he afterwards rejected I Timothy and Titus. Cf. his Commentary on the Pastorals. (2) The conception of Christianity found in these letters is un-Pauline and clearly represents a later development. They contain indeed some Pauline ideas, but these are exceptional. “There is no trace whatever,” says McGiffert, “of the great fundamental truth of Paul’s gospel,—death unto the flesh and life in the Spirit.” Instead of the faith by which we are justified and united to Christ, we find piety and good works prominently in the foreground. Cf. 1 Tim. 1:5; 2:2, 15; 4:7 f.; 5:4; 6:6;—2 Tim. 1:3; 3:5, 12;—Titus 1:1; 2:12. Moreover the word faith does not, as in the letters of Paul, denote the faith that believes, but rather the sum and substance of that which is believed, 1 Tim. 1:19; 3:9; 4:1, 6; 5:8. And sound doctrine is spoken of in a way that reminds one of the characteristic esteem in which orthodoxy was later held, cf. 1 Tim. 1:10; 4:6; 6:3;—2 Tim. 4:3;—Titus 1:9; 2:1, 7. (3) The church organization that is reflected in these letters points to a later age. It is unlikely that Paul, believing as he did in the speedy second coming of Christ, would pay so much attention to details of organization; nor does it seem probable that he would lay such stress on the offices received by ecclesiastical appointment, and have so little regard to the spiritual gifts that are independent of official position and that occupy a very prominent place in the undoubted writings of the apostle. Moreover the organization assumed in these letters reveals second century conditions. Alongside of the πρεσβύτεροι the ἐπίσκοπος is named as a primus inter pares (notice the singular in 1 Tim. 3:1; Titus 1:7); and the office-bearers in general are given undue prominence. There is a separate class of widows, of which some held an official position in the Church, just as there was in the second century, 1 Tim. 5. Ecclesiastical office is conferred by the laying on of hands, 1 Tim. 5:22; and the second marriage of bishops, deacons, and ministering widows was not to be tolerated, 1 Tim. 3:2, 12; 5:9–11; Tit. 1:6. (4) The false teachers and teachings to which the Epistles refer are evidently second century Gnostics and Gnosticism. The term ἀντιθέσεις, 1 Tim. 6:20, according to Baur, contains a reference to the work of Marcion which bore that title. And the endless genealogies of 1 Tim. 1:4 are supposed to refer to the Aeons of Valentinus. (5) The most weighty objection is, however, that the style of these letters differs from that of the Pauline Epistles to such a degree as to imply diversity of authorship. Says Davidson: “The change of style is too great to comport with identity of authorship. Imitations of phrases and terms occurring in Paul’s authentic Epistles are obvious; inferiority and feebleness show dependence; while the new constructions and words betray a writer treating of new circumstances and giving expression to new ideas, yet personating the apostle all the while. The change is palpable; though the author throws himself back into the situation of Paul the prisoner.” Introd. II p. 66. Holtzmann claims that of the 897 words that constitute these letters (proper names excepted) 171 (read 148) are ἅπαξ λεγόμενα, of which 74 are found in I Timothy, 46 in II Timothy, and 28 in Titus. Besides these there is a great number of phrases and expressions that are peculiar and point away from Paul, such as διώκειν δικαιοσύνην, 1 Tim. 6:11; 2 Tim. 2:22; φυλάσσειν τὴν παραθήκην, 1 Tim. 6:20; 2 Tim. 1:12, 14; παρακολουθεῖν τῇ διδασκαλίᾳ, 1 Tim. 4:6; 2 Tim. 3:10; βέβηλοι κενοφωνίαι, 1 Tim. 6:20; 2 Tim. 2:16; ἅνθρωπος θεοῦ, 1 Tim. 6:11; 2 Tim. 3:17; etc. On the other hand many expressions that play a prominent part in Pauline literature are absent from these letters, as ἄδικος, ἀκροβυστία, γνωρίζειν, δικαιοσύνη θεοῦ, δικαίωμα, ἔργα νόμου, ὁμοίωμα, παράδοσις, etc.
As far as the first argument is concerned, it must be admitted that these Epistles do not fit in the life of Paul, as we know it from the Acts of the Apostles. Their genuineness depends on the question, whether or not Paul was set free again after the imprisonment described in Acts 28. Now we have reasons, aside from the contents of these Epistles, to believe that he was liberated and resumed his missionary labors. In view of the fact that Felix, Festus and Agrippa found no guilt in Paul, and that the apostle was sent to Rome, only because he appealed to Cæsar, the presumption is that he was not condemned at Rome. This presumption is greatly strengthened by the fact that, when the apostle wrote his letters to the Philippians and to Philemon, the prospect of his release seemed favorable, Phil. 1:25; 2:24; Philem. 22; compare 2 Tim. 4:6–8. It is objected to this that Paul, in taking his farewell of the Ephesan elders, says to them: “I know (οἷδα) that ye all—shall see my face no more,” Acts 20:25. But it may be doubted, whether we have the right to press this οἷδα so that it becomes prophetic; if we have, it is counterbalanced by the οἰδα in Phil. 1:25. The most natural inference from the data of Scripture (outside of these Epistles) is that Paul was set free; and this is confirmed by the tradition of the early Church, as it is expressed by Eusebius, Church Hist. II 22: Paul is said (λόγος ἔχει), after having defended himself to have set forth again upon the ministry of preaching, and to have entered the same city a second time, and to have ended his life by martyrdom. Whilst then a prisoner, he wrote the second Epistle to Timothy, in which he both mentions his first defense, and his impending death.” Moreover the Muratorian Fragment speaks of a visit that Paul paid to Spain, which cannot be placed before the first Roman imprisonment. And Clement of Rome states in his letter to the Corinthians, after relating that the apostle labored in the East and in the West, that he came to “the bounderies of the West.” Now it does not seem likely that he, who himself lived in Rome, would refer to the city on the Tiber in those terms. And if this is not the import of those words, the presumption is that he too has reference to Spain.
Paul’s movements after his release are uncertain, and all that can be said regarding, them is conjectural. Leaving Rome he probably first repaired to Macedonia and Asia Minor for the intended visits, Phil. 1:23–26; Philem. 22, and then undertook his long looked for journey to Spain, Rom. 15:24. Returning from there, he possibly went to Ephesus, where he had a dispute with Hymenaeus and Alexander, 1 Tim. 1:20, and engaged the services of Onesiphorus, 2 Tim. 1:16–18. Leaving Timothy in charge of the Ephesian church, he departed for Macedonia, 1 Tim. 1:3, from where he most likely wrote I Timothy. After this he may have visited Crete with Titus, leaving the latter there to organize the churches, Tit. 1:5, and returning to Ephesus according to his wishes, 1 Tim. 3:14; 4:13, where Alexander the coppersmith did him great evil, 2 Tim. 4:14. From here he probably wrote the Epistle to Titus, for he was evidently in some center of missionary enterprise, when he composed it, Tit. 3:12–15. Departing from Ephesus, he went through Miletus, 2 Tim. 4:20 to Troas, 2 Tim. 4:13, where he was probably re-arrested, and whence he was taken to Rome by way of Corinth, the abode of Erastus, 2 Tim. 4:20; Rom. 16:23. In that case he did not reach Nicopolis, where he intended to spend the winter. In this statement we proceed on the assumption that the winter mentioned in 2 Tim. 4:21 is the same as that of Titus 3:12. The second imprisonment of Paul was more severe than the first, 2 Tim. 1:16, 17; 2:9. His first defense appears to have been successful, 2 Tim. 4:16, 17, but as his final hearing drew nigh, he had a presentiment of approaching martyrdom. According to the Chronicles of Eusebius Paul died as a martyr in the thirteenth year of Nero, or A. D. 67.
The objection that the theological teaching of these Epistles is different from that of Paul, must be taken cum grano salis, because this teaching merely complements and in no way contradicts the representation of the undoubted Epistles. We find no further objective development of the truth here, but only a practical application of the doctrines already unfolded in previous letters. And it was entirely fitting that, as every individual letter, so too the entire cycle of Pauline Epistles should end with practical admonitions. Historically this is easily explained, on the one hand, by the fact that the productive period of the apostle’s life had come to an end, and it is now Paul the aged—for all the vicissitudes of a busy and stormy life must greatly have sapped his strength—that speaks to us, cf. Philem. 9; and, on the other hand, by the fact that the heresy which the apostle here encounters had developed into ethical corruption. If it is said that the writer of these Epistles ascribes a meritorious character to good works, we take exception and qualify that as a false statement. The passages referred to, such as 1 Tim. 1:15; 3:13; 4:8; 6:18 ff.; 2 Tim. 4:8, do not prove the assertion. Since a rather full statement of the Christian truth had preceded these letters, it need not cause surprise that Paul should refer to it as “the sound doctrine,” Cf. Rom. 6:17. Nor does it seem strange, in view of this, that alongside of the subjective the objective sense of the word faith should begin to assert itself. We find an approach to this already in Rom. 12:6; Gal. 1:23; Phil. 1:27.
It is a mistake to think that the emphasis which these letters place on the external organization of the churches, and the particular type of ecclesiastical polity which they reflect, precludes their Pauline authorship. There is nothing strange in the fact that Paul, knowing that the day of Christ was not at hand (2 Thess. 2:1–12), should lay special stress on church government now that his ministry was drawing to a close. It might rather have caused surprise, if he had not thus made provision for the future of his churches. And it is perfectly natural also that he should emphasize the offices in the church rather than the extraordinary spiritual gifts, since these gradually vanished and made place for the ordinary ministry of the Word. The position that the office-bearers mentioned in these letters prove a development beyond that of the apostolic age is not substantiated by the facts. Deacons were appointed shortly after the establishment of the Church, Acts 6; elders were chosen from place to place, as the apostle founded churches among the Gentiles, Acts 14:23; and in Phil, 1:1 Paul addresses not only the Philippians in general, but also “the bishops and deacons.” Moreover in Eph. 4:11 the apostle says: “And He gave you some apostle’s; and some prophets; and some evangelists; and some pastors and teachers.” Surely it does not seem that the Pastoral Epistles are strikingly different in this respect from the others. If it be said that the bishop becomes so prominent here as to indicate that the leaven of hierarchy was already working, we answer that in the New Testament the terms ἐπίσκοπος and πρεσβύτερος are clearly synonymous. The fact that the bishop is spoken of in the singular proves nothing to the contrary. Not once are bishops and presbyters arranged alongside of each other as denoting two separate classes, and in Titus 1:5–7 the terms are clearly interchangeable. The case of Phebe, Rom. 16:1 certainly does not countenance the theory that the office of deaconess was not called into existence until the second century. And the passages that are supposed to prohibit the second marriage of office-bearers are of too uncertain interpretation to justify the conclusions drawn from them.
Granted that the errors to which these letters refer were of a Gnostic character—as Alford is willing to grant—, it by no means follows that the Epistles are second century productions, since the first signs of the Gnostic heresy are known to have made their appearance in the apostolic age. But it is an unproved assumption that the writer refers to Gnosticism of any kind. It is perfectly evident from the letters that the heresy was of a Judæistic, though not of a Pharisæic type, resembling very much the error that threatened the Colossian church. Hort, after examining it carefully comes to the conclusion that “there is a total want of evidence for anything pointing to even rudimentary Gnosticism or Essenism.” In view of the fact that the errorists prided themselves as being teachers of the law, 1 Tim. 1:7, and that the term γενεαλογία is brought in close connection with “strivings about the law” in Titus 3:9, the presumption is that it contains no reference whatever to the emanations of Gnostic aeons, but rather, as Zahn surmises, to rabbinic disputations regarding Jewish genealogies. And the word “antitheses,” of which Hort says that it cannot refer to Marcion’s work, is simply descriptive of the opposition in which the heretics that boasted of a higher knowledge placed themselves to the Gospel.
The argument from style has often proved to be a very precarious one. If a person’s vocabulary were a fixed quantity, he were limited to the use of certain set phrases and expressions, and his style, once acquired, were unchangeable and necessarily wanting in flexibility, a plausible case might be made out. But as a matter of fact such is not the usual condition of things, and certainly was not the case with Paul, who to a great extent moulded the language of the New Testament. We need not and cannot deny that the language of the Pastorals has many peculiarities, but in seeking to explain these we should not immediately take refuge in a supposed difference of authorship, but rather make allowance for the influence of Paul’s advancing years, of the altered conditions of his life, of the situation in which his readers were placed, and of the subjects with which he was obliged to deal in these Epistles. And let us not forget what N. J. D. White says, Exp. Gk. Test. IV p. 63, that “the acknowledged peculiarities must not be allowed to obscure the equally undoubted fact that the Epistles present not only as many characteristic Pauline words as the writer had use for, but that, in the more significant matter of turns of expression, the style of the letters is fundamentally Pauline. Cf. also the judicious remarks of Reuss on the style of these letters. History of the New Testament, I p. 123.
In concluding our discussion of the authenticity of the Pastoral Epistles we desire to remark: (1) The critics admit that the objections urged by them against the genuineness of these letters do not apply to all three of them in the same degree. According to Baur II Timothy and Titus are the least suspicious. He maintains, however, that I Timothy will always be “the betrayer of its spurious brothers.” But it would be reasonable to turn the statement about with Reuss, and to say that “so long as no decisive and palpable proofs of the contrary are presented the two which are in and of themselves less suspicious ought always to afford protection to the third which is more so.” Ibid. p. 84. (2) Baur and his followers rightly held that, in order to prove the spuriousness of these letters, they had to point out the positive purpose of the forgery; in which, according to Reuss, they utterly failed, when they said that it was to combat the Gnostic heresies that were prevalent after A. D. 150, Ibid. p. 124 f. (3) It looks a great deal like a confession of defeat, when several of the negative critics admit that the passages in which personal reminiscences are found, must be regarded as genuine, for it means that they yield their case wherever they can be controlled. For a broader discussion of the authenticity of these letters, cf. Alford, Prolegomena Section I; Holtzmann, Einl. pp. 274–292; Zahn, Einl. I pp. 459–491; Godet, Introd. pp. 567–611; Farrar, St. Paul, II pp. 607–622; Salmon, Introd. pp. 433–452; McGiffert, Apostolic Age pp. 399–423; Davidson, Introd. II pp. 21–76. Lock (in Hastings D. B. Artt. I Timothy, II Timothy and Titus.)

The First Epistle to Timothy



The first Epistle to Timothy may be divided into four parts:
I. Introduction, 1:1–20. The apostle begins by reminding Timothy that he had been left at Ephesus to counteract prevalent heresies, 1–10. He directs the attention of his spiritual son to the Gospel contradicted by these errors, thanks the Lord that he was made a minister of it, and charges Timothy to act in accordance with that Gospel, 11–20.
II. General Regulations for Church Life, 2:1–4:5. Here we find first of all directions for public intercession and for the behavior of men and women in the meetings of the church, 2:1–15. These are followed by an explicit statement of the qualities that are necessary in bishops and deacons, 3:1–13. The expressed purpose of these directions is, to promote the good order of the church, the pillar and ground of the truth, essentially revealed in Christ, from which the false brethren were departing, 3:14–4:5.
III. Personal Advice to Timothy, 4:6–6:2. Here the apostle speaks of Timothy’s behavior towards the false teachers, 4:6–11; of the way in which he should regard and discharge his ministerial duties, 12–16; and of the attitude he ought to assume towards the individual members of the church, especially towards the widows, the elders and the slaves, 5:1–6:2.
IV. Conclusion, 6:3–21. The apostle now makes another attack on the heretical teachers, 3–10; and exhorts Timothy to be true to his calling and to avoid all erroneous teachings, giving him special directions with respect to the rich, 11–21.

1. This letter is one of the Pastoral Epistles of Paul, which are so called, because they were written to persons engaged in pastoral work and contain many directions for pastoral duties. They were sent, not to churches, but to office-bearers, instructing them how to behave in the house of God. It is evident, however, that, with the possible exception of II Timothy, they were not intended exclusively for the persons to whom they were addressed, but also for the churches in which these labored. Cf. as far as this Epistle is concerned, 4:6, 11; 5:7; 6:17.
2. From the preceding it follows that this letter is not doctrinal but practical. We find no further objective development of the truth here, but clear directions as to its practical application, especially in view of divergent tendencies. The truth developed in previous Epistles is here represented as the “sound doctrine” that must be the standard of life and action, as “the faith” that should be kept, and as “a faithful word worthy of all acceptation.” The emphasis clearly falls on the ethical requirements of the truth.
3. The letter emphasizes, as no other Epistle does, the external organization of the church. The apostle feels that the end of his life is fast approaching, and therefore deems it necessary to give more detailed instruction regarding the office-bearers in the church, in order that, when he is gone, his youthful co-laborers and the church itself may know how its affairs should be regulated. Of the office-bearers the apostle mentions the ἐπίσκοπος and the πρεσβύτεροι, which are evidently identical, the first name indicating their work, and the second emphasizing their age; the διάκονοι, the γυνᾶικες, if 3:11 refers to deaconesses, which is very probable (so Ellicott, Alford, White in Exp. Gk. Test.) and the κήραι, ch. 5, though it is doubtful, whether these were indeed office-bearers.
4. Regarding the style of the Pastoral Epistles in general Huther remarks: “In the other Pauline Epistles the fulness of the apostle’s thoughts struggle with the expression, and cause peculiar difficulties in exposition. The thoughts slide into one another, and are so intertwined in many forms that not seldom the new thought begins before a correct expression has been given of the thought that preceded. Of this confusion there is no example in the Pastoral Epistles. Even in such passages as come nearest to this confused style, such as the beginning of the first and second Epistles of Timothy (Tit. 2:11 ff.; 3:4 ff.) the connection of ideas is still on the whole simple.” Comm. p. 9. This estimate is in general correct, though we would hardly speak of Paul’s style in his other letters as “a confused style.”

Paul addresses this letter to “Timothy my own son in the faith,” 1:2. We find the first mention of Timothy in Acts 16:1, where he is introduced as an inhabitant of Lystra. He was the son of a Jewish mother and a Greek father, of whom we have no further knowledge. Both his mother Eunice and his grandmother Lois are spoken of as Christians in 2 Tim. 1:5. In all probability he was converted by Paul on his first missionary journey, since he was already a disciple, when the apostle entered Lystra on his second tour. He had a good report in his home town, Acts 16:2, and, being circumcised for the sake of the Jews, he joined Paul and Silas in their missionary labors. Passing with the missionaries into Europe and helping them at Philippi, Thessalonica and Berea, he remained with Silas in the last named place, while Paul pressed on to Athens and Corinth, where they finally joined the apostle again, Acts 17:14; 18:5. Cf. however also 1 Thess. 3:1 and p. 222 above. He abode there with the missionaries and his name appears with those of Paul and Silvanus in the addresses of the two Epistles to the Thessalonians. We next find him ministering to the apostle during his long stay at Ephesus, Acts 19:22, from where he was sent to Macedonia and Corinth, Acts 19:21, 22; 1 Cor. 4:17; 16:10, though it is doubtful, whether he reached that city. He was again in Paul’s company, when II Corinthians was written, 2 Cor. 1:1, and accompanied the apostle to Corinth, Rom. 16:21, and again on his return through Macedonia to Asia, Acts 20:3, 4, probably also to Jerusalem, 1 Cor. 16:3. He is then mentioned in the Epistles of the imprisonment, which show that he was with the apostle at Rome, Phil. 1:1; Col. 1:1; Philem. 1. From this time on we hear no more of him until the Pastoral Epistles show him to be in charge of the Ephesian church, 1 Tim. 1:3.
From 1 Tim. 4:14, and 2 Tim. 1:6 we learn that he was set apart for the ministry by Paul with the laying on of hands, in accordance with prophetic utterances of the Spirit, 1 Tim. 1:18, when he probably received the title of evangelist, 2 Tim. 4:5, though in 1 Thess. 2:6 he is loosely classed with Paul and Silas as an apostle. We do not know when this formal ordination took place, whether at the very beginning of his work, or when he was placed in charge of the church at Ephesus.
The character of Timothy is clearly marked in Scripture. His readiness to leave his home and to submit to the rite of circumcision reveal his self-denial and earnestness of purpose. This is all the more striking, since he was very affectionate, 2 Tim. 1:4, delicate and often ill, 1 Tim. 5:23. At the same time he was timid, 1 Cor. 16:10, hesitating to assert his authority, 1 Tim. 4:12, and needed to be warned against youthful lusts, 2 Tim. 2:22, and to be encouraged in the work of Christ, 2 Tim. 1:8. Yet withal he was a worthy servant of Jesus Christ, Rom. 16:21, 1 Thess. 3:2; Phil. 1:1; 2:19–21; and the beloved spiritual son of the apostle, 1 Tim. 1:2; 2 Tim. 1:2; 1 Cor. 4:17.

1. Occasion and Purpose. This letter was occasioned by Paul’s necessary departure from Ephesus for Macedonia, 1:3, the apprehension that he might be absent longer than he at first expected, 3:14, 15, and the painful consciousness that insidious errors were threatening the Ephesian church. Since Timothy was acquainted with these heresies, the apostle refers to them only in general terms which convey no very definite idea as to their real character. The persons who propagated them were prominent members of the church, possibly even office-bearers, 1:6, 7, 20; 3:1–12; 5:19–25. Their heresy was primarily of a Jewish character, 1:7, and probably resulted from an exaggeration of the demands of the law, a mistaken application of Christian ideas and a smattering of Oriental speculation. They claimed to be teachers of the law, 1:7, laid great stress on myths and genealogies, 1:4; 4:7, prided themselves like the rabbi’s on the possession of special knowledge, 6:20, and, perhaps assuming that matter was evil or at least the seat of evil, they propagated a false asceticism, prohibiting marriage and requiring abstenence from certain foods, 4:3, and taught that the resurrection was already past, most likely recognizing only a spiritual resurrection, 2 Tim. 2:18. The charge entrusted to Timothy was therefore a difficult one, hence the apostle deemed it necessary to write this Epistle.
In connection with the situation described the purpose of Paul was twofold. In the first place he desired to encourage Timothy. This brother, being young and of a timid disposition, needed very much the cheering word of the apostle. And in the second place it was his aim to direct Timothy’s warfare against the false doctrines that were disseminated in the church. Possibly it was also to prevent the havoc which these might work, if they who taught them were allowed in office, that he places such emphasis on the careful choice of office-bearers, and on the necessity of censuring them, should they go wrong.
2. Time and Place. The Epistle shows that Paul had left Ephesus for Macedonia with the intention of returning soon. And it was because he anticipated some delay that he wrote this letter to Timothy. Hence we may be sure that it was written from some place in Macedonia.
But the time when the apostle wrote this letter is not so easily determined. On what occasion did Paul quit Ephesus for Macedonia, leaving Timothy behind? Not after his first visit to Ephesus, Acts 18:20, 21, for on that occasion the apostle did not depart for Macedonia but for Jerusalem. Neither was it when he left Ephesus on his third missionary journey after a three years’ residence, since Timothy was not left behind then, but had been sent before him to Corinth, Acts 19:22; 1 Cor. 4:17. Some are inclined to think that we must assume a visit of Paul to Macedonia during his Ephesian residence, a visit not recorded in the Acts of the Apostles. But then we must also find room there for the apostle’s journey to Crete, since it is improbable that the Epistle of Paul to Titus was separated by any great interval of time from I Timothy. And to this must be added a trip to Corinth, cf. above p. 163. This theory is very unlikely in view of the time Paul spent at Ephesus, as compared with the work he did there, and of the utter silence of Luke regarding these visits. We must date the letter somewhere between the first and the second imprisonment of Paul. It was most likely after the apostle’s journey to Spain, since on the only previous occasion that he visited Ephesus after his release he came to that city by way of Macedonia, and therefore would not be likely to return thither immediately. Probably the letter should be dated about A. D. 65 or 66.

There was not the slightest doubt in the ancient church as to the canonicity of this Epistle. We find allusions more or less clear to its language in Clement of Rome, Polycarp, Ilegesippus, Athenagoras and Theophilus. It was contained in the old Latin and Syriac Versions and referred to Paul by the Muratorian Fragment. Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria and Tertullian quote it by name, and Eusebius reckons it among the generally accepted canonical writings.
The great abiding value of the Epistle is found in the fact that it teaches the Church of all generations, how one, especially an office-bearer, should behave in the house of God, holding the faith, guarding his precious trust against the inroads of false doctrines, combating the evil that is found in the Lord’s heritage, and maintaining good order in church life. “It witnesses,” says Lock (Hastings D. B. Art. I Timothy) “that a highly ethical and spiritual conception of religion is consistent with and is safeguarded by careful regulations about worship, ritual and organized ministry. There is no opposition between the outward and the inward, between the spirit and the organized body.”

The Second Epistle to Timothy



The contents of this Epistle falls into three parts:
I. Considerations to strengthen Timothy’s Courage, 1:1–2:13. After the greeting, 1, 2, the apostle urges Timothy to stir up his ministerial gift, to be bold in suffering, and to hold fast the truth entrusted to him, 3–14, enforcing these appeals by pointing to the deterrent example of the unfaithful and the stimulating example of Onesiphorus, 15–18. Further he exhorts him to be strong in the power of grace, to commit the true teaching to others, and to be ready to face suffering, 2:1–13.
II. Exhortations primarily dealing with Timothy’s Teaching, 2:14–4:8. Timothy should urge Christians to avoid idle and useless discussions, and should rightly teach the truth, shunning vain babblings, 14–21. He must also avoid youthful passions, foolish investigations, and false teachers who, for selfish purposes, turn the truth of God into unrighteousness, 2:22–3:9. He is further exhorted to abide loyally by his past teaching, knowing that sufferings will come to every true soldier and that deceivers will grow worse, 10–17; and to fulfil his whole duty as an evangelist with sobriety and courage, especially since Paul is now ready to be offered up, 4:1–8.
III. Personal Reminiscences, 4:9–22. Paul appeals to Timothy to come to Rome quickly, bringing Mark and also taking his cloak and books, and to avoid Alexander, 9–15. He speaks of his desertion by men, the protection afforded him by the Lord, and his trust for the future, 16–18. With special greetings, a further account of his fellow-laborers, and a final salutation the apostle ends his letter, 19–22.

1. II Timothy is the most personal of the Pastoral Epistles. Doctrinally it has no great importance, though it does contain the strongest proof-passage for the inspiration of Scripture. In the main the thought centers about Timothy, the faithful co-laborer of Paul, whom the apostle gives encouragement in the presence of great difficulties, whom he inspires to noble, self-denying efforts in the Kingdom of God, and whom he exhorts to fight worthily in the spiritual warfare against the powers of darkness, that he may once receive an eternal reward.
2. It is the last Epistle of Paul, the swan-song of the great apostle, after a life of devotion to a noble cause, a life of Christian service. We see him here with work done, facing a martyr’s death. Looking back his heart is filled with gratitude for the grace of God that saved him from the abyss that yawned at his feet, that called and qualified him to be a messenger of the cross, that protected him when dangers were threatening, and that crowned his work with rich spiritual fruits. And as he turns his eyes to the future, calm assurance and joyous hope are the strength of his soul, for he knows that the firm foundation of God will stand, since the Lord will punish the evil-doers and be the eternal reward of his children. He already has visions of the heavenly Kingdom, of eternal glory, of the coming righteous Judge, and of the crown of righteousness, the blessed inheritance of all those that love Christ’s appearance.

1. Occasion and Purpose. The immediate occasion for writing this Epistle was the apostle’s presentiment of his fast approaching end. He was anxious that Timothy should come to him soon, bringing Mark with him. In all probability he desired to give his spiritual son some fatherly advice and some practical instruction before his departure. But we feel that this alone did not call for a letter such as II Timothy really is. Another factor must be taken in consideration. Paul was not sure that Timothy would succeed in reaching Rome before his death, and yet realized that the condition of the Ephesian church, the danger to which Timothy was there exposed, and the importance of the work entrusted to this youthful minister, called for a word of apostolic advice, encouragement and exhortation. It seems that the Ephesian church was threatened by persecution, 1:8; 2:3, 12; 3:12; 4:5; and the heresy to which the apostle referred in his first epistle was evidently still rife in the circle of believers. There were those who strove about words, 2:14, were unspiritual, 2:16, corrupted in mind, 3:8, indulging in foolish and ignorant questionings, 2:23, and fables, 4:4, tending to a low standard of morality, 2:19, and teaching that the resurrection was already past, 2:18.
Hence the object of the Epistle is twofold. The writer wants to warn Timothy of his impending departure, to inform him of his past experiences at Rome and of his present loneliness, and to exhort him to come speedily. Besides this, however, he desired to strengthen his spiritual son in view of the deepening gloom of trials and persecution that were threatening the church from without; and to fore-arm him against the still sadder danger of heresy and apostasy that were lurking within the fold. Timothy is exhorted to hold fast the faith, 1:5, 13; to endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ, 2:3–10; to shun every form of heresy, 2:16–18; to instruct in meekness those that withstand the Gospel, 2:24–26; and to continue in the things he had learnt, 3:14–17.
2. Time and Place. From 1:17 it is perfectly evident that this letter was written at Rome. The apostle was again a prisoner in the imperial city. Though we have no absolute certainty, we deem it probable that he was re-arrested at Troas in the year 67. The situation in which he finds himself at Rome is quite different from that reflected in the other epistles of the captivity. He is now treated like a common criminal, 2:9; his Asiatic friends with the exception of Onesiphorus turned from him, 1:15; the friends who were with him during his first imprisonment are absent now, Col. 4:10–14; 2 Tim. 4:10–12; and the outlook of the apostle is quite different from that found in Philippians and Philemon. It is impossible to tell just how long the apostle had already been in prison, when he wrote the Epistle, but from the fact that he had had one hearing, 4:16 (which cannot refer to that of the first imprisonment, cf. Phil. 1:7, 12–14), and expected to be offered up soon, we infer that he composed the letter towards the end of his imprisonment, i. e. in the fall of A. D. 67.

The canonicity of this Epistle has never been questioned by the Church; and the testimony to its early and general use is in no way deficient. There are quite clear traces of its language in Clement of Rome, Ignatius, Polycarp, Justin Martyr, The Acts of Paul and Thecla, and Theophilus of Antioch. The letter is included in all the MSS., the old Versions and the Lists of the Pauline Epistles. The Muratorian Fragment names it as a production of Paul, and from the end of the second century it is quoted by name.
The Epistle has some permanent doctrinal value as containing the most important proof-passage for the inspiration of Scripture, 3:16, and also abiding historical significance in that it contains the clearest Scriptural testimony to the life of Paul after his first Roman imprisonment. But Lock truly says that “its main interest is one of character, and two portraits emerge from it.” We have here (1) the portrait of the ideal Christian minister, busily engaged in the work of his Master, confessing His Name, proclaiming His truth, shepherding His fold, defending his heritage, and battling with the powers of evil; and (2) the “portrait of the Christian minister, with his work done, facing death. He acquiesces gladly in the present, but his eyes are turned mainly to the past or to the future.” (Lock in Hastings D. B. Art. II Timothy) He is thankful for the work he was permitted to do, and serenely awaits the day of his crowning.

The Epistle to Titus



The contents of this Epistle may be divided into three parts:
I. Instruction regarding the Appointment of Ministers, 1:1–16. After the opening salutation, 1–4, the apostle reminds Titus of his past instruction to appoint presbyters, 5. He emphasizes the importance of high moral character in an overseer, in order that such an office-bearer may maintain the sound doctrine and may refute the opponents that mislead others and, claiming to know God, deny Him with their words, 6–16.
II. Directions as to the Teaching of Titus, 2:1–3:11. Paul would have Titus urge all the different classes that were found in the Cretan church, viz. the elder men and women, the younger women and men, and the slaves, to regulate their life in harmony with the teachings of the Gospel, since they were all trained by the saving grace of God to rise above sin and to lead godly lives, 2:1–14. As regards their relation to the outer world, Titus should teach believers to subject themselves to the authorities, and to be gentle towards all men, remembering that God had delivered them from the old heathen vices, in order that they should set others an example of noble and useful lives, 3:1–8. He himself must avoid foolish questionings and reject the heretics, who refused to listen to his admonition, 9–11.
III. Personal Details, 3:12–15. Instructing Titus to join him at Nicopolis after Artemus or Tychicus has come to Crete, bringing with him Zenos and Apollos, the writer ends his letter with a final salutation.

1. Like the other Pastoral Epistles this letter is also of a personal nature. It was not directed to any individual church or to a group of churches, but to a single person, one of Paul’s spiritual sons and co-laborers in the work of the Lord. At the same time it is not as personal as II Timothy, but has distinctly a semi-private character. It is perfectly evident from the Epistle itself (cf. 2:15) that its teaching was also intended for the church in Crete to which Titus was ministering.
2. This letter is in every way very much like I Timothy, which is due to the fact that the two were written about the same time and were called forth by very similar situations. It is shorter than the earlier Epistle, but covers almost the same ground. We do not find in it any advance on the doctrinal teachings of the other letters of Paul; in fact it contains very little doctrinal teaching, aside from the comprehensive statements of the doctrine of grace in 2:11–14 and 3:4–8. The former of these passages is a locus classicus. The main interest of the Epistle is ecclesiastical and ethical, the government of the church and the moral life of its members receiving due consideration.

Paul addressed the letter to “Titus mine own son after the common faith,” 1:4. We do not meet with Titus in the Acts of the Apostles, which is all the more remarkable, since he was one of the most trusted companions of Paul. For this reason some surmised that he is to be identified with some one of the other co-laborers of Paul, as f. i. Timothy, Silas or Justus, Acts 18:7. But neither of these satisfy the conditions.
He is first mentioned in Gal. 2:1, 3, where we learn that he was a Greek, who was not compelled to submit to circumcision, lest Paul should give his enemies a handle against himself. From Titus 1:4 we infer that he was one of the apostle’s converts, and Gal. 2:3 informs us that he accompanied Paul to the council of Jerusalem. According to some the phrase ὁ συν ἐμόι in this passage implies that he was also with Paul, when he wrote the Epistle to the Galatians, but the inference is rather unwarranted. He probably bore I Corinthians to its destination, 2 Cor. 2:13, and after his return to Paul, was sent to Corinth again to complete the collection for the saints in Judæa, 2 Cor. 8:16 ff. Most likely he was also the bearer of II Corinthians. When next we hear of him, he is on the island of Crete in charge of the church (es) that had been founded there. Titus 1:4, 5, and is requested to join Paul at Nicopolis, 3:12. Evidently he was with the apostle in the early part of his second imprisonment, but soon left him for Dalmatia, either at the behest, or against the desire of Paul. The traditions regarding his later life are of doubtful value.
If we compare 1 Tim. 4:12 with Titus 2:15, we get the impression that Titus was older than his co-laborer at Ephesus. The timidity of the latter did not characterize the former. While Timothy went to Corinth, so it seems, with some hesitation, 1 Cor. 16:10, Titus did not flinch from the delicate task of completing the collection for the saints in Judæa, but undertook it of his own accord, 2 Cor. 8:16, 17. He was full of enthusiasm for the Corinthians, was free from wrong motives in his work among them, and followed in the footsteps of the apostle, 2 Cor. 12:18.

1. Occasion and Purpose. The occasion for writing this Epistle is found in the desire of Paul that Titus should come to him in the near future, and in the condition of the Cretan church (es), whose origin is lost in obscurity. Probably the island was evangelized soon after the first Pentecost by those Cretans that were converted at Jerusalem, Acts 2:11. During the last part of his life Paul visited the island and made provision for the external organization of the church (es) there. When he left, he entrusted this important task to his spiritual son, Titus, 1:5. The church (es) consisted of both Jews and Gentiles, 1:10, of different ages and of various classes, 2:1–10. The Cretans did not have a very good reputation, 1:12, and some of them did not belie their reputed character, even after they had turned to Christ. Apparently the errors that had crept into the church (es) there were very similar to those with which Timothy had to contend at Ephesus, though probably the Judæistic element was still more prominent in them, 1:10, 11, 14; 3:9.
The object of Paul in writing this letter is to summon Titus to come to him, as soon as another has taken his place; to give him directions regarding the ordination of presbyters in the different cities; to warn him against the heretics on the island; and guide him in his teaching and in his dealing with those that would not accept his word.
2. Time and Place. Respecting the time when this Epistle was written there is no unanimity. Those who believe in the genuineness of the letter, and at the same time postulate but one Roman imprisonment, seek a place for it in the life of Paul, as we know it from the Acts. According to some it was written during the apostle’s first stay at Corinth, from where, in that case, he must have made a trip to Crete; others think it was composed at Ephesus, after Paul left Corinth and had on the way visited Crete. But the word “continued” in Acts 18:11 seems to preclude a trip from Corinth to Crete. Moreover both of these theories leave Paul’s acquaintance with Apollos, presupposed in this letter, unexplained, 3:13. Still others would date the visit to Crete and the composition of this letter somewhere between the years 54–57, when the apostle resided at Ephesus, but this hypothesis is also burdened with insuperable objections. Cf. above p. 249. The Epistle must have been composed in the interval between the first and the second imprisonment of the apostle, and supposing the winter of 3:13 to be the same as that of 2 Tim. 4:21, probably in the early part of the year 67. We have no means to determine, where the letter was written, though something can be said in favor of Ephesus, cf. p. 239 above.

The Church from the beginning accepted this Epistle as canonical. There are passages in Clement of Rome, Ignatius, Barnabas, Justin Martyr and Theophilus that suggest literary dependence. Moreover the letter is found in all the MSS. and in the old Latin and Syriac Versions; and is referred to in the Muratorian Fragment. Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria and Tertullian quote it by name.
The permanent value of the letter is in some respects quite similar to that of I Timothy. It has historical significance in that it informs us of the spread of Christianity on the island of Crete, a piece of information that we could not gather from any other Biblical source. Like I Timothy it emphasizes for all ages to come the necessity of church organization and the special qualifications of the officebearers. It is unique in placing prominently before us the educative value of the grace of God for the life of every man, of male and female, young and old, bond and free.

The Epistle to Philemon



We can distinguish three parts in this brief letter:
I. The Introduction, 1–7. This contains the address, the customary blessing, and a thanksgiving of the apostle for the charity of Philemon, for the increase of which Paul hopes, because it greatly refreshes the saints.
II. The Request, 8–21. Rather than command Philemon the apostle comes to him with a request, viz. that he receive back the converted slave Onesimus and forgive him his wrong-doing. Paul enforces his request by pointing to the conversion of Onesimus, and to his own willingness to repay Philemon what he lost, though he might ask retribution of him; and trusts that Philemon will do more than he asks.
III. Conclusion, 22–25. Trusting that he will be set free, the apostle requests Philemon to prepare for him lodging. With greetings of his fellow-laborers and a final salutation he ends his letter.

1. This letter is closely related to the Epistle that was sent to the Colossian church. They were composed at the same time, were sent to the same city and, with a single exception (that of Justus), contain identical greetings. At the same time it is distinguished from Colossians in that it is a private letter. Yet it is not addressed to a single individual, but to a family and to the believers at their house.
2. The letter is further characterized by its great delicacy and tactfulness. It bears strong evidence to Christian courtesy, and has therefore been called “the polite epistle.” In it we see Paul, the gentleman, handling a delicate question with consummate skill. Though he might command, he prefers to request that Philemon forgive and receive again his former slave. Tactfully he refers to the spiritual benefit that accrued from what might be called material loss. In a delicate manner he reminds Philemon of the debt the latter owed him, and expresses his confidence that this brother in Christ would even do more than he requested.

Marcion included this letter in his Pauline collection, and the Muratorian Fragment also ascribes it to Paul. Tertullian and Origen quote it by name, and Eusebius reckons it among the Pauline letters.
Moreover the Epistle has all the marks of a genuine Pauline production. It is self-attested, contains the usual Pauline blessing, thanksgiving and salutation, reveals the character of the great apostle and clearly exhibits his style.
Yet even this short and admirable Epistle has not enjoyed universal recognition. Baur rejected it because of its close relation to Colossians and Ephesians, which he regarded as spurious. He called it “the embryo of a Christian romance,” like that of the Clementine Recognitions, its tendency being to show that what is lost on earth is gained in heaven. He also objects to it that it contains seven words which Paul uses nowhere else. Weizsäcker and Pfleiderer are somewhat inclined to follow Baur. They find proof for the allegorical character of the letter in the name Onesimus = profitable, helpful. The latter thinks that this note may have accompanied the Epistle to the Colossians, to illustrate by a fictitious example the social precepts contained in that letter. Such criticism need not be taken seriously. Hilgenfeld’s dictum is that Baur has not succeeded in raising his explanation to the level of probability. And Renan says: “Paul alone can have written this little masterpiece.”

The letter is addressed to “Philemon our dearly beloved and fellow-laborer, and to our beloved Apphia, and Archippus, our fellow-soldier, and to the church in thy house,” 1, 2. Little is known of this Philemon. He was evidently an inhabitant of Colossæ, Col. 4:9, and apparently belonged to the wealthy class. He had slaves, received a circle of friends in his house, and was able to prepare a lodging for Paul, 22. His munificence was generally known, 5–7, and he made himself useful in Christian service. He was converted by Paul, 19, most likely during the apostle’s three years residence at Ephesus. Apphia is generally regarded as the wife of Philemon, while many consider Archippus as their son. We notice from Col. 4:17 that the latter had an office in the church. Probably he was temporarily taking the place of Epaphras. The expression “the church in thy house” undoubtedly refers to the Christians of Colossæ that gathered in the dwelling of Philemon for worship.

1. Occasion and Purpose. The occasion for writing this Epistle is clearly indicated in the letter itself. Onesimus, the slave of Philemon absconded and, so it seems, defrauded his master, 18, 19. He fled to Rome, where in some way—it is useless to guess just how—he fell in with Paul, whom he may have known from the time of his Ephesian residence. The apostle was instrumental in converting him and in showing him the evil of his way, 10, and although he would gladly have retained him for the work, sent him back to Colossæ in deference to the claims of Philemon. He did not send him empty-handed, however, but gave him a letter of recommendation, in which he informs Philemon of the change wrought in Onesimus by which the former slave became a brother, bespeaks for him a favorable reception in the family of his master and in the circle that gathered at their house for worship, and even hints at the desirability of emancipating him.
2. Time and place. For the discussion of the time and place of composition cf. what was said respecting the Epistle to the Ephesians.

This Epistle is rarely quoted by the early church fathers, which is undoubtedly due to its brevity and to its lack of doctrinal contents. The letter is recognized by Marcion and the Muratorian Fragment, and is contained in the old Latin and Syriac Versions. Tertullian quotes it more than once, but no trace of it is found in Irenaeus and Clement of Alexandria. Eusebius classes it with the Homologoumena and Jerome argues at length against those who refused to accept it as Pauline. The Church never doubted its canonicity.
The permanent value of this little letter is both psychological and ethical. It shows us Paul as he corresponds in a friendly way with a brother in Christ, and thus gives us a new glimpse of his character, the character of a perfect gentleman, unobtrusive, refined, skillful and withal firm,—a character worthy of imitation. Moreover it reveals to us how Paul, in view of the unity of bond and free in Jesus Christ, deals with the perplexing question of slavery. He does not demand the abolishment of the institution, since the time for such a drastic measure had not yet come; but he does clearly hint at emancipation as the natural result of the redemptive work of Christ.

The Epistle to the Hebrews



In this Epistle we may distinguish five parts.
I. The Superiority of Christ as Mediator, 1:1–4:16. The writer begins by saying that the New Testament revelation was mediated by the very Son of God, who is far superior to the angels, 1:1–14; whose revelation one can only neglect to the peril of one’s soul, 2:1–4, and in whom and through whom the ideal of man is realized through suffering, 5–18. Then he points out that Christ is greater than Moses, as the builder is greater than the house and the son is superior to the servant, 3:1–6, wherefore it is necessary that we should listen to his voice, since unbelief deprives us of the blessings of salvation, as is clearly seen in the history of Israel, 7–19. They were not brought into the rest by Joshua, so that the promise remains to be fulfilled, and we should labor to enter into that rest, seeking strength in our great High Priest, 4:1–16.
II. Christ the true High Priest, 5:1–7:28. Like every high priest Christ was taken from among men to represent them in worship, and was called by God, 5:1–5; but in distinction from these He was made a Priest after the order of Melchizedek, and thus became the author of eternal salvation for those that obey him, 6–10. Since the readers were not yet able to understand all that might be said regarding the Priesthood of Christ after the order of Melchizedek, the author exhorts them to press on to more perfect knowledge, to beware of apostasy, and to be diligent to inherit, through faith and patience, the promises of the ever faithful God, 5:11–6:20. Returning now to the subject in hand, the writer describes the unique character of Melchizedek, 7:1–10, and contrasts the priesthood of Christ with that of the order of Aaron with respect to fleshly descent (Levi—Judah), 11–14; endurance (temporal—eternal) 15–19; solemnity and weight (without oath—with oath) 20–22; number (many—one) 23–24; and then argues the necessity of such a High Priest for us, 25–28.
III. Pre-eminence of the New Covenant mediated by Jesus Christ, 8:1–10:18. As High Priest Christ is now ministering in heaven, of which the tabernacle on earth was but a shadow, since He is the Mediator, not of the Old, but of the New Covenant, 8:1–13. The ordained services and the sanctuary of the old dispensation were merely figures for the time then present, and pointed to the better services which Christ, the Mediator of the New Covenant would render at the heavenly sanctuary, since He would not enter with the blood of bulls and goats, but with his own blood, thus bringing eternal redemption, 9:1–28. The sacrifices of the old dispensation could not take away sin, and therefore Christ offered himself for our purification and to give us access to the throne of God, 10:1–18.
IV. Application of the Truths presented and Personal Epilogue, 10:19–13:25. The writer exhorts the readers to draw near to God with confidence, and warns them against apostasy, reminding them of its dire consequences and of their former endurance, and assuring them that the just shall live by faith, 10:19–39. He illustrates this point by presenting to their view a long line of heroes that triumphed in faith, 11:1–40. In view of these examples he urges them to endure chastening which is a sign of their sonship and ministers to their sanctification, and warns them against despising the grace of God, 12:1–17. Since they have received far greater privileges than Old Testament saints, they should strive to serve God acceptably with reverence and godly feat, 18–29. Then follow some general exhortations respecting hospitality, marriage, contentment, the following in the footsteps of their teachers, and the necessity of guarding against strange doctrines, 13:1–17; after which the writer closes the letter with a few personal notices and salutations, 18–25.

1. The Epistle to the Hebrews has not the letter-like appearance of the confessedly Pauline writings. It does not contain the name of the author, nor that of the addressees. And if it were not for a few stray personal notes, 10:34; 13:18, 25, and for the greetings and salutations found at the end, we might regard this writing as a treatise rather than an Epistle. Deissmann, who emphasizes the non literary character of the admittedly Pauline compositions, and insists that they be looked upon as real letters, considers this writing to be an Epistle as distinguished from a letter, and thinks it is very important to recognize its literary character. According to him “it is historically the earliest example of Christian artistic literature.” Light from the Ancient East p. 64 f.; 236 f.; 243.
2. The relation in which the teaching of this book stands to that of the Old Testament is unique. It does not view the Law as a body of commandments imposed on the obedience of man, but as a system of ritual provided by the mercy of God; and clearly reveals its insufficiency as an institution for the removal of sin, since it could only remove ceremonial defilement and could not purify the heart. In harmony with this divergence from the prevailing Pauline conception of the Law, it does not, like the undoubted letters of Paul, regard the Law as an episode temporarily intervening, on account of sin, between the promise and its fulfilment; but as a typical representation, as a primitive revelation of the blessings to which the promise pointed. In it the image of the New Testament realities is dimly seen; it is the bud that gradually develops into a beautiful flower. The realities that answer to the shadows of the Old Testament are pointed out in detail, and thereby this Epistle is for all ages the inspired commentary on the ritual of the Old Covenant, making the pages of Leviticus luminous with heavenly light. We should bear in mind that the terms type and antitype are employed in a rather unusual sense in this letter; their meaning is in a way reversed. The holy places of the earthly tabernacle are called the ἀντίτυπα of the true and heavenly, 9:24, according to which usage the latter are, of course, the types of the former, cf. 8:5.
3. This letter is peculiar also in the way in which it quotes the Old Testament. While in the writings that bear Paul’s name the quotations are partly from the Hebrew and partly from the Septuagint, in this Epistle they are uniformly derived from the Greek. Moreover the formulae of quotation are different from those in the other letters. While these generally refer the passages quoted to their human authors, except in cases where God speaks in the first person in the Old Testament, our Epistle with but few exceptions refers them to the primary author, i. e. to God or to the Holy Spirit, thus offering indubitable proof of the author’s belief in the inspiration of the Scriptures.
4. The language of this Epistle is the best literary Greek of the New Testament. We do not find the author struggling, as it were, with a scanty language to express the abundance of the thoughts that are crowding in upon him. There are no broken constructions, no halting sentences, and, although a few parentheses are introduced, they do not disturb the thought, cf. 11:38; 12:20, 21. The sentences are all evenly balanced and the style flows on with great regularity. The writer seems to have given special attention to the rhetorical rhythm and equilibrium of words and sentences. Westcott says: “The style of the book is characteristically Hellenistic, perhaps we may say, as far as our scanty knowledge goes, Alexandrian.” Comm. p. LXI.

The authorship of the Epistle to the Hebrews constitutes a very difficult question. The external testimony is of a conflicting character. The oldest and most explicit tradition is that of Alexandria, where Clement testified that the Epistle was written by Paul in the Hebrew language and was translated by Luke into Greek. Origen regards the thoughts of the Epistle as Paul’s, but the language as that of a disciple of the great apostle, and finally comes to the conclusion that God only knows who wrote this letter. He does not make mention of a Hebrew original. Both Clement and Origen agree, however, in regarding the Greek Epistle as Pauline only in a secondary sense. In Italy and Western Europe generally the letter was not held to be Paul’s. This is the more remarkable, since we find the first trace of its existence in the West, in the writings of Clement of Rome. Hippolytus and Irenaeus were acquainted with it, but did not accept it as Paul’s; Cajus reckoned only thirteen Pauline Epistles and Eusebius says that even in his time the negative opinion was still held by some Romans. In North Africa, where the Roman tradition is usually followed, the letter was not regarded as the work of Paul. Tertullian ascribes it to Barnabas. In the fourth century the Eastern tradition gradually prevailed over the Western, especially through the influence of Augustine and Jerome, though they felt by no means certain that Paul was the author. During the Middle Ages this mooted question hardly ever came up for discussion, but when the light of the Reformation dawned, doubts were again expressed as to the authorship of Paul. Erasmus questioned whether Paul had written the letter; Luther conjectured that Apollos was the writer; Calvin thought that it might be the work of Luke or of Clement; and Beza held that it was written by a disciple of Paul. At present there are comparatively few that maintain the authorship of Paul.
And if we examine the internal evidence of the Epistle, we find that it points away from Paul. It must be admitted that its teaching is in a general sense Pauline, but this does not prove that Paul was the author. There are also some expressions in the letter to which parallels are found in the Epistles of Paul. Compare f. i. 2:14 with 2 Tim. 1:10; 1 Cor. 15:26;—2:8 with 1 Cor. 15:27. But this similarity may find its explanation in the author’s acquaintance with the Pauline writings. The statement in 10:34 cannot be urged in favor of Paul, especially not, if we adopt the reading τοῖς δεσμίοις συνεπαθήσατε, in which almost all the critical editors concur, and which is certainly favored by the context. The expression in 13:19 does not prove that the writer was a prisoner, when he wrote these words, much less that he was Paul. Neither does the notice respecting Timothy in 13:23 necessarily point to the apostle, for some of the older companions of Paul might have made that same statement. Moreover we know of no time in the life of Paul when Timothy was a prisoner. If there were other positive evidence for the Pauline authorship, some of these supposed criteria might serve as corroborative proofs, but such evidence is not forthcoming. The main features of the Epistle are such as to discredit the authorship of Paul: (1) The letter, in distinction from the Pauline Epistles, is entirely anonymous. It contains neither the name of the author nor that of the addressees. Moreover the customary blessing and thanksgiving are altogether wanting. (2) In 2:3 the writer clearly distinguishes himself and his hearers from those who heard the Lord, i. e. from his immediate disciples and apostle’s. Would Paul say that he had heard the word of the Gospel only from the immediate followers of the Lord, and not of the Lord himself? The assumption does not seem reasonable in view of Gal. 1:12. (3) Though the teaching of the Epistle is in full harmony with that of Paul, yet it does not reveal the usual trend of Paul’s reasoning. As Bruce points out (Hastings D. B. Art. Hebrews, Epistle to), there is an entire absence of the Pauline antitheses law and grace, faith and works, flesh and spirit; while there are found instead the antitheses of shadow and reality, type and antitype. (4) While Paul is wont to take some of his quotations from the Hebrew and often quotes from memory, the writer of this Epistle always derives his quotations from the Septaugint, and with such exactness that he seems to have had the manuscript before him. He does not like Paul refer his quotations to the human author, but to the auctor primarius. And instead of the Pauline formulæ of quotation, γέγραπται or ἡ γραφή λέγει, he often employs μαρτυρεῖ or φησί. (5) There is also a great difference in the names ascribed to the Mediator. In the writings of Paul we find the names, Christ, the Lord, the Lord Jesus Christ, Jesus Christ our Lord, our Lord Jesus Christ, and very seldom the simple Jesus. In our Epistle, on the other hand, Jesus is the regular name for the Saviour; Jesus Christ is used three times, the Lord, twice, but the full Pauline name, our Lord Jesus Christ is wanting altogether. (6) The strongest proof against the Pauline authorship is generally considered to be the argument from style. Says Dr. Salmon: “There is here none of the ruggedness of St. Paul, who never seems to be solicitous about forms of expression, and whose thoughts come pouring out so fast as to jostle one another in the struggle for utterance. This is a calm composition, exhibiting sonorous words and well balanced sentences.—I have already shown that I do not ascribe to Paul any rigid uniformity of utterance, and that I am not tempted to deny a letter to be his merely because it contains a number of words and phrases which are not found in his other compositions; but in this case I find myself unable to assert the Pauline authorship in the face of so much unlikeness, in the structure of sentences, in the general tone of the Epistle, in the general way of presenting doctrines, and in other points that I will not delay to enumerate.” Introd. p. 464 f.
In view of all the foregoing it is all but certain that Paul did not write the Epistle to the Hebrews. But now the question naturally arises: Who did? Several answers have given, as Barnabas (Tertullian), Luke or Clement (Calvin), Apollos (Luther), Silas (Böhme, Godet), (Aquila and) Priscilla (Harnack), of which only two are at present seriously considered, viz. Barnabas and Apollos, though the suggestion of Harnack has found favor with some. Renan, Hausrath, Weiss, Salmon and Barth accept the authorship of Barnabas, relying especially on the facts: (1) that Tertullian points to him as the author, thereby transmitting not only his own private opinion, but the North African tradition; (2) that Barnabas was an apostolic man and as a Levite would be well acquainted with the Jewish ritual; and (3) that, as an inhabitant of the island Cyprus, he would in all probability have been subject to the influence of Alexandrian culture. On the other hand, Lünemann, Farrar, Alford and Zahn hold that Apollos best answers the requirements, since (1) he was a man of fine Greek culture; (2) was well acquainted with the writings of Paul; and (3) as a native of Alexandria was deeply embued with the thoughts of the Alexandrian school. But it has been objected to Barnabas that he could not reckon himself to the second generation of Christians, 2:3; and that he certainly knew Hebrew, with which, so it seems, the author of this Epistle was not acquainted;—and to Apollos, that there is no tradition whatever connecting his name with the Epistle; and that the historical allusions in 13:18–24 have no point of contact in the life of Apollos as we know it from the Acts of the Apostles. If we had to choose between the two, Barnabas would be our choice, but we prefer with Moll, Westcott, Dods, Baljon and Bruce (Hastings D. B.) to confess our ignorance on this point and to abide by the dictum of Origen. The general thought of the Epistle is Pauline, but God only knows who wrote it.

Under this head we must consider two questions: 1. Was the letter written for Jewish or for Gentile Christians? 2. Where were the first readers located?
1. Until a comparatively recent date the general opinion was that this Epistle was composed for Jewish Christians. Of late, however, some scholars, as Schüirer, Weizsäcker, Von Soden, Jülicher and McGiffert reached the opposite conclusion. They argue that the fundamentals enumerated in 6:1, 2 are such as were suitable only to Gentile catechumens; that the expression “the living God” in 9:14 implies a contrast between the true God and pagan idols; and that the exhortations at the end of the Epistle were more appropriate to Gentile than to Jewish Christians. From these passages it has been argued with great ingenuity that the original readers were Christians of the Gentiles; but they are also susceptible of a plausible interpretation on the opposite view. Cf. the Commentaries and also Dods, Exp. Gk. Test. IV p. 231. It seems preferable to hold that the first readers were of Jewish extraction. In support of this theory we cannot rely on the title πρός Ἑβραίος, because the presumption is that this, though it can be traced to the second century, is not original. Yet it does express the early conviction of the Church that the letter was destined first of all for Jewish Christians. The general features of the letter point in the same direction. The Epistle presupposes that its readers are in danger of a relapse into Judæism; and its symbolism, based entirely on the tabernacle and its services, is peculiarly adapted to converted Jews. The whole Epistle has a Jewish physiognomy. With Bruce we say: “If the readers were indeed Gentiles, they were Gentiles so completely disguised in Jewish dress and wearing a mask with so pronounced Jewish features, that the true nationality has been hidden for nineteen centuries. Hastings D. B.
2. But where must we look for the first readers? Some scholars, regarding this writing as a treatise, are of the opinion that it was not intended for any definite locality, but for Christians in general, (Lipsius, Reuss); this opinion cannot pass muster, however, in view of the many passages that have no meaning unless they are addressed to a definite circle of Christians, f. i. 5:11, 12; 6:9, 10; 10:32; 12:4. At the same time it is impossible to determine with certainty the exact locality in which the readers were found. The four places that received the most prominent consideration in this connection are Alexandria, Antioch (in Syria), Rome and Jerusalem, of which, it would appear, the choice really lies between the last two. The position that the letter was sent to the Jewish Christians of Jerusalem or of entire Judæa, is defended by Moll, Lünemann, Salmon, Weiss and Westcott, and is supported by the following considerations: (1) The name Ἑβραίος, embodying an early tradition, certainly fits them better than it does Christians of any other community. (2) They were the most likely to develop great love for the Jewish ritual and to be exposed to danger from these quarters. (3) Their church (es) was (were) well nigh purely Jewish, which best accords with the total absence of any reference to Gentile Christians in the Epistle. (4) They would certainly understand the symbolism of the letter far better than the Christians of the diaspora. (5) A passage like 13:12, 13 has a peculiar appropriateness, if it was written to them. The objections are urged against this hypothesis, however, that the passages 3:2 and 5:12 are hardly applicable to the Christians of Jerusalem or Judæa; that these, rather than exercise liberality, 6:10, were continually the objects of charity; that the letter was written in Greek and not in Hebrew; and that, as far as we know, Timothy stood in no particular relation to the Jerusalem church. Many present day scholars, such as Alford, Zahn, Baljon, Dods, Holtzmann, Jülicher and Von Soden fixed on Rome as the destination of this letter. In favor of this they urge: (1) The greeting of 13:24 is evidently one of such as had gone forth from Italy, to their old friends at home. (2) The first traces of the use of this Epistle are found in the writings of Clement and in the Shepherd of Hermas, both issuing from Rome. (3) The term ἡγούμενοι, 13:7, 17, 24 was not in vogue in the Pauline churches, but was used at Rome, since Clement speaks of προηγούμενοι. (4) The persecutions mentioned in 10:32–34 probably refer to those of Nero and his predecessors. But this theory is burdened with the objections; that it was exactly at Rome that the canonicity of the letter was questioned for centuries; that the congregation at Rome was primarily Gentile-Christian (which Zahn denies, however); and that the words of 12:4 were hardly applicable to the Christians at Rome after the Neronian persecution. To our mind the first theory deserves the preference, unless we are prepared to admit that the Epistle was written to Gentile Christians.

1. Occasion and Purpose. This letter was occasioned by the danger of apostasy that threatened the readers. For a time they had professed Christianity, 5:12, and for the sake of it had endured persecution, and had even joyfully borne the spoiling of their goods, 10:32–34. But they were disappointed, so it seems, in two respects. In the first place in their expectation of the speedy return of Christ to trimph over his enemies and to transform the affliction of his followers into everlasting bliss. Christ remained hidden from their view and their sufferings continued, yea even increased in severity. In the encircling gloom they had no visible support for their faith. And in the second place they were disappointed in the attitude their own people took to the new religion. For a time they had combined their Christian services with the worship of their fathers, but it became ever increasingly evident that the Jews as a people would not accept Christ. Their brethren according to the flesh persisted in their opposition and waxed ever more intolerant of the followers of Jesus. The time was fast approaching, when these would have to break with the ministrations of the temple and look elsewhere for the support of their faith. Hence they had become feeble, 12:12, had ceased to make progress, 5:12, were inclined to unbelief, 3:12, and in danger of falling away, 6:4–6. Returning to Jewry, they might escape the persecution to which they were subjected, and enjoy their former privileges.
The writer desires to warn them against the danger to which they were exposed, and to exhort them to remain loyal to their Christian standard. In order to do this he points out by way of contrast the true nature and intrinsic worth of the Christian religion. The Old Testament service of God contained but the shadows of the New Testament realities. Christ is higher than the angels, ch. 1, is greater than Moses, ch. 3, is our only true High Priest, who through suffering opened up the way to heaven and gives us free unrestricted access to God, chs. 5–10. He was perfected through sufferings, that He might sympathize with his followers in their trials and afflictions, 2:10, 17, 18; 4:15, and might lead them through suffering to glory. If He is now invisible to the eye, it is only because He has entered the sanctuary, where He continually ministers to the spiritual needs of his followers, and insures them free access to the throne of God, 4:16; 6:18–20; 9:24; 10:18–22. He may seem distant, yet He is near, and they who believe can enjoy his presence and strength through faith. That is their true support in time of need, ch. 11, 12:1, 2. And though He tarry for a while, He will surely come in due time to lead his children to glory. They should willingly go forth without the camp, bearing his reproach, since they enjoy far greater privileges than the Old Testament saints and will at last enter their eternal inheritance.
2. Time and Place. It is not easy to determine the date of this letter, since it contains no definite notes of time. The majority of scholars agree in placing it before the destruction of Jerusalem. Thus Moll, Kurtz, Hilgenfeld, Reuss, Davidson, Weiss, Godet, Westcott, Salmon, Bruce, Barth, Dods. Others, however, as Baur, Kluge, Zahn, Meijboom, Volkmar and Hausrath bring it down to a later date. To our mind the evidence favors a date before the destruction of the temple, for (1) Though it is true that the author does not speak of the temple but of the tabernacle, the danger to which the Hebrew Christians were exposed seems to imply that the temple services were still carried on. (2) If the Jewish ritual had already ceased, it is strange that the writer does not refer to this, when he describes the transitory character of the old dispensation. And (3) the present tense used by the writer in the description of the Jewish services, 8:4 f.; 9:6, 9 (cf. Gk.); 10:1 ff.; 13:10 creates the presumption that the ministry of the temple was still continued. It is true that parallels to such presents use of past events can be pointed out in Clement of Rome. But as a rule the use of the present implies the existence of the subject spoken of, at the time of the speaker; and the question of 10:2, “Else would they not have ceased to be offered?” is certainly difficult to interpret on any other view. It is not possible to say, how long before the destruction of Jerusalem the Epistle was written, but from the solemn tone of the writer, and from the fact that, according to him, the readers saw the day of the Lord approaching, 10:25, we infer that it was but shortly before that great catastrophe. Cf. also 12:26, 27. We shall not go far wrong, if we date the Epistle about the year 69.

The letter was not regarded as canonical in the Western church until the fourth century; in the Eastern church, however, the recognition of its apostolicity and canonicity went hand in hand. Clement of Alexandria often quotes the letter as canonical, and Origen does sometimes, though he felt uncertain as to its Pauline authorship. The Epistle is found in the Peshito, but it is uncertain, whether it also had a place in the earliest Syriac translation. From the fourth century the Western church also admitted its canonical authority. The intrinsic value of the letter naturally commended it as authoritative and as a part of the Word of God. Augustine and Jerome regarded it as canonical, though they still had scruples about the authorship of Paul; and it was included in the Lists authorized by the Councils of Hippo in 393 and of Carthage in 397 and 419. From that time the Church did not again question the canonical authority of the Epistle until the time of the Reformation, when some Lutheran theologians had serious doubts.
The permanent value of this Epistle lies especially in two facts, which may be said to imply a third. In the first place it brings out, as no other New Testament book does, the essential unity of both the Old and the New Testament religions. They are both from God; they both center in Christ; they both pertain to the same spiritual verities; and they both aim at bringing man to God. In the second place the Epistle emphasizes the difference between the two dispensations, the one containing the shadows, the other the corresponding realities; the services of the one being earthly and therefore carnal and temporal, those of the other being heavenly and therefore spiritual and abiding; the ministry of the one effecting only ceremonial purity and union with God, that of the other issuing in the purification of the soul and in spiritual communion with God in heaven. And because the letter so presents the relation of the Old Covenant to the New, it is an inspired commentary on the entire Mosaic ritual.

The General Epistle of James



There are no clearly defined parts in this Epistle; hence no classification of its contents is attempted. After the opening salutation the writer points out the significance of temptation in the life of his readers, exhorts them to ask in faith for the wisdom needed in bearing them and warns them not to refer their inward temptations to God, 1:1–18. Then he admonishes them to receive the Word in all humility and to carry it out in action, 19–27. He warns them against that respect of persons that reveals itself in favoring the rich at the expense of the poor, reminding them of the fact that he who violates the law in one point breaks the whole law; 2:1–13; and asserts that it is foolish to trust to a faith without works, since this is dead, 14–26. A warning against rash teaching and reproving follows, based on the difficulty of controlling the tongue, which is yet of the very greatest importance, 3:1–12. Wisdom from above is commended to the readers, since the wisdom of this world is full of bitter envy and works confusion and evil, while heavenly wisdom is plenteous in mercy and yields good fruits, 13–18. The author then reprimands the readers for their quarrelsomeness, which results from a selfishness and lust that infects even one’s prayers and renders them futile; and exhorts them to humble themselves before God, 4:1–12. He condemns those who, in the pride of possession, forget their dependence on God, and denounces the rich that oppress and rob the poor, 4:13–5:6; after which he urges the brethren to be patient, knowing the Lord is at hand, 7–11. Finally he warns his readers against false swearing, gives special advice to the sick, exhorts them all to pray for one another, reminding them of the efficacy of prayer, and of the blessedness of turning a sinner from his sinful way, 12–20.

1. From a literary point of view the Epistle of James is quite different from those of Paul. The latter are real letters, which cannot be said of this Epistle. There is no benediction at the beginning, nor any salutation or greeting at the end. Moreover it contains very little that points to definite historical circumstances such as are known to us from other sources. Zahn calls this Epistle, “eine … in schriftliche Form gefasste Ansprache.” Einl. I p. 73. Barth speaks of it as, “eine Sammlung von Ansprachen des Jakobus an die Gemeinde zu Jerusalem,” which, he thinks were taken down by a hearer and sent to the Jewish Christians of the diaspora. Einl. p. 140. And Deissmann says: “The Epistle of James is from the beginning a little work of literature, a pamphlet addressed to the whole of Christendom, a veritable Epistle (as distinguished from a letter). The whole of the contents agrees therewith. There is none of the unique detail peculiar to the situation, such as we have in the letters of Paul, but simply general questions, most of them still conceivable under the present conditions of church life.” Light from the Ancient East p. 235.
2. The contents of the Epistle are not doctrinal but ethical. The writer does not discuss any of the great truths of redemption, but gives moral precepts for the life of his readers. There is no Christological teaching whatever, the name of Christ being mentioned but twice, viz. 1:1; 2:1. Beischlag correctly remarks that it is “so wesentlich noch Lehre Christi und so wenig noch Lehre von Christo.” The letter may be called, the Epistle of the Royal Law, 2:8. The emphasis does not rest on faith, but on the works of the law, which the writer views, not in its ceremonial aspect, but in its deep moral significance and as an organic whole, so that transgressing a single precept is equivalent to a violation of the whole law. The essential element of life according to the law is a love that reveals itself in grateful obedience to God and in self-denying devotion to one’s neighbor.
3. Some scholars, as f. i. Spitta, claim that this Epistle is really not a Christian but a Jewish writing; but the contents clearly prove the contrary. Yet it must be admitted that the Epistle has a somewhat Jewish complexion. While the writer never once points to the examplary life of Christ, he does refer to the examples of Abraham, Rahab, Job and Elijah. In several passages he reveals his dependence on the Jewish Chokmah literature, on the Sermon on the Mount, and on the words of Jesus generally; compare 1:2 with Matt. 5:12;—1:4 with Matt. 5:48;—1:5 with Matt. 7:7;—1:6 with Mark 11:23;—1:22 with Matt. 7:24;—2:8 with Mark 12:31;—2:13 with Matt. 5:7; 18:33;—4:10 with Matt. 23:12; etc. Moreover the author does not borrow his figurative language from the social and civil institutions of the Greek and Roman world, as Paul often does, but derives it, like the Lord himself had done, from the native soil of Palestine, when he speaks of the sea, 1:6; 3:4; of the former and the latter rain, 5:7; of the vine and the fig-tree, 3:12; of the scorching wind, 1:11; and of salt and bitter springs, 3:11, 12.
4. The Epistle is written in exceptionally good, though Hellenistic Greek. The vocabulary of the author is rich and varied, and perfectly adequate to the expression of his lofty sentiments. His sentences are not characterized by great variation; yet they have none of the utter simplicity, bordering on monotony, that marks the writings of John. The separate thoughts are very clearly expressed, but in certain instances there is some difficulty in tracing their logical sequence. We find some examples of Hebrew parallelism especially in the fourth chapter; downright Hebraisms, however are very few, cf. the adjectival genitive in 1:25, and the instrumental ev in 3:9.

According to external testimony James, the brother of the Lord, is the author of this Epistle. Origen is the first one to quote it by name, and it is only in Rufinus Latin translation of his works that the author is described as, “James, the brother of the Lord.” Eusebius mentions James, the brother of Christ, as the reputed author, remarking, however, that the letter was considered spurious. Jerome, acknowledging its authenticity, says: “James, called the Lord’s brother, surnamed the Just, wrote but one Epistle, which is among the seven catholic ones.
The author simply names himself, “James a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,” 1:1, thus leaving the question of his identity still a matter of conjecture, since there were other persons of that name in the apostolic Church. It is generally admitted, however, that there is but one James that meets the requirements, viz. the brother of the Lord, for: (1) The writer was evidently a man of great authority and recognized as such not only by the Jews in Palestine but also by those of the diaspora. There is only one James of whom this can be said. While James, the brother of John, and James the son of Alphæus soon disappear from view in the Acts of the Apostles, this James stands out prominently as the head of the Jerusalem church. During the Lord’s public ministry he did not yet believe in Christ, John 7:5. Probably his conversion was connected with the special appearance of the Lord to him after the resurrection, 1 Cor. 15:7. In the Acts we soon meet him as a man of authority. When Peter had escaped out of prison, after James the brother of John had been killed, he says to the brethren: “Go, show these things to James,” Acts 12:17. Paul says that he, on his return from Arabia, went to Jerusalem and saw only Peter and James, the Lord’s brother, Gal. 1:18, 19. On the following visit James, Cephas and John, who seemed to be pillars, gave Paul and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, Gal. 2:9. Still later certain emissaries came from James to Antioch and apparently had considerable influence, Gal. 2:12. The leading part in the council of Jerusalem is taken by this James, Acts 15:13 ff. And when, at the end of his third missionary journey, Paul comes to Jerusalem, he first greeted the brethren informally, and on the following day “went unto James, and all the elders were present,” Acts 21:18. (2) The authorship of this James is also favored by a comparison of the letter, Acts 15:23–29, very likely written under the inspiring influence of James, together with his speech at the council of Jerusalem, and certain parts of our Epistle, which reveals striking similarities. The salutation καίρειν, Acts 15:23, Jas. 1:1 occurs elsewhere in the New Testament only in Acts 23:26. The words τὸ καλὸν ὄνομα τὸ ἐπικληθὲν ἐφʼ ὑμᾶς, 2:7, can only be paralleled in the New Testament in Acts 15:17. Both the speech of James and the Epistle are characterized by pointed allusions to the Old Testament. The affectionate term ἀδελφός, of frequent occurrence in the Epistle (cf. 1:2, 9, 16, 19; 2:5, 15; 3:1; 4:11; 5:7, 9, 10, 12, 19), is also found in Acts 15:13, 23; compare especially Jas. 2:5 and Acts 15:13. Besides these there are other verbal coincidences, as ἐπισκέπτεσθαι, Jas. 1:27; Acts 15:14; τηρεῖν and διατηρεῖν, Jas. 1:27, Acts 15:29; ἐπιστρέφειν, Jas. 5:19, 20; Acts 15:19; ἀγαπητός, Jas. 1:16, 19; 2:5; Acts 15:25. (3) The words of the address are perfectly applicable to this particular James. He does not claim that he is an apostle, as do Paul and Peter in their Epistles. It might be objected, however, that if he was the brother of the Lord, he would have laid stress on that relation to enhance his authority. But does it not seem far more likely, in view of the fact that Christ definitely pointed out the comparative insignificance of this earthly relationship, Matt. 12:46–50, that James would be careful not to make it the basis of any special claim, and therefore simply speaks of himself as a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ?
Now the question comes up, whether this James cannot be identified with James, the son of Alphæus, one of the Lord’s apostle’s, Mt. 10:3; Mk. 3:18; Lk. 6:15; Acts 1:13. This identification would imply that the so-called brethren of the Lord were in reality his cousins, a theory that was broached by Jerome about A. D. 383, and which, together with the view of Epiphanius (that these brethren were sons of Joseph by a former marriage) was urged especially in the interest of the perpetual virginity. But this theory is not borne out by the data of Scripture, for: (1) The brethren of the Lord are distinguished from his disciples in John 2:12, and from the twelve after their calling in Mt. 12:46 ff.; Mk. 3:31 ff.; Lk. 8:19 ff.; and John 7:3. It is stated that they did not belong to the circle of his disciples, indirectly in Mt. 13:55; Mk. 6:3, and directly in John 7:5. (2) Although it is true that cousins are sometimes called brethren in Scripture, cf. Gen. 14:16; 29:12, 15, we need not assume that this is the case also in the instance before us. Moreover it is doubtful whether James the son of Alphæus was a cousin of Jesus. According to some this relationship is clearly implied in John 19:25; but it is by no means certain that in that passage, “Mary the wife of Clopas”, stands in apposition with, “his mother’s sister.” If we do accept that interpretation, we must be ready to believe that there were two sisters bearing the same name. It is more plausible to think that John speaks of four rather than of three women, especially in view of the fact that the gospels speak of at least five in connection with Jesus’ death and resurrection, cf. Mt. 27:56; Mk. 16:1; Lk. 24:10. But even if we suppose that he speaks of but three, how are we going to prove the identity of Alphæus and Clopas? And in case we could demonstrate this, how must we account for the fact that only two sons are named of Mary, the wife of Clopas, viz. James and Joses, Mt. 27:56; Mk. 15:40; Lk. 24:10, comp. John 19:25, while there are four brethren of the Lord, Mt. 13:55; Mk. 6:3, viz. James, Joses, Judas and Simon? It has been argued that Judas is indicated as a brother of James the less in Lk. 6:16; Acts 1:13, where we read of a Ἰούδας Ἰακώβου. But it is contrary to analogy to supply the word brother in such cases. (3) We repeatedly find the brethren of the Lord in the company of Mary, the mother of Jesus, just as we would expect to find children with their mother. Moreover in passages like Mt. 12:46; Mk. 3:31, 32; and Lk. 8:19 it is an exegetical mistake to take the word mother in its literal sense, and then to put a different interpretation on the word brother. We conclude, therefore, that James, the brother of the Lord and the author of this Epistle, was not an apostle. There are two passages that seem to point in a different direction, viz. Gal. 1:19 and 1 Cor. 15:7; but in the former passage ἐι μὴ may be adversative rather than exceptive, as in Lk. 4:26, 27, cf. Thayer in loco; and the name apostle was not limited to the twelve. The considerations of Lange in favor of identifying the author with James, the son of Alphæus, are rather subjective.
James seems to have been a man of good common sense, with a well balanced judgment, who piloted the little vessel of the Jerusalem church through the Judæistic breakers with a skillful hand, gradually weaning her from ceremonial observances without giving offense and recognizing the greater freedom of the Gentile churches. He was highly respected by the whole Church for his great piety and whole-hearted devotion to the saints. The account of Hegesippus with respect to his paramount holiness and ascetic habits is in all probability greatly overdrawn. Cf. Eusebius II 23.
The authorship of James has been called in question by many scholars during the last century, such as DeWette, Schleiermacher, Baur, Hilgenfeld, Holtzmann, Harnack, Spitta, Baljon e. a. The main reasons for regarding the Epistle as spurious, are the following: (1) The condition of the church reflected in it reminds one of the church at Rome in the time of Hermas, when the glowing love of the first time had lost its fervency. (2) The Greek in which the Epistle is written is far better than one could reasonably expect of James, who always resided in Palestine. (3) The writer does not mention the law of Moses, nor refer to any of its precepts, but simply urges the readers to keep the perfect law that requires love, charity, peacefulness, etc., just as a second century writer would do; while James believed in the permanent validity of the Mosaic law, at least for the Jews. (4) The Epistle bears traces of dependence on some of the Epistles of Paul, especially Romans and Galatians, on the Epistle to the Hebrews and on I Peter; and clearly contradicts the Pauline doctrine of justification by faith.
But these arguments need not shake our conviction as to the authorship of James. The condition implied in this letter may very well and, at least in part, is known to have existed about the middle of the first century. Jos. Ant. XX 8.8; 9.2 Cf. especially Salmon, Introd, p. 501 f. With respect to the second argument Mayor remarks that, accepting the view that Jesus and his brethren usually spoke Aramaeic, “we are not bound to suppose that, with towns like Sepphoris and Tiberius in their immediate vicinity, with Ptolomais, Scythopolis and Gadara at no great distance, they remained ignorant of Greek.” Hastings D. B. Art. James, the General Epistle of. The idea that James was a fanatic Judæist and therefore could not but insist on keeping the Mosaic law, is not borne out by Scripture. He was a Jewish Christian and reveals himself as such f. i. in Acts 15:14–29; 21:20–25 and in his Epistle, cf. 2:5 ff.; 3:2; 4:7, 14. His insistence on the spirit of the law, not at all Judæistic, is in perfect harmony with the teaching of the Lord. The literary dependence to which reference has been made may, in so far as any really exists, just as well be reversed, and the contradiction between James and Paul is only apparent. Cf. the larger Introductions and the Commentaries.

The Epistle is addressed to “the twelve tribes which are in the dispersion,” 1:1. Who are indicated by these words? The adverbial phrase, “in the dispersion” excludes the idea that the writer refers to all the Jewish Christians, including even those in Palestine (Hofmann, Thiersch); and the contents of the letter forbid us to think that he addresses Jews and Jewish Christians jointly (Thiele, Guericke, Weiss). There are, however, two interpretations that are admissible. The expression may designate the Jewish Christians that lived outside of Palestine (the great majority of scholars); but it may also be a description of all the believers in Jesus Christ that were scattered among the Gentiles, after the analogy of 1 Pet. 1:1 and Gal. 6:16 (Koster, Hilgenfeld, Hengstenberg, Von Soden). Zahn is rather uncertain in his interpretation. He finds that the twelve tribes mentioned here form an antithesis to the twelve tribes that were in Palestine, and refer either to Christianity as a whole, or to the totality of Jewish Christians; and reminds us of the fact that there was a time, when the two were identical. Einl. I p. 55. We prefer to think of the Jewish Christians of the diaspora in Syria and neighboring lands, which were probably called “the twelve tribes” as representing the true Israel, because (1) the Epistle does not contain a single reference to Gentile Christians; (2) James was pre-eminently the leader of the Jewish Church; (3) the entire complexion of the Epistle points to Jewish readers.
The Epistle being of an encyclical character, naturally does not have reference to the situation of any particular local church, but to generally prevailing conditions at that time. The Jewish Christians to whom the Epistle is addressed were subject to persecutions and temptations, and the poor were oppressed by the rich that, possibly, did not belong to their circle. They did not bear these temptations with the necessary patience, but were swayed by doubt. They even looked with envy at the glitter of the world and favored the rich at the expense of the poor. In daily life they did not follow the guidance of their Christian principles, so that their faith was barren. There may have been dead works, but the fruits of righteousness were not apparent.

1. Occasion and Purpose. The occasion for writing this Epistle is found in the condition of the readers which we just described. James, the head of the Jerusalem church, would naturally be informed of this, probably in part by his own emissaries to the various churches of the diaspora, Acts 15:22; 2 Cor. 3:1; Gal. 2:12, and in part by those Jewish Christians that came from different lands to join in the great festivals at Jerusalem.
The object of the Epistle was ethical rather than didactic; it was to comfort, to reprove and to exhort. Since the readers were persecuted to the trial of their faith, and were tempted in various ways, the writer comes to them with words of consolation. Feeling that they did not bear their trials with patience, but were inclined to ascribe to God the temptations that endangered them as a result of their own lust and worldliness, he reproves them for the error of their way. And with a view to the blots on their Christian life, to their worldliness, their respect of persons, their vainglory and their envy and strife, he exhorts them to obey the royal law, that they may be perfect men.
2. Time and Place. The place of composition was undoubtedly Jerusalem, where James evidently had his continual abode. It is not so easy to determine when the letter was written. We have a terminus ad quem in the death of James about the year 62, and a terminus a quo in the persecution that followed the death of Stephen about A. D. 35, and that was instrumental in scattering the Jewish church. Internal evidence favors the idea that it was written during this period, for (1) There is no reference in the Epistle to the destruction of Jerusalem either as past or imminent; but the expectation of the speedy second coming of Christ, that was characteristic of the first generation of Christians, was still prevalent, 5:7–9. (2) The picture of the unbelieving rich oppressing the poor Christians and drawing them before tribunals, is in perfect harmony with the description Josephus gives of the time immediately after Christ, when the rich Sadducees tyrannized over the poor to such a degree that some starved. Ant. XX 8.8; 9.2. This condition terminated with the destruction of Jerusalem. (3) The indistinctness of the line of separation between the converted and the unconverted Jews also favors the supposition that the letter was composed during this period, for until nearly the end of that time these two classes freely intermingled both at the temple worship and in the synagogues. In course of time, however, and even before the destruction of Jerusalem, this condition was gradually changed.
But the question remains, whether we can give a nearer definition of the time of composition. In view of the fact that the Christian Jews addressed in this letter must have had time to spread and to settle in the dispersion so that they already had their own places of worship, we cannot date the Epistle in the very beginning of the period named. Neither does it seem likely that it was written after the year 50, when the council of Jerusalem was held, for (1) the Epistle does not contain a single allusion to the existence in the church of Gentile Christians; and (2) it makes no reference whatever to the great controversy respecting the observance of the Mosaic law, on which the council passed a decision. Hence we are inclined to date the Epistle between A. D. 45 and 50.
Some have objected to this early date that the Epistle is evidently dependent on Romans, Galatians, Hebrews and I Peter; but this objection is an unproved assumption. It is also said that the πρεσβύτεροι mentioned in 5:14 imply a later date. We should remember, however, that the Church, especially among the Jews, first developed out of the synagogue, in which presbyters were a matter of course. Moreover some urge that the Christian knowledge assumed in the readers, as in 1:3; 3:1, does not comport with such an early date. It appears to us that this objection is puerile.
Of those who deny the authorship of James some would date the Epistle after the destruction of Jerusalem, Reuss, Von Soden, and Hilgenfeld in the time of Domitian (81–96); Blom in A. D. 80; Brückner and Baljon in the time of Hadrian (117–138).

There was considerable doubt as to the canonicity of this Epistle in the early church. Some allusions to it have been pointed out in Clement of Rome, Hermas and Irenaeus, but they are very uncertain indeed. We cannot point to a single quotation in Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria and Tertullian, though some are inclined to believe on the strength of a statement made by Eusebius, Ch. Hist. VI 14 that Clement commented on this Epistle, just as he did on the other general Epistles. There are reasons, however, to doubt the correctness of this statement, cf. Westcott, on the Canon p. 357. The letter is omitted from the Muratorian Fragment, but is contained in the Peshito. Eusebius classes it with the Antilegomena, though he seems uncertain as to its canonicity. Origen was apparently the first to quote it as Scripture. Cyril of Jerusalem, Athanasius and Gregory of Nazianze recognized it, and it was finally ratified by the third council of Carthage in A. D. 397. During the Middle Ages the canonicity of the Epistle was not doubted, but Luther for dogmatical reasons called it “a right strawy Epistle.” Notwithstanding the doubts expressed in the course of time, the Church continued to honor it as a canonical writing ever since the end of the fourth century.
The great permanent value of this Epistle is found in the stress it lays on the necessity of having a vital faith, that issues in fruits of righteousness. The profession of Christ without a corresponding Christian life is worthless and does not save man. Christians should look into the perfect law, and should regulate their lives in harmony with its deep spiritual meaning. They should withstand temptations, be patient under trials, dwell together in peace without envying or strife, do justice, exercise charity, remember each other in prayer, and in all their difficulties be mindful of the fact that the coming of the Lord is at hand.

The First General Epistle of Peter



The contents of the Epistle can be divided into four parts:
I. Introduction, 1:1–12. After the greeting, 1, 2, the apostle praises God for the blessings of salvation, which should raise the readers above all temporal sufferings, since they are so great that the prophets searched them, and the angels were desirous to understand their mystery, 3–12.
II. General Exhortations to a worthy Christian Conversation, 1:13–2:10. The writer exhorts the readers to become ever more firmly grounded in their Christian hope. To that end the holiness of God should be the standard of their life, 1:13–16; they must fear God, and as regenerated persons, love the brethren and seek to increase in spiritual life, 1:17–2:3. This growth should not only be individual, however, but also communal, a developing into a spiritual unity, 4–10.
III. Particular Directions for the special Relations of Life, 2:11–4:6. The author urges the readers to be dutiful to the authorities, 2:11–17; more particularly he exhorts the servants among them to follow the example of Christ in self-denying service, 18–25; the wives to submit themselves to their husbands, and the husbands to love their wives and to treat then with consideration, 3:1–7. Then he admonishes them all to do good and to refrain from evil, that in their sufferings they may be like their Master, whom they should also follow in their Christian conversation, 3:8–4:6.
IV. Closing Instructions for the present Needs of the Readers, 4:7–5:14. The apostle exhorts the readers to prayer, brotherly love, hospitality, and conscientiousness in the exercise of their official duties, 4:7–11. He warns them not to be discouraged by persecutions, but to regard these as necessary to the imitation of Christ, 12–19. Further he exhorts the elders to rule the flock of Christ wisely, the younger ones to submit to the elder; and all to humble themselves and to place their trust in God, 5:1–9; and ends the letter with good wishes and a salutation, 10–14.

1. Though there are some doctrinal statements in the Epistle, its chief interest is not theoretical but practical, not doctrinal but ethical. It has been said that, while Paul represents faith and John love, Peter is the apostle of hope. This distinction, which may easily be misconstrued, nevertheless contains an element of truth. The basic idea of the Epistle is that the readers are begotten again unto a lively hope, the hope of an incorruptable, undefiled and unfading inheritance. This glorious expectation must be an incentive for them to strive after holiness in all the relations of life, and to bear patiently the reproach of Christ, mindful of the fact that He is their great prototype, and that suffering is the pre-requisite of everlasting glory.
2. The Epistle has a characteristic impress of Old Testament modes of thought and expression. Not only does it, comparatively speaking, contain more quotations from and references to the Old Testament than any other New Testament writing, cf. 1:16, 24, 25; 2:3, 4, 6, 7, 9, 10, 22–24; 3:10–12, 13, 14; 4:8, 17, 18; 5:5, 7; but the entire complexion of the letter shows that the author lived and moved in Old Testament conceptions to such an extent, that he preferably expresses his thoughts in Old Testament language.
3. On the other hand, there is great similarity between this Epistle and some of the New Testament writings, notably the Epistles of Paul to the Romans and to the Ephesians, and the Epistle of James. And this likeness is of such a character as to suggest dependence of the one on the other. Nearly all the thoughts of Rom. 12 and 13 are also found in this letter; compare 2:5 with Rom. 12:1;—1:14 with Rom. 12:2;—4:10 with Rom. 12:3–8;—1:22 with Rom. 12:9;–2:17 with Rom. 12:10, etc. The relationship between it and the Epistle to the Ephesians is evident not only from single passages, but also from the structure of the letter. There is a certain similarity in the general and special exhortations, which is probably due to the fact that both Epistles are of a general character. Compare also the passages 1:3 and Eph. 1:3;—1:5 and Eph. 1:19;—1:14 and Eph. 2:3;—1:18 and Eph. 4:17;—2:4, 5 and Eph. 2:20–22. There are also points of resemblance between this Epistle and that of James, and though not so numerous, yet they indicate a relation of dependence; compare 1:6, 7 with Jas. 1:2, 3;—2:1 with Jas. 1:21;–5:5–9 with Jas. 4:6, 7, 10.
4. The Greek in which this letter is written is some of the best that is found in the New Testament. Though the language is simple and direct, it is not devoid of artistic quality. Simcox, comparing it with the language of James, says: “St. Peter’s language is stronger where St. James is weak, and weaker where he is strong—it is more varied, more classical, but less eloquent and of less literary power.” The Writers of the New Testament p. 66. The authors vocabulary is very full and rich, and his sentences flow on with great regularity, sometimes rising to grandeur. It is noticeable, however, that the writer, though having a good knowledge of Greek in general, was particularly saturated with the language of the Septuagint.

The external authentication of this Epistle is very strong. Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, Origen and Cyprian all quote it by name and without expressing the slightest doubt as to its canonicity. And Eusebius says: “One Epistle of Peter called his first is universally received.” Salmon suggests that, in view of what Westcott says, its omission from the Muratorian Canon may be due to the error of a scribe, who left out a sentence. Cf. Westcott, The canon of the N. T., Appendix C.
Aside from the fact that the letter is self-attested there is very little internal evidence that can help us to determine who the author was. There is nothing that points definitely to Peter, which is in part due to the fact that we have no generally recognized standard of comparison. The speeches in Acts may not have been recorded literally by Luke; and II peter is one of the most doubted Epistles of the New Testament, partly because it is so dissimilar to our letter. If we leave the first verse out of consideration, we can only say on the strength of internal evidence that the writer was evidently an eyewitness of the sufferings of Christ, 3:1; that the central contents of his teaching is, like that of Peter in the Acts of the Apostles, the death and the resurrection of Christ; and that his attitude toward the Christians of the Gentiles is in perfect harmony with that of the apostle of the circumcision. Moreover the persons mentioned in 5:12, 13 are known to have been acquaintances of Peter, cf. Acts 12:12; 15:22.
The apostle Peter, originally called Simon, was a native of Bethsaida, John 1:42, 44. When the Lord entered on his public ministry, Peter was married and dwelt at Capernaum, Lk. 4:31, 38. He was the son of Jonas, Mt. 16:17 and was, with his father and his brother, by occupation a fisherman, Mk. 1:16. We find him among the first that were called to follow the Lord, Mt. 4:18, 19, and he soon received a certain prominence among the disciples of Jesus. This was in harmony with the new name, Πέτρος, which the Lord gave him, John 1:42. With John and James he formed the inner circle of the disciples; together they were the most intimate followers of the Saviour and as such enjoyed special privileges. They only entered with the Lord into the house of Jairus, Lk. 8:51; none but they witnessed his glory on the Mount of Transfiguration, Mt. 17:1; and they alone beheld him in his hour of great grief in the garden of Gethsemane, Mt. 26:37. The trial of Jesus was also the hour of Peter’s deepest fall, for on that occasion he thrice denied his Master, Mt. 26:69–75. He truly repented of his deed, however, and was restored to his former position by the Lord, John 21:15–17. After the ascension he is found at the head of the disciples at Jerusalem, guiding them in the choice of an apostle in the place of Judas, Acts 1:15–26, and preaching the Pentecostal sermon, Acts 2:14–36. Laboring at first in connection with John, he healed the lame man, repeatedly addressed the people in the temple, executed judgment on Ananias and Sapphira, and once and again defended the cause of Christ before the Sanhedrin, Acts 3–5. During the time of persecution that followed the death of Stephen, they together went to Samaria to establish the work of Philip, Acts 8:14 ff. In Lydda he healed Aeneas, Acts 9:22 f. and raised up Tabitha in Joppa, Acts 9:36 f. By means of a vision he was taught that the Gentiles too were to be admitted to the Church, and was prepared to go and preach Christ to the household of Cornelius, Acts 10:1–48. After James, the brother of John was killed, Peter was cast in prison, but, being delivered by an angel, he left Jerusalem, Acts 12:1–17. Later he returned thither and was present at the council of Jerusalem, Acts 15. Nothing certain is known of his movements after this time. From 1 Cor. 9:5 we infer that he labored at various places. On one occasion Paul rebuked him for his dissimulation, Gal. 2:11 ff. From all the traditions regarding his later life we can gather only one piece of reliable information, to the effect that towards the end of his life he came to Rome, where he labored for the propagation of the Gospel and suffered martyrdom under Nero.
Peter was a man of action rather than of deep thought. He was always eager and impulsive, but, as is often the case with such persons, was wanting in the necessary stability of character. Burning with love towards the Saviour, he was always ready to defend his cause, Mt. 17:24, 25; 16:22; Lk. 22:33; John 18:10, and to confess his name, John 6:68 f.; Mt. 16:16. But his action was often characterized by undue haste, as f. i. when he rebuked Christ, Mt. 16:22, smote the servant of the high priest, John 18:10, and refused to let the Saviour wash his feet, John 13:6; and by too much reliance on his own strength, as when he went out upon the sea, Mt. 14:28–31, and declared himself ready to die with the Lord, Mt. 26:35. It was this rashness and great self-confidence that led to his fall. By that painful experience Peter had to be taught his own weakness before he could really develop into the Rock among the apostle’s. After his restoration we see him as a firm confessor, ready, if need be, to lay down his life for the Saviour.
Until the previous century the Epistle was generally regarded as the work of Peter, and even now the great majority of New Testament scholars have reached no other conclusion. Still there are several, especially since the time of Baur, that deny its authenticity, as Hilgenfeld, Pfleiderer, Weizsäcker, Hausrath, Keim, Schürer, Von Soden e. a. The most important objections urged against the traditional view, are the following: (1) The Epistle is clearly dependent on Pauline letters, while it contains very few traces of the Lord’s teaching. This is not what one would expect of Peter, who had been so intimate with the Lord and had taken a different stand than Paul, Gal. 2:11ff. Harnack regards this argument as decisive, for he says: “Were it not for the dependence (of I Peter) on the Pauline Epistles, I might perhaps allow myself to maintain its genuineness; that dependence, however, is not accidental, but is of the essence of the Epistle.” Quoted by Chase, Hastings D. B. Art. I Peter. (2) It is written in far better Greek than one can reasonably expect of a Galilean fisherman like Peter, of whom we know that on his missionary journeys he needed Mark as an interpreter. Davidson regards it as probable that he never was able to write Greek. (3) The Epistle reflects conditions that did not exist in the lifetime of Peter. The Christians of Asia Minor were evidently persecuted, simply because they were Christians, persecuted for the Name, and this, it is said, did not take place until the time of Trajan, A. D. 98–117. (4) It is very unlikely that Peter would write a letter to churches founded by Paul, while the latter was still living.
As to the first argument, we need not deny with Weiss and his pupil Kühl that Peter is dependent on some of the writings of Paul, especially on Romans and Ephesians. In all probability he read both of these Epistles, or if he did not see Ephesians, Paul may have spoken to him a good deal about its contents. And being the receptive character that he was, it was but natural that he should incorporate some of Paul’s thoughts in his Epistle. There was no such antagonism between him and Paul as to make him averse to the teachings of his fellow-apostle. The idea of an evident hostility between the two is exploded, and the theory of Baur that this letter is a Unionsschrift, is destitute of all historical basis and is burdened with a great many, improbabilities. Moreover it need not cause surprise that the teaching of this Epistle resembles the teaching of Paul more than it does that of Christ, because the emphasis had shifted with the resurrection of the Lord, which now, in connection with his death, became the central element in the teaching of the apostle’s. Compare the sermons of Peter in the Acts of the Apostles.
With respect to the objection that Peter could not write, such Greek as we find in this Epistle, we refer to what Mayor says regarding James, cf. p. 286 above. The fact that Mark is said to have been the interpreter of Peter does not imply that the latter did not know Greek, cf. p. 80 above. It is also possible, however, that the Greek of this Epistle is not that of the apostle. Zahn argues with great plausibility from 5:12, Διὰ Σιλουανοῦ, that Silvanus took an active part in the composition of the letter, and in all probability wrote it under the immediate direction rather than at the verbal dictation of Peter, Einl. II p. 10 f. Cf. also Brown on I Peter in loco‚, and J. H. A. Hart, Exp. Gk. Test. IV p. 13 f. Against this, however, cf. Chase, Hastings D. B. Art. I Peter. It is possible that Silvanus was both the amanuensis of Peter and the bearer of the Epistle.
The third argument is open to two objections. On the one hand it rests on a faulty interpretation of the passages that speak of the sufferings endured by the Christians of Asia Minor, as 1:6; 3:9–17; 4:4 f., and especially 4:12–19; 5:8–12. And on the other hand it is based on a misunderstanding of the correspondence between Pliny and Trajan A. D. 112. The passages referred to do not imply and do not even favor the idea that the Christians were persecuted by the state, though they do point to an ever increasing severity of their sufferings. There is no hint of judicial trials, of the confiscation of property, of imprisonments or of bloody deaths. The import of the Epistle is that the readers were placed under the necessity of bearing the reproach of Christ in a different form. As Christians they were subject to ridicule, to slander, to ill treatment, and to social ostracism; they were the outcasts of the world, 4:14. And this, of course, brought with it manifold temptations, 1:6. At the same time the correspondence of Pliny and Trajan does not imply that Rome did not persecute Christians as such until about A. D. 112. Ramsay says that this state of affairs may have arisen as early as the year 80; and Mommsen, the greatest authority on Roman history, is of the opinion that it may have existed as early as the time of Nero.
The last objection is of a rather subjective character. Peter was undoubtedly greatly interested in the work among the Christians of Asia Minor; and it is possible that he himself had labored there for some time among the Jews and thus became acquainted with the churches of that region. And does it not seem likely that he, being informed of their present sufferings, and knowing of the antagonism of the Jews, who had occasionally used his name to undermine the authority and to subvert the doctrine of Paul, would consider it expedient to send them a letter of exhortation, urging them to abide in the truth in which they stood, and thus indirectly strengthening their confidence in his fellow-apostle?

The letter is addressed to “the elect who are sojourners of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia,” 1:1. The use of the strictly Jewish term διασπορά is apt to create the impression that the letter was sent to Jewish Christians. Origen said, presumably on the strength of this superscription, that Peter seems to have preached to the Jews in the dispersion. And Eusebius felt sure that this letter was sent to Hebrews or to Jewish Christians. The great majority of the church fathers agreed with them. Among recent scholars Weiss and Kühl defend the position that the letter was addressed to Jewish congregations founded in Asia Minor by Peter. But the idea that the original readers of this Epistle were Christians of Jewish extraction is not favored by internal evidence. Notice especially (1) the passages that point to the past moral condition of the readers, as 1:14 (comp. Gal. 4:8; Eph. 4:18); 1:18 (comp. Eph. 1:17); 4:2–4 (comp. 1 Thess. 4:5; Eph. 2:11); and (2) the emphatic use of “you” as distinguished from the “us” found in the context, to mark the readers as persons that were destined to receive the blessings of the gospel and to whom these at last came. Moreover this is in perfect agreement with what we know of the churches of Asia Minor; they certainly consisted primarily of Gentile Christians. But the question is naturally asked, whether this view is not contradicted by the address. And to that question we answer that it certainly is, if the word διασπορᾶς must be taken literally; but this will also bear, and, in harmony with the contents of the Epistle, is now generally given a figurative interpretation. The word διαπορᾶς is a Genitivus appostitivus (for which cf. Blass, Grammatik p. 101) with παρεπιδήμοις. Taken by itself the address is a figurative description of all believers, whether they be Jewish or Gentile Christians, as sojourners on earth, who have here no abiding dwellingplace, but look for a heavenly city; and who constitute a dispersion, because they are separated from that eternal home of which the earthly Jerusalem was but a symbol. In agreement with this the apostle elsewhere addresses the readers as “pilgrims and strangers,” 2:11, and exhorts them “to pass the time of their sojourning here in fear,” 1:17. Cf. the Comm. of Huther, Brown, and Hart (Exp. Gk. Test.), and the Introductions of Zahn, Holtzmann, Davidson and Barth. Salmon admits the possibility of this interpretation, but is yet inclined to take the word διασπορᾶς literally, and to believe that Peter wrote his letter to members of the Roman church that were scattered through Asia Minor as a result of Nero’s persecution. Introd. p. 485.
As to the condition of the readers, the one outstanding fact is that they were subject to hardships and persecutions because of their allegiance to Christ, 1:17; 2:12–19. There is no sufficient evidence that they were persecuted by the state; they suffered at the hands of their associates in daily life. The Gentiles round about them spoke evil of them, because they did not take part in their revelry and idolatry, 4:2–4. This constituted the trial of their faith, and it seems that some were in danger of becoming identified with the heathen way of living, 2:11, 12, 16. They were in need of encouragement and of a firm hand to guide their feeble steps.

1. Occasion and Purpose. In a general way we can say that the condition just described led Peter to write this Epistle. He may have received information regarding the state of affairs from Mark or Silvanus, who is undoubtedly to be indentified with Paul’s companion of that name, and was therefore well acquainted with the churches of Asia Minor. Probably the direct occasion for Peter’s writing must be found in a prospective journey of Silvanus to those churches.
The writer’s purpose was not doctrinal but practical. He did not intend to give an exposition of the truth, but to emphasize its bearings on life, especially in the condition in which the Christians of Asia Minor were placed. The Tübingen critics are mistaken, however, when they hold that the unknown writer, impersonating Peter, desired to make it appear as if there was really no conflict between the apostle of the circumcision and the apostle of the Gentiles, and to unite the discordant factions in the Church; for (1) such antagonistic parties did not exist in the second century, and (2) the Epistle does not reveal a single trace of such a tendency. The writer incidentally and in a general way states his aim, when he says in 5:12, “By Silvanus—I have written briefly, exhorting and testifying that this is the true grace of God wherein ye stand.” The main purpose of the author was evidently to exhort the readers to suffer, not as evil-doers, but as well-doers, to see to it that they should suffer for the sake of Christ only; to suffer patiently, remaining steadfast in spite of all temptations; and to bear their sufferings with a joyful hope, since they would issue in a glory that never fades away. And because these sufferings might lead them to doubt and discouragement, the writer makes it a point to testify that the grace in which they stand, and with which the sufferings of this present time are inseparably connected, is yet the true grace of God, thus confirming the work of Paul.
2. Time and Place. There are especially three theories regarding the place of composition, viz. (1) that the Epistle was sent from Babylon on the Euphrates; (2) that it was composed at Rome; and (3) that it was written from Babylon near Cairo in Egypt. The last hypothesis found no support and need not be considered. The answer to the question respecting the place of composition depends on the interpretation of 5:13, where we read: “She (the church) that is in Babylon, elect together with you, saluteth you.” The prima facie impression made by these words is that the writer was at ancient Babylon, the well known city on the Euphrates. Many of the early church fathers, however, (Papias, Clement of Alexandria, Hippolytus, Eusebius, Jerome) and several later commentators and writers on Introduction (Bigg, Hart, Salmon, Holtzmann, Zahn, Chase) regard the name Babylon as a figurative designation of Rome, just as it is in the Apocalypse, 17:5; 18:2, 10. In favor of the literal interpretation it is argued, (1) that its figurative use is very unlikely in a matter-of-fact statement; and (2) that in 1:1 the order in which the provinces of Asia Minor are named is from the East to the West, thus indicating the location of the writer. Aside from the fact, however, that the last argument needs some qualification, these considerations seem to be more than off-set by the following facts: (1) An old and reliable tradition, that can be traced to the second century, informs us that Peter was at Rome towards the end of his life, and finally died there as a martyr. This must be distinguished from that fourth century tradition to the effect that he resided at Rome for a period of twenty-five years as its first bishop. On the other hand there is not the slightest record of his having been at Babylon. Not until the Middle Ages was it inferred from 5:13 that he had visited the city on the Euphrates. (2) In the Revelation of John Rome is called Babylon, a terminology that was likely to come into general use, as soon as Rome showed herself the true counterpart of ancient Babylon, the representative of the world as over against the Church of God. The Neronian persecution certainly began to reveal her character as such. (3) The symbolical sense is in perfect harmony with the figurative interpretation of the address, and with the designation of the readers as “pilgrims and strangers in the earth.” (4) In view of what Josephus says in Ant. XVIII 9. it is doubtful, whether Babylon would offer the apostle a field for missionary labors at the time, when this Epistle was composed. We regard it as very likely that the writer refers to Rome in 5:13.
With respect to the time when this Epistle was written, the greatest uncertainty prevails. Dates have been suggested all the way from 54 to 147 A. D. Of those who deny the authorship of Peter the great majority refer the letter to the time of Trajan after A. D. 112, the date of Trajan’s rescript, for reasons which we already discussed. Thus Baur, Keim, Lipsius, Pfleiderer, Hausrath, Weizsäcker, Hilgenfeld, Davidson e. a. In determining the time of writing we must be guided by the following data: (1) The Epistle cannot have been written later than A. D. 67 or 68, the traditional date of Peter’s death, which some, however place in the year 64. Cf. Zahn Einl. II p. 19. (2) Peter had evidently read the Epistles of Paul to the Romans (58) and that to the Ephesians (62), and therefore cannot have written his letter before A. D. 62. (3) The letter makes no mention whatever of Paul, so that presumably it was written at a time when this apostle was not at Rome. (4) The fact that Peter writes to Pauline churches favors the idea that Paul had temporarily withdrawn from his field of labor. We are inclined to think that he composed the Epistle, when Paul was on his jojurney to Spain, about A. D. 64 or 65.

The canonicity of the letter has never been subject to doubt in the opening centuries of our era. It is referred to in 2 peter 3:1. Papias evidently used it and there are clear traces of its language in Clement of Rome, Hermas and Polycarp. The old Latin and Syriac Versions contain it, while it is quoted in the Epistle of the churches of Vienne and Lyons, Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria and Tertullian all quote it by name, and Eusebius classes it with the Homologoumena.
Some scholars objected to this Epistle that it was characterized by a want of distinctive character. But the objection is not well founded, since the letter certainly has a unique significance among the writings of the New Testament. It emphasizes the great importance which the hope of a blessed and eternal inheritance has in the life of God’s children. Viewed in the light of their future glory, the present life of believers, with all its trials and sufferings, recedes into the background, and they realize that they are strangers and pilgrims in the earth. From that point of view they understand the significance of the sufferings of Christ as opening up the way to God, and they also learn to value their own hardships as these minister to the development of faith and to their everlasting glory. And then, living in expectation of the speedy return of their Lord, they realize that their sufferings are of short duration, and therefore bear them joyfully. In the midst of all her struggles the Church of God should never forget to look forward to her future glory,—the object of her living hope.

The Second General Epistle of Peter



The contents of the Epistle can be divided into two parts:
I. The Importance of Christian Knowledge, 1:1–21. After the greeting, 1, 2, the author reminds the readers of the great blessings they received through the knowledge of Jesus Christ, and urges them to live worthy of that knowledge and thus to make sure their calling and election, 3–11. He says that he deemed it expedient to put them in mind of what they knew, and that he would see to it that they had a remembrance of these things after his decease, 12–15. This knowledge is of the greatest value, because it rests on a sure foundation, 16–21.
II. Warning against False Teachers, 2:1–3:18. The apostle announces the coming of false prophets, who shall deny the truth and mislead many, 2:1–3. Then he proves the certainty of their punishment by means of historical examples, 4–9, and gives a minute description of their sensual character, 10–22. Stating that he wrote the letter to remind them of the knowledge they had received, he informs them that the scoffers that will come in the last days, will deny the advent of Christ, 3:1–4. He refutes their arguments, assuring the readers that the Lord will come, and exhorting them to a holy conversation, 5–13. Referring to his agreement with Paul in this teaching, he ends his letter with an exhortation to grow in grace and in the knowledge of Jesus Christ, 14–18.

1. Like the first Epistle this second one is also a letter of practical warning, exhortation and encouragement. But while in the former the dominant note is that of Christian hope, the controlling idea in the latter is that of Christian knowledge. It is the “ἐπίγνωσις χριστοῦ, which consists essentially in the acknowledgment of the δύναμις κὰι παρουσία of Christ. Advancement in this ἐπίγνωσις, as the ground and aim of the exercise of all Christian virtues, is the prominent feature of every exhortation.” Huther, Comm. p. 344. This knowledge, resting on a sure foundation, must be the mainstay of the readers, when false doctrines are propagated in their midst, and must be their incentive to holiness in spite of the seducing influences round about them.
2. This Epistle has great affinity with that of Jude, cf. 2:1–18; 3:1–3. The similarity is of such a character that it cannot be regarded as accidental, but clearly points to dependence of the one on the other. Though it cannot be said that the question is absolutely settled, the great majority of scholars, among whom there are some who deny the authorship of Peter (Holtzmann, Jülicher, Chase, Strachan, Barth e. a.), and others who defend the authenticity of the Epistle (Wiesinger, Brückner, Weiss, Alford, Salmon), maintain the priority of Jude. The main reasons that lead them to this conclusion, are the following: (1) The phraseology of Jude is simpler than that of Peter in the related passages. The language of the latter is more laborious and looks like an elaboration of what the former wrote. (2) Several passages in Peter can be fully understood only in the light of what Jude says, compare 2:4 with Jude 6; 2:11 with Jude 9; 3:2 with fade 17. (3) Though the similar passages are adapted to the subject-matter of both Epistles, they seem more natural in the context of Jude than in Peter; The course of thought is more regular in the Epistle of Jude.—The priority of Jude is quite well established, though especially Zahn, Spitta (who defends the second Epistle of Peter at the cost of the first) and Bigg put up an able defense for the priority of Peter.
3. The language of II peter has some resemblance to that of the first Epistle, cf Weiss, Introd. II p. 166, but the difference between the two is greater than the similarity. We need not call special attention to the ἅπαξ λεγόμενα found in this letter, since it contains but 48, while I Peter has 58. But there are other points that deserve our attention. Bigg says: “The vocabulary of I Peter is dignified; that of II peter inclines to the grandiose.” Comm. p. 225. And according to Simcox, “we see in this Epistle, as compared with the first, at once less instinctive familiarity with Greek idiom and more conscious effort at elegant Greek composition.” Writers of the N. T. p. 69.
There are 361 words in I Peter that are not found in this Epistle, and 231 in II Peter that are absent from the first letter. There is a certain fondness for the repetition of words, cf. Holtzmann, Einl. p. 322, which Bigg, however, finds equally noticeable in I Peter. The connecting particles, ἵνα, ὅτι, οὖν, μέν, found frequently in I Peter, are rare in this Epistle, where instead we find sentences introduced with τοῦτο or ταῦτα, cf. 1:8, 10; 3:11, 14. And while in the first Epistle there is a free interchange of prepositions, we often find a repetition of the same preposition in the second, f. i. διά, is found three times in 1:3–5 and ἐν seven times in 1:5–7. Different words are often used to express the same ideas; compare ἀποκάλυψις, 1 Pt. 1:7, 13; 4:13 with παρουσία, 2 Pt. 1:16; 3:4;—ῥαντισμός, 1 Pt. 1:2 with καθαρισμός, 2 Pt. 1:9;—κληρονομία, 1 Pt. 1:4 with ἁιώνος βασιλεία, 2 Pt. 1:11.

This Epistle is the most weakly attested of all the New Testament writings. Besides that of Jerome we do not find a single statement in the fathers of the first four centuries explicitly and positively ascribing this work to Peter. Yet there are some evidences of its canonical use, which indirectly testify to a belief in its genuineness. There are some phrases in Clement of Rome, Hermas, the Clementine Recognitions and Theophilus that recall II peter, but the coincidences may be accidental. Supposed traces of this Epistle are found in Irenaeus, though they may all be accounted for in another way, cf. Salmon, Introd. p. 324 f. Eusebius and Photius say that Clement of Alexandria commented on our Epistle, and their contention may be correct, notwithstanding the doubt cast on it by Cassiodorus, cf. Davidson, Introd. II p. 533 f. Origen attests that the book was known in his time, but that its genuineness was disputed. He himself quotes it several times without any expression of doubt. It is pointed out, however, that these quotations are found in those parts of his work that we know only in the Latin translation of Rufinus, which is not always reliable; though, according to Salmon, the presumption is that Rufinus did not invent them, Introd. p. 533 f. Eusebius classes this letter with the Antilegomena; and Jerome says: “Simon Peter wrote two Epistles, which are called catholic; the second of which most persons deny to be his, on account of its disagreement in style with the first.” This difference he elsewhere explains by assuming that Peter employed a different interpreter. From that time the Epistle was received by Rufinus, Augustine, Basil, Gregory, Palladius, Hilary, Ambrose e. a. During the Middle Ages it was generally accepted, but at the time of the Reformation Erasmus and Calvin, though accepting the letter as canonical, doubted the direct authorship of Peter. Yet Calvin believed that in some sense the Petrine authorship had to be maintained, and surmised that a disciple wrote it at the command of Peter.
The Epistle itself definitely points to Peter as its author. In the opening verse the writer calls himself, “Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ,” which clearly excludes the idea of Grotius, that Symeon, the successor of James at Jerusalem, wrote the letter. From 1:16–18 we learn that the author was a witness of the transfiguration of Christ; and in 3:1 we find a reference to his first Epistle. As far as style and expression are concerned there is even greater similarity between this letter and the speeches of Peter in the Acts of the Apostles than between the first Epistle and those addresses. Moreover Weiss concludes that, from a biblical and theological point of view, no New Testament writing is more like I Peter than this Epistle, Introd. II p. 165. Besides the whole spirit of the Epistle is against the idea that it is a forgery. Calvin maintained its canonicity, “because the majesty of the Spirit of Christ exhibited itself in every part of the Epistle.”
Notwithstanding this, however, the authenticity of the letter is subject to serious doubt in modern times, such scholars as Mayerhoff, Credner, Hilgenfeld, Von Soden, Hausrath, Mangold, Davidson, Volkmar, Holtzmann, Jülicher, Harnack, Chase, Strachan e. a. denying that Peter wrote it. But the Epistle is not without defenders; its authenticity is maintained among others by Luthardt, Wiesinger, Guericke, Windischmann, Brückner, Hofmann, Salmon, Alford, Zahn, Spitta, and Warfield, while Huther, Weiss, and Kühl conclude their investigations with a non liquet.
The principle objections to the genuineness of II Peter are the following: (1) The Language of the Epistle is so different from that of I Peter as to preclude the possibility of their proceeding from the same author. (2) The dependence of the writer on Jude is inconsistent with the idea that he was Peter, not only because Jude was written long after the lifetime of Peter, but also since it is unworthy of an apostle to rely to such a degree on one who did not have that distinction. (3) It appears that the author is over-anxious to identify himself with the apostle Peter: there is a threefold allusion to his death, 1:13–15; he wants the readers to understand that he was present at the transfiguration, 1:16–18; and he identifies himself with the author of the first Epistle, 3:1. (4) In 3:2, where the reading ὑμῶν is better attested than ἡμῶν, the writer by using the expression, τῆς τῶν ἀποστόλων ὑμῶν ἐντολῆς, seems to place himself outside of the apostolic circle. Deriving the expression from Jude, the writer forgot that he wanted to pass for an apostle and therefore could not use it with equal propriety. Cf. Holtzmann, Einl. p. 321. (5) The writer speaks of some of Paul’s Epistles as Scripture in 3:16, implying the existence of a New Testament canon, and thus betrays his second century standpoint. (6) The Epistle also refers to doubts regarding the second coming of Christ, 3:4 ff., which points beyond the lifetime of Peter, because such doubts could not be entertained before the destruction of Jerusalem. (7) According to Dr. Abbott (in the Expositor) the author of II peter is greatly indebted to the Antiquities of Josephus, a work that was published about A. D. 93.
We cannot deny that there is force in some of these arguments, but do not believe that they compel us to give up the authorship of Peter. The argument from style is undoubtedly the most important one; but if we accept the theory that Silvanus wrote the first Epistle under the direction of Peter, while the apostle composed the second, either with his own hand or by means of another amanuensis, the difficulty vanishes.—As far as the literary dependence of Peter on Jude is concerned, it is well to bear in mind that this is not absolutely proved. However, assuming it to be established, there is nothing derogatory in it for Peter, since Jude was also an inspired man, and because in those early days unacknowledged borrowing was looked at in a far different light than it is today.—That the author is extremely solicitous to show that he is the appostle Peter, is, even if it can be proved, no argument against the genuineness of this letter. In view of the errorists against which he warns the readers, it was certainly important that they should bear in mind his official position. But it cannot be maintained that he insists on this over-much. The references to his death, his experience on the Mount of Transfiguration, and his first Epistle are introduced in a perfectly natural way. Moreover this argument is neutralized by some of the others brought forward by the negative critics. If the writer really was so over-anxious, why does he speak of himself as Simon Peter, cf. 1 Pt. 1:1; why does he seemingly exclude himself from the apostolic circle, 3:2; and why did he not more closely imitate the language of I peter?—The difficulty created by 3:2 is not as great as it seems to some. If that passage really disproves the authorship of Peter, it certainly was a clumsy piece of work of a very clever forger, to let it stand. But the writer, speaking of the prophets as a class, places alongside of them another class, viz. that of the apostle’s, who had more especially ministered to the New Testament churches, and could therefore as a class be called, “your apostle’s,” i. e. the apostle’s who preached to you. The writer evidently did not desire to single himself out, probably, if for no other reasons, because other apostle’s had labored more among the readers than he had.—The reference to the Epistles of Paul does not necessarily imply the existence of a New Testament canon; and it is a gratuitous assumption that they were not regarded as Scripture in the first century, so that the burden of proof rests on those who make it.—The same may be said of the assertion that no doubt could be entertain as the second coming of Christ before the destruction of Jerusalem. Moreover the author does not say that these were already expressed, but that they would be uttered by scoffers that would come in the last days.—The attempt to prove the dependence of II peter on Josephus, has been proved fallacious, especially by Salmon and by Dr. Warfield. The former says in conclusion: “Dr. Abbot has completely failed to establish his theory; but I must add that it was a theory never rational to try to establish.” Introd. p. 536.

The readers are simply addressed as those “that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ,” 1:1. From 3:1 we gather, however, that they are identical with the readers of the first Epistle; and from 3:15, that they were also the recipients of some Pauline Epistle(s). It is vain to guess what Epistle(s) the writer may have had in view here. Zahn argues at length that our Epistle was written to Jewish Christians in and round about Palestine, who had been led to Christ by Peter and by others of the twelve apostle’s. He bases his conclusion on the general difference of circumstances presupposed in the two letters of Peter, and on such passages as 1:1–4, 16–18; 3:2. But it seems to us that the Epistle does not contain a single hint regarding the Jewish character of its readers, while passages like 1:4 and 3:15 rather imply their Gentile origin. Moreover, in order to maintain his theory, Zahn must assume that both 3:1 and 3:15 refer to lost letters, cf. Einl. II p. 43 ff.
The condition of the readers presupposed in this letter is indeed different from that reflected in the first Epistle. No mention is made of persecution; instead of the affliction from without, internal dangers are now coming in view. The readers were in need of being firmly grounded in the truth, since they would soon have to contend with heretical teachers, who theoretically would deny the Lord’ship of Jesus Christ, 2:1, and his second coming, 3:4; and practically would disgrace their lives by licentiousness, ch. 2. These heretics have been described as Sadducees, as Gnostics, and as Nicolaitans, but it is rather doubtful, whether we can identify them with any particular sect. They certainly were practical Antinomians, leading careless, wanton and sinful lives, just because they did not believe in the resurrection and in a future judgment. Their doctrine was, in all probability, an incipient Gnosticism.
Since the author employs both the future and the present tense in describing them, the question arises, whether they were already present or were yet to come. The most natural explanation is that the author already knew such false teachers to be at work in some places (cf. especially I Corinthians and the Epistles to the Thessalonians), so that he could consequently give a vivid description of them; and that he expected them to extend their pernicious influence also to the churches of Asia Minor.

1. Occasion and Purpose. The occasion that led to the composition of this Epistle must be found in the dangerous heresies that were at work in some of the churches, and that also threatened the readers.
In determining the object of the writer the Tübingen school emphasized 3:15, and found it in the promotion of harmony and peace between the Petrine and Pauline parties (Baur, Schwegler, Hausrath). With this end in view, they say, the writer personating Peter, the representative of Jewish Christendom, acknowledges Paul, who represents the more liberal tendency of the Church. But it is unwarranted to lay such stress on that particular passage. Others regarded the Epistle as primarily a polemic against Gnosticism, against the false teachers depicted in the letter. Now it cannot be denied that the Epistle is in part controversial, but it is only its secondary character. The main object of the letter, as indicated in 1:16 and 3:1, 2, was to put the readers in mind of the truth which they had learned, in order that they might not be led astray by the theoretical and practical libertines that would soon make their influence felt, and especially to strengthen their faith in the promised parousia of Jesus Christ.
2. Time and Place. The Epistle contains no certain data as to the time of its composition. We can only infer from 3:1 that it was written after I peter, though Zahn, who is not bound by that passage, places it before the first Epistle, about A. D. 60–63. The fact that the condition of the churches, which is indicated in this letter, is quite different from that reflected in the earlier writing, presupposes the lapse of some time, though it does not require many years to account for the change. A short time would suffice for the springing up of the enemies to which the Epistle refers. Can we not say, in view of the tendencies apparent at Corinth that their doctrines had already been germinating for some time? Moreover, according to 1:14 the writer felt that his end was near. Hence we prefer to date the letter about the year 66 or 67.
They who deny the authenticity of the Epistle generally place it somewhere between the years 90 and 175, for such reasons as its dependence on Jude and on the Apocalypse of Peter, its reference to Gnosticism, and its implication respecting the existence of a New Testament canon.
Since a trustworthy tradition informs us that Peter spent the last part of his life at Rome, the Epistle was in all probability composed in the imperial city. Zahn points to Antioch, and Jülicher suggests Egypt as the place of composition.

For the reception of this Epistle in the early church, we refer to what has been said above.
Like all the canonical writings this one too has abiding significance. Its importance is found in the fact that it emphasizes the great value of true Christian knowledge, especially in view of the dangers that arise for believers from all kinds of false teachings, and from the resultant example of a loose, a licentious, an immoral life. It teaches us that a Christianity that is not well founded in the truth as it is in Christ, is like a ship without a rudder on the turbulent sea of life. A Christianity without dogma cannot maintain itself against the errors of the day, but will go down before the triumphant forces of darkness; it will not succeed in cultivating a pure, noble spiritual life, but will be conformed to the life of the world. In particular does the Epistle remind us of the fact that faith in the return of Christ should inspire us to a holy conversation.

The First General Epistle of John



It is impossible to give a satisfactory schematic representation of the contents of this letter. After the introduction, 1:1–4, in which the apostle declares that the purpose of his ministry is to manifest the life-giving divine Word, in order that the readers may have fellowship with him and the other apostle’s, and through them with God and Christ, he defines the character of this fellowship and points out that, since God is light, believers also should be and walk in the light, 5–10, i. e. they should guard against sin and keep Gods commandments, 2:1–6. He reminds the readers of the great commandment, which is at once old and new, that they should love the brethren, 7–14; and in connection with this warns them not to love the world, and to beware of the false teachers that deny the truth, 15–27.
The representation of God as light now passes over into that of God as righteous, and the writer insists that only he that is righteous can be a child of God, 2:28–3:6. He reminds the readers of the fact that to be righteous is to do righteousness, which in turn is identical with love to the brethren, 7–17. Once more he warns the readers against the love of the world, and points out that the commandment of God includes two things, viz. belief in Christ and love to the brethren, 18–24.
In view of the false teachers he next reminds the readers that the test of having the Spirit of God, is to be found in the true confession of Christ, in adherence to the teaching of the apostle’s, and in that faith in Jesus that is the condition of love and of true spiritual life, 4:1–5:12. Finally he states the object of the Epistle once more, and gives a brief summary of what he has written, 13–21.

1. The literary form of this Epistle is different from that of all the other New Testament letters, the Epistle to the Hebrews and that of James resembling it most in this respect. Like the Epistle to the Hebrews it does not name its author nor its original readers, and contains no apostolic blessing at the beginning; and in agreement with that of James it has no formal conclusion, no greetings and salutations at the end. This feature led some to deny its epistolary character; yet, taking everything into consideration, the conclusion is inevitable that it is an Epistle in the proper sense of the word, and not a didactic treatise. “The freedom of the style, the use of such direct terms as, ‘I write unto you,’ ‘I wrote unto you,’ and the footing on which writer and readers stand to each other all through its contents, show it to be no formal composition.” (Salmond) Moreover it reveals no such plan as would be expected in a treatise. The order found in it is determined by association rather than by logic, the thoughts being grouped about certain clearly related, ruling ideas.
2. The great affinity of this Epistle with the Gospel of John naturally attracts attention. The two are very similar in the general conception of the truth, in the specific way of representing things, and in style and expression. Besides there are several passages in both that are mutually explanatory, as f. i.:

1:1, 2 John 1:1, 2, 4, 14
2:1 John 14:16
2:2 John 11:51, 52
2:8 John 13:34; 15:10, 12
2:10 John 11:9, 10; 12:35
2:23 John 15:23, 24
2:27 John 14:26; 16:13
3:8, 15 John 8:44
3:11, 16 John 15:12, 13
4:6 John 8:47
5:6 John 19:34, 35
5:9 John 5:32, 34, 36; 8:17, 18
5:12 John 3:36
5:13 John 20:31
5:14 John 14:13, 14; 16:23
5:20 John 17:3

Hence many scholars assume a very intimate connection of the Epistle with the Gospel, regarding it as a kind of introduction (Lightfoot), a sort of dedicatory writing (Hausrath, Hofmann), or a practical companion (Michaelis, Storr, Eichhorn), destined to accompany the Gospel. At the same time there are differences of such a kind between the two writings, as make it seem more likely that the Epistle is an independent composition. Cf. Holtzmann, Einl. p. 478; Salmond, Hastings D. B. Art. I John, 5.
3. The truth is represented in this Epistle ideally rather than historically. This important fact is stated by Salmond concisely as follows: “The characteristic ideas of the Epistle are few and simple, they are of large significance, and they are presented in new aspects and relations as often as they occur. They belong to the region of primary principles, realities of the intuition, certainties of the experience, absolute truths. And they are given in their absoluteness. (Italics are ours). The regenerate man is one who cannot sin; Christian faith is presented in its ideal character and completeness; the revelation of life is exhibited in its finality, not in the stages of its historical realization.” Cf. especially Weiss, Biblical Theology of the N. T. II p. 311 ff. Stevens, Johannine Theology, p. 1 ff.
4. The style of the Epistle is very similar to that of the Gospel. Fundamental words and phrases are often repeated, such as “truth,” “love,” “light,” “In the light,” “being born of God,” “abiding in God,” etc.; and the construction is characterized by utter simplicity, the sentences being coordinated rather than subordinated, and involved sentences being avoided by the repetition of part of a previous sentence. There is a remarkable paucity pf connecting particles, f. i. γάρ occurs only three times; δέ but nine times; μέν τε and οὖν are not found at all (while the last is of frequent occurrence in the Gospel). On the other hand ὅτι is often used, and κάι is the regular connective. In many cases sentences and clauses follow one another without connecting particles, e. g. 2:22–24; 4:4–6, 7–10, 11–13.

The authorship of John is clearly attested by external testimony. Eusebius says that Papias employed this Epistle, and also that Irenaeus often quoted from it. The last assertion is borne out by the work against heresies, in which Irenaeus repeatedly quotes the letter and ascribes it to John. Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, Cyprian and Origen all quote it by name; it is contained in the Muratorian Fragment and in the old Latin and Syriac Versions; and Eusebius classes it with the writings universally received by the churches. This testimony may be regarded as very strong, especially in view of the fact that the author is not named in the Epistle.
That conviction of the early church is corroborated by what internal evidence we have. All the proofs adduced for the Johannine authorship of the fourth Gospel also apply in the case of this Epistle, cf. p. 106 above. The two writings are so similar that they evidently were composed by the same hand. It is true, there are some points of difference, but these divergencies are of such a kind that they altogether preclude the idea that the Epistle is the product of a forger trying to imitate John. The almost general verdict is that he who wrote the one, also wrote the other. From 1:1–3 it is evident that the author has known Christ in the flesh; and the whole Epistle reveals the character of John as we know it from the Gospel and from tradition.
But the authenticity of the letter did not go unchallenged. In the second century the Alogi and Marcion rejected it, but only for dogmatical reasons. The truth presented in it did not fit their circle of ideas. The next attack on it followed in the sixteenth century, when Joseph Scaliger declared that none of the three Epistles that bear the name of John, were written by him; and S. G. Lange pronounced our letter unworthy of an apostle. It was not until 1820, however, that an important critical assault was made on the Epistle by Bretschneider. He was followed by the critics of the Tübingen school who, however they may differ in the details of their arguments, concur in denying the Johannine authorship and in regarding the Epistle as a second century production. Some of them, such as Köstlin, Georgii, and Hilgenfeld maintain that this Epistle and the fourth Gospel were composed by the same hand, while others, as Volkmar, Zeller, Davidson, Scholten e. a. regard them as the fruit of two congenial spirits.
The main arguments against the Johannine authorship are the following: (1) The Epistle is evidently directed against second century Gnosticism, which separated in a dualistic manner knowledge and conduct, the divine Christ and the human Jesus, cf. 2:4, 9, 11; 5:6, etc. (2) The letter also seems to be a polemic against Docetism, another second century heresy, cf. 4:2, 3. (3) There are references to Montanism in the Epistle, as f. i. where the writer speaks of the moral perfection of believers, 3:6, 9, and distinguishes between sins unto death and sins not unto death, 3:16, 17, a distinction which, Tertullian says, was made by the Montanists. (4) The difference between this Epistle and the Apocalypse is so great that it is impossible that one man should have written both.
We need not deny that the Epistle is partly an indirect polemic against Gnosticism, but we maintain that this was an incipient Gnosticism that made its appearance before the end of the first century in the heresy of Cerinthus, so that this does not argue against the authorship of John.—The supposed references to Docetism are very uncertain indeed; but even if they could be proved they would not point beyond the first century, for most of the Gnostics were also Docetæ, and the Cerinthian heresy may be called a species of Docetism.—The representations of John have nothing in common with those of the Montanists. When he speaks of the perfection of believers, he speaks ideally and not of a perfection actually realized in this life. Moreover the “sin unto death” to which he refers, is evidently a complete falling away from Christ, and is not to be identified with the sins to which Tertullian refers, viz. “murder, idolatry, fraud, denial of Christ, blasphemy, and assuredly also adultery and fornication.”—With reference to the last argument we refer to what we have said above p. 111, and to the explanation given of the difference between the Apocalypse and the other Johannine writings below p. 321.

There is very little in the letter that can help us to determine the location of the original readers. Because there is no local coloring whatever, it is not likely that the Epistle was sent to some individual church, as Ephesus (Hug) or Corinth (Lightfoot); and since the letter favors the idea that it was written to Gentile, rather than to Jewish Christians, it is very improbable that it was destined for the Christians of Palestine (Benson). There is not a single Old Testament quotation in the Epistle, nor any reference to the Jewish nationality or the Jewish tenets of the readers. The statement of Augustine that this is John’s letter “ad Parthos” is very obscure. Some, as f. i. Grotius, inferred from it that the Epistle was written for Christians beyond the Euphrates; but most generally it is regarded as a mistaken reading for some other expression, the reading πρός παρθένους, finding most favor, which, Gieseler suggests, may in turn be a corruption of the title τὅυ παρθένου, which was commonly given to John in early times.
In all probability the correct opinion respecting the destination of this Epistle is that held by the majority of scholars, as Bleek, Huther, Davidson, Plummer, Westcott, Weiss, Zahn, Alford e. a., that it was sent to the Christians of Asia Minor generally, for (1) that was John’s special field of labor during the latter part of his life; (2) the heresies referred to and combated were rife in that country; and (3) the Gospel was evidently written for the Christians of that region, and the Epistle presupposes similar circumstances.
We have no definite information retarding the condition of the original readers. They had evidently left behind the Church’s early struggles for existence and now constituted a recognized κοινωνία of believers, a community that placed its light over against the darkness of the world, and that distinguished itself from the unrighteous by keeping the commandments of God. They only needed to be reminded of their true character, which would naturally induce them to a life worthy of their fellowship with Christ. There are dangerous heresies abroad, however, against which they must be warned. The pernicious doctrine of Cerinthus, that Jesus was not the Christ, the Son of God, threatened the peace of their souls; and the subtle error, that one could be righteous without doing righteousness, endangered the fruitfulness of their Christian life.

1. Occasion and Purpose. Although the Epistle is not primarily and directly polemical, yet it was most likely occasioned by the dangers to which we already referred.
As to the object of the letter the author himself says: “that which we have seen and heard declare we unto you also, that ye also may have fellowship with us; yea, and our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ,” 1:3; and again in 5:13: “These things have I written unto you, that ye may know that ye have eternal life, even unto you that believe in the Name of the Son of God.” The direct purpose of the author is to give his readers authentic instruction regarding the truth and reality of the things which they, especially as believers in Jesus Christ, accepted by faith; and to help them to see the natural issues of the fellowship to which they had been introduced, in order that they might have a full measure of peace and joy and life. The purpose of the writer is therefore at once theoretical and practical.
2. Time and Place. What we said above, pp. 113, 114, respecting the date of the fourth Gospel and the place of its composition, also favors the idea that this Epistle was written between the years 80–98, and at Ephesus. It is impossible to narrow down these time-limits any more. The only remaining question is, whether the Epistle was written prior to the Gospel, (Bleek, Huther, Reuss, Weiss), or the Gospel prior to the Epistle (DeWette, Ewald, Guericke, Alford, Plummer). It appears to us that the grounds adduced for the priority of the Epistle, as f. i. that a writing of momentary design naturally precedes one of permanent design; a letter of warning to particular churches, a writing like the Gospel addressed to all Christendom,—are very weak. And the arguments for the other side are almost equally inconclusive, although there is some force in the reasoning that the Epistle in several places presupposes a knowledge of the Gospel, cf. the points of resemblance referred to on p. 311 above. But even this does not carry conviction, for Reuss correctly says: “For us, the Epistle needs the Gospel as a commentary; but inasmuch as at the first it had one in the oral instruction of the author, it is not thereby proved that it is the later.” History of the N. T. I p. 237. Salmond and Zahn wisely conclude their discussion of this point with a non liquet.

The canonicity of this letter was never doutbed by the Church. Polycarp and Papias, both disciples of John, used it, and Irenaeus, a disciple of Polycarp, directly ascribes it to John. Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, Cyprian, Origen and Dionysius of Alexandria all quote it by name, as a writing of the apostle John. It is referred to as John’s in the Muratorian Fragment, and is contained in the old Latin and Syriac Versions.
The abiding significance of this important Epistle is, that it pictures us ideally the community of believers, as a community of life in fellowship with Christ, mediated by the word of the apostle’s, which is the Word of life. It describes that community as the sphere of life and light, of holiness and righteousness, of love to God and to the brethren; and as the absolute antithesis to the world with its darkness and death, its pollution and unrighteousness, its hatred and deception. All those who are introduced into that sphere should of necessity be holy and righteous and filled with love, and should avoid the world and its lusts. They should test the spirits, whether they be of God, and shun all anti-Christian error. Thus the Epistle describes for the Church of all ages the nature and criteria of heavenly fellowship, and warns believers to keep themselves unspotted from the world.

The Second and Third General Epistles of John



The Second Epistle. After the address and the apostolic blessing, 1–3, the writer expresses his joy at finding that some of the children of the addressee walk in the truth, and reiterates the great commandment of brotherly love, 4–6. He urges the readers to exercise this love and informs them that there are many errorists, who deny that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, admonishing them not to receive these, lest they should become partakers of their evil deeds, 7–11. Expressing his intention to come to them, he ends his Epistle with a greeting, 12, 13.
The Third Epistle. The writer, addressing Gajus, sincerely wishes that he may prosper, as his soul prospereth, 1–3. He commends him for receiving the itinerant preachers, though they were strangers to him, 5–8. He also informs the brother that he has written to the church, but that Diotrephes resists his authority, not receiving the brethren himself and seeking to prevent others from doing it, 9, 10. Warning Gajus against that evil example, he commends Demetrius, mentions an intended visit, and closes the Epistle with greetings, 11–14.

1. These two Epistles have rightly been called twin-epistles, since they reveal several points of similarity. The author in both styles himself the elder; they are of about equal length; each one of them, as distinguished from the first Epistle, begins with an address and ends with greetings; both contain an expression of joy; and both refer to itinerant preachers and to an intended visit of the writer.
2. The letters show close affinity to I John. What little they contain of doctrinal matter is closely related to the contents of the first Epistle, where we can easily find statements corresponding to those in 2 John 4–9 and 3 John 11. Several concepts and expressions clearly remind us of I John, as f. i. “love,” “truth,” “commandments,” “a new commandment,” one “which you had from the beginning,” “loving truth,” “walking in the truth,” “abiding in” one, “a joy that may be fulfilled,” etc. Moreover the aim of these letters is in general the same as that of the first Epistle, viz. to strengthen the readers in the truth and in love; and to warn them against an incipient Gnosticism.

Considering the brevity of these Epistles, their authorship is very well attested. Clement of Alexandria speaks of the second Epistle and, according to Eusebius, also commented on the third. Irenaeus quotes the second Epistle by name, ascribing it to “John the Lord’s disciple.” Tertullian and Cyprian contain no quotations from them, but Dionysius of Alexandria, Athanasius and Didymus received them as the work of the apostle. The Muratorian Canon in a rather obscure passage mentions two Epistles of John besides the first one. The Peshito does not contain them; and Eusebius, without clearly giving his own opinion, reckons them with the Antilegomena. After his time they were generally received and as such recognized by the, councils of Laodicea (363), Hippo (393) and Carthage (397).
Internal evidence may be said to favor the authorship of John. One can scarcely read these letters without feeling that they proceeded from the same hand that composed I John. The second Epistle especially is very similar to the first, a similarity that can hardly be explained, as Baljon suggests, from an acquaintance of the author with I John, Inl. p. 237, 239. And the third Epistle is inseparably linked to the second. The use of a few Pauline terms, προπέμπειν, εὐοδοῦσθαι and ὑγιαίνειν, and of a few peculiar words, as φλυαρεῖν, φιλοπρωτεύειν ὑπολαμβάνειν, prove nothing to the contrary.
The great stumbling block, that prevents several scholars from accepting the apostolic authorship of these Epistles, is found in in the fact that the author simply styles himself ὁ πρεσβύτερος. This appellation led some, as Erasmus, Grotius, Beck, Bretschneider, Hase, Renan, Reuss, Wieseler e. a., to ascribe them to a certain well-known presbyter John, distinct from the apostle. This opinion is based on a passage of Papias, as it is interpreted by Eusebius, The passage runs thus: “If I met anywhere with anyone who had been a follower of the elders, I used to inquire what were the declarations of the elders; what was said by Andrew, by Peter, by Philip, what by Thomas or James, what by John or Matthew, or any other of the disciples of our Lord; and the things which Aristion and the presbyter John, the disciples of the Lord say; for I did not expect to derive so much benefit from the contents of books as from the utterances of a living and abiding voice.” From this statement Eusebius infers that among the informants of Papias there was besides the apostle John also a John the presbyter, Church Hist. III 39. But the correctness of this inference is subject to doubt. Notice (1) that Papias first names those whose words he received through others and then mentions two of whom he had also received personal instruction, cf. the difference in tense, εἶπεν and λέγουσιν; (2) that it seems very strange that for Papias, who was himself a disciple of the apostle John, anyone but the apostle would be ὁ πρεσβύτερος; (3) that Eusebius was the first to discover this second John in the passage of Papias: (4) that history knows nothing of such a John the presbyter; he is a shadowy person indeed; and (5) that the Church historian was not unbiased in his opinion; being averse to the supposed Chiliasm of the Apocalypse, he was only too glad to find another John to whom he could ascribe it.
But even if the inference of Eusebius were correct, it would not prove that this presbyter was the author of our Epistles. The same passage of Papias clearly establishes the fact that the apostle’s were also called elders in the early Church. And does not the appellation, ὁ πρεσβύτερος, admirably fit the last of the apostle’s, who for many years was the overseer of the churches in Asia Minor? He stood preeminent above all others; and by using this name designated at once his official position and his venerable age.

The second Epistle is addressed to “ἐκλεκτῇ κυρίᾳ and her children, whom I love in truth, and not only I, but all those that know the truth,” 1:1. There is a great deal of uncertainly about the interpretation of this address. On the assumption that the letter was addressed to an individual, the following renderings have been proposed: (1) to an elect lady; (2) to the elect lady; (3) to the elect Kuria; (4) to the Lady Electa; (5) to Electa Kuria.
The first of these is certainly the simplest and the most natural one, but considered as the address of an Epistle, it is too indefinite. To our mind the second, which seems to be grammatically permissible, is the best of all the suggested interpretations. As to the third, it is true that the word κυρία does occur as a proper name, cf. Zahn, Einl. II p. 584; but on the supposition that this is the case here also, it would be predicated of a single individual, which in Scripture is elsewhere done only in Rom. 16:13, a case that is not altogether parallel; and the more natural construction would be κυρίᾳ τῇ ἐκλεκτῇ. Cf. 3 John 1:1; the case in 1 Pet. 1:1 does not offer a parallel, because παρεπιδήμοις is not a proper noun. The fourth must be ruled out, since ἐκλεκτά is not known to occur as a nomen proprium; and if this were the name of the addressee, her sister, vs. 13, would strangely bear the same name. The last rendering is the least likely, burdening the lady, as it does, with two strange names. If the letter was addressed to an individual, which is favored by the analogy of the third Epistle, and also by the fact that the sister’s children are spoken of in vs. 13, while she herself is not mentioned, then in all probability the addressee was a lady well known and highly esteemed in the early church, but not named in the letter. Thus Salmond (Hastings D. B.), while Alford and D. Smith regard Kuria as the name of the lady.
In view of the contents of the Epistle, however, many from the time of Jerome on have regarded the title as a designation of the Church in general (Jerome, Hilgenfeld, Lunemann, Schmiedel), or of some particular church (Huther, Holtzmann, Weiss, Westcott, Salmon, Zahn, Baljon). The former of these two seems to be excluded by vs. 13, since the Church in general can hardly be represented as having a sister. But as over against the view that the Epistle was addressed to an individual, the latter is favored by (1) the fact that everything of a personal nature is absent from the Epistle; (2) the plurals which the apostle constantly uses, cf. 6, 8, 10, 12; (3) the way in which he speaks to the addressee in vss. 5, 8; (4) the expression, “and not I only, but also all they that have known the truth,” 1, which is more applicable to a church than to a single individual; and (5) the greeting, 13, which is most naturally understood as the greeting of one church to another. If this view of the Epistle is correct, and we are inclined to think it is, κυρία is probably used as the feminine of κύριος, in harmony with the Biblical representation that the Church is the bride of the Lamb. It is useless to guess, however, what particular church is meant. Since the church of Ephesus is in all probability the sister, it is likely that one of the other churches of Asia Minor is addressed.
The third Epistle is addressed to a certain Gajus, of whom we have no knowledge beyond that gained from the Epistle, where he is spoken of as a beloved friend of the apostle, and as a large-hearted hospitable man, who with a willing heart served the cause of Christ. There have been some attempts to identify him with a Gajus who is mentioned in the Apostolic Constitutions as having been appointed bishop of Pergamum by John, or with some of the other persons of the same name in Scripture, Acts 19:29; 20:4, especially with Paul’s host at Corinth, Rom. 16:23; 1 Cor. 1:14; but these efforts have not been crowned with success.

1. Occasion and Purpose. In all probability the false agitators to whom the apostle refers in the Second Epistle, 7–12, gave him occasion to write this letter. His aim is to express his joy on account of the obedience of some of the members of the church, to exhort all that they love one another, to warn them against deceivers who would pervert the truth, and to announce his coming.
The third Epistle seems to have been occasioned by the reports of certain brethren who traveled about from place to place and were probably engaged in preaching the Gospel. They reported to the apostle that they had enjoyed the hospitality of Gajus, but had met with a rebuff at the hands of Diotrephes, an ambitious fellow (probably, as some have thought, an elder or a deacon in the church), who resisted the authority of the apostle and refused to receive the brethren. The authors purpose is to express his satisfaction with the course pursued by Gajus, to condemn the attitude of Diotrephes, to command Demetrius as a worthy brother, and to announce an intended visit.
2. Time and Place. The assumption seems perfectly warranted that John wrote these Epistles from Ephesus, where he spent perhaps the last twenty-five years of his life. We have no means for determining the time when they were composed. It may safely be said, however, that it was after the composition of I John. And if the surmise of Zahn and Salmon is correct, that the letter referred to in 3 John 9 is our second Epistle, they were probably written at the same time. This idea is favored somewhat by the fact that the expression, “I wrote somewhat (ἐγραψά τι) to the church,” seems to refer to a short letter; and by the mention of an intended visit at the end of each letter. But from the context it would appear that this letter must have treated of the reception or the support of the missionary brethren, which is not the case with our second Epistle.

There was some doubt at first as to the canonicity of these Epistles. The Alexandrian church generally accepted them, Clement, Dionysius and Alexander of Alexandria all recognizing them as canonical, though Origen had doubts. Irenaeus cites a passage from the second Epistle as John’s. Since neither Tertullian nor Cyprian quote them, it is uncertain, whether they were accepted by the North African church. The Muratorian Fragment mentions two letters of John in a rather obscure way. In the Syrian church they were not received, since they were not in the Peshito, but in the fourth century Ephrem quotes both by name. Eusebius classed them with the Antilegomena, but soon after his time they were universally accepted as canonical.
The permanent significance of the second Epistle is that it emphasizes the necessity of abiding in the truth and thus exhibiting one’s love to Christ. To abide in the doctrine of Christ and to obey his commandments, is the test of sonship. Hence believers should not receive those who deny the true doctrine, and especially the incarnation of Christ, lest they become partakers of their evil deeds.
The third Epistle also has its permanent lesson, in that it commends the generous love that reveals itself in the hospitality of Gajus, shown to those who labor in the cause of Christ, and denounce the self-centered activity of Diotrephes; for these two classes of men are always found in the Church.

The General Epistle of Jude



The writer begins his Epistle with the regular address and apostolic blessing, 1, 2. He informs his readers that he felt it incumbent on him to warn them against certain intruders, who deny Christ, lead lascivious lives and will certainly be punished like the people delivered from Egypt, the fallen angels and the cities of the plain, 3–7. These intruders are further described as defilers of the flesh and as despisers and blasphemers of heavenly dignities, and the woe is pronounced on them, 8–11. After giving a further description of their debauchery, the author exhorts the readers to be mindful of the words of the apostle’s, who had spoken of the appearance of such mockers, 12–19. Admonishing them to increase in faith and to keep themselves in the love of God, and giving them directions as to the correct behaviour towards others, he concludes his Epistle with a doxology, 20–25.

1. This Epistle is characterized by its very close resemblence to parts of II peter. Since we have already discussed the relation in which the two stand to each other (cf. p. 307 above), we now simply refer to that discussion.
2. The letter is peculiar also in that it contains quotations from the apocryphal books. The story in verse 9 is taken from the Assumption of Moses, according to which Michael was commissioned to bury Moses, but Satan claimed the body, in the first place because he was the lord of matter, and in the second place since Moses had committed murder in Egypt. The falsity of the first ground is brought out by Michael, when he says: “The Lord rebuke thee, for it was God’s Spirit which created the word and all mankind.” He does not reflect on the second. The prophecy in verses 14, 15 is taken from the Book of Enoch, a book that was highly esteemed by the early church. According to some the statement regarding the fallen angels, verse 6, is also derived from it. The latest editor of these writings, R. H. Charles, regards the first as a composite work, made up of two distinct books, viz. the Testament and the Assumption of Moses, of which the former, and possibly also the latter was written in Hebrew between 7 and 29 A. D. With respect to the Book of Enoch he holds, “that the larger part of the book was written not later than 160 B. C., and that no part of it is more recent than the Christian era.” Quoted by Mayor, Exp. Gk. Test. V p. 234.
3. The language of Jude may best be likened to that of his brother James. He speaks in a tone of unquestioned authority and writes a vigorous style. His Greek, though it has a Jewish complexion, is fairly correct; and his descriptions are often just as picturesque as those of James, f. i. when he compares the intruders to “spots (R. V. ‘hidden rocks’) in the feasts of charity;” “clouds without water, carried along by winds,” “autumn trees without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots,” “wild waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame;” etc., 12, 13. Like James also he employs some words that are otherwise exclusively Pauline, as ἀΐδιος, κυριότης, οἰκητήριον, προγράφειν. Moreover the letter contains a few ἅπαξ λεγόμενα.

The Muratorian Canon accepts Jude, but indicates that it was doubted by some. Clement of Alexandria commented on it, and Tertullian quotes it by name. Origen acknowledges that there were doubts as to the canonicity of Jude, but does not seem to have shared them. Didymus of Alexandria defends the Epistle against those who questioned its authority on account of the use made in it of apocryphal books. Eusebius reckoned it with the Antilegomena; but it was accepted as canonical by the third council of Carthage in 397 A. D.
The author designates himself as “Jude the servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James.” There are several persons of that name mentioned in the New Testament, of which only two can come in consideration here, however, viz. Jude, the brother of the Lord, Mt. 13:55; Mk. 6:3, and Jude the apostle, Lk. 6:16; Acts 1:13, also called Lebbeus, Mt. 10:3, and Thaddeus, Mk. 3:18. It appears to us that the author was Jude, the brother of the Lord, because: (1) He seeks to give a clear indication of his identity by calling himself, “the brother of James.” This James must have been so well known, therefore, as to need no further description; and there was but one James at that time of whom this could be said, viz. James the brother of the Lord. (2) It is inconceivable that an apostle, rather than name his official position, should make himself known by indicating his relationship to another person, whoever that person might be. (3) Though it is possible that the writer, even if he were an apostle, should speak as he does in the 17th verse, that passage seems to imply that he stood outside of the apostolic circle.—In favor of the view that the author was the apostle Jude, some have appealed to Lk. 6:16; Acts 1:13, where the apostle is called Ἰούδας Ἰακώβου but it is contrary to established usage to supply the word brother in such a case.
Very little is known of this Jude. If the order in which the brethren of the Lord are named in Scripture is any indication of their age, he was the youngest or the youngest but one of the group; compare Mt. 13:55 with Mk. 6:3. With his brothers he was not a believer in Jesus during the Lord’s public ministry, John 7:5, but evidently embraced him by faith after the resurrection, Acts 1:14. For the rest we can only gather from 1 Cor. 9:5 respecting the brethren of the Lord in general, undoubtedly with the exception of James, who resided at Jerusalem, that they traveled about with their wives, willing workers for the Kingdom of God, and were even known at Corinth.
The authenticity of the Epistle has been doubted, because: (1) The author speaks of faith in the objective sense, as a fides quae creditur, 3, 20, a usage that points to the post-apostolic period; (2) He mentions the apostle’s as persons who lived in the distant past, 17; and (3) he evidently combats the second century heresy of the Carpocratians. But these grounds are very questionable indeed. The word faith is employed in the objective sense elsewhere in the New Testament, most certainly in the Pastorals, and probably also in Rom. 10:8; Gal. 1:23; Phil. 1:27. And there is nothing impossible in the assumption that that meaning should have become current in the time of the apostle’s. The manner in which Jude mentions the apostle’s does not necessarily imply that they had all passed away before this letter was composed. At most the death of a few is implied. But we agree with Dr. Chase, when he judges that the supposition that the apostle’s were dispersed in such a way that their voice could not at the time reach the persons to whom this letter is addressed, meets all the requirements of the case. Hastings D. B. Art. Jude. The assumption that the heretics referred to were second century Carpocratians, is entirely gratuitous; it rests on a mistaken interpretation of three passages, viz. the verses 4b, 8, 19.

Jude addresses his Epistle to “those that are sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ, and called.” On account of the very general character of this designation some, as Ewald, regard the Epistle as a circular letter; but the contents of the Epistle are against this assumption. Yet we are left entirely to conjecture as to the particular locality in which the readers dwelt. Some scholare, e. g. Alford and Zahn, believe that the Epistle was written to Jewish readers, but we are inclined to think with Weiss, Chase, Bigg, Baljon e. a. that the recipients of the letter were Gentile Christians, (1) because the letter is so closely related to II Peter, which was sent to the Christians of Asia Minor; and (2) since the heresies to which it refers are known to have arisen in Gentile churches. Cf. especially I Corinthians and the letters to the seven churches in the Apocalypse.
Many expositors are inclined to look for the first readers in Asia Minor on account of the resemblance of the heresies mentioned in the Epistle to those referred to in II Peter. But possibly it is better to hold with Chase that the letter was sent to Syrian Antioch and the surrounding district, since they had evidently received oral instruction from the apostle’s generally, and were therefore most likely in the vicinity of Palestine. Moreover Jude may have felt some special responsibility for the church in that vicinity since the death of his brother James.
In the condition of the readers there was cause for alarm. The danger that Peter saw as a cloud on the distant horizon, Jude espied as a leaven that was already working in the ranks of his readers. False brethren had crept into the church who were, it would seem, practical libertines, enemies of the cross of Christ, who abused their Christian liberty (Alford, Salmon, Weiss, Chase), and not at the same time heretical teachers (Zahn, Baljon). Perhaps they were no teachers at all. Their life was characterized by lasciviousness, 4, especially fornication, 7, 8, 11, mockery, 10, ungodliness, 15, murmuring, complaining, pride and greed, 16. Their fundamental error seems to have been that they despised and spoke evil of the authorities that were placed over them. They were Antinomians and certainly had a great deal in common with the Nicolaitans of the Apocalypse.

1. Occasion and Purpose. The danger to which these Christians were thus exposed, led to the composition of this Epistle. Apparently Jude intended to write to them of the common salvation, when he suddenly heard of the grave situation and found it necessary to pen a word of warning, 3. In the verse from which we draw this conclusion, the author also clearly states his aim, when he says that he deemed it imperative to write to them that they should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered to the saints. In order to do this, he pictures to them the disobedient and immoral character of the ungodly persons that had unawares crept into the fold and endangered their Christian faith and life; reminds them of the fact that God would certainly punish those wanton libertines, just as He had punished sinners in the past; and exhorts them to stand in faith and to strive after holiness.
2. Time and Place. We have absolutely no indication of the place where this Epistle was written; it is not unlikely, however, that it was at Jerusalem.
With respect to the time of its composition we have a terminus ad quem in the date of II Peter, about A. D. 67, since that Epistle is evidently dependent on Jude. On the other hand it does not seem likely that Jude would write such a letter, while his brother James was still living, so that we have a terminus a quo in A. D. 62. A date later than 62 is also favored by the Pauline words employed in this letter, in some of which we seem to have an echo of Ephesians and Colossians. Moreover the great similarity between the conditions pictured in this letter and those described in II Peter is best explained, if we date them in close proximity to each other. We shall not go far wrong in dating the Epistle about the year 65.
The older critics of the Tübingen school dated the Epistle late in the second century, while more recent critics, as Pfleiderer, Holtzmann, Jülicher, Harnack, Baljon, think it originated about the middle or in the first half of the second century. They draw this conclusion from, (1) the way in which the writer speaks of faith, 3, 20; (2) the manner in which he refers to the apostle’s, 17; (3) the use of the apocryphal books; and (4) the supposed references to the doctrines of the Carpocratians. But these arguments can all be met by counter-arguments, cf. above.

In the early Church there was considerable doubt as to the canonicity of this Epistle, especially because it was not written by an apostle, and contained passage from apocryphal books. There are allusions more or less clear to the Epistle in II Peter, Polycarp, Athenagoras and Theophilus of Antioch. The Muratorian Canon mentions it, but in a manner which implies that it was doubted by some. It is found in the old Latin Version, but not in the Peshito. Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian and Origen recognized it, though Origen intimates that there were doubts regarding its canonicity. Eusebius doubted its canonical authority, but the council of Carthage (397) accepted it.
In the Epistle of Jude we have the Christian war-cry, resounding through the ages: Contend earnestly for the faith that was once delivered unto the saints! This letter, the last of the New Testament, teaches with great emphasis that apostacy from the true creed with its central truths of the atonement of Christ and the permanent validity of the law as the rule of life, is assured perdition; and clearly reveals for all generations the inseparable connection between a correct belief and a right mode of living.
Berkhof, L. (1915). New Testament Introduction (S. 235–338). Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans-Sevensma Co.


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