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New Testament-intro part 3- Acts and epistels , via Archbishop Uwe AE.Rosenkranz

The Acts of the Apostles


The contents of this book is naturally divided into two parts; in each of which the main topic is the establishment of the Church from a certain center:
I. The establishment of the Church from Jerusalem, 1:1–12:25. In this part we first have the last discourse of Christ to his disciples, the ascension, the choice of an apostle in the place of Judas, the fulfilment of the promise in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and the conversion of three thousand, 1:1–2:47. Then follows the healing of the lame man by Peter and John; their faithful witnessing for Christ in the temple, for which they were taken captive by the priests, the captain of the temple and the Sadducees; their release, since the enemies feared the people; and their thanksgiving for deliverance, 3:1–4:31. Next the condition of the Church is described: they had all things in common, and severe punishment was meted out to Ananias and Sapphira for their deception, 4:32–5:11. On account of their words and works the apostles were again imprisoned, but delivered by the angel of the Lord; they were brought before the council of the Jews and dismissed after a warning, 5:12–42. The murmuring of the Grecians leads to the appointment of seven deacons, one of which, viz. Stephen, wrought miracles among the people, and after witnessing for Christ before the council, became the first Christian martyr, 6:1–7:60. This is followed by a description of the persecution of the Church and the resulting scattering of believers, of the work of Philip in Samaria, of Saul’s conversion, and of Peter’s healing of Eneas and raising of Tabitha, 8:1–9:43. Then we have Peter’s vision of the descending vessel, his consequent preaching to the household of Cornelius, and the defense of his course before the brethren in Judea, 10:1–11:18. The narrative of the establishment of the Church at Antioch, of James’ martyrdom, and of the imprisonment and miraculous deliverance of Peter concludes this section, 11:19–12:25.
II. The Establishment of the Church from Antioch, 13:1–28:31. From Antioch Barnabas and Saul set out on the first missionary journey, including visits to Cyprus, Pisidian Antioch, Iconium, Lystra and Derbe, from where they returned to Antioch, 13:1–14:28. Then an account is given of the council of Jerusalem and its decisions affecting the Gentiles, 15:1–34. After his contention with Barnabas, Paul starts out on the second missionary journey with Silas, passing through the Cilician gates to Derbe, Lystra, Iconium and Troas, whence he was directed by a vision to pass into Europe, where he visited Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea, Athens and Corinth, preaching the gospel and establishing churches. From Corinth he again returned to Jerusalem and Antioch, 15:35–18:22. Shortly after Paul began his third missionary journey, going through Asia Minor, staying at Ephesus for over two years, and passing into Corinth, from where he again returned to Jerusalem by way of Troas, Ephesus and Cesarea, 18:23–21:16. At Jerusalem the Jews sought to kill him, his defense both on the steps of the castle and before the Sanhedrin merely inciting greater rage and leading to a positive determination to kill him, 21:17–23:14. A conspiracy leads to Paul’s deportation to Cesarea, where he defends his course before Felix, Festus and Agrippa, and on account of the unfair treatment received at the hands of these governors, appeals to Cæsar, 23:15–26:32. From Cesarea he is sent to Rome, suffers shipwreck on the way, performs miracles of healing on the island Melita, and on reaching his destination preaches the gospel to the Jews and remains a prisoner at Rome for two years, 27:1–28:31.

1. The great outstanding feature of this book is that it acquaints us with the establishment of Christian churches, and indicates their primary organization. According to it churches are founded at Jerusalem, 2:41–47; Judea, Galilee and Samaria, 9:31; Antioch, 11:26; Asia Minor, 14:23; 16:5; Philippi, 16:40; Thessalonica, 17:10; Berea, 17:14; Corinth, 18:18, and Ephesus, 20:17–38. From the sixth chapter we learn of the institution of the deacon’s office, and from 14:23 and 20:17–38 it is clear that elders, also called bishops, were already appointed.
2. The narrative which it contains centers about two persons, viz. Peter and Paul, the first establishing the Jewish, the second the Gentile churches. Consequently it contains several discourses of these apostles, as Peter’s sermon on the day of Pentecost, 2:14–36; and in the temple, 3:12–26; his defenses before the Jewish council, 4:8–12; 5:29–32; his sermon in the house of Cornelius, 10:34–43; and his defense before the brethren in Judea, 11:4–18. And of Paul the book contains the sermons preached at Antioch, 13:16–41; at Lystra, 14:15–18; and at Athens, 17:22–31; his address to the Ephesian elders, 20:18–35; and his defenses before the Jews on the stairs of the castle, 22:1–21; before the Sanhedrin 23:1–6; and before Felix and Agrippa, 24:10–21; 26:2–29.
3. The many miracles recorded in this writing constitute one of its characteristic features. Besides the miracles that are not described and of which there were many “signs and wonders” by the apostles, 2:43; 5:12, 15, 16; by Stephen, 6:8; by Philip, 8:7; by Paul and Barnabas, 14:3; and also by Paul alone, 19:11, 12; 28:1–9;—the following miracles are specifically described: the gift of tongues, 2:1–11; the lame man cured, 3:1–11; the shaking of the prayer hall, 4:31; the death of Ananias and Sapphira, 5:1–11; the apostles delivered from prison, 5:19; the translation of Philip, 8:39, 40; Eneas made whole, 9:34; Dorcas restored to life, 9:36–42; Paul’s sight restored, 9:17; the deliverance of Peter from prison, 12:6–10; the death of Herod, 12:20–23; Elymas, the sorcerer, struck blind, 13:6–11; the lame man at Lystra cured, 14:8–11; the damsel at Philippi delivered, 16:16–18; the jail at Philippi shaken, 16:25, 26; Eutychus restored to life, 20:9–12; Paul unhurt by the bite of a poisonous viper, 28:1–6; the father of Publius and many others healed, 28:8, 9.
4. The style of this book is very similar to that of the third Gospel, though it contains less Hebraisms. Simcox says that “the Acts is of all the books included in the New Testament the nearest to contemporary, if not to classical literary usage,—the only one, except perhaps the Epistle to the Hebrews, where conformity to a standard of classical correctness is consciously aimed at.” The Writers of the New Testament, p. 16. The tone is most Hebraic in the first part of the book, especially in the sermons in chs. 2 and 13 and in the defense of Stephen ch. 7, in all of which the Old Testament element is very large;—and it is most Hellenic in the last part of the book, as in the epistle of the church at Jerusalem, the letter of Lysias, the speech of Tertullus, and the defense of Paul before Agrippa. This is undoubtedly due to the fact that the first part of the book deals primarily with Jewish, and last part especially with Gentile Christianity.

The Greek title of the book is πράξεις ἀποστόλων, Acts of Apostles. There is no entire uniformity in the MSS. in this respect. The Sinaiticus has simply πράξεις, although it has the regular title at the close of the book. Codex D is peculiar in having πράξις ἀποστόλων, Way of acting of the Apostles. We do not regard the title as proceeding from the author, but from one of the transcribers; nor do we consider it a very happy choice. On the one hand the title, if translated, as is done in both the Authorized and the Revised Version, by “The Acts of the Apostles,” is too comprehensive, since there are but two apostles whose acts are recorded in this book, viz. Peter and Paul. On the other hand it is too restricted, because the book contains not only several acts, but also many words of these apostles; and also, since it records besides these acts and words of other persons, such as Stephen, Philip and Barnabas.

The voice of the ancient Church is unanimous in ascribing this book to Luke, the author of the third Gospel. Irenaeus in quoting passages from it repeatedly uses the following formula: “Luke the disciple and follower of Paul says thus.” Clement of Alexandria, quoting Paul’s speech at Athens, introduces it by, “So Luke in the Acts of the Apostles relates.” Eusebius says: “Luke has left us two inspired volumes, the Gospel and the Acts.” The external testimony for the Lukan authorship is as strong as we could wish for.
Now the question arises, whether the internal evidence agrees with this. The book does not directly claim to have been written by Luke. Our Scriptural evidence for the authorship is of an inferential character. It seems to us that the Lukan authorship is supported by the following considerations:
1. The we-sections. These are the following sections, 16:10–17; 20:5–15; and 27:1–28:16, in which the pronoun of the first person plural is found, implying that the author was a companion of Paul in part of the apostle’s travels. Since Paul had several associates, different names have been suggested for the author of this book, as Timothy, Silas, Titus and Luke, who according to Col. 4:14; Philemon 24; and 2 Tim. 4:11, was also one of the apostle’s companions and best friends. The first two persons named are excluded, however, by the way in which they are spoken of in 16:19 and 20:4, 5. And so little can be said in favor of Titus that it is now quite generally agreed that Luke was the author of the we-sections. But if this is true, he is also the author of the book, for the style of the book is similar throughout; there are cross-references from the we-sections to the other parts of the book, as f. i. in 21:8, where Philip is introduced as one of the seven, while we know only from ch. 6 who the seven were, and from 8:40, how Philip came to be in Cesarea; and it is inconceivable that a later writer should have incorporated the we-sections in his work in such a skillful manner that the lines of demarcation cannot be discovered, and should at the same time leave the tell-tale pronoun of the first person undisturbed.
2. The medical language. Dr. Hobart has clearly pointed out this feature in both the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles. Some make light of this argument, but Zahn says: “W. K. Hobart hat für Jeden, dem Überhaupt etwas zu beweisen ist, bewiesen, dass der Verfasser des lucanischen Werks em mit der Kunstsprache der griechischen Medicin vertrauter Mann, ein griechischer Arzt gewesen ist.” Einl. II p. 429. We find instances of this medical language in ἀχλύς, 13:11; παραλελυμένος, 8:7; 9:33; πυρετοῖς κὰι δυσεντερία συνερχόμενον, 25:8.
3. Assuming that Luke wrote the third Gospel, a comparison of Acts with that work also decidedly favors the Lukan authorship, for: (1) The style of these two books is similar, the only difference being that the second book is less Hebraistic than the first,—a difference that finds a ready explanation in the sources used and in the author’s method of composition. (2) Both books are addressed to the same person, viz. Theophilus, who was, so it seems, a special friend of the author. (3) In the opening verse of Acts the author refers to a first book that he had written. Taking the points just mentioned in consideration, this can be no other than our third Gospel, though Baljon, following Scholten, denies this. Geschiedenis v/d Boeken des N. V. p. 421.
4. The book contains clear evidence of having been written by a companion of Paul. This follows not only from the we-sections, but also from the fact that, as even unfriendly critics admit, the author shows himself well acquainted with the Pauline diction. We have reasons to think that he did not derive this acquaintance from a study of Paul’s Epistles; and if this is true, the most rational explanation is that he was an associate of Paul and heard the great apostle speak on several occasions. Moreover the author’s characterization of Paul is so detailed and individualized as to vouch for personal acquaintance.
The authorship of Luke has not found general acceptance among New Testament scholars. The main objections to it appear to be the following: (1) The book is said to show traces of dependence on the Antiquities of Josephus, a work that was written about A. D. 93 or 94. The reference to Theudas and Judas in 5:36, 37 is supposed to rest on a mistaken reading of Josephus, Ant. XX, V, 1, 2. (2) The standpoint of the author is claimed to be that of a second century writer, whose Christianity is marked by universality, and who aims at reconciling the opposing tendencies of his time. (3) The work is held by some to be historically so inaccurate, and to reveal such a wholesale acceptance of the miraculous, that it cannot have been written by a contemporary. There is supposedly a great conflict especially between Acts 15 and Galatians 2.
We cannot enter on a detailed examination of these objections; a few remarks anent them must suffice. It is by no means proven that the author read Josephus, nor that he wrote his work after the Jewish historian composed his Antiquities. Gamaliel, who makes ‘the statement regarding Theudas and Judas, may very well have derived his knowledge from a different source; and his supposed mistake (which may not be a mistake after all) does not affect the authorship, nor the trustworthiness of the book. That the standpoint of the author is more advanced than that of the Pauline Epistles (Baljon) is purely imaginary; it is in perfect harmony with the other New Testament writings. And the idea of a struggle between the Petrine and Pauline factions is now generally discarded. Historical inaccuracy does not necessarily imply that a book was written a considerable time after the events. Moreover in the book of Acts there is no such inaccuracy. On the contrary, Ramsay in his, St. Paul the Traveler and the Roman Citizen has conclusively proved that this book is absolutely reliable and is a historical work of the highest order. It may be that some difficulties have not yet found an altogether satisfactory solution, but this does not militate against the authorship of Luke.

1. Readers and Purpose. It is not necessary to speak at length about the readers for whom this book was first of all intended, because like the Gospel of Luke it is addressed to Theophilus, and like it too it was undoubtedly destined for the same wider circle of readers, i. e. the Greeks.
But what was the purpose of the author in writing this book? This is a very much debated question. The book of Acts is really a continuation of the third gospel and was therefore, in all probability, also written to give Theophilus the certainty of the things narrated. We notice that in this second book, just as in the first, the author names many even of the less important actors in the events, and brings out on several occasions the relation of these events to secular history. Cf. 12:1; 18:2; 23:26; 25:1. Of what did Luke want to give Theophilus certainty? From the fact that he himself says that he wrote the first book to give his friend the certainty of the things that Jesus began to do and to teach, we infer that in the second book he intended to give him positive instruction regarding the things that Jesus continued to do and to teach through his apostles. It seems that he found his program in the words of the Saviour, 1:8: “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you, and ye shall be my witnesses both in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost parts of the earth.” In harmony with this program he describes the march of Christianity from Jerusalem, the center of the Jewish Theocracy, to Rome, the center of the world. With Paul in Rome, therefore, the author’s task is finished.
Opposed to this view are those that regard the book as a tendency writing, in which history has been falsified with a definite purpose. As such we have:
(1) The theory of the Tübingen school, that the book was written to conciliate the Petrine and Pauline factions in the early Church, and therefore represents Peter as more liberal, and Paul as more Judaistic than is in harmony with their own writings. The supposed parallelism between Peter and Paul, according to some, ministers to the same purpose. This theory in the bald form in which it was broached by Baur, is now generally abandoned, and has been modified in various ways.
(2) The view defended by some later scholars, such as Overbeck and Straatman, that the book of Acts is really an apology for Christianity over against the Gentiles, especially the Romans. Hence the author gives the Romans due honor, and clearly brings out the advantages which Paul derived from his Roman citizenship. He desires to convey the impression that the doctrine taught by Paul, who was protected by the mighty arm of Rome, who was acquitted of false charges by Roman governors, and who with a good conscience appealed to Cæsar himself, could not be regarded as dangerous to the state. Wrede considers this a subordinate purpose of the author.
The abiding merit of these theories is that they contemplate the book of Acts as an artistic whole. For the rest. however, they do not commend themselves to our serious consideration. The basis on which they rest is too uncertain; they are not borne out by the facts; they are inimical to the well established historicity of the book; and they come to us with the unreasonable demand, born of unbelief and aversion to the miraculous, to consider the author as a falsifier of history.
2. Time and Place. As to the time, when the book was composed little can be said with certainty. It must have been written after A. D. 63, since the author knows that Paul staid in Rome two years. But how long after that date was it written? Among conservative scholars, such as Alford, Salmon, Barde e. a. the opinion is generally held that Luke wrote his second book before the death of Paul and the destruction of Jerusalem, because no mention whatever is made of either one of these important facts. Zahn and Weiss naturally date it about A. D. 80, since they regard this date as the terminus ad quem for the composition of the third gospel. Many of the later rationalistic critics too are of the opinion that the book was written after the destruction of Jerusalem, some even placing it as late as A. D. 110 (Baljon) and 120 (Davidson). Their reasons for doing this are: (1) the supposed dependence of Luke on Josephus; (2) the assumption, based on Lk. 21:20; Acts 8:26 ff. that Jerusalem was already destroyed; and (3) the supposed fact that the state of affairs in the book points to a time, when the state had begun to persecute Christians on political grounds. None of these reasons are conclusive, and we see no reasons to place the book later than A. D. 63.
The place of composition was in all probability Rome.
3. Method. The problem of the sources used by Luke in the composition of this book has given rise to several theories, that we cannot discuss here. And it is not necessary that we should do this, because, as Zahn maintains, none of these repeated attempts has attained any measure of probability; and Headlam says: “The statement of them is really a sufficient condemnation.” Hastings D. B. Art. Acts of the Apostles. For a good discussion of the various theories of Van Manen, Sorof, Spitta and Clemen cf. Knowling’s Introduction to Acts in the Expositor’s Greek Testament. With Blass we believe that, if Luke is the author, the question of sources for the greater part of the book need not be raised. The writer may have learnt the early history of the Jerusalem church from Barnabas at Antioch and from several others who found refuge in that city after the persecution; from Philip, whose guest he was for several days, 21:8–15, and with whom he must have had frequent intercourse during Paul’s later stay at Cesarea; and from Mnason, an old disciple, 21:16. And regarding the missionary journeys of Paul he, in all probability, received full information from the apostle himself, and could partly draw on his own memory or memorandum. It is quite possible that the author had written records of the speeches of Peter and Paul, but he certainly did not reproduce them literally but colored them in part with his own style.

The book of Acts is a part of the inspired Word of God. We have in it the fruit of apostolic inspiration, in so far as we find here speeches of some of the apostles and of Stephen, who was filled with the Holy Ghost, when he defended his course before the Jewish council, 6:5, 10. And in the composition of his book Luke was guided by the Holy Spirit, so that the whole work must be regarded as a product of graphical inspiration. This follows from the fact that this book is a necessary complement of the Gospels, which are, as we have seen, inspired records. It is a continuation of the Gospel of Luke, that is quoted as Scripture in 1 Tim. 5:18 (cf. Luke 10:7). If the Gospel is inspired, then, assuredly, the work that continues its narrative is also written by inspiration. Moreover we find that the Church fathers from the earliest time appeal to this book as of divine authority,—as an inspired work.

The place of Acts in the canon of Holy Scripture has never been disputed by the early Church, except by such heretical sects as the Marcionites, the Ebionites and the Manichaeans, and then only on dogmatical grounds. Traces of acquaintance with it are found in the apostolic fathers, as also in Justin and Tatian. Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria and Tertullian frequently quote from this book. It is named in the Muratorian canon, and is also contained in the Syriac and old Latin Versions. These testimonies are quite sufficient to show that it was generally accepted.
As an integral part of Scripture it is inseparably connected with the Gospels, and reveals to us, how the Gospel was embodied in the life and institution of the Church. We here see that the sowing of the precious seed that was entrusted to the apostles resulted in the planting and extension of the Church from three great racial centers of the world, from Jerusalem, the center of the Jewish Theocracy, from Antioch, the center of Greek culture, and from Rome, the capital of the world. The Gospels contain a revelation of what Jesus began to do and to teach; the book of Acts shows us what he continued to do and to teach through the ministry of men. There is an evident advance in the teaching of the apostles; they have learnt to understand much that was once a mystery to them. In the Gospels we find that they are forbidden to tell anyone that Jesus is the Messiah; here we read repeatedly that they preach Christ and the resurrection. They now exhibit Christ in his true character as the Prince of Life and as the King of Glory. And the effect of their teaching was such as to bear striking evidence to the regenerating power of Him, who by the resurrection from the dead was powerfully declared to be the Son of God.

The Epistles in General



The revelation of God comes to us in many forms, in diverse manners. It is not only embodied in facts, but also in words; it is borne not only by the prophets, but also by the sweet singers and by the wise men of Israel; it finds expression not only in the Gospels, but also in the Epistles. About one-third of the New Testament is cast in the epistolary form.
This form of teaching was not something absolutely new in the time of the apostles, although we find but few traces of it in the Old Testament. Mention is made there of some letters written by kings and prophets, f. i. in 1 Kings 21:8, 9; 2 Kings 5:5–7; 19:14; 20:12; Jer. 29:1; but these are quite different from our New Testament Epistles. The letter as a particular type of self-expression took its rise, so it seems, among the Greeks and the Egyptians. In later time it was also found among the Romans and in Hellenistic Judaism, as we notice from the epistle of Aristion, that treats of the origin of the Septuagint. According to Deissmann the Egyptian papyri especially offer a great amount of material for comparison.
In all probability, however, it was Paul who first introduced the epistle as a distinct type of literary form for the conveyance of divine truth. Aside from the Gospels his Epistles form the most prominent part of the New Testament. In this connection it is well to bear in mind the important distinction made by Deissmann between a letter and an epistle, of which the former is non-literary, or, as J. V. Bartlet says, “pre-literary,” and the latter is a literary artistic form of communication. It is Deissmann’s conviction that the writings of Paul have been very much misunderstood. “They have been regarded as treatises, as pamphlets in letter form, or at any rate as literary productions, as the theological works of the primitive Christian dogmatist.” He insists that they are letters, serving the purpose of communication between Paul and the congregations, letters that were not intended by Paul for publication, but only for the private use of the addressees, arising from some historical exigency, unsystematic and pulsating with the life of the writer. Deissmann, St. Paul p. 7 ff. This writer certainly rendered us good service by calling attention to the fact, often lost sight of, that the Epistles of Paul are the living spontaneous expression of a great mind, continually meditating and reflecting on the truth of God; that they are letters, often clearly revealing the changing moods of the apostle. They are marked as letters by their occasional character, by their being calculated for a single community and situation, and by their addresses, praescripts and salutations.
With respect to the fitness of this form for the communication of the divine thoughts the remarks of Bernard are very valuable. He finds that it is in perfect harmony “with that open and equal participation of revealed truth, which is the prerogative of the later above the former dispensation; indicating too that the teacher and the taught are placed on one common level in the fellowship of the truth. The prophets delivered oracles to the People, but the apostles wrote letters to the brethren, letters characterized by all that fulness of unreserved explanation, and that play of various feeling, which are proper to that form of intercourse. It is in its nature a more familiar communication, as between those who are or should be equals.” … “The form adopted in the New Testament combines the advantages of the treatise and the conversation. The letter may treat important subjects with accuracy and fulness, but it will do so in immediate connection with actual life. It is written to meet any occasion. It is addressed to peculiar states of mind. It breathes of the heart of the writer. It takes its aim from the exigencies, and its tone from the feelings of the moment.” Bernard, The Progress of Doctrine in the N. T. pp. 156, 157.

The Scriptural Epistles are as well as the Gospels and Acts divinely inspired. Even as in their preaching, so also in writing their letters the apostles were guided by the Holy Spirit. Here again we must distinguish between the apostolic and the graphical inspiration, although in this case the two are very closely connected. For a general description of the apostolic inspiration we refer to p. 30 ff. above. It is necessary to remark, however, that in the case of the Epistles, as distinguished from that of the Gospels, it did not almost exclusively assume the character of a ὑπομνήσις, but was also to a great extent a διδασκαλία. Both of those elements are indicated in the promise of the Holy Spirit given by Christ before his departure: “But the Comforter, even the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, He shall teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said unto you.” John 14:26. Cf. also 16:12, 13. In the Gospels we have the totality of the apostolic κήρυγμα; hence their production naturally depended in great measure on a faithful memory. The Epistles, on the other hand, contain the fruit of the apostles reflection on this κήρυγμα, their interpretation of it. Therefore it was not sufficient that the writers in composing them should faithfully remember former things; they needed more light on them, a better understanding of their real meaning and profound significance. For that reason the Holy Spirit became their διδάσκαλος.
The apostles were evidently conscious of being inspired by the Holy Ghost in the composition of their Epistles. This follows from the authority with which they address the congregations. They feel sure that their word is binding on the conscience; they condemn in unqualified terms those who teach any other doctrine as coming from God; they commend and praise all that diligently follow their directions; but they also reprimand and censure those that dare to follow another course. If this is not due to the fact that they were conscious of divine inspiration, it bespeaks an overweening arrogance; which, however cannot be harmonized with their life of service and their many expressions of deep humility.
Moreover there are several explicit statements in the Epistles testifying to the fact that the apostles were aware of being the instruments of God’s Spirit. Thus Paul claims that the Spirit revealed to him the hidden things of God, which he also spoke, not in words which man’s wisdom taught, but in words which the Spirit taught, 1 Cor. 2:10, 13. He is willing to subject his words to the judgment of the prophets, 1 Cor. 14:37; and to give a proof of Christ speaking in him, 2 Cor. 13:3. He thanks God that the Thessalonians received the word of his message, not as the word of man, “but as it is in truth, the word of God,” 1 Thess. 2:13; and admonishes them to hold the traditions which they were taught by his word or by his Epistle. Peter places the word of the prophets and that of the apostles on a level as the Word of God, in 1 Pet. 1:10–12; and elsewhere he arranges his Epistle alongside of those of Paul, which he calls Scripture by implication, and thus clearly shows that he also regards his own writing as a product of the Spirit of God, 2 Pet. 3:15, 16. John writes: “We are of God; he that knoweth God knoweth us; he that is not of God knoweth us not. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.” 1 John 4:6. This language is intelligible only on the supposition that John spoke the words of God.
Now we must bear in mind that the apostles speak thus regarding their written words, so that they were evidently conscious of the guidance of the Holy Spirit in writing their Epistles. To that extent they too shared in a separate transcriptive inspiration. Their Epistles are a part of the Word of God, and have been accepted as such by the Church. It is true that for a time five of them, viz., the Epistles of James and Jude, II Peter and II and III John, were classed as antilegomena, but this only means that their canonicity was subject to doubt and dispute for a while, not that they were ever numbered among the spurious books. They have been recognized by the majority of ecclesiastical writers from the very beginning, and were generally accepted by the Church after the council of Laodicea in A. D. 363.

The Old and the New Testament revelations run on parallel lines. In the Old Testament we have the fundamental revelation of the Law in the Pentateuch; in the New Testament, the fundamental revelation of the Gospel in the fourfold witness of the evangelists. This is followed in the Old Testament by the historical books, revealing the institutions to which the Law gave rise; and in the New Testament, by a historical book, showing how the Gospel of Jesus Christ found embodiment in the Church. After this we find in the New Testament the Epistles that reveal the operation of the truth in the churches, and contain, in connection with the life of the churches, the interpretation of the Gospel; thus corresponding in part to the Old Testament books of experience, such as Job, Psalms, Proverbs, etc., and in part to the prophets as interpreters of the Law. The Gospels show us, how Christ was preached to the world; the Epistles, how he was taught to the Church. The former contain the facts of the manifestation of Christ; the latter the effects of it in the spiritual experience of the churches.
In the Epistles we get a glimpse of the inner life of the congregations; we see, how they receive the truth and to what degree they are guided by it in their actions. We behold Christian life in operation, working on the great principles that have been received. We find that some heartily embrace the truth and endeavor to apply it consistently to life in its manifold forms; that others grasp it but imperfectly and, as a result, misapply it in practical life; and that still others resist the truth and pervert it to their own condemnation. And in connection with these conditions the truth is now set forth and interpreted and applied to the multifarious relations of life.
This teaching is given in the epistolary form, of which we have already spoken. Cf. p. 129 above. And the method employed by the writers in presenting the truth is, as Bernard says, “one of companionship rather than of dictation.” They do not announce a series of revelations that come to them from without, but they speak out of the fulness of their own Christian knowledge and experience. Neither do they approach their readers with the authoritative prophetic formula, “Thus saith the Lord,” which in the Old Testament was the end of all contradiction; but they appeal to the judgment and conscience of those whom they address. They state their propositions and then substantiate them by giving the grounds on which they rest. They argue with their readers from the Old Testament, from generally admitted truths and from experience, often employing the argumentum ad hominem to give point to their teachings; and they intercept the objections of their readers and refute them. This method of teaching, as compared with that of the prophets, is more truly human, the divine factor being less prominent; and as compared with that of Christ in the Gospels, is far more argumentative, calculated to train the minds of men to that thoughtfulness that leads to a thorough assimilation of the truth.
In their contents as well as in their form the Epistles are a distinct advance on the Gospels. After the latter have presented to us the manifestation of Christ in the world, the former treat of the life in Christ, in which the acceptance of his manifestation issues. After the Spirit of God has been poured out, Christ, who had formerly dwelt among men, makes his abode in the very hearts of believers. Hence it is especially of that new life of believers in union with Christ, that the Epistles speak. They constantly emphasize the fact that the individual believers and that the churches are “in Christ,” and that therefore their conversation too must be “in Christ.” They clearly interpret the significance of Christ’s work for believers out of every nation and tribe. and point out that his experiences are paralleled in the life of every believer. All those that are united with Christ by faith suffer with Christ, are crucified with Christ, die with Christ, and live with Christ in newness of life. And their future life is hid with Christ in God. The origin of that new life, its conditions, its nature, its progressive and communal character, and its final perfection and glory,—are all clearly described in the Epistles. As the foundation on which all these blessings rest we are pointed to the redemptive, the justifying, the sanctifying, and the intercessory work of Jesus Christ. He is the beginning and the end. The Epistles contain clear evidence that believers are gathered from every nation and tribe to Christ who is the Head of the Church, and in whom they are builded together for a habitation of God in the Spirit, that God may be all in all.

The New Testament contains in all twenty-one Epistles, which may be divided into two classes, viz., 1. The Pauline Epistles; and, 2. The General Epistles.
1. The Pauline Epistles. Thirteen of the New Testament Epistles bear the name of the great apostle to the gentiles. Hence they are generally known as the Pauline Epistles. By some the Epistle to the Hebrews is added to this number, though it nowhere claims to have been written by Paul. The Church has always been divided on the question of its authorship, the Eastern church affirming and the Western denying that Paul wrote it. Clement of Alexandria states that the apostle composed it in the Hebrew language, and that Luke translated it into Greek. From a statement of his we may probably infer that his teacher, Pantaenus, also affirmed the Pauline authorship of this Epistle, which would carry the testimony back another generation. Origen admits that a very old tradition points to Paul as the author, but he comes to the conclusion that only God knows who wrote the book. Irenaeus does not attribute the Epistle to Paul; nor does Tertullian, who regards Barnabas as the author. Eusebius says: “Of Paul the fourteen Epistles commonly received are at once manifest and clear. It is not, however, right to ignore the fact that some have rejected the Epistle to the Hebrews, asserting that it is gainsaid by the church of Rome as not being Paul’s.” He was inclined to believe that the apostle wrote it in Hebrew and that Luke, or more likely, Clement of Rome translated it. The catalogue of the council of Laodicea also speaks of fourteen Epistles of Paul. We shall leave the question of the authorship of this Epistle in suspense for the present, and classify the fourteen Epistles of which we have now spoken, as follows:
I. Pauline Epistles:
1. Those written during the period of Paul’s missionary activity:
a. The two Epistles to the Thessalonians;
b. The Epistle to the Galatians;
c. The two Epistles to the Corinthians;
d. The Epistle to the Romans.
2. Those written during Paul’s imprisonment:
a. The Epistle to the Ephesians;
b. The Epistle to the Colossians;
c. The Epistle to Philemon;
d. The Epistle to the Philippians.
3. Those written after Paul’s release from the Roman prison:
a. The two Epistles to Timothy;
b. The Epistle to Titus.
II. Of uncertain Authorship:
The Epistle to the Hebrews.
It may well be supposed that Paul who always remained in touch with the churches he founded wrote many more letters than we now possess of him. This is evident also from the Epistles themselves. 1 Cor. 5:9 refers to a letter now lost, and it is possible that 2 Cor. 7:8 does also, although this may refer to first Corinthians. Col. 4:16 speaks of a letter out of (ἐκ) Laodicea, of which we have no further knowledge. Although these letters were undoubtedly inspired as well as the ones we still possess, we may rest assured that no Epistle intended by God for the canon of Holy Scriptures was ever lost.
We may further remark that Paul evidently wrote very little with his own hand; he generally employed an amanuensis in the composition of his Epistles and merely added with his own hand the salutation to his friends and the authenticating signature, cf. 2 Thess. 3:17; Philem. 19; and Gal. 6:11, which is, however, of uncertain interpretation. Only in one letter do we find a definite designation of the amanuensis, viz., in Rom. 16:22.
2. The General Epistles. This is a group of seven Epistles which in the old manuscripts usually follows immediately after the Acts of the Apostles and therefore precedes the Pauline Epistles, perhaps because they are the works of the older apostles and in general represent the Jewish type of Christianity. Their representation of the truth naturally differs from that of the Pauline Epistles, but is in perfect harmony with it. Among these general Epistles there are:
1. Those written to a community of Christians:
a. The Epistle of James;
b. The two Epistles of Peter;
c. The first Epistle of John;
d. The Epistle of Jude.
2. Those written to a certain individual:
a. The second Epistle of John; (?)
b. The third Epistle of John.
Of these seven Epistles the first one of Peter and the first one of John were generally accepted as canonical from the beginning, while the other five were at first subject to doubt and only gradually found acceptance throughout the Church. Yet they were never regarded as spurious.
Why these Epistles should be called general or catholic, is more or less of an enigma. Various interpretations of the name have been given, but none of them is entirely satisfactory. Some hold that they were so called, because they contain the one catholic doctrine which was delivered to the churches by the apostles; but this is not a characteristic mark of these Epistles, since those of Paul contain the same doctrine. Others maintain that the adjective catholic was used by some of the church fathers in the sense of canonical, and was by them applied first to the first Epistle of Peter and the first of John to indicate their general acceptance, and afterwards to the entire group. But this explanation is unlikely, because (1) there is scant proof that the term catholic was ever equivalent to canonical; and (2) it is hard to see, if this really was the case, why the term should not have been applied to the Pauline Epistles as well, that were all accepted from the beginning. Still others think that they received this appellation, because they were not addressed to one person or church like the Epistles of Paul, but to large sections of the Church. We consider this to be the best explanation of the name, since it is most in harmony with the usual meaning of the term, and accounts best for the way in which it is used in patristic literature. Even so, however the name cannot be regarded as entirely correct, because on the one hand the second (?) and third Epistles of John are written to individuals, and on the other, the Epistle to the Ephesians is also an encyclical letter. These two Epistles of John were probably included in this group, because of their smallness and close relation to the first Epistle of John.

The Epistles of Paul



There is no apostle of whose life we have such full information as we have regarding that of Paul. He was born of Hebrew parents in the intellectual atmosphere of Tarsus in Cilicia, where besides receiving the regular Jewish education, he may have visited one of the many Greek schools found there. Being exceptionally bright, he was sent to Jerusalem to complete the study of the law and to be introduced into rabbinic lore. In that center of Jewish learning he received instruction at the feet of the greatest Jewish teacher of his age, Gamaliel I, and a bright future was opening up before him, since he was zealous for the law.
We first meet him in Scripture as a youth in connection with the violent death of Stephen, and soon find in him the most active persecuter of the Church of Christ. After he has finished his destructive work at Jerusalem, he repairs to Damascus with authority from the high priest to persecute the Church in that city. On the way thither his course is checked by the Lord of the Church, he becomes a penitent, and turns into a zealous advocate of the principles that were formerly obnoxious to him. Leaving Damascus, he spent three years in Arabia, where he received further instruction from God himself, and he learnt to adjust himself to the new conditions of life; after which he again returned to Damascus. Being threatened with death at the hands of the Jews, he fled from Damascus to Jerusalem, and from Jerusalem to his native city in Cilicia. After laboring there for some years, he accompanied Barnabas to Antioch in Syria, where he aided in establishing the youthful church in that city. He ministered to the needs of that congregation for a whole year, during which time he and Barnabas also went to Jerusalem to bring the contributions for the poor. Soon after they were directed by the Holy Spirit to preach the Gospel among the Gentiles. On this first journey they labored on the island of Cyprus and in Pisidian Antioch, Iconium, Lystra and Derbe, preaching the Gospel and working miracles. Notwithstanding fierce opposition from the Jews, they succeeded in founding several churches. Having finished their work, they returned to Antioch in Syria, and during their stay there were delegated to the council of Jerusalem to consult the mother church regarding the debated question, whether circumcision was binding on the Gentiles. Next Paul sets out on his second missionary journey with Silas, revisiting the churches founded on the first tour and by the direction of the Holy Spirit crossing over to Europe, where he labored with varying success at Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea, Athens and Corinth, founding churches in most of these places. From Corinth he returned to Antioch, after first visiting Jerusalem. His third missionary journey followed shortly. Passing through Asia Minor, he finds a fruitful field of labor in Ephesus, where he remains three years, bringing all Asia to the knowledge of the truth and contending with idolatry and superstition. From there he again passes through Macedonia to Corinth, spending the winter in that city, and then returning by way of Troas, Ephesus and Cesarea to Jerusalem. Here he takes the necessary precautions to avoid all possible provocation of the Jews, but notwithstanding this they seek to kill him. Having been rescued by the chief captain, he defends his course before the Jews. This only increases their rage, however; wherefore he is taken into the castle and is brought before the Sanhedrin on the following day, where his defense leads to dissension between the Pharisees and the Sadducees. In the following night he receives encouragement from the Lord and is told that he must also bear witness in Rome. On account of a plot laid by the Jews he is transferred to Cesarea, where he again defends his course before Felix, Festus and Agrippa. The wavering attitude of the governors, who are convinced of his innocence and yet desire to favor the Jews, induces him to appeal to Ceasar. As a result he is taken to Rome, arriving there after suffering shipwreck, and remaining a prisoner in his own dwelling for two years. From the pastoral epistles and tradition we may infer that his first trial ended in acquittal. His movements after this are uncertain, though there are hints of visits to Philippi, Colossae, Ephesus, Crete, Nicopolis and even Spain. After being imprisoned again he was condemned and died as a martyr in A. D. 68.
Little can be said regarding the personal appearance of the great apostle. In the Acts of Paul and Thecla he is represented as “short, bald, bow-legged, with meeting eyebrows, hooked nose, full of grace.” John of Antioch preserves a similar tradition, which adds, however, that he was “round-shouldered and had a mixture of pale and red in his complexion and an ample beard.” His opponents at Corinth said of him: “His letters are weighty and powerful, but his bodily presence is weak and his speech contemptible,” 2 Cor. 10:10 ff. He himself refers once and again to his physical weaknesses. In all probability he was not a man of magnificent physique.
His personal life was full of contrasts, as Deissmann correctly observes. He was encumbered with an ailing body, and yet was a man of great endurance and of almost unlimited capacity for work in the Kingdom of God. The secret of his strength lay in his God, who spoke to him: “My grace is sufficient for thee, and my strength is made perfect in weakness.” He was a man of great humility, but was at the same time capable of uttering words of the greatest self-confidence, “before God a worm, before men an eagle” (Deissmann). It is Paul that says: “I am the least of the apostles,” 1 Cor. 15:9; “I am less than the least of all the saints,” Eph. 3:8; and: “of whom (sinners) I am chief,” 1 Tim. 1:16. But it is the same Paul that speaks: “I labored more abundantly than they all,” 1 Cor. 15:10; and: “For I suppose I was not a whit behind the very chiefest apostles,” 2 Cor. 11:5. But he realizes that all that is commendable in him and that is praiseworthy in his work, is fruit of the grace of God. Hence he follows up the statement in 1 Cor. 15:10 by saying: “yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.” Paul was a tenderhearted man, and was yet on certain occasions very severe. He was capable of the most affectionate feeling, always solicitous for the welfare of the churches; but just on that account inexorable over against all those that were enemies to the truth. Compare in this respect the epistle to the Philippians with that to the Galatians. He placed himself entirely at God’s disposal, following where He led, and was willing to be the unworthy instrument in the hand of his Lord in spreading the glad tidings of salvation. Hence he was great in the Kingdom of God.
The chronology of the life of Paul is a subject of great difficulty. Aside from the date of the first Pentecost there is but a single date in the Acts of the Apostles of which we are sure, viz., that of the death of Herod in A. D. 44, and this has little value in determining the chronological order of the events in Paul’s life. A question of great importance is, in what year Felix was succeeded by Festus. We cannot enter into the dispute about this date, but assume that Schürer is correct, when he fixes it at A. D. 60. Geschichte des Jüdischen Volkes I p. 577. In the same year Paul was sent to Rome, arriving there in the spring of the following year, A. D. 61. He remained a prisoner at Rome for two years, i. e., until A. D. 63, when he was probably released; and lived until the fall of A. D. 67 (Eusebius), or until the spring of A. D. 68 (Jerome), when he was martyred at Rome.
Figuring back from the same date, we find that Paul was imprisoned at Caesarea in A. D. 58, Acts 24:27. Since he had spent the previous winter in Corinth and the fall in Macedonia, Acts 20:2, 3, and had labored in Ephesus for a period of three years, Acts 20:31, he must have begun his third missionary journey in the spring of A. D. 54. His second missionary tour was concluded shortly before, probably in the fall of A. D. 53, Acts 16:23. This journey undoubtedly lasted about two years and a half, since the apostle would naturally set out in the spring of the year and his stay of a year and a half at Corinth together with all the work done in other places makes it impossible that he started on his journey in A. D. 52, cf. Acts 15:36–17:34. Hence the second journey began in A. D. 51. This second journey was preceded by the council of Jerusalem that most likely convened in A. D. 50, Acts 15. The first missionary journey must be placed somewhere between the date just named and the year of Herod’s death, A. D. 44.
Now it is probable that we must identify the visit of Paul to Jerusalem mentioned in Gal. 2:1 with that of Acts 15. What is the apostles point of departure there, when he says: “Then fourteen years after, etc.”? Exegetically it may be the visit spoken of in Gal. 1:18; more likely, however, it is the time of his conversion, cf. Ellicott on Gal., so that the year 37 was probably the year in which that momentous change was wrought in his life. Then he spent the years 37–40 in Arabia, at the end of which period he again visited Jerusalem, Acts 9:26; Gal. 1:18. In the same year he went to Tarsus, where he labored until about the year of Herod’s death, Acts 11:25–12:1.
Thus we obtain the following result:

Paul’s Conversion
A. D. 37
First Visit to Jerusalem
A. D. 40
Beginning of his Work at Antioch
A. D. 44
First Missionary Journey
A. D. 45–48
Delegated to the Council of Jerusalem
A. D. 50
Second Missionary Journey
A. D. 51–53
Third Missionary Journey
A. D. 54–58
Captivity at Jerusalem and Caesarea
A. D. 58–60
Arrives at Rome
A. D. 61
First Captivity at Rome
A. D. 61–63
Period between first and second Captivity
A. D. 63–67
Second Captivity and Death
A. D. 67 or 68

The Epistle to the Romans



This Epistle consists of two clearly marked but very unequal parts, viz. the doctrinal (1:1–11:36) and the practical part (12:1–16:27).
I. The Doctrinal Part, 1:1–11:36. In this part we have first the introduction, containing the address, the customary thanksgiving and prayer, and an expression of the apostle’s desire to preach the gospel also at Rome, 1:1–15. In the following two verses the apostle states his theme: “The gospel is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith,” 1:16, 17. After announcing this he describes the sinful state of the Gentiles, points out that the Jews are likewise guilty, and declares that their prerogatives do not exempt them from punishment but rather increase their guilt, 1:18–3:20. He then defines the righteousness which God has provided without the works of the law, and proves that this is revealed in the Old Testament, is the basis of a Christian experience that is rich in spiritual fruits, and proceeds on the same principle of moral government on which God dealt with Adam, 3:21–5:21. Next he replies to the objections that on his doctrine men may continue in sin and yet be saved; that his teaching releases men from moral obligation; and that it makes the law of God an evil thing, 6:1–7:25. In the following chapter he shows that on the basis of man’s justification by faith his complete sanctification and final glorification is assured, 8:1–39. Having stated the way of salvation through faith, he now points out that this does not conflict with the promises given to Israel by showing that these pertained only to the elect among them; that the rejection of Israel is due to their refusal of the way of salvation; that it is not a complete rejection; and that in the end the Jews will be converted and will turn to God, 9:1–11:36.
II. The Practical Part, 12:1–16:27. The apostle admonishes the Christians at Rome that they be devoted to God and love one another, 12:1–21. He desires that they willingly subject themselves to the civil authorities and meet all their obligations, 13:1–14. He enjoins upon them due regard for the weakness of others in matters of indifference, and the proper use of their Christian liberty, 14:1–23. Then he holds up to them Christ as their great example, and speaks of his purpose to visit Rome, 15:1–33. Finally he sends a long list of greetings to Rome and closes his epistle with a doxology, 16:1–27.

1. The characteristic feature of this Epistle is found in the fact that it is the most systematic writing of the apostle, an elaborate treatment of a single theme with appropriate practical exhortations. It contains a careful and rather full statement of what Paul himself calls, “my Gospel,” 2:16; 16:25. His Gospel is that man is justified by faith and not by the works of the law. In harmony with this theme the contents of the Epistle are Soteriological rather than Christological. The apostle points out that both Gentiles and Jews need this justification; that it is the way of salvation provided by God himself; that it yields the most blessed spiritual fruits; that it does not issue in the moral degradation of man, but in a life sanctified by the Spirit and culminating in everlasting glory; and that, though the Gentiles will have precedence over the Jews, who rejected the Gospel, these too will at last accept it and be saved. Godet calls this Epistle, “The Cathedral of Christian Faith.” Because of its methodical character some have mistakenly regarded it as a treatise rather than as a letter. If it were a treatise, it might have been sent to one church as well as another, and it may be regarded as accidental that it was sent to Rome. But this is not the case. We cannot understand this, the greatest of Paul’s literary productions, unless we study it historically in its relation to the church of Rome.
2. The style of the Epistle is described by Sanday and Headlam in the following words: “This Epistle, like all the others of the group (I and II Cor. and Gal.), is characterized by a remarkable energy and vivacity. It is calm in the sense that it is not aggressive and that the rush of words is always well under control. Still there is a rush of words rising repeatedly to passages of splendid eloquence; but the eloquence is spontaneous, the outcome of strongly moved feeling; there is nothing about it of labored oratory. The language is rapid, terse, incisive; the argument is conducted by a quick cut and thrust of dialectic; it reminds us of a fencer with his eye always on his antagonist.” Intern. Crit. Comm., Romans p. LV.

Both external and internal evidence clearly point to Paul as the author. We find the first direct evidence for his authorship in the Apostolicon of Marcion. The letter is further ascribed to Paul by the Muratori canon, and is quoted as his by Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian and a host of others. The Epistle itself claims to have been written by Paul, and this claim is borne out by the contents, so that even Davidson says: “The internal character of the epistle and its historical allusions coincide with the external evidence in proving it an authentic production of the apostle.” Introd. I p. 119.
The authenticity of this great letter, along with that of the Epistles to the Corinthians and to the Galatians has been well-nigh universally admitted. The first one to attack it was Evanson in 1792, followed by Bruno Bauer in 1852. Their rather reckless criticism has made little impression on German critical opinion. In more recent times the Pauline authorship has been denied by the Dutch scholars Loman (1882), Pierson and Naber (1886) and Van Manen (1892), and by the Swiss scholar Steck (1888); but their arguments, of which an epitomy may be found in Sanday-Headlam, Romans p. LXXXVI; Baljon, Gesch. v/d Boeken des N. V. p. 97 ff.; and Godet, Introd. to the N. T. I St. Paul’s Epistles p. 393,—failed to carry conviction among New Testament critics.

Regarding the church to which this letter is addressed there are especially two questions that call for discussion, viz. 1. Its Origin; and 2. Its Composition.
1. Its Origin. There are three theories respecting the origin of the church at Rome.
a. According to a tradition dating from the fourth, and probably from the third century, that found general acceptance in the Roman Catholic church, the congregation at Rome was founded by Peter in A. D. 42 (Jerome and Eusebius) or in A. D. 44 (Acts 12:17). This view is now generally given up and is even rejected by some Catholic scholars. It finds no support in Scripture, but is rather contradicted by its plain statements. From Acts 16:9, 10 we get the impression that Paul was the first missionary to pass into Europe (A. D. 52), and this is just what we would expect, since he, in distinction from the other apostles, was sent to the Gentiles. Moreover we still find Peter in the East, when in A. D. 50 the council of Jerusalem is held, which does not agree with the tradition that he was at Rome 25 years. And neither in this Epistle, nor in those written from Rome do we find the slightest trace of Peter’s presence there; yet Paul would certainly have mentioned him, had he been the bishop of the Roman church. It is also impossible to reconcile Paul’s plan to visit Rome with the principle he himself lays down in 15:20, if the local church had been founded by Peter. And finally tradition tells us that Linus was the first bishop of Rome, and Clement, the second.
b. Protestants often ascribed the origin of this church to the Roman Jews that were in Jerusalem at the feast of Pentecost, Acts 2:10, and witnessed the extraordinary phenomena that accompanied the descent of the Holy Spirit. On that theory the church really originated among the Jews. In proof of this the report which Suetonius gives of the decree of expulsion issued by the emperor Claudius against the Jews of Rome, is adduced: “Judaeos impulsore Chresto assidue tumultuantes Roma expulit.” It is said that this Chresto must be Christ, whose religion spread in the Jewish synagogue and caused violent dissensions that were dangerous to the public peace; but this may well be, and indeed is, questioned by many scholars. Moreover it is rather doubtful, whether the Jews converted at the time of Pentecost were in a position to evangelize others and to establish a Christian church. And finally this explanation does not square with the fact that the church at Rome, as we know it from the Epistle, does not bear a Judaeo- but a Gentile-Christian complexion.
c. It seems more likely, therefore, that the church at Rome originated somewhat later, and in a different fashion. We know that before A. D. 44 the gospel had been brought to Antioch in Syria and spread rapidly among the Gentiles of that region, Acts 11:20. Soon a flourishing church was established in that beautiful city on the Orontes, a church endowed with great spiritual gifts, having in its midst an abundance of men that were well qualified for the work of evangelization, Acts 13:1. Now there was at that time a lively intercommunication between Syria and Rome, and it is certainly not improbable that some Gentile Christians, filled with the spirit of evangelization, set out from here for the capital of the world. Or if not from here, some such persons may have gone forth from the other centers of Christianity, established by Paul on his missionary journeys. This would explain, how the great apostle acquired so many acquaintances at Rome as he names in chapter 16, mostly Gentiles, some of whom he calls his fellow-laborers (cf. 3, 9, 12), while he characterizes others with some word of endearment (cf. 5–8, 10, 11, 13). Some such friends they must have been who went out to meet Paul on the Appian way, Acts 28:25, while the Jews at Rome were evidently quite ignorant as to the teachings of Christianity, Acts 28:17–29. On this theory the Gentile character of the church at Rome causes no surprise.
2. Its Composition. Quite a controversy has been waged about the question, whether the church at Rome was predominantly Jewish- or Gentile-Christian. The traditional idea was that it consisted primarily of Christians from the Gentiles; but the view that it was composed mainly of Jewish Christians gained currency through Baur and was widely accepted for some time. In support of this theory scholars appealed: (1) To the passages in the epistle, in which Paul seems to include himself and his readers in the first person plural, as 3:9 and 5:1. But notice the same feature in 1. Cor. 10:1, though the Corinthians were certainly Gentiles. (2) To those passages that speak of the relation of the readers, or of Paul and his readers alike to the law, as 7:1–6. This argument is stronger than the preceding one; yet we find that the apostle employs similar language with reference to the Galatians, Gal. 3:13–4:9, while most of these were certainly outside the pale of Jewry. (3) To the character of Paul’s argumentation and the dialectical form in which he presents his Gospel to the Romans. But even this does not necessarily imply that he was writing primarily to Jewish Christians, since he argues in similar fashion in the Epistle to the Galatians, and because this finds a ready explanation partly in the Jewish training of the apostle and partly in the fact that Paul was fully conscious of the objections which legalistic adversaries were wont to bring against his doctrine. Besides, he knew that there were Jewish converts in the church at Rome too, who might make similar strictures. (4) To the chapters 9–11, regarded by Baur as the kernel of the epistle, which relate particularly to the Jews. Yet in these very chapters Paul addresses, in the most unambiguous manner, the Gentiles, and refers to Israel as distinct from his readers, cf. 9:3, 24; 10:1–3; 11:13, 17–20, 24, 25, 30, 31.
When in 1876 Weizsäcker again took up the defense of the older view, he produced a decisive reaction in its favor. And, no doubt, it deserves the preference, for: (1) In 1:5, 6 Paul writes: “By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among the Gentiles (τοῖς ἔθνεσιν) for his Name; among whom ye are also the called of Jesus Christ.” (2) In verse 13 he says that he had often purposed to come to Rome “that I might have some fruit among you also, even as among other Gentiles.” (3) When the apostle says in 11:13: “For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office,” it is best to assume with Meyer and Godet that he is addressing the whole congregation in its chief constituent clement. (4) According to 15:15 ff. the writer has spoken the more boldly to the Romans, because of the grace that was given him “that he should be the minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the Gospel of God, that the offering up of the Gentiles might be acceptable, being sanctified by the Holy Ghost.” On the strength of these passages we conclude that, though there was a Jewish constituency in the church at Rome, it consisted primarily of Gentile Christians, so that in ministering to it also Paul was the apostle of the Gentiles. It seems almost certain, however, that a legalistic tendency had sprung up in the congregation, but this tendency may have been characteristically Roman rather than specifically Judaistic. For further details of this controversy cf. Holtzmann, Einleitung p. 232 ff.; Sanday-Headlam, Comm. p. XXXI ff.; The Expositor’s Greek Test. II p. 561 ff.; and Zahn, Einleitung I p. 299 ff. etc.

1. Occasion and Purpose. It is impossible to speak with absolute certainly respecting the occasion of Paul’s writing this Epistle, although scholars are quite well agreed that the apostle found it in the fact that he had finished his work in the East and now intended to visit the imperial city, on which he had long since cast his eye. Probably an imminent journey of Phebe to the capital offered him, on the eve of his departure for Jerusalem, the desired opportunity to send his communication to Rome.
But if the question is asked, why the apostle wrote this letter to the Romans, why he gave it the particular character that it has, we find that there is a great variety of opinions. Some regard the Epistle as historical and occasional; others, as dogmatic and absolute. There are those who hold that the particular form of the letter was determined by the condition of the readers; and those that would make it dependent on the state of Paul’s mind. Some believe that the apostle in writing it had in mind his Gentile readers, while others hold that he had special reference to the Jewish constituents of the church at Rome. The different theories respecting the purpose of the letter may be reduced to three.
a. According to some the purpose of the letter is dogmatic, the Epistle containing a systematic exposition of the doctrine of salvation. But if Paul meant to give in it nothing but an objective statement of the truth, the question may be asked, why he should send it to Rome, and not to some other church.
b. Others affirm that the aim of the Epistle is controversial, Paul giving an exposition of the truth with special reference to the opposition of Judaeism to his gospel. Now we need not doubt that there is a polemic element in this Epistle, but the question may well be raised, whether the apostle did not combat legalism in general rather than Judaeism.
c. Still others believe that the purpose of the letter is conciliatory, aiming at the unity of Jew and Gentile in the church at Rome. This theory also contains an element of truth, for Paul certainly was very solicitous about that unity, when he wrote this Epistle; but it is a mistake to regard the promotion of it as his sole purpose in writing.
It seems to us that, with Holtzmann, Sanday-Headlam and Denney (in Exp. Gk. Test.), we should combine these various elements in stating the purpose of the Epistle. Paul had long cherished a desire to visit the city on the Tiber. Through his friends and associates he had received some intelligence regarding the church that had been founded there. And now that he is about to depart for Jerusalem, he has evil forebodings; he may never see Rome; and yet he deems it desirable that the Roman church, which had not been founded by an apostle, should not only be notified of his intended visit, but receive a full and clear statement of his Gospel. Hence he prepares for the Romans a careful exposition of the Gospel truth. And knowing, as he did, the legalistic tendency of the human heart, accented, as it often was in his time, by Judaeism,—a tendency that probably found a fruitful soil among the moralistic Romans, he clearly exhibits its antagonism to the doctrine of salvation, at the same time carefully guarding and assiduously cultivating the unity of the believers at Rome, of the weak and the strong, of Jews and Gentiles.
2. Time and Place. As to the time, when Paul wrote this Epistle, we can infer from 1:13 that he had not yet been in Rome, and from 15:25 that he was still a free man. Therefore he must have written it before Pentecost of A. D. 58, for then he was taken captive at Jerusalem. On the other hand it is clear from 15:19–21 that the apostle has finished his task in the East and is now about to transfer his ministry to the West. Hence it follows that he composed this letter at the end of his third missionary journey, i. e. in the fall of A. D. 57, or in the spring of A. D. 58. This also agrees with the fact that the apostle in the Epistles to the Corinthians (1 16:1–4; 2 8, 9) is still occupied with the collection for the saints at Jerusalem, while this work is finished, when he writes to the Romans, 15:25.
If this date is correct, then the Epistle must have been written at Corinth. And there are some data that corroborate this conclusion. The bearer of the letter is a member of the church at Cenchrea, one of the ports of Corinth, 16:1; and Gajus, the host of Paul, is most likely the person mentioned in 1 Cor. 1:14. Moreover the salutations of Timothy and Sopater or Sosipater in 16:21 is in perfect agreement with what is said in Acts 20:4 regarding the presence of these men at Corinth, when Paul started for Jerusalem.

Touching the integrity of the Epistle to the Romans two questions have arisen: 1. Is the doxology, 16:25–27, in the right place, or does it belong between 14:23 and 15:1, or is it spurious? And 2. Are the chapters 15 and 16 genuine or spurious?
1. The place of the doxology at the end of chapter 16 was doubted as early as the days of Origen. External testimony favors it, since it is found there in most of the MSS, while some have it at the end of chapter 14, and a few, in both places. Zahn is of the opinion, however, that internal evidence decidedly favors placing it at the end of chapter 14, because: (1) Paul’s letters are often interspersed with doxologies, but never end with them. (2) It seems unlikely that Paul should add a doxology, closely connected with the body of the letter, after a list of personal greetings not so connected with it. (3) The doxology is closely related to the subject-matter of 14:23 and 15:1. (4) It is far harder to explain its transfer from the 16th chapter to the 14th than the reverse. Einl. I p. 268 ff.
Some, as f. i. Davidson and Baljon, doubt the genuineness of the doxology, but: (1) It is found in all the MSS. (2) The thought expressed in it is too rich and varied to be an interpolation. (3) No possible motive can be found for forging such a doxology.
2. The 15th chapter is regarded by some as spurious, (1) because it is not found in the canon of Marcion; and (2) since the appellative applied to Christ in verse 8 is considered very strange as coming from Paul; the expression in verse 19 is not characterized by the usual Pauline modesty; and the verses 24, 28, 29 are held to be in conflict with 1:10–15, because they imply that Paul merely desired to pay a short visit to Rome, when he was on his way to Spain. But the first argument has little weight, since Marcion omits many other parts of the New Testament, and several that are generally admitted to be genuine; and the difficulties mentioned under (2) easily yield to exegesis.
A far greater number of scholars reject chapter 16, (1) because Marcion’s canon does not contain it; (2) since it is contrary to the apostle’s custom to end his letters with so many greetings; and (3) because Paul was not in a position to know so many persons at Rome. To the first argument we need not reply again (cf. above); and as far as the greetings are concerned, it may be that Paul intentionally greeted so many persons at Rome to bring out clearly that, though he had not founded the church there, he was not a stranger to it, and to cultivate a certain familiarity. It deserves our attention that the only other Epistle in which we find a list of greetings is that to the Colossian church, which was like the church of Rome, in that it was not founded by the apostle. And taking in consideration the extensive travels of Paul in the East, and the constant movement of people in all parts of the empire to and from Rome, it causes no surprise that so many of the apostle’s acquaintances were in the capital.
Some who doubt the destination rather than the genuineness of this chapter surmise that it or a part of it originally constituted an epistle, or a fragment of one, that was addressed to the Ephesians. They point out that Phebe would be more likely to journey to Ephesus than to Rome; that, in view of what is said in Acts 18:19; 1 Cor. 16:19; 2 Tim. 4:19, there is a greater probability that Aquila and Priscilla were at Ephesus than in the imperial city; and that Epenetus is called “the first-fruits of Achaia unto Christ, 16:5. But none of these proofs are conclusive. Moreover Dr. Gifford points out in the Speaker’s Commentary that of the twenty-two persons named in verses 6–15, not one can be shown to have been at Ephesus; while (1) Urbanus, Rufus, Ampliatus, Julia and Junia are specifically Roman names; and (2) besides the first four of these names, “ten others, Stachys, Apelles, Tryphaena, Tryphosa, Hermes, Hermas, Patrobas (or (Patrobius), Philologus, Julia, Nereus are found in the sepulchral inscriptions on the Appian way as the names of persons connected with ‘Cæsar’s household’ (Phil. 4:22), and contemporary with St. Paul.”

The Epistle to the Romans is one of the best attested writings of the New Testament. Its canonicity was never doubted by the Church, and it has been remarkably free from the attacks of Rationalism up to the present time. Before the beginning of the third century there are nineteen witnesses to the canonicity of the letter, including some of the apostolic fathers, the Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs, Justin Martyr, the Muratori Canon, Marcion, Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria and Tertullian. Both friends and foes of Christianity accepted it as authoritative.
It is the most systematic of all the writings of Paul, containing a profound and comprehensive statement of the way of salvation, a statement made with special reference to the legalistically inclined Romans. That salvation can be had through faith only, and not by the works of the law, not by one’s works of morality, on which the man of the Roman type was inclined to place his reliance, is at once the great central doctrine of this epistle and its permanent lesson for all ages.

The First Epistle to the Corinthians



The contents of this Epistle may be divided into five parts:
I. Condemnation of the Factions in the Church, 1:1–4:21. After a brief introduction in 1:1–9 Paul states that he had heard of the divisions among the Corinthians, 1:11–12. In arguing against these he points out that his conduct was free from party spirit, since this is opposed by the gospel and forbidden by the character of Christ, 1:13–31. Moreover he reminds the Corinthians that his preaching had been free from all partisanship which glories in the wisdom of man, because the gospel is the message of divine wisdom, is revealed by the Spirit and is understood only through the Spirit; white party spirit misapprehends the nature of the ministry, 2:1–3:23. He concludes this argument by pointing to his own example, 4:1–21.
II. The Necessity of Church Discipline urged, 5:1–6:20. The Corinthians are exhorted to cast out the incestuous person, 5:1–13; to desist from lawsuits before the unrighteous, 6:1–11; and to flee from fornication, 6:12–20.
III. Answer to Inquiries sent from the Church, 7:1–14:39. Here we find a discussion of the lawfulness of marriage and its duties; directions about mixed marriages and an apostolic advice to the unmarried, 7:1–40. Then follows a discussion of Christian liberty in the participation of food offered to the idols, in which love must rule, and one must beware of any participation in idolatrous practices. The apostle illustrates this principle at length by pointing to his own example, 8:1–11:1. Next the place of woman in the assemblies of the church, and the proper observance of the Lord’s supper is considered, 11:2–34. And finally the spiritual gifts manifest in the congregation come in for consideration. Their source and diversity, their functions, the superiority of love over the extraordinary gifts, and of prophecy over the speaking of tongues, and the right service of God,—all receive due treatment, 12:1–14:40.
IV. A Discussion of the Resurrection, 15:1–58. The apostle shows that the resurrection of Christ is an essential article of the apostolic testimony, and is the pledge of our resurrection; and answers various objections, describing the nature of the resurrection body and the final victory over death.
V. Conclusion, 16:1–24. In this chapter the apostle commends to the Corinthians the collection for the saints at Jerusalem, bespeaks a good reception for Timothy, and ends his epistle with friendly admonitions and salutations.

1. This Epistle is the most comprehensive of all the writings of Paul. It is just about as long as the letter to the Romans, and contains the same number of chapters; but, while the Epistle to the Romans systematically treats a single theme, this letter discusses a great variety of subjects, such as party spirit, church discipline, marriage and celibacy, Christian liberty, the place of woman in the church, the significance and use of the charismata, and the resurrection of the dead. And the apostle treats of these matters in a very orderly way, first taking up the accusations contained in the report of those from the household of Chloe, and then answering the questions that were put to him in the letter sent by the Corinthians.
2. Closely connected with the first is a second characteristic, viz. that this Epistle is the most practical of all the Pauline letters. It reveals to us, as no other New Testament writing does, the snares and pitfalls, the difficulties and temptations to which a church just emerging from heathendom and situated in a wicked city, is exposed. Many of the problems that arose in the Corinthian church constantly recur in city congregations. As important as the Epistle to the Romans is for instruction in Christian doctrine, the first Epistle to the Corinthians is for the study of social relations.
3. Little need be said regarding the language of Paul in this Epistle; it is the Greek of a Hellenistic Jew. We cannot call it Hebraistic; neither is it literary Greek. It is rather the Greek of Paul’s own period, containing, aside from a few Hebrew loanwords, such as πάσχα, very few words that are found exclusively in the Septuagint. Findlay says: “Paul has become in this epistle more than elsewhere τοῖς Ἕλλησιν ὡς Ἕλλην.” Exp. Gk. Test. II p. 748. The argumentative form too in which the apostle’s thought is cast here, as elsewhere, is far more Greek than Hebrew, more Western than Oriental.

This epistle also claims to have been written by Paul, 1:1, 2, and bears upon the face of it the earmarks of the great apostle. The language, the style, the doctrine, and the spirit which it breathes,—are all his; and the historical allusions in chapters 9 and 16 fit in exactly with what we know of his life and acquaintances from other sources. Besides this there is an imposing body of external evidence from Clement of Rome down to the authenticity of the letter. Hence it, like that written to the Romans, has been remarkably free from hostile attacks. Robertson and Plummer truly say in the Introduction to their Commentary on this Epistle p. XVI: “Both the external and the internal evidence for the Pauline authorship are so strong that those who attempt to show that the apostle was not the writer succeed chiefly in proving their own incompetence as critics.”
The free-lance Bruno Bauer was the first, and for a long time the only one, to attack the genuineness of I Corinthians. But in the last two decennia of the preceding century the Dutch critics Loman, Pierson, Naber and Van Manen, and the Swiss professor Steck chimed in with a most irresponsible kind of criticism, founded on supposed inconsistencies and evidences of composite authorship found in the Epistle, and on imaginary conflicts between it and the Acts of the Apostles. No critic of name takes their argument serious; according to the general estimate they are scarcely worth the paper on which they are written.

1. Its Origin. After Paul left Athens on his second missionary journey, he came to the capital of Achaia,—to Corinth, a city situated on the isthmus of the Peloponnese between the Ionian and the Aegean sea. It was not the old Corinth, since this had been destroyed by Mummius in 146 B. C., but Corinth redivivus, Corinth rebuilt by Ceasar just a hundred years later, that had rapidly risen in fame, and now had a population of between six and seven hundred thousand, consisting of Romans, Greeks, Jews and people of such other nationalities as were attracted by the commercial advantages of Corinth. The East and the West met there, and it soon became the mart of the world, where unparalleled riches were found alongside of the deepest poverty. And with the increase of riches and luxury came a life of ease and licentiousness. Worldly wisdom and great moral degradation went hand in hand. On the Acropolis shone the temple of Venus, where a thousand maidens devoted themselves to the sensual service of the goddess. Corinthian immorality became a byword; and the expression to live like a Corinthian (κορινθιάζειν) was indicative of the greatest licentiousness. Farrar says: “Corinth was the Vanity Fair of the Roman Empire, at once the London and the Paris of the first century after Christ.” St. Paul I p. 556.
To that worldly-wise profligate Corinth Paul wended his way with a sad heart in A. D. 52. Depressed in spirit because of past experiences, he began his labors in the synagogue, preaching to the Jews; but when they opposed him, he turned to the Gentiles and taught them in the house of a certain Justus. Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, became one of his first converts, and many others believed and were baptized, Acts 18:1–8. Encouraged by a vision, he now began a ministry of a year and a half in that city. The Jews, filled with hatred, brought him before Gallio, the proconsul of Achaia, but did not succeed in making out a case against him. Even after this incident he labored a long time in Corinth and the adjacent country and undoubtedly established the Corinthian church on this occasion, Acts 18:18; 1 Cor. 1:1.
2. Its Composition and Character. We may be sure that the church consisted primarily of Christians from the Gentiles. This impression is conveyed by the account of Paul’s work in Corinth, preserved for us in Acts 18, and is strengthened by a careful study of the epistle. The apostle says of the congregation, describing it according to its main constituent element: “Ye know that ye were Gentiles, carried away unto these dumb idols, even as ye were led,” 12:1. Yet the church also comprised many Jews, as we may infer from Acts 18:8; 1 Cor. 1:12; 7:18; 12:13. The majority of the converts were of the poorer classes, 1:26; but there were also Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, Acts 18:8; 1 Cor. 1:14, Erastus, the chamberlain of the city and Gajus, Paul’s host, Rom. 16:23, and several others that were in more favorable circumstances, as we may infer from 1 Cor. 11:21, 22.
As far as the complexion of the church is concerned we find that it bore the impress of its surroundings. There was a shallow intellectualism, coupled with a factiousness that was “the inveterate curse of Greece.” Lax morals and unseemly conduct disgraced its life. Christian liberty was abused and idolatrous practices were tolerated. Even the gifts of the Holy Spirit gave rise to vainglory; and a false spiritualism led, on the one hand, to a disregard of bodily sin, and, on the other, to a denial of the bodily resurrection. But these faults should not blind us to the fact that there was a great deal in the church of Corinth that was praise worthy. The social relations among the Corinthians had already undergone to a certain degree the elevating and sanctifying influence of the Holy Spirit; the church was rich in spiritual gifts, and was willing to impart of its substance to the poor saints at Jerusalem.
The divisions at Corinth deserve more than a passing notice, since they are made so prominent in the Epistle. The question is, whether we can determine the character of the existing parties. In attempting this we desire to point out first of all that they were no parties in the strict sense of the word, each with an organization of its own, but merely dissensions in the church, representing a difference of opinion. They had not led to an absolute split in the ranks of believers, for Paul distinctly recognizes a certain feeling of unity in the church of Corinth, since he mentions meetings of the whole church repeatedly, 11:18; 14:23. Yet there were four divisions of which each one had his own slogan.
a. Some said: “I am of Paul!” This party is mentioned first, not necessarily because it comes first in chronological order. Since the church had been founded by Paul, it would seem that a separate party, using the apostle’s name as their shibboleth, could only arise in opposition to another. It consisted most likely of those serious-minded believers who had regard to the contents of the gospel preaching rather than to its form; and who heartily accepted the simple doctrine of the cross, as Paul preached it, who had come to them without wisdom of words that the cross of Christ might not be made of non-effect.
b. Others said: “I am of Apollos!” We do not believe that the preaching of Apollos differed essentially from that of Paul, nor that he was to blame for the dissension that arose as a result of his work. Paul himself bears witness to his perfect unity of spirit with Apollos, where he says that Apollos watered what he had planted, and that he that planteth and he that watereth are one, 3:6–8; and that he had greatly desired to send Apollos with Timothy and the other brethren to Corinth, 15:12. And is it not likely that Apollos refused to go, just because he feared that it might foster the party spirit? The Apollos Christians were in all probability those cultured Greeks who, while they were in accord with the doctrine of free grace, greatly preferred a speculative and oratorical presentation of it to the simple preaching of Paul.
c. Still others said: “I am of Cephas!” While the two former parties undoubtedly constituted the bulk of the congregation, there were also some who had scruples regarding the doctrine of free grace. They were conservative Jewish believers that adhered to the decisions of the council of Jerusalem and persisted in certain legal observances. Naturally they in spirit rallied around Peter, the apostle of circumcision. It may be that the tradition preserved by Dionysius of Corinth is true that Peter has at one time visited Corinth. If it is, this helps to explain their watchword.
d. Finally there were also those who said: “I am of Christ!” This party has always been the most difficult to characterize, and, as a result, a great number of theories have been broached. After F. C. Baur many interpreted this “of Christ” in the light of 2 Cor. 10:7, where the opponents of whom Paul speaks are ultra-Judaeists. On that theory the Christ-party would be even more strictly Jewish than the party of Peter. Others, such as Hilgenfeld and Hausrath maintain that it consisted of those that had been in personal relation with the Lord, and probably belonged to the five hundred of 1 Cor. 15:5. Godet suggests that they were such as were embued with the spirit of Cerinthus, and believed in Christ in distinction from the human Jesus. He identifies them with those who would call Jesus accursed, 1 Cor. 12:3. We prefer to think with Meyer, Ellicott, Alford, Findley (Exp. Gk. Test.) and Biesterveld that it consisted of the ultra-pious ones who, despising all human leadership, arrogated the common watchword as their own private property, and by so doing made it a party slogan. They regarded themselves as the ideal party, were filled with spiritual pride, and thus became a great stumblingblock for the apostle. The key to this interpretation is found in 3:22, 23, where the apostle offers a corrective for the party spirit, when he says: “Whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours; and ye are Christ’s and Christ is God’s.” Findlay correctly remarks that “the catholic ὑμεῖς Χριστοῦ swallows up the self-assertive and sectarian Εγὼ δὲ Χριστοῦ.
3. Paul’s Communications with it. There are two questions that call for consideration under this heading: a. How often did Paul visit Corinth? and b. Did he write more letters to the Corinthian church than we now possess?
a. We know that Paul visited Corinth in A. D. 52, Acts 18:1, and again in 57, Acts 20:2. Are there traces of any other visits? The allusions in 2 Cor. 2:1; 12:14; 13:1 seem to imply that he had been in Corinth twice before he wrote II Corinthians, and hence prior to the visit of A. D. 57. In all probability we must assume a visit not recorded in the Acts of the Apostles. The question is, however, whether we must place it before the writing of I Corinthians, or between this and the composition of II Corinthians. This cannot be decided absolutely with the data at hand, but we consider it preferable to place it before the first Epistle: (1) because the time intervening between the two letters is so short that a trip to Corinth in that time is exceedingly improbable; (2) Since, Timothy and Titus having been in Corinth a part of that time, we cannot understand, what could make it imperative for Paul to make such a hasty visit; and (3) II Corinthians constantly refers to things written in the first Epistle in a way that would not have been necessary if Paul had already been in Corinth himself. In favor of placing it after the writing of the first Epistle, it is urged that I Corinthians does not refer to a visit that shortly preceded it.
b. It seems to us that Paul unquestionably wrote more epistles to the Corinthians than those which we now possess. In 1 Cor. 5:9 the author clearly refers to an earlier letter, forbidding intercourse with immoral persons. That letter had been misunderstood, and therefore the impression it made is now corrected by the apostle. Very likely it also spoke of the collection for the saints at Jerusalem, 16:1, and conveyed the apostle’s intention to visit Corinth both before and after his visit to Macedonia, to which 2 Cor. 1:15, 16 refers, and which he changed before writing I Corinthians (cf. 16:5), thereby unwittingly exposing himself to the calumny of his enemies, 2 Cor. 1:15–18. From 2 Cor. 7:6–8 some infer that another letter, far more censorious than I Corinthians intervened between the two canonical letters, and caused the apostles uneasiness; but the evidence is not strong enough to warrant the conclusion.

1. Occasion and Purpose. This letter was occasioned by reports which Paul received from Corinth and by a series of questions that were put to him by the Corinthians. Those who were of the house of Chloe told him of the divisions in their home church, 1:11, and common report had it that fornication and even incest was permitted in the congregation, 5:1. Moreover the church sent a letter, probably by the hand of Stephanas, Fortunatus and Achaicus, 16:17, asking the apostles opinion in several matters, as marriage, 7:1; the eating of meat offered to the idols, 8:1; the proper conduct in the church, 11:2; the right use of the spiritual gifts, 12:1; and in all probability also respecting the doctrine of the resurrection, 15.
In harmony with this occasion the purpose of the Epistle is especially twofold: In the first place the apostle desires to quench the party spirit that was rife among the Corinthians that he might lead them all to the unity of faith that is in Jesus Christ; and to correct the other evils that were found in the church, such as the case of incest and the irregularities that disgraced their Agapae, which culminated in the Lord’s Supper. And in the second place it was his aim to give the young church, struggling with temptations and baffled by many difficult questions, further instruction along the lines indicated by them in their letter. With great diligence and care and solicitude for the welfare of the congregation the apostle applies himself to this task. In answer to the question, whether he also intended to defend his apostleship over against his enemies we would say that, though this was not altogether absent from his mind (cf. chs. 4 and 9), he does not aim at this directly like he does in writing II Corinthians, when the hostility of the false teachers has become far more pronounced.
2. Time and Place. The place, where this Epistle was written, is clearly indicated in 16:8, and therefore does not call for further discussion. This also aids us in determining the time of writing. The only stay of Paul at Ephesus of any duration is described in Acts 19. If our chronological calculations are correct, he came there in A. D. 54 and, after a stay of three years, left there again in 57. According to 1 Cor. 16:8 he wrote the epistle toward the end of his Ephesian ministry, before Pentecost of A. D. 57, and therefore probably in the early part of that year. We cannot conclude from 1 Cor. 5:7 that it was when the feast of unleavened bread was celebrated, although it is very well possible that the nearness of that feast gave rise to the line of thought developed in that chapter.

The canonicity of the Epistle is abundantly attested by early Christian literature. It is the first one of the New Testament writings that is cited by name by one of the apostolic fathers. Clement of Rome says in his first Epistle to the Corinthians: “Take the Epistle of the blessed Paul the apostle into your hands etc.” The writings of the other apostolic fathers, viz. Barnabas, Hermas, Ignatius and Polycarp show clear traces of the use of this Epistle. From Irenaeus on it is quoted as Holy Scripture. The Gnostics regarded it with special favor. It was found in Marcion’s canon, in the Muratorian Fragment etc. The testimony to it is very full and clear.
In the Epistle to the Romans we have a statement of the way of salvation with special reference to the legalistic Romans; in this Epistle we find an exposition of it particularly with a view to the philosophically inclined Greeks. It clearly reveals that the way of wordly wisdom is not the way of life, a valuable lesson for the Church of all ages. But there is still another phase that gives the Epistle permanent value; it contains the doctrine of the cross in its social application. In it we see the church of God in the world with all its glitter and show, its temptations and dangers, its errors and crimes, and are taught to apply the principles of the Christian religion to the diversified relations of life, as we meet them in the bustle of a great and wicked city.

The Second Epistle to the Corinthians



The contents of this Epistle are naturally divided into three parts:
I. Review of Paul’s Relations with the Corinthians, 1:1–7:16. After the usual epistolary introduction, 1:1–11, the apostle vindicates himself with respect to the change in his intended visit, and with reference to what he had written respecting the offender, 1:12–2:13. Having done this, he takes up the discussion of the apostleship. In the first place he considers the office of an apostle, comparing the ministry of the Law with that of the Gospel, 3:6–18, and vindicating his own position as an apostle of the New Covenant, 2:14–3:5; 4:1–6. Then he treats of the sufferings of an apostle which are inseparably connected with his work, but are alleviated by the hope of future glory, 4:7–5:10. Next the life of an apostle passes the review, which finds its constraining motive in the love of Christ, has its spiritual basis in the life of the Redeemer, and is marked by sufferings, dishonor and poverty, on the one hand; but also by longsuffering and kindness, by knowledge and righteousness, on the other, 5:11–6:10. This is followed up by an appeal of the apostle to the Corinthians that they should give him place in their hearts, and should not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers, 6:11–7:4. Finally the apostle tells the Corinthians that he had been comforted greatly by the coming of Titus, by whom his fears that the former letter might have estranged them, were allayed and made place for rejoicing, 7:5–16.
II. The Collection for the Judaean Christians, 8:1–9:15. The apostle points the Corinthians to the example of the Macedonians who gave abundantly for the poor at Jerusalem, 8:1–7; and to the example of Christ who became poor that the Corinthians might be enriched, 8:8–15. He commends to them Titus and the two brethren that are sent with him to gather the collection, 8:16–24; and exhorts them to give abundantly for this worthy cause, 9:1–18.
III. Paul’s Vindication of his Apostleship, 10:1–13:14. In this part Paul deals directly with his opponents. First of all he points out that the ministry entrusted to him also extended to the Corinthians, 9:1–15. Then he replies to his opponents that he had been perfectly loyal to the cause of Christ, 11:1–6; that he had not dealt deceitfully with the Corinthians, when he refused support from them, 11:7–15; that he had far greater things in which to glory than they could boast of, 11:16–12:10; and that it had never been and was not now his aim to make a gain of the Corinthians, 12:11–18. Finally he gives them warnings in view of his coming visit, and closes his epistle with final salutations and benediction, 12:19–13:13.

1. II Corinthians is one of the most personal and the least doctrinal of all the letters of Paul, except the one written to Philemon. The doctrinal element is not altogether wanting; the great truths of salvation find expression in it, as well as in the other letters of the apostle; but, though they enter into its composition, they have a subordinate place and are, as it were, eclipsed by its large personal element, in which we see the very heart of the apostle, with all its varying moods of courage and anxiety, of love and aversion, of hope and disappointment. Alford says: “Consolation and rebuke, gentleness and severity, earnestness and irony succeed one another at very short intervals and without notice.”
2. The second characteristic of this Epistle is closely connected with the preceding one; it is the most unsystematic of all the letters of Paul. How greatly it differs in this respect from the Epistle to the Romans and from First Corinthians, becomes perfectly evident, when one attempts to give an outline of the contents. This irregularity is due to the fact that in this letter we do not find a calm discussion of doctrinal subjects or of certain phases of Christian life, but above all an impassioned self-defense against unjust charges and calumnies and insinuations. However humble the apostle may be, and though he may regard himself as the least of all the saints, yet in this letter he finds himself constrained to boast of his sufferings and of his work.
3. The language of this Epistle has been judged variously, some criticizing it severely and others praising its excellencies. We cannot deny that it is more rugged and harsh, more obscure and difficult of interpretation than we are accustomed to in Paul’s other writings. “Parentheses and digressions often intersect the narrative and disturb its sequence.” (Davidson) Meyer says beautifully: “The excitement and varied play of emotion with which Paul wrote this letter, probably also in haste, certainly make the expression not seldom obscure and the sentences less flexible, but only heighten our admiration of the great delicacy, skill and power with which this outpouring of Paul’s spirit and heart, possessing as a defense of himself a high and peculiar interest, flows and gushes on, till finally, in the last part, wave on wave overwhelms the hostile resistance.” Comm. p. 412.

The external testimony to the authorship of Paul is inferior to that of I Corinthians; yet it is so strong that it leaves no room for honest doubt. Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian and many others, from all parts of the early Church, quote it by name.
But even if this were not so strong, internal evidence would be quite sufficient to settle the question of authenticity. In the first place the Epistle claims to be a product of the great apostle. In the second place it is written in a style that is in many respects characteristically Pauline, notwithstanding its unique features; it contains the doctrine of salvation, as we are wont to hear it proclaimed by the apostle of the Gentiles; and it reveals his character, as no other Epistle does. And in the third place the thought of this Epistle is closely interwoven with that of I Corinthians. In 1 Cor. 16:5 Paul speaks of his plan of travel, and in 2 Cor. 1:15–24 he comments on it; in 1 Cor. 5 he urges that discipline be applied to the incestuous person, and in 2 Cor. 2:5–11 he says, with reference to this case, that they have inflicted sufficient punishment, and restrains their evident severity; respecting the collection for the Judaean Christians which he enjoins on the Corinthians in 1 Cor. 16:1–4, he gives further directions in 2 Cor. 8 and 9; to the Judaeizers who cast doubt on his apostleship he refers in 1 Cor. 4 and 9, and speaks of them more at length in 2 Cor. 10–13.
The authenticity of the Epistle too was attacked by Bruno Bauer and by the Dutch critics that we mentioned in connection with the first Epistle. But their work failed to convince anyone but themselves. Godet truly says: “—the scholars who cannot discern, across these pages, the living personality of St. Paul, must have lost in the work of the study, the sense for realities.” Introd. to the N. T. I p. 337.

1. Occasion and Purpose. In order to understand the occasion that induced Paul to write this Epistle to the Corinthians, we must bring it in connection with the first letter, which was in all probability borne to Corinth by Titus, Paul’s spiritual son. After it had gone forth, the apostle pondered on what he had written in that letter, and it caused him some uneasiness of mind, 2 Cor. 7:8. He reflected that he had written in a rather severe strain regarding the divisions at Corinth and the incestuous person, and feared for a time that his words might be misconstrued, that his letter might create a false impression, and that his severity might provoke resentment and thus injure the cause of the gospel that lay so near to his heart.
We are aware that some scholars, as f. i. Hausrath, Schmiedel, Kennedy, Baljon, Findlay, Robertson (in Hastings D. B.) and Davidson hold that 2 Cor. 2:4, 9; 7:8 refer to a second lost epistle of Paul, the so-called Painful Letter; but with Zahn, Holtzmann and Bernard (in Expositor’s Gk. Test.) we believe it to be a rather gratuitous assumption that such an epistle ever existed.
Shortly after Paul had sent I Corinthians, he left Ephesus for Troas, where a splendid opportunity for work offered. Yet he was keenly disappointed, for he had expected to find Titus there with tidings from Corinth; and when he did not find him, his very anxiety caused him to sail for Macedonia that he might meet his beloved brother and co-laborer the sooner and be reassured by him, 2 Cor. 2:12, 13. The mere change of the field of labor brought him no relief, for he says: “When we were come into Macedonia, our flesh had no rest, but we were troubled on every side; without were fightings, within were fears.” 7:5. Soon, however, he was comforted by the coming of Titus, 7:6; the painful uncertainty now made place for calm assurance, yea even for joy and thanksgiving. But his happiness was not unalloyed, since the report of Titus was not altogether favorable. The Corinthian congregation as a whole had taken kindly to the warnings and directions of the previous letter. The words of reproof had made a deep impression on them, had saddened their hearts, had filled them with sorrow,—but it was a godly sorrow that worked repentance. Hence the apostle had occasion to rejoice and did rejoice, 7:7–16. The enemies of Paul, however, had been embittered by the former Epistle and had increased their sinister work, attempting to undermine the apostolic authority of Paul by charging that he was fickle and vacillating, 1:15–24; that he was controlled by fleshly motives, 10:2; that he was bold at a distance, but cowardly, when present, 10:10; that he was dealing deceitfully with the Corinthians even in taking no support from them, 11:7–12; and that he had not shown himself an apostle by his works, 12:11–13.
The question may be asked to which one of the four parties mentioned in I Corinthians the enemies belong with which the apostle deals in 2 Cor. 10–13. It is quite clear, and scholars are generally agreed, that they were in the main, if not exclusively, ultra-Judaeists. But there is no such unanimity in classifying them with one of the divisions of which the first Epistle speaks. Following F. C. Baur many, such as Baljon, Davidson, Weiss, identify them with those whose watchword was: “I am of Christ!” Others, however, as Meyer and Zahn regard them as belonging to the party that professed special allegiance to Peter. To this view we give preference; however, with the proviso’s that in this letter Paul does not deal with the whole party, but rather with its leaders, who had probably come from Judaea with letters of commendation, 3:1, and whom Paul qualifies as “false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves in apostles of Christ,” 11:13;—and that it is quite possible that some of his words refer to those who, ignoring and dispising all human authority, claimed to be of Christ, and did not uphold the honor and faithfulness of the apostle against the false teachers. Cf. 10:7.
This being the situation at Corinth, when the apostle wrote his second letter, he was naturally led to write with a twofold purpose. In the first place it was his desire to express his gratitude for the way in which the Corinthians had received his former letter, and to inform them of the joy he experienced, when they had manifested their willingness to mend their ways and had been filled with godly sorrow. And in the second place he considered it incumbent on him to defend his apostleship against the calumnies and the malignant attacks of the Judaeistic adversaries.
2. Time and Place. In view of the account we have given of the course of events that followed the writing of I Corinthians, it is not very difficult to establbish approximately both the time and the place of writing. We may assume that, in accordance with the plan expressed in 1 Cor. 15:8, the apostle remained at Ephesus until Pentecost of A. D. 57. On leaving Ephesus he went to Troas, from where he crossed over to Macedonia. There he soon met Titus, presumably in the summer of that same year, and therefore some time before he was ready to visit Corinth, and received information from him regarding the condition of the Corinthian church. Overjoyed by what he heard, but at the same time apprehending the danger that lurked in the agitation of the Judaeizers, he immediately wrote II Corinthians, and sent it to Corinth by the hand of Titus, who was accompanied on his journey by two of the brethren, whose names are not recorded, 8:18, 22. The letter was written, therefore, in the summer of A. D. 57, somewhere in Macedonia.

The integrity of the letter has been attacked especially on two points. It is claimed by some that the verses 6:14–7:1 do not belong, where they stand, but form an awkward interruption in the course of thought. A few scholars regard them as a part of the lost letter to which 1 Cor. 5:9 refers. Now it is true that at first sight these verses seem out of place, where they stand, but at the same time it is very well possible to give a plausible explanation for their insertion at this point. Cf. Meyer, Alford, Expositor’s Greek, Testament.
Several critics opine that the chapters 10–13 did not originally form a part of this letter. Hausrath and Schmiedel advocated the theory that they constituted a part of the so-called Painful letter that intervened between I and II Corinthians. The reasons why they would separate this section from the other nine chapters, are the following: (1) The 10th chapter begins with the words Αὐτός δὲ ἐγὼ Παῦλος, which δὲ marks these words as an antithesis to something that is not found in the preceding. (2) The tone of the apostle in these last chapters is strikingly different from that in the other nine; from a calm and joyful tone it has changed to one of stern rebuke and of sharp invective. (3) Certain passages found in the first part point back to statements that are found in the last chapters, and thus prove that these are part of a previous letter. Thus 2:3 refers to 13:10; 1:23 to 13:2; and 2:9 to 10:6.
But to these arguments we may reply, in the first place, that δὲ often does no more than mark the transition to a new subject (cf. 1 Cor. 15:1; 2 Cor. 8:1); in the second place, that the change of tone need not surprise us, if we take in consideration the possibility that Paul did not write the whole Epistle at a single sitting and therefore in the same mood; and the fact that in the last chapters he deals more particularly with the false teachers among the Corinthians; and in the third place, that the passages referred to do not necessitate the construction put on them by the above named critics. Moreover, if we adopt the theory that another letter intervened between our two canonical Epistles, we are led to a very complicated scheme of Paul’s transactions with Corinth, a scheme so complicated that it is its own condemnation.

The ancient Church was unanimous in accepting the Epistle as a part of the Word of God. Of the apostolic fathers Polycarp plainly quotes it. Marcion included it in his canon, and it is also named in the Muratorian Fragment. The Syriac and old Latin Versions contain it, and the three great witnesses of the end of the second century quote it by name.
This Epistle too has permanent value for the Church of God. It is inseparably connected with I Corinthians, and as such also brings out that it is not the wisdom of the world but the foolishness of the cross that saves; and sheds further light on the application of Christian principles to social relations. More than any other Epistle it reveals to us the apostle’s personality, and is therefore a great psychological aid in the interpretation of his writings. It also has considerable doctrinal interest in that it exhibits a part of the apostle’s eschatology, 4:16–5:8; brings out the contrast between the letter and the spirit, 3:6–18; describes the beneficent influence of the glory of Christ, 3:18–4:6; and contains an explicit statement of the reconciliation and renovation wrought by Christ, 5:17–21.

The Epistle to the Galatians



The Epistle to the Galatians may be divided into three parts:
I. Paul’s Defense of his Apostleship, 1:1–2:21. After the usual introduction the apostle states the occasion of his writing, 1:1–10. In defense of his apostle’ship he points out that he has been called by God himself and received his Gospel by direct revelation, and had no occasion to learn it from the other apostle’s, 1:11–24; that the apostle’s showed their agreement with him by not demanding the circumcision of Titus and by admitting his mission to the gentiles, 2:1–10; and that he had even rebuked Peter, when this “pillar of the church” was not true to the doctrine of free grace, 2:11–21.
II. His Defense of the Doctrine of Justification, 3:1–4:31. Here the apostle clearly brings out that the Galatians received the gift of the Spirit by faith, 3:1–5; that Abraham was justified by faith, 3:6–9; that delivery from the curse of the law is possible only through faith, 3:10–14; and that the law has merely a parenthetic character, coming, as it does, between the promise and its fulfillment, 3:15–29. He compares Judæism to a son who is minor, and Christianity to a son that has attained his majority, 4:1–7; admonishes the Galatians that, realizing their privilege, they should not return to the beggarly elements of knowledge, 4:8–20; and says that the Jew is like the child of Hagar, while the Christian resembles the child of Sara, 4:21–31.
III. Practical Exhortations, 5:1–6:18. The Galatians are exhorted to stand in their Christian liberty, 5:1–12, a liberty that is not license but obedience, 5:13–18. The works of the flesh and the fruits of the Spirit are described that the Galatians may avoid the former and yield the latter, 5:19–26. The right way of treating the erring and weak is pointed out, and also the relation of what one sows to what one reaps, 5:1–10. With a brief summary and benediction Paul ends his letter, 6:11–18.

1. The Epistle to the Galatians has a great deal in common with that written to the Romans. They both treat the same general theme, viz. that by the works of the law no man will be justified before God. The same Old Testament passage is quoted in Rom. 4:3 and Gal. 3:6; and the same general argument is built on it, that the promise belongs to those who have faith like that which Abraham had even before he was circumcized. In both Epistles Paul aims at reconciling his admission that the Mosaic law came from God with his contention that it was not binding on Christians. Besides these similarities there are also several verbal agreements and parallel passages in these letters. Of the latter we may mention Rom. 8:14–17 and Gal. 4:5–7; Rom. 6:6–8 and Gal. 2:20; Rom. 13:13, 14 and Gal. 5:16, 17.
2. But however similar these Epistles may be, there are also striking differences. In the Epistle to the Romans Paul does not directly encounter such as are hostile to the truth or personal adversaries; hence it is written in a calm spirit and is at most indirectly polemical. This is quite different in the Epistle to the Galatians. There were those in the churches of Galatia who perverted the doctrine of the cross and called the apostolic authority of Paul in question. As a result this is one of the most controversial writings of the apostle; it is an outburst of indignant feeling, written in a fiery tone.
3. This Epistle abounds in striking contrasts. Grace is contrasted with the Law in its Jewish application, and especially on its ritual side; faith is placed in antithetic relation to the works of man; the fruits of the Spirit are set over against the works of the flesh; circumcision is opposed to the new creation; and the enmity of the world to the cross of Christ is brought out in strong relief.
4. The style of this letter is rather unique in that it unites the two extreme affections of Paul’s admirable character: severity and tenderness. At times he speaks in a cold severe tone, as if he would scarcely recognize the Galatians as brethren; then again his whole heart seems to yearn for them. It is hard to imagine anything more solemnly severe than the opening verses of the epistle and 3:1–5; but it is equally difficult to conceive of something more tenderly affectionate than appeals such as we find in 4:12–16, 18–20. We find in this letter a beautiful blending of sharp invective and tender pleading.

The authorship of the Epistle need not be subject to doubt, since both the external and the internal evidence are very strong. The letter is found in Marcion’s canon, is named in the Muratorian Fragment, and from the time of Irenaeus is regularly quoted by name. But even if the external testimony were not so strong, internal evidence would be quite sufficient to establish the Pauline authorship. The letter is self-attested, 1:1, and clearly reveals the character of the great apostle; it does this all the better, since it is so intensely personal. And though there are some harmonistic difficulties, when we compare 1:18 and Acts 9:23;—1:18, 19 and Acts 9:26;—1:18; 2:1 and Acts 9:26; 11:30; 12:25; 15:2,—yet these are not insuperable, and, on the whole, the historical allusions found in the epistle fit in well with the narrative in Acts.
For a long time Bruno Bauer was the only one to question the authenticity of this letter, but since 1882 the Dutch school of Loman and Van Manen joined him, followed by Friedrich in Germany. The principal reason for doubting it is the supposed impossibility of so rapid a development of the contrast between Jewish and Pauline Christianity as this letter presupposes. But the facts do not permit us to doubt that the conflict did occur then, while in the second century it had died out.

Among the Epistles of Paul this is the only one that is expressly addressed, not to an individual nor to a single church, but a group of churches, ταῖς ἐκκλησίαις τῆς Γαλατίας, 1:2. When did the apostle found these Galatian churches? The answer to that question will necessarily depend on our interpretation of the term Galatia, as it is used by the apostle. There is a twofold use of this appellative, viz. the geographical and the political. Geographically the term Galatia denotes one of the Northern districts of Asia Minor, a district that was bounded on the North by Bithynia and Paplagonia, on the East by the last named province and Pontus, on the West by Phrygia, and on the South by Lycaonia and Capadocia. The same name is employed in an official, political sense, however, to designate the Roman province which included Galatia proper, a part of Phrygia, Pisidia and Lycaonia. This twofold significance of the name Galatia has led to two theories respecting the location of the Galatian churches, viz. the North and the South Galatian theory. The former still represents the prevailing view; but the latter is accepted by an ever increasing number of scholars.
According to the North Galatian theory the churches of Galatia were situated in the geographical district indicated by that name. Since about 280 B. C. this territory was inhabited by a Celtic people, consisting of three separate tribes, that had migrated thither from Western Europe, and who constituted shortly before Christ the kingdom of Galatia. They were given to the worship of Cybele “with its wild ceremonial and hideous mutilations;” and were characterized by fickleness and great instability of character. “Inconstant and quarrelsome,” says Lightfoot, Com. p. 14, “treacherous in their dealings, incapable of sustained effort, easily disheartened by failures, such they appear, when viewed on their darker side.” The adherents of this theory are generally agreed that Paul, in all probability, founded the Galatian churches in the most important cities of this district, i. e. in the capital Ancyra, in Pessinus, the principal seat of the hideous service of Cybele, and at Tavium, at once a strong fortress and a great commercial center. The South Galatian theory, on the other hand, identifies the Galatian churches with those founded by Paul on his first missionary journey at Pisidian Antioch, Iconium, Lystra and Derbe, not excluding any other churches that may have been founded in the province.
The North Galatian theory is supported by the following considerations: (1) It is unlikely that Paul would address the inhabitants of Phrygia, Pisidia and Lycaonia as Galatians. That name could properly be given only to the Celts, the Gauls that lived in Galatia proper. (2) It is improbable that Paul would have referred to the churches founded by him and Barnabas jointly, as if they had been established by him alone. (3) The character of the Galatians, as it is reflected in this letter, is in remarkable agreement with that of the Celts whose changeableness was a subject of common comment. (4) Since in the Acts of the Apostles Mysia, Phrygia and Pisidia are all geographical terms, without any political significance, the inference seems perfectly warranted that the name Galatia, when it is found alongside of these, is employed in a similar sense. (5) “The expression used in the Acts of Paul’s visit to these parts, ‘the Phrygian and Galatian country,’ shows that the district intended was not Lycaonia and Pisidia, but some region which might be said to belong either to Phrygia or Galatia, or the parts of each contiguous to the other.” (Lightfoot).
Now we are not inclined to underrate the value of these arguments, but yet it seems to us that they are not altogether conclusive. The first one impresses us as a rather gratuitous assumption. Taking in consideration that the Roman province of Galatia was organized as early as 25 B. C. (Cf. Ramsay, Historical Comm. on the Galatians, p. 103 ff. and J. Weiss, Real-Enc. Art. Kleinasien), and had therefore existed at least 75 years, when Paul wrote this letter, it is hard to see, why he could not address its inhabitants as Galatians. This is true especially in view of the fact that the apostle shows a decided preference for the imperial nomenclature, probably since it was the most honorable. Moreover in writing to the congregations in South Galatia he could not very well use any other name, if he did not wish to address them in a very cumbrous way.—In connection with the second argument we must bear in mind that this Epistle was written after the rupture between Barnabas and Paul, when, so it seems; the labor was divided so that Paul received charge of the South Galatian churches. It was but natural therefore that he should feel the sole responsibility for them.—On the third argument Salmon, who also advocates the North Galatian theory, would wisely place little reliance, because “it may be doubted whether Celts formed the predominating element in the churches of Galatia,” and since “men of different nationalities show a common nature.” Introd. p. 412.—We do not feel the cogency of the fourth argument for, granted that Luke does use the term Galatia in its geographical sense, this does not prove anything as to Paul’s usage. In fact the presumption is that the apostle did not so use it.—And the last argument is of rather dubious value, since it rests on an uncertain interpretation of the expressions τὴν Φρυγίαν καὶ Γαλατικὴν Χώραν, Acts 16:, and τὴν Γαλατικὴν Χώραν κὰι Φρυγίαν, Acts 18:23. The expression in 16:6 can probably also be translated “the Phrygo-Galatic region,” referring to that part of the province Galatia that included Antioch and Iconium, and that originally belonged to Phrygia. In 18:23, however, where the names are reversed, we must translate, “the Galatic territory and Phrygia,” the last name then, according to Ramsay, referring to either Phrygia Galatica or Phrygia Magna. In any event it seems peculiar that Paul, if in these places he has reference to Galatia proper, should speak of the Galatian territory rather than of Galatia.
The North Galatian theory is defended by Weiss, Davidson, Jülicher, Godet and especially by Lightfoot. But the South Galatian theory also has able defenders, such as Renan, Hausrath, Zahn, Baljon and above all Ramsay, whose extended travels and research in Asia Minor, combined with great learning, enable him to speak with authority on questions pertaining to that district. This theory assumes that Paul used the name Galatia in its official political sense, and that the Galatian churches were those of Antioch, Iconium, Lystra and Derbe, e. a. Although we do not feel inclined to speak dogmatically on the subject, it seems to us that this theory deserves preference for the following reasons: (1) It was evidently Paul’s uniform custom to denote the location of the churches which he founded, not by the popular but by the official nomenclature. Thus he speaks of the churches of Asia, 1 Cor. 16:19; the churches of Macedonia, 2 Cor. 8:1; and the churches of Achaia, 2 Cor. 1:1. And that this was not something peculiar to Paul, is proved by the fact that Peter does the same in 1 Peter 1:1, where the term Galatia is obviously used in its political sense, since all the other names refer to Roman provinces. Even Lightfoot admits that this is probably the case. (2) That Paul founded churches in the Roman province of Galatia is a well attested fact, of which we have a detailed narrative in Acts 13 and 14; on the other hand, we have no record whatever of his establishing churches in the district of that name. It is certainly not very obvious that Luke in Acts 16:6 wants to convey the idea that the apostle established churches in North Galatia. The most that can be said, is that Acts 18:23 implies such previous activity on the part of Paul; but even this depends on the correct interpretation of the phrase, “the country of Galatia and Phrygia.” Lightfoot himself regards it as “strange that, while we have more or less acquaintance with all the other important churches of St. Paul’s founding, not a single name of a person or place, scarcely a single incident of any kind, connected with the apostle’s preaching in Galatia, should be preserved either in the history or in the epistle.” Comm. p. 20. (3) The Epistle refers to the collection for the Judaean saints, 2:10 and in 1 Cor. 16:1 Paul says that he commanded the churches in Galatia to take part in this. What is the meaning of the term Galatia here? From the Epistles of Paul we gather that the churches of Galatia, 1 Cor. 16:1, Macedonia, 2 Cor. 8:1; 9:2; and Achaia, Rom. 15:26, contributed for this cause; while from Acts 20:4 we learn that representatives from Asia also accompanied Paul to Jerusalem, according to the principle laid down in 1 Cor. 16:3, 4. Now if we take the name Galatia in its official sense here, then all the churches founded by Paul are seen to participate in this work of charity; while if we interpret it as referring to North Galatia, the churches of Antioch, Iconium, Lystra and Derbe are not mentioned, and the impression is created that they did not take part. But this is exceedingly improbable, and the improbability is heightened by the fact that among the representatives accompanying Paul we also find Secundus and Gajus of Derbe and Timotheus of Lystra, while there are none to represent North Galatia. (4) From Gal. 4:13 we learn that Paul first preached the gospel to the Galatians through infirmity of the flesh. This may mean that Paul, traveling through Galatia, was detained there by sickness, or that he repaired to this district, in order to recuperate from some disease. But the road through North Galatia did not lead to any place, where Paul was likely to go, and its climate was very undesirable for an invalid. On the other hand the supposition is altogether natural that the apostle contracted some disease in the marshy lowlands of Pamphylia, and therefore sought restoration in the bracing atmosphere of Pisidian Antioch. (5) In this Epistle Paul repeatedly mentions Barnabas as a person well known to the Galatians, 2:1, 9, 13. Now he was Paul’s co-laborer in establishing the South Galatian churches, but did not accompany the apostle on his second missionary journey, when the churches of North Galatia are supposed to have been founded. It is true that this argument is somewhat neutralized by the fact that Barnabas is mentioned also in 1 Cor. 9:6; yet this is not altogether the case, since the references in Galatians are more specific. In 2:9, where Paul seeks to establish his apostle’ship, he also seems to consider it desirable to vindicate the legitimacy of Barnabas’ mission; while in 2:13 he presupposes that his readers have knowledge of the stand taken by Barnabas with reference to the doctrine of free grace. We conclude, therefore, that the Galatian churches were in all probability those founded by Paul on his first missionary journey in South Galatia. Cf. especially Ramsay, The Church in the Roman Empire pp. 3–112; St. Paul the Traveler and the Roman Citizen pp. 89–151; and Zahn’s Einleitung II pp. 124–139.
The Galatian churches were mainly composed of Gentile-Christians, but also contained an important Jewish element. This can be inferred from the narrative in Acts 13 and 14. The Gentiles were eager to receive the truth, 13:42, 46–48; 14:1, while the Jews were very much divided, some believingly accepting the word of the apostle’s, 13:43; 14:1, and others rejecting it with scorn and mal-treating the messengers of the cross, 13:45, 50; 14:2, 5, 19. The impression received from the narrative is corroborated by the Epistle, which in the main addresses itself to the Greeks who had not yet accepted circumcision, but had of late been urged to submit to this rite, if not to all the Jewish ceremonies, that they might share in the covenant blessings of Abraham. The apostle describes the whole congregation according to the majojrity of its members, when he says in 4:8, “Howbeit then, when ye knew not God, ye did service unto them which by nature are no gods.” Yet it is evident from 3:23–25, 28 that he also bears the Jewish element in mind. We need not doubt, however, that the majority of the Greeks that constituted the Galatian churches had already for some time attended the synagogue of the Jews before they were converted to Christianity, and therefore belonged to the proselytes, the so-called devout persons of whom Acts repeatedly speaks. This may be inferred from Acts 13:43; 14:1, and from the fact that the apostle presupposes a certain familiarity in his readers with the patriarchal history, the Law, the Psalms and the Prophets.

1. Occasion and Purpose. After Paul had preached the gospel to the Galatians and had seen them well started on the royal road to salvation, Judaeizing teachers entered the field, jealous of their Jewish prerogatives. Probably they were emissaries from Jerusalem that abused a commission entrusted to them, or assumed an authority which they in no way possessed. They did not combat Christianity as such, but desired that it should be led in Judaeistic channels. Every convert to Christianity should submit to circumcision, if not to the whole ceremonial law. Their teaching was quite the opposite of Paul’s doctrine, and could only be maintained by discrediting the apostle. Hence they sought to undermine his personal influence and to depreciate his apostolic authority by claiming that he had not been called of God and had received the truth at second-hand from the Twelve. It seems that Paul, when he last visited the Galatian churches, had already encountered some such enemies, 1:9, but he now heard that their influence was increasing, and that they were successful in persuading the Galatians to forsake their Christian privileges, and thus virtually though perhaps unwittingly, to deny Christ who had bought them, 3:1; 4:9–11, 17; 5:7, 8, 10. Hence he deems it imperative to write them a letter.
The purpose of the author in writing this Epistle was, of course, twofold. In order that his words might be effective, it was necessary, first of all, that he should defend his apostolic authority by proving that God had called him and had imparted the truth of the gospel to him by means of a direct revelation. And in the second place it was incumbent on him that he should expose the Judaeistic error by which they were led astray, and should defend the doctrine of justification by faith.
2. Time and Place. There is great diversity of opinion as to the time, when the Epistle was written. Zahn, Hausrath, Baljon and Rendall (in The Exp. Gk. Test.) regard it as the earliest of Paul’s Epistles, and assume that it was written during the early part of his stay in Corinth in the year 53. Ramsay thinks it was written from Antioch at the end of the second missionary journey, i. e. according to his dating, also in A. D. 53. Weiss, Holtzmann and Godet refer it to the early part of Paul’s Ephesian residence, about the year 54 or 55, while Warfield prefers to place it towards the end of this period in A. D. 57. And finally Lightfoot and Salmon agree in dating it after Paul’s departure from Ephesus. This great variety of opinion proves that the data for determining the time are few and uncertain. Those accepting the North Galatian theory are virtually confined to a date after the beginning of Paul’s Ephesian residence in the year 54, because the πρότερον of Gal. 4:13 seems to imply that the apostle had visited the churches of Galatia twice before he wrote his letter; while it is for the same reason most natural that they who advocate the South Galatian theory, find their terminus a quo in A. D. 52 (McGiffert notwithstanding), when Paul had paid a second visit to the South Galatian churches. Assuming, as we do, that this letter was addressed to the churches of South Galatia, we may dismiss the idea that the apostle wrote it during the third missionary journey, because this would imply that he had already visited them three times, in which case he would have used πρῶτον instead of πρότερον in 4:13. Moreover if Paul wrote it from Ephesus, the question is naturally raised, why he did not visit the Galatians rather than write to them, seeing that he had a great desire to be with them, 4:20. We are inclined to think that Paul wrote this letter on his second missionary journey, after he had passed into Europe, and probably during the first part of his residence at Corinth, for: (1) Gal. 4:20 implies that Paul was at some distance from the Galatian churches; (2) The letter presupposes that some time had elapsed between its composition and the second visit of the apostle; and (3) The letter contains no greetings from Silas and Timotheus, who were both well known to the Galatians. Evidently they had not yet reached Corinth.

There has never been any serious doubt respecting the canonicity of this Epistle. It was received as authoritative in all sections of the Church from the very earliest times. There are allusions to its language in the apostolic fathers, Clement of Rome, Polycarp and Ignatius. Justin Martyr, Melito and Athanagoras seem to have known it; and some of the heretics, especially the Ophites, used it extensively. It is found in Marcions canon, is named in the Muratorian Fragment, and the Syriac and old Latin versions contain it. From the end of the second century the quotations multiply and increase in directness and definiteness.
This Epistle too has abiding significance for the Church of God. It is essentially a defense of the doctrine of free grace, of the Christian liberty of New Testament believers over against those that would bring them under the law in its Old Testament application, and would place them under the obligation to submit to circumcision and to participate in the shadowy ceremonies of a by-gone day. The great central exhortation of this letter is: “Stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free, and be not tangled again with the yoke of bondage.” The way of the ritualist is not the way of life, is the lesson that should be remembered by all those who are inclined to over-emphasize the outward form of religion to the neglect of its spirit and essence.

The Epistle to the Ephesians



The Epistle to the Ephesians is naturally divided into two parts:
I. The Doctrinal Part, treating of the Unity of the Church, 1:1–3:21. After the address and salutation, 1:1, 2, the apostle praises God for the great spiritual blessings received in Christ, in whom the Ephesians have been chosen, adopted and sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, 1:3–14. He renders thanks for these blessings and prays that God may make known to the Church, the glorious body of Christ, who filleth all in all, the glory of its heavenly calling, 1:15–23. Then he compares the past and present condition of the readers, 2:1–13, and describes Christ’s work of reconciliation, resulting in the unity and glory of the Church, 2:14–22. Next he enlarges on the mystery of the Gospel and reminds his readers that he has been commissioned by God to make it known to mankind, 3:1–13. He prays that they may be strengthened and enabled to comprehend the greatness of the love of Christ to the glory of God, 3:14–21.
II. The Practical Part, containing Exhortations to a Conversation worthy of the Calling and Unity of the Readers, 4:1–6:20. The readers are exhorted to maintain the unity which God seeks to establish among them by distributing spiritual gifts and instituting different offices, 4:1–16. They should not walk as the Gentiles do, but according to the principle of their new life, shunning the vices of the old man and practicing the virtues of the new, 4:17–32. In society it must be their constant endeavor to be separate from the evils of the world and to walk circumspectly; husbands and wives should conform in their mutual relation to the image of Christ and the Church; children should obey their parents and servants their masters, 5:1–6:9. Finally Paul exhorts the readers to be strong in the Lord, having put on the whole armour of God and seeking strength in prayer and supplication; and he closes his Epistle with some personal intelligence and a twofold salutation, 6:10–24.

1. This letter is marked first of all by its general character. It has this in common with the Epistle to the Romans, that it partakes somewhat of the nature of a treatise; yet it is as truly a letter, as any one of the other writings of Paul. Deissmann correctly remarks, however, that “the personal element is less prominent in it than the impersonal.” St. Paul, p. 23. The letter does not presuppose, like those to the Corinthians and to the Galatians, some special clearly marked historical situation, does not refer to any historical incidents known to us from other sources, except the imprisonment of Paul, and contains no personal greetings. The only person mentioned is Tychicus, the bearer of the letter. It treats in a profound and sublime manner of the unity of all believers in Jesus Christ, and of the holy conversation in Christ that must issue from it.
2. It is also characterized by its great similarity to the letter sent to the Colossians. This is so great that some critics have regarded it as merely a revised and enlarged edition of the latter; but this idea must be dismissed altogether, because the difference between them is too great and fundamental. The Epistle to the Colossians is more personal and controversial than that to the Ephesians; the former treats of Christ, the Head of the Church, while the latter is mainly concerned with the Church, the body of Christ. Notwithstanding this, however, the resemblance of the two is readily observed. There is good reason for calling them twin letters. In many cases the same words and forms of expression are found in both; the thought is often identical, while the language differs; and the general structure of the Epistles is very similar.
3. The style of the letter is in general very exalted, and forms a great contrast with that of the epistle to the Galatians. Dr. Sanday says: “With few exceptions scholars of all different schools who have studied and interpreted this epistle have been at one in regarding it as one of the sublimest and most profound of all the New Testament writings. In the judgment of many who are well entitled to deliver an opinion, it is the grandest of all the Pauline letters.” The Exp. Gk. Test. III p. 208. The style is characterized by a succession of participial clauses and dependent sentences that flow on like a torrent, and by lengthy digressions. One is impressed by its grandeur, but often finds it difficult to follow the apostle as he soars to giddy heights. The language is further remarkable in that it contains a series of terms with far-reaching significance, such as the council (βουλή) of God, His will (θελήμα), His purpose (πρόθεσις), His good pleasure (ἐυδοκία), etc., and also a great number of ἅπαξ λεγόμενα. According to Holtzmann there are 76 words that are peculiar to this epistle, of which 18 are found nowhere else in the Bible, 17 do not occur in the rest of the New Testament, and 51 are absent from all the other Pauline letters (the Pastoral epistles being excepted). Einleitung p. 259.

The historical evidence for the Pauline authorship of the Epistle is exceptionally strong. Some scholars claim that Ignatius even speaks of Paul as the author, when he says in his Epistle to the Ephesians: “—who (referring back to Paul) throughout all his Epistle (έν πάσῃ ἐπιστολῇ) makes mention of you in Christ Jesus.” But it is very doubtful, whether the rendering, “in all the Epistle,” should not rather be, “in every Epistle.” Marcion ascribed the letter to Paul, and in the Muratorian Fragment the church of Ephesus is mentioned as one of the churches to which Paul wrote Epistles. Irenaeus and Clement of Alexandria refer to Paul by name as the author of this letter and quote it as his, while Tertullian mentions Ephesus among the churches that had apostolic Epistles.
Internal evidence also points to Paul as the author. In the opening verse of the Epistle the writer is named, and the structure of the letter is characteristically Pauline. In the first place it contains the usual blessing and thanksgiving; this is followed in the regular way by the body of the epistle, consisting of a doctrinal and a practical part; and finally it ends with the customary salutations. The ideas developed are in perfect agreement with those found in the letters which we already discussed, although in certain particulars they advance beyond them, as f. i. in the theological conception of the doctrine of redemption; and in the doctrine of the Church as the body of Christ with its various organs. The style of the Epistle too is Pauline. It is true that it differs considerably from that of Romans, Corinthians and Galatians, but it shows great affinity with the style of Colossians and of the Pastorals.
Notwithstanding all the evidence in favor of the Pauline authorship of this Epistle, its authenticity has been questioned by several New Testament scholars. De Wette, Baur and his school, Davidson, Holtzmann and Weizsäcker are among the most prominent. The idea is that some later, probably a second century writer impersonated the great apostle. The principal grounds on which the Epistle was attacked, are the following: (1) It is so like the Epistle to the Colossians that it cannot be an original document. De Wette came to the conclusion that it was a “verbose amplification” of the Epistle to the Colossians. Holtzmann, finding that in some parts the priority must be ascribed to Ephesians rather than to Colossians, advocated the theory that Paul wrote an Epistle to the Colossians shorter than our canonical letter; that a forger, guided by this, fabricated the Epistle to the Ephesians; and that this plagiarist was so enamoured with his work that he, in turn, revised the Colossian Epistle in accordance with it. (2) The vocabulary and in general the style of the Epistle is so different from that of the other letters of Paul as to give it an un-Pauline stamp. This objection is based partly, though not primarily, on the numerous ἅπαξ λεχὀμενα; but especially on the use of Pauline words in a new souse, such as μυστήριον, οἰκονομία and περιποίησις; on the expression of certain ideas by terms that differ from those employed elsewhere by the apostle for the same purpose, as f. i. ὁ θεὸς τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ χριστοῦ, 1:17, and above all τοῖς ἁγίοις ἀποστόλοις κἀι προφήταις, 3:5, which, it is said, smacks of a later time, when the apostle’s were held in great veneration, and does not agree with the apostle’s estimate of himself in 3:8; and on the fact that, as Davidson puts it, “there is a fulness of expression which approaches the verbose.” (3) The line of thought in this letter is very different from that of the recognized Pauline Epistles. The law is contemplated, not in its moral and religious value, but only as the cause of enmity and separation between Jew and Gentile; the death of Christ is not dwelt on as much as in the other Epistles, while his exaltation is made far more prominent; the parousia is placed in the distant future; and instead of the diversity the unity of the Church in Jesus Christ if emphasized. (4) The Epistle contains traces of Gnostic and even of Montanist influences in such words as ἀιῶνες, πληρώμα and γενεάι. (5) The letter, along with the writings of John, evidently aims at reconciling the Petrine and Pauline factions, and therefore emphasizes the unity of the Church. This unmistakably points to the second century as the time of its composition.
But these objections are not sufficient to discredit the Pauline authorship. Such men as Lightfoot, Ellicott, Eadie, Meyer, Hodge, Reuss, Godet, Weiss, Baljon, Zahn, Sanday and Abbot defend it. The similarity of the Epistle and that to the Colossians is most naturally explained by the fact that the two were written by the same author, at about the same time, under similar circumstances, and to neighboring congregations. The idea that it is but a copy of the Epistle to the Colossians is now generally given up, since it appears that many passages favor the priority of Ephesians. The theory of Holtzmann is too complicated to command serious consideration. This whole argument is very peculiar in view of the following ones. While it derives its point from the Epistle’s similarity to Colossians, their cogency depends on the unlikeness of this letter to the other Epistles of Paul. The linguistic features to which the critics call attention are not such as to disprove the Pauline authorship. If the ἅπαξ λεγόμενα found in this letter prove that it is un Pauline, we must come to a similar conclusion with respect to the Epistle to the Romans, for this contains a hundred words that are peculiar. The terms that are said to be used in a new sense dwindle into insignificance on closer inspection. And of the expressions that are held to be unusual only the one in 3:5 has any argumentative force. And even this need not cause surprise, especially not, if we take in consideration that Paul designates believers in general as ἅγιοι, and that in this place he applies this epithet at once to the apostle’s and to the prophets. And further we may ask, whether it is reasonable to demand that such a fertile mind as that of Paul should always express itself in the same way. The argument derived from the line of thought in this Epistle simply succeeds in proving, what is perfectly obvious, that the apostle looks at the work of redemption from a point of view different from that of the other letters, that he views it sub specie aeternitatis. It is now generally admitted that the supposed traces of Gnosticism and Montanism have no argumentative value, since the terms referred to do not have the second century connotation in this Epistle. Similarly that other argument of the Tübingen school, that the letter was evidently written to heal the breach between the Judæistic and the liberal factions of the Church, is now discarded, because it was found to rest on an unhistorical basis.

There is considerable uncertainty respecting the destination of this Epistle. The question is whether the words ἐν Ἐφέσῳ in 1:1 are genuine. They are indeed found in all the extant MSS. with the exception of three, viz. the important MSS. Aleph and B and codex 67. The testimony of Basil is that the most ancient MSS. in his day did not contain these words. Tertullian informs us that Marcion gave the Epistle the title ad Laodicenos; and Origen apparently did not regard the words as genuine. All the old Versions contain them; but, on the other hand, Westcott and Hort say: “Transcriptional evidence strongly supports the testimony of documents against ἐν Ἐφέσῳ.” New Testament in Greek, Appendix p. 123. Yet there was in the Church an early and, except as regards Marcion, universal tradition that the Epistle was addressed to the Ephesians. Present day scholars quite generally reject the words, although they are still defended by Meyer, Davidson, Eadie and Hodge. The conclusion to which the majority of scholars come is, either that the Epistle was not written to the Ephesians at all, or that it was not meant for them only, but also for the other churches in Asia.
Now if we examine the internal evidence, we find that it certainly favors the idea that this Epistle was not intended for the Ephesian church exclusively, for (1) It contains no references to the peculiar circumstances of the Ephesian church, but might be addressed to any of the churches founded by Paul. (2) There are no salutations in it from Paul or his companions to any one in the Ephesian church. (3) The Epistle contemplates only heathen Christians. while the church at Ephesus was composed of both Jews and Gentiles, 2:11, 12; 4:17; 5:8. (4) To these proofs is sometimes added that 1:15 and 3:2 make it appear as if Paul and his readers were not acquainted with each other; but this is not necessarily implied in these passages.
In all probability the words ἐν Ἐφέσῳ were not originally in the text. But now the question naturally arises, how we must interpret the following words τοῖς ἁγίοις τοῖς οὖσιν κὰι πιστοῖς etc. Several suggestions have been made. Some would read: “The saints who are really such;” others: “the saints existing and faithful in Jesus Christ;” still others: “the saints who are also faithful.” But none of these interpretations is satistactory: the first two are hardly grammatical; and the last one implies that there are also saints who are not faithful, and that the Epistle was written for a certain select view. Probably the hypothesis first suggested by Ussher is correct, that a blank was originally left after τοῖς οὖσιν, and that Tychicus or someone else was to make several copies of this Epistle and to fill in the blank with the name of the church to which each copy was to be sent. The fact that the church of Ephesus was the most prominent of the churches for which it was intended, will account for the insertion of the words ἐν Ἐφέσῳ in transcribing the letter, and for the universal tradition regarding its destination. Most likely, therefore, this was a circular letter, sent to several churches in Asia, such as those of Ephesus, Laodicea, Hierapolis, e. a. Probably it is identical with the Epistle ἐκ Λαοδικίας, Col. 4:16.

1. Occasion and Purpose. There is nothing in the Epistle to indicate that it was called forth by any special circumstances in the churches of Asia. To all appearances it was merely the prospective departure of Tychicus and Onesimus for Colossæ, 6:21, 22; Col. 4:7–9, combined with the intelligence that Paul received as to the faith of the readers in the Lord Jesus, and regarding their love to all the saints, 1:15, that led to its composition.
Since the Epistle was not called forth by any special historical situation, the purpose of Paul in writing it was naturally of a general character. It seems as if what he had heard of “the faith of the readers in the Lord Jesus, and of their love to all the saints,” involuntarily fixed his thought on the unity of believers in Christ, and therefore on that grand edifice,—the Church of God. He sets forth the origin, the development, the unity and holiness, and the glorious end of that mystical body of Christ. He pictures the transcendent beauty of that spiritual temple, of which Christ is the chief cornerstone and the saints form the superstructure.
2. Time and Place. From 3:1 and 4:1 we notice that Paul was a prisoner, when he wrote this Epistle. From the mention of Tychicus as the bearer of it in 6:21, compared with Col. 4:7 and Philemon 13, we may infer that these three letters were written at the same time. And it has generally been thought that they were composed during the Roman imprisonment of Paul. There are a few scholars, however, such as Reuss and Meyer, who believe that they date from the imprisonment at Cæsarea, A. D. 58–60. Meyer urges this view on the following grounds: (1) It is more natural and probable that the slave Onesimus had run away as far as Cæsarea than that he had made the long journey to Rome. (2) If these Epistles had been sent from Rome, Tychicus and Onesimus would have arrived at Ephesus first and then at Colossæ. But in that case the apostle would most likely have mentioned Onesimus along with Tychicus in Ephesians, like he does in Collossians 4:9, to insure the runaway slave a good reception; which was not necessary however, if they reached Colossæ first, as they would in coming from Cæsarea, since Onesimus would remain there.
(3) In Eph. 6:21 the expression, “But that ye also may know my affairs,” implies that there were others who had already been informed of them, viz. the Collossians, Col. 4:8, 9. (4) Paul’s request to Philemon in Philem. 22, to prepare a lodging for him, and that too, for speedy use, favors the idea that the apostle was much nearer Colossæ than the far distant Rome. Moreover Paul says in Phil. 2:24 that he expected to proceed to Macedonia after his release from the Roman imprisonment.
But these arguments are not conclusive. To the first one we may reply that Onesimus would be far safer from the pursuit of the fugitivarii in a large city like Rome than in a smaller one such as Cæsarea. The second argument loses its force, if this Epistle was a circular letter, written to the Christians of Asia in general. The κάι in Eph. 6:21 is liable to different interpretations, but finds a sufficient explanation in the fact that the Epistle to the Colossians was written first. And in reply to the last argument we would say that Philem. 22 does not speak of a speedy coming, and that the apostle may have intended to pass through Macedonia to Colossæ.
It seems to us that the following considerations favor the idea that the three Epistles under consideration were written from Rome: (1) From Eph. 6:19, 20 we infer that Paul had sufficient liberty during his imprisonment to preach the gospel. Now this ill accords with what we learn of the imprisonment at Cæsarea from Acts 24:23, while it perfectly agrees with the situation in which Paul found himself at Rome according to Acts 28:16. (2) The many companions of Paul, viz. Tychicus, Aristarchus, Marcus, Justus, Epaphras, Luke and Demas, quite different from those that accompanied him on his last journey to Jerusalem (cf. Acts 20:4), also point to Rome, where the apostle might utilize them for evangelistic work. Cf. Phil. 1:14. (3) In all probability Philippians belongs to the same period as the other Epistles of the imprisonment; and if this is the case, the mention of Cæsar’s household in Phil. 4:22 also points to Rome. (4) Tradition also names Rome as the place of composition. Ephesians must probably be dated about A. D. 62.

The early Church leaves no doubt as to the canonicity of this Epistle. It is possible that we have the first mention of it in the New Testament itself, Col. 4:16. The writings of Igpatius, Polycarp, Herman and Hippolytus contain passages that seem to be derived from our Epistle. Marcion the Muratorian Canon, Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria and Tertullian clearly testify to its early recognition and use. There is not a dissentient voice in all antiquity.
The particular significance of the Epistle lies in its teaching regarding the unity of the Church: Jews and Gentiles are one in Christ. It constantly emphasizes the fact that believers have their unity in the Lord and therefore contains the expression “in Christ” about twenty times. The unity of the faithful originates in their election, since God the Father chose them in Christ before the foundation of the world, 1:4; it finds expression in a holy conversation, sanctified by true love, that naturally results from their living relation with Christ, in whom they are builded together for a habitation of God in the Spirit; and it issues in their coming in the “unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.” The great practical exhortation of the Epistle is that believers live worthily of their union with Christ, since they were sometime darkness, but are now light in the Lord, and should therefore walk as children of light, 5:8.

The Epistle to the Philippians



In the Epistle to the Philippians we may distinguish five parts:
I. Paul’s Account of his Condition, 1:1–26. The apostle addresses the Philippians in the usual way, 1, 2; and then informs them of his gratitude for their participation in the work of the Gospel, of his prayer for their increase in spiritual strength and labor, of the fact that even his imprisonment was instrumental in spreading the Gospel, and of his personal feelings and desires, 3–26.
II. His Exhortation to Imitate Christ, 1:27–2:18. He exhorts the Philippians to strive after unity by exercising the necessary self-denial, 1:27–2:4; points them to the pattern of Christ, who humiliated himself and was glorified by God, 2:5–11; and expresses his desire that they follow the example of their Lord, 12–18.
III. Information respecting Paul’s Efforts in behalf of the Philippians, 2:19–30. He intends to send Timotheus to them that he may know of their condition, and therefore commends this worthy servant of Christ to them, 19–23; and though he trusted that he himself would come shortly he now sends Epaphroditus back to them, and bespeaks a good reception for him, 24–30.
IV. Warnings against Judaeism and Antinomian Error, 3:1–21. The apostle warns his readers against Judæistic zealots that boasted in the flesh, pointed to his own example in renouncing his fleshly prerogatives that he might gain Christ and experience the power of His resurrection, and in striving after perfection, 1:15. By way of contrast this induces him to warn them also for the example of those whose lives are worldly and licentious, 16–21.
V. Final Exhortations and Acknowledgment, 4:1–23. He urges the Philippians to avoid all dissension, 1–3; exhorts them to joyfulness, freedom from care, and the pursuit of all good things, 4–9; gratefully acknowledges their gifts, invoking a blessing on their love, 10–20; and closes his Epistle with salutation and benediction, 21–23.

1. The Epistle to the Philippians is one of the most personal of Paul’s letters, resembling in that respect II Corinthians. It has been called the most letter-like of all the writings of Paul, and may be compared in this respect with I Thessalonians and Philemon. The personal note is very marked throughout the Epistle. There is not much dogma, and what little is found is introduced for practical purposes. This holds true even with reference to the classical passage in 2:6–11. The apostle, with the prospect of an early martyrdom before him, yet not without hope of a speedy release, opens his heart to his most beloved congregation. He speaks of the blessings that attend his labors at Rome, of the strait in which he finds himself, and expresses his desire to remain with them. He manifests his love for the Philippians, shows himself concerned for their spiritual welfare, and expresses his profound gratitude for their support. Though in bonds, he rejoices, and bids the readers be joyful. The tone of joyous gratitude rings through the entire Epistle.
2. The letter is in no sense a controversial one. There are in it no direct polemics; there is very little that has to any degree a polemical character. The apostle warns against errorists that are without the church, but might disturb its peace, and forestalls their attacks; he hints at dissensions, most likely of a practical nature, in the congregation, and admonishes the readers to be peaceful and self-denying; but he never once assumes a polemical attitude, like he does in Corinthians or Galatians. Stronger still, the Epistle is singularly free from all denunciation and reproof; it is written throughout in a lauditory spirit. The apostle finds little to chide and much to praise in the Philippian church.
3. The address of the Epistle is peculiar in that it names not only, “the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi,” but adds, “with the bishops and deacons.” In that respect it stands in a class by itself. The greetings at the end of the Epistle are also unique. On the one hand they are very general, while, on the other, “the household of Cæsar” is singled out for special mention.
4. As to style, Alford reminds us, that this letter, like all those in which Paul writes with fervor, “is discontinuous and abrupt, passing rapidly from one theme to another; full of earnest exhortation, affectionate warnings, deep and wonderful settings-forth of his individual spiritual condition and feelings, of the state of the Christian and of the sinful world, of the loving councils of our Father respecting us, and the self-sacrifice and triumph of our Redeemer.” Prolegomena Sec. IV. There are constant expressions of affection, such as ἀγαπητοί and ἀδελφοἰ. Notice especially 4:1, “Therefore my brethren, my dearly beloved and longed for, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, my dearly beloved.”

The Pauline authorship of this Epistle is established as well as anything can be. We probably find the first reference to it in the epistle of Polycarp to the Philippians, where we read: “The glorious Paul who, being personally among you, taught you exactly and surely the word of truth; who also, being absent, wrote you letters (or, a letter) which you have only to study to be edified in the faith that has been given you.” The passage does not necessarily refer to more than one letter. Our Epistle formed a part of Marcion’s collection, is mentioned in the Muratorian canon, is found in the Syriac and old Latin Versions, and is quoted by Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian and many others.
And this testimony of antiquity is clearly borne out by the evidence furnished by the Epistle itself. It is self-attested and has, at the beginning, the usual Pauline blessing and thanksgiving. Above all, however, it is like II Corinthians in that the personality of the apostle is so strongly stamped on it as to leave little room for doubt. The historical circumstances which the Epistle presupposes, the type of thought which it contains, the language in which it is couched, and the character which it reveals,—it is all Pauline.
The evidence in its favor is so strong that its authenticity has been generally admitted, even by radical critics. Of course, Baur and the majority of his school rejected it, but even Hilgenfeld, Jülicher and Pfleiderer accept it as Pauline. The great majority of New Testament scholars regard the objections of Baur as frivolous, as f. i. that the mention of bishops and deacons points to a post-Pauline stage of ecclesiastical organization; that there is no originality in the Epistle; that it contains evident traces of Gnosticism; that the doctrine of justification which it sets forth is not that of Paul; and that the Epistle aims at reconciling the opposing parties of the second century, typified by Euodia and Syntyche.
Of late Holsten has taken up the cudgels against the genuineness of this letter. Dismissing several of the arguments of Baur as irrelevant, he bases his attack especially on the Christological and Soteriological differences that he discerns between this Epistle and the other writings of Paul. The most important points to which he refers are these: (1) The idea of the pre-existent Christ in 2:6–11 does not agree with that found in 1 Cor. 15:45–49. According to the first passage the manhood of Christ begins with his incarnation; according to the second, He was even in his pre-existence “a heavenly man.” (2) There is a glaring contradiction between 3:6, where the writer says that he was blameless as touching the righteousness which is in the law, and Rom. 7:21, where the apostle declares: “—when I would do good, evil is present.” (3) The doctrine of forensic, imputed righteousness is replaced by that of an infused righteousness in 3:9–11. (4) The writer shows a singular indifference to the objective truth of his Gospel in 1:15–18, an attitude which compares strangely with that of Paul in 2 Cor. 11:1–4, and especially in Gal. 1:8, 9.
But these objections are not of sufficient weight to disprove the Pauline authorship. In 1 Cor. 15 the apostle does not speak of the pre-existent Christ, but of Christ as he will appear at the parousia in a glorified body. With what Paul says in 3:6 we may compare Gal. 1:14. In both places he speaks of himself from the standpoint of the Jew who regards the law merely as an external carnal commandment. From that point of view he might consider himself blameless, but it was quite different, if he contemplated the law in its deep spiritual sense. It is not true that Paul substitutes an infused for an imputed righteousness in this Epistle. He clearly speaks of the latter in 2:9, and then by means of an infinitive of purpose passes on to speak of the subjective righteousness of life. The persons spoken of in 1:15–18 are not said to preach a Gospel different from that of the apostle; they preached Christ, but from impure motives. Hence they can not be compared with the adversaries of whom Paul speaks in Corinthians and Galatians. To these he probably refers in 3:2. Schürer says: “The arguments of Holsten are such that one might sometimes believe them due to a slip of the pen.”

The city of Philippi was formerly called Crenides, and derived its later name from Philip, the king of Macedonia, who rebuilt it and made it a frontier city between his kingdom and Thrace. It was situated on the river Gangites and on the important Egnatian highway that connected the Adriatic with the Hellespont. After the defeat of his enemies Octavius about 42 B. C. determined on Philippi as one of the places, where Roman soldiers who had served their time were to dwell. He constituted it a Roman colony, with the special privilege of the jus Italicum, which included “(1) exemption from the oversight of the provincial governors; (2) immunity from the poll and property taxes; and (3) right to property in the soil regulated by Roman law.” These privileges, no doubt, attracted many colonists, so that Philippi soon became a city of considerable size. It is described in Acts 16:12 as, “the chief city of that part of Macedonia and a colony.”
To that city Paul first came, when about the year 52, in obedience to the vision of the Macedonian man, he passed from Asia into Europe. This was in harmony with his general policy of preaching in the main centers of the Roman empire. Apparently the Jews were not numerous in Philippi: there was no synagogue, so that the small band of Jews and proselytes simply repaired to the river side for prayer; and one of the charges brought against Paul and Silas was that they were Jews. At the place of prayer the missionaries addressed the assembled women, and were instrumental in converting Lydia who, with characteristic generosity, immediately received them in her house. We read no more of the blessings that crowned their labors there, but find that on their departure there was a company of brethren to whom they spoke words of comfort.
Little can be said regarding the composition of the Philippian church. In the narrative of its founding we find no specific mention of Jews, although the assembly by the river points to their presence. However the fact that there was no synagogue, and that the enemies contemptuously emphasized the Jewish nationality of the missionaries leads us to think that they were few and greatly despised. It may be that those who did live there had, under the pressure of their environment, already lost many of their distinctive features. The presumption is that some of them accepted the teaching of Paul and Silas, but we cannot tell how large a proportion of the church they formed. In all probability they were a small minority and caused no friction in the congregation. Paul does not even refer to them in his letter, much less condemn their Jewish tenets, like he does the errors of the false brethren at Corinth and in the Galatian churches. The adversaries of whom he speaks in 3:2 were evidently outside of the church. On the whole the Philippian church was an ideal one, consisting of warmhearted people, diligent in the work of the Lord, and faithfully devoted to their apostle.

1. Occasion and Purpose. The immediate occasion of this Epistle was a contribution brought by Epaphroditus from the Philippian church. They had often sent the apostle similar tokens of their love (cf. 4:15, 16; 2 Cor. 11:9), and now, after they had for some time lacked the opportunity to communicate with him, 4:10, they again ministered to his wants. From over-exertion in the work of Gods Kingdom their messenger was taken sick at Rome. On his recovery Paul immediately sends him back to Philippi, in order to allay all possible fears as to his condition; and utilizes this opportunity to send the Philippians a letter.
His purpose in writing this Epistle was evidently fourfold. In the first place he desired to express his gratitude for the munificence of the Philippians, especially because it testified to the abundance of their faith. In the second place he wished to give utterance to his sincere love for the Philippian church that constituted his crown in the Lord. In the third place he felt it incumbent on him to warn them against the dangers that were present within the fold, and the enemies that were threatening them from without. Apparently there was some dissension in the church, 1:27–2:17; 4:2, 3, but, in all probability this was not of a doctrinal character, but rather consisted of personal rivalries and divisions among some of the church members. In 3:2 the apostle most likely referred to the Judæizing Christians that traveled about to make proselytes, and also threatened the church of Philippi. Finally he desires to exhort his most beloved church to be joyful, notwithstanding his imprisonment, and to lead a truly Christian life.
2. Time and Place. Like the Epistle to the Ephesians that to the Philippians was written at Rome. While several scholars assign the former to the Cæsarean captivity, very few refer the latter to that period. The apostle’s evident residing in some great center of activity, the many friends that surrounded him, his joyful expectation of being set free soon, his mention of the prætorium, 1:13, which may be the praetorian guard (so most commentators), or the supreme imperial court (so Mommsen and Ramsay), and the greetings of Cæsar’s household,—all point to Rome.
The Epistle was written, therefore, between the years 61–63. The only remaining question is, whether it was composed before or after the other three Epistles of the captivity. The prevailing view is that Philippians is the last of the group. This view is supported by the following arguments: (1) The apostle’s words in 1:12 seem to imply that a long period of imprisonment has already elapsed. (2) A rather long time was required in the communications between Rome and Philippi indicated in the letter. The Philippians had heard of Paul’s imprisonment, had sent Epaphroditus to Rome, had heard of the latter’s illness there, and of this their messenger, in turn, had received intelligence. Four journeys are, therefore, implied. (3) Paul anticipates that his case will soon come up for decision, and although uncertain as to the outcome, he somewhat expects a speedy release. These arguments are not absolutely conclusive, but certainly create a strong presumption in favor of dating the Epistle after the other three.
Bleek was inclined to regard Philippians as the earliest of the Epistles of the captivity. This view found a strong defender in Lightfoot, who is followed by Farrar in his St. Paul. Lightfoot defends his position by pointing to the similarity of this Epistle to Romans, which implies, according to him, that it immediately follows this in order of time; and to the fact that in this Epistle we have the last trace of Paul’s Judæistic controversy, while in Ephesians and Colossians he begins to deal with an incipient Gnosticism, and his teachings respecting the Church bear a close resemblance and are intimately related to the views presented in the pastorals. These Epistles, therefore, represent a further development in the doctrine of the Church. But these proofs do not carry conviction, since the character of Paul’s Epistles was not necessarily determined by the order in which they were written, and the apostle did not write as one who is presenting his system of thought to the world in successive letters. His Epistles were called forth and determined by special situations. And the question may be asked, whether it seems plausible that any considerable development of doctrine should take place within the course of at most a year and a half.

The Epistle to the Philippians is not quoted as much as some of the preceding ones, which is probably due to the fact that it contains little doctrinal matter. Notwithstanding this its canonicity is well established. There are traces of its language in Clement of Rome and Ignatius. Polycarp, addressing the Philippians, speaks more than once of Paul’s writing to them. The Epistle to Diognetus, Justin Martyr and Theophilus contain references to our letter. In the Epistle of the churches of Vienne and Lyons Phil. 2:6 is quoted. Marcion has it and the Muratorian canon speaks of it. And it is often directly quoted and ascribed to Paul by Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria and Tertullian.
Though the Epistle is primarily of a practical nature, it has also great and abiding dogmatic significance. It contains the classical passage on the important doctrine of the kenosis of Christ, 2:6–11. Aside from this, however, its great permanent value is of a practical character. It reveals to us the ideal relation between Paul and his Philippian church, a relation such as the church of God should constantly seek to realize: he, sedulously seeking to promote the spiritual welfare of those entrusted to his care, even in a time of dire distress; and they, though possessing no great wealth, willingly and lovingly ministering to the natural wants of their beloved apostle. It points us to Christ as the pattern of that self-denial and humiliation that should always characterize his followers. It comes to us with the grand exhortation, enforced by the example of the great apostle, to press forward for “the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” And finally it pictures us the Christian satisfied and joyful, even when the shades of night are falling.

The Epistle to the Colossians



The Epistle to the Colossians may best be divided into two parts:
I. The Doctrinal Part, emphasizing the unique Significance of Christ, 1:1–2:23. Paul begins the letter with the apostolic blessing, the usual thanksgiving and a prayer for his readers, 1:1–13. Then he describes the pre-eminence of Christ as the Head of both the natural and the spiritual creation, who has reconciled all things to God, 14–23, of which mystery the apostle himself was made a minister, 24–29. He warns his readers against the inroads of a false philosophy that dishonored Christ. Since the Colossians have all the fulness of the Godhead in their Lord and Saviour, are rooted in him, and have arisen with him to a new life, they should walk in him and avoid semi-Jewish practices and the worship of angels, 2:1–19. This was all the more necessary, because they had died with Christ to their old life and to the beggarly elements of the world, 20–23.
II. The Practical Part, containing divers Directions and Exhortations, 3:1–4:18. Where believers have risen with Christ to newness of life, they must part with the vices of the old man and clothe themselves with Christian virtues, 3:1–17. Wives should submit themselves to their husbands and husbands should love their wives; children must obey their parents and parents must beware of discouraging their children; servants should obey their masters and these should give the servants their due, 18–4:1. The duty of prayer and thanksgiving is urged, and directions are given for the right behavior of believers toward the unconverted, 2–6. With a few personal notices, several greetings and a salutation the apostle closes his Epistle, 7–18.

1. On its formal side this Epistle differs from that to the Ephesians in its polemical character. It is not a general exposition of the truth that is in Christ Jesus, without reference to antagonistic principles, but a statement of it with a special view to the errors that were gradually creeping into the Colossian church, insidious errors of which the Colossians, so it seems, little realized the danger. It is true that we find none of the fiery polemics of the Epistle to the Galatians here, nor any of the sharp invective of II Corinthians;—yet the controversial character of this letter is very evident.
2. On its material side it exhibits great affinity with the Epistle to the Ephesians. Hence the contention of the critics that the one is but a copy of the other. We should not infer from this, however, that the teaching of these Epistles is identical. While that contained in Ephesians is in the main Theological, that found in Colossians is primarily Christological, the summing up of all things in Christ, the Head. Essentially the Christology of this letter is in perfect harmony with that of previous Epistles, but there is a difference of emphasis. The writer here places prominently before his readers, not only the Soteriological, but also the Cosmical significance of Christ. He is the Head both of the Church and of the new creation. All things were created by him, and find the purpose of their existence in him.
3. In point of style and language too this Epistle shows great similarity to its twin-letter. Of the 155 verses in Ephesians 78 contain expressions that find parallels in Colossians. There are the same involved sentences of difficult interpretation, and also a great number of ἅπαξ λεγόμενα. The letter contains 34 words that are absent from all the other writings of Paul, 12 of which are found in other New Testament books, however, (cf. lists of these words in Alford and in Abbotts Comm.) Of these 34 words at least 18, and therefore more than half, are found in the second chapter. Owing to the polemical character of this letter the author is generally speaking in a more matter-of-fact manner than he is in Ephesians, and it is only, when he sets forth the majesty of Christ, that he soars to sublime heights. Comparing this Epistle with those to the Corinthians and the Philippians, Lightfoot says: “It is distinguished from them by a certain ruggedness of expression, a want of finish often bordering on obscurity.” Comm. p. 123.

There are no good reasons to doubt the Pauline authorship of this Epistle. Marcion and the school of Valentinus recognized it as genuine. And the great witnesses of the end of the second century, Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria and Tertuilian repeatedly quote it by name.
Moreover the internal evidence decidedly favors the authenticity of the letter. It claims to be written by the apostle in 1:1; the line of thought developed in it is distinctly Pauline and is in striking harmony with that of the Epistle to the Ephesians; and if we do not first rule out several of the Pauline Epistles and then compare the style of this letter with those that remain, we may confidently assert that the style is Pauline. Moreover the persons named in 4:7–17 are all, with but a couple exceptions (viz. Jesus called Justus and Nymphas) known to have been companions or fellow-laborers of Paul.
Yet the Epistle did not go unchallenged. Mayerhoff began the attack on it is 1838, rejecting it, because its vocabulary, style and thought were not Pauline; it was so similar to Ephesians; and it contained references to the heresy of Cerinthus. The school of Baur and many other critics, such as Hoekstra, Straatman, Hausrath, Davidson, Schmiedel e. a., followed his lead and considered this Epistle as a second century production. Holtzmann, as we have already seen, found a genuine nucleus in it.
There are especially three objections that are urged against the Pauline authorship of this letter. (1) The style is not that of the apostle. The fact that the letter contains 34 ἅπαξ λεγόμενα; that characteristically Pauline terms, such as δικαιοσύνη, σωτηρία, αποκάλυψις and καταργεῖν are absent, while some of the particles often employed by the apostle, as γάρ, οὖν, διότι and ἄρα are rarely found; and that the construction is often very involved and characterized by a certain heaviness, is urged against its genuineness. (2) The error combated in this Epistle, it is said, shows clear traces of second century Gnosticism. These are found in the use of the terms σοφία, γνῶσις, 2:3, μυστήριον, 1:26, 27; 2:2, πλήρωμα, 1:19, ἀιῶνες, 1:26, etc.; in the series of angels named in 1:16; and in the conception of Christ in 1:15. It is held that they point to the Valentinian system. (3) Closely related to the preceding is the objection that the Christology of this Epistle is un-Pauline. Davidson regards this as the chief feature that points to the Gnostics, Introd. I p. 246, but it is also thought to conflict with the representation of Paul in his other writings, and to approach very closely the Johannine doctrine of the Logos. Christ is represented as the image of the invisible God, 1:15, the central Being of the universe, absolutely pre-eminent above all visible and invisible beings, 1:16–18, the originator and the goal of creation, and the perfect Mediator, who reconciles not only sinners but all things in heaven and on earth to God, 1:16–20.
In answer to the first objection we may say that the argument derived from the ἅπαξ λεγόμενα is irrelevant and would apply with equal force in the case of the Epistle to the Romans. From the fact that more than half of them are found in the second chapter it is quite evident that they are due to the special subject-matter of this letter. The difference between Colossians and some of the other Pauline writings also explains why the characteristically Pauline terms referred to above are absent from our Epistle. Had Paul used exactly the same words that he employs elsewhere, that would also, in all probability, have been proof positive for many critics that the letter was a forgery. Moreover it should not be regarded as very strange that a person’s vocabulary changes somewhat in the course of time, especially not, when he is placed in an altogether different environment, as was the case with Paul. We fully agree with Dr. Salmon, when he says: “I cannot subscribe to the doctrine that a man, writing a new composition, must not, on pain of losing his identity, employ any word that he has not used in a former one.” Introd. p. 148.
As to the second objection we would reply that there is absolutely no proof that the Epistle presupposes second century Gnosticism. The Gnostics evidently did not regard it as a polemic directed against their tenets, for Marcion and the Valentinians made extensive use of it. Moreover some of the most important elements of Gnosticism, such as the creation of the world by a demiurge, ignorant of the supreme God or opposed to Him, are not referred to in the Epistle. An incipient Gnosticism there may have been in Paul’s time; but it is also possible that the error of the Colossian church is in no way to be identified with the Gnostic heresy. Present day scholarship strongly inclines to the view that it is not Gnosticism at all to which Paul refers in this letter.
And with respect to the third argument, we do not see why the further development of the Pauline Christology cannot have been the work of Paul himself. There is nothing in the Christology of this Epistle that conflicts with the recognized representation of Paul. We clearly find the essence of it in Rom. 8:19–22; 1 Cor. 8:6; 2 Cor. 4:4; Phil, 2:5–11. These passages prepare us for the statement of Paul regarding the Cosmical significance of Christ, 1:16, 17. And the representation that all the forces of creation culminate in the glory of Christ does not necessarily run counter to Rom. 11:36 and 1 Cor. 15:28, according to which all things exist to the praise of God, their Creator.

Colossæ was one of the cities of the beautiful Lycus Valley in Phrygia, situated but a short distance from Laodicea and Hierapolis. Herodotus speaks of it as a great city, but it did not retain its magnitude until New Testament times, for Strabo only reckons it as a πόλισμα. We have no information respecting the founding of the Colossian church. From the Acts of the Apostles we learn that Paul passed through Phrygia twice, once at the start of his second, and again at the beginning of his third missionary journey, Acts 16:6; 18:23. But on the first of these journeys he remained well to the East of Western Phrygia, where Colossæ was situated; and though on the second he may have gone into the Lycus Valley, he certainly did not find nor found the Colossian church there, since he himself says in Col. 2:1 that the Colossians had not seen his face in the flesh. In all probability Paul’s prolonged residence at Ephesus and his preaching there for three years, so that “all those in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus,” Acts 19:10, was indirectly responsible for the founding of the churches in the Lycus Valley. The most plausible theory is that Epaphras was one of Paul’s Ephesian converts and became the founder of the Colossian church. This is favored by 1:7, where the correct reading is καθὼς ἐμάθατε, and not καθὼς κὰι ἐμάθετε.
The church consisted, so it seems, of Gentile Christians, 1:21, 27; 2:11–13; the Epistle certainly does not contain a single hint that there were Jews among them. Yet they were clearly exposed to Jewish influences, and this need not cause surprise in view of the fact that Antiochus the Great transplanted two thousand families of Jews from Babylonia into Lydia and Phrygia, Jos. Ant. XII 6. 4. This number had, of course, greatly increased by the time the Epistle was written. Lightfoot estimates that the number of Jewish freemen was more than eleven thousand in the single district of which Laodicea was the capital. Cf. his essay on The Churches of the Lycus Valley in his Comm. p. 20.
According to the Epistle the Colossians were in danger of being misled by certain false teachings. As to the exact nature of the Colossian heresy there is a great variety of opinion. Some regard it as a mixture of Judæistic and theosophic elements; others dub it Gnosticism or Gnostic Ebionism; and still others consider it to be a form of Essenism. We can infer from the Epistle that the errorists were members of the congregation, for they are described as those “not holding the head,” 2:19, an expression that is applicable only to those that had accepted Christ. And it seems perfectly clear that their error was primarily of a Jewish character, since they urged circumcision, not, indeed, as an absolute necessity, but as a means to perfection, 2:10–13; they appealed to the law and emphasized its ceremonial requirements and probably also the ordinances of the rabbi’s, 2:14–17, 20–23. Yet they clearly went beyond the Judæism that Paul encountered in his earlier Epistles, falsely emphasizing certain requirements of the law and adjusting their views to those of their Gentile neighbors. Their dualistic conception of the world led them, on the one hand, to an asceticism that was not demanded by the law. They regarded it as essential to abstain from the use of meat and wine, not because these were Levitically unclean, but since this abstinence was necessary for the mortification of the body, which they regarded as the seat of sin. They neglected the body and apparently aspired after a pure spiritual existence; to be like the angels was their ideal. On the other hand the consciousness of their great sinfulness as material beings made them hesitate to approach God directly. And the Jewish doctrine that the law was mediated by the angels, in connection with the influence that was ascribed to the spirits in their heathen environment, naturally led them to a worship of the angels as intermediaries between God and man. Among the higher spirits they also ranked Christ and thus failed to recognize his unique significance. The Colossian error was, therefore, a strange mixture of Jewish doctrines, Christian ideas and heathen speculation; and this composite character makes it impossible to identify it with any one heretical system of the apostolic time. Cf. especially Zahn, Einl. I p. 329 ff.; Holtzmann, Einl. p. 248 ff.; Lightfoot, Comm. pp. 71–111; Biesterveld, Comm. pp. 18–28.

1. Occasion and Purpose. From the Epistle itself we can readily infer what gave Paul occasion to write it. Epaphras, the founder and probably also the minister of the congregation, had evidently seen the danger, gradually increasing, that was threatening the spiritual welfare of the church. The errorists did not directly antagonize him or Paul; yet their teaching was a subversion of the Pauline gospel. Hence he informed the apostle of the state of affairs, and this information led to the composition of the Epistle.
The object Paul has in view is the correction of the Colossian heresy. Hence he clearly sets forth the unique significance of Christ, and the all-sufficient character of his redemption. Christ is the image of the invisible God, the Creator of the world, and also of the angels, and the only Mediator between God and man. He in whom all the fulness of the Godhead dwells, has reconciled all things to God and has delivered men from the power of sin and death. In his death He abrogated the shadows of the Old Testament and terminated the special ministry of the angels that was connected with the law, so that even this vestige of a supposed Biblical foundation for the worship of angels has been removed. In him believers are perfect and in him only. Hence the Colossians should not fall back on the beggarly elements of the world, nor in sham humility worship the angels. Having their life in Christ, they should conform to his image in all their domestic and social relations.
2. Time and Place. For the discussion of these we refer to what we have said in connection with the Epistle to the Ephesians. The letter was written at Rome about A. D. 61 or 62. Of course the majority of those who reject this Epistle date it somewhere in the second century.

The canonical character of this Epistle has never been doubted by the Church. There are slight but uncertain indications of its use in Clement of Rome, Barnabas and Ignatius. More important references to it are found in Justin Martyr and Theophilus. Marcion gave it a place in his canon, and in the Muratorian Fragment it is named as one of the Pauline Epistles. With Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria and Tertullian the quotations increase both in number and definiteness. That the Epistle is not quoted as often as Ephesians is probably due to its polemical character.
The permanent value of this letter is found primarily in its central teaching, that the Church of God is made perfect in Christ, its glorious Head. Since He is a perfect Mediator and the complete redemption of his people, they grow into him, as the Head of the body, they find the fulfillment of all their desires in him, as their Saviour, and they reach their perfection in him, as the Goal of the new creation. His perfect life is the life of the entire Church. Hence believers should seek to realize ever more in every atom of their existence the complete union with their divine Head. They should avoid all arbitrary practices, all human inventions and all will-worship that is derogatory to the only Mediator and Head of the Church, Jesus Christ.

The First Epistle to the Thessalonians



In the first Epistle to the Thessalonians we distinguish two parts:
I. Paul’s Apologia, 1:1–3:13. The letter opens with the usual apostolic blessing and thanksgiving, 1:1–4. This thanksgiving was called forth by the fact that the apostle’s work in Thessalonica had not been in vain, but had resulted in a faith that was spoken of throughout Macedonia and Achaia, 5–10. The writer reminds the readers of his labors among them, emphasizing his suffering, good moral behavior, honesty, faithfulness, diligence and love, 2:1–12. He thanks God that they had received him and his message and had suffered willingly for the cause of Christ at the hands of the Jews, and informs them that he had often intended to visit them, 13–20. His great love to them had induced him to send Timothy to establish them and to strengthen them in their affliction, 3:1–5; who had now returned and gladdened his heart by a report of their steadfastness, 6–10. He prays that the Lord may strengthen them, 11–13.
II. Practical Exhortations and Instruction regarding the Parousia, 4:1–5:28. The apostle exhorts the Thessalonians that they follow after sanctification, abstaining from fornication and fraud, and exercising love, diligence and honesty, 4:1–12. He allays their fears respecting the future of those that have died in Christ, 13–8, and admonishes the Thessalonians in view of the sudden coming of Christ to walk as children of the light that they may be prepared for the day of Christ’s return, 5:1–11. After exhorting the brethren to honor their spiritual leaders, and urging them to warn the unruly, to comfort the feeble-minded, to support the weak, and to practice all Christian virtues, the apostle closes his Epistle by invoking on the Thessalonians the blessing of God, by expressing his desire that the Epistle be read to all the brethren, and with the usual salutations, 12–28.

1. This Epistle is like that to the Philippians one of the most letterlike of all the writings of Paul. It is, as Deissmann says, ‘full of moving personal reminiscences.” The practical interest greatly predominates over the doctrinal; and though the polemical element is not altogether absent, it is not at all prominent. The letter is primarily one of practical guidance, instruction and encouragement, for a faithful, persecuted church, whose knowledge is still deficient, and whose weak and faint-hearted and idlers greatly need the counsel of the apostle.
2. Doctrinally I Thessalonians is one of the eschatological Epistles of Paul. It refers very little to Christ’s coming in the flesh to give himself a ransom for sin, but discusses all the more his future coming as the Lord of Glory. There are at least six references to the parousia in this short letter, two of which are rather extensive passages, 1:10; 2:19; 3:13; 4:13–18; 5:1–11, 23. This doctrine is at once the impelling motive for the exhortations of the apostle, and the sufficient ground for the encouragement of his readers, who expected the return of Christ in the near future.
3. The Epistle never appeals to the Old Testament as an authority, and contains no quotations from it. We find a reference to its history, however, in 2:15, and probable reminiscences of its language in 2:16; 4:5, 6, 8, 9; 5:8. The language of 4:15–17 shows some similarity to 2 Esdras 5:42, but the thought is quite different.
4. The style of this letter is thoroughly Pauline, containing an abundance of phrases and expressions that have parallels in the other Epistles of Paul, especially in those to the Corinthians. Comparing it with the other polemical writings of the apostle, we find that it is written in a quiet unimpassioned style, a style, too, far more simple and direct than that of Ephesians and Colossians. There are 42 words peculiar to it, of which 22 are not found elsewhere in the New Testament, and 20 are, but not in the writings of Paul.

The external testimony in favor of the Pauline authorship is in no way deficient. Marcion included the letter in his canon, and the Muratorian Fragment mentions it as one of the Pauline writings. It is contained in the old Latin and Syriac Versions; and from the time of Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria and Tertullian it is regularly quoted by name.
The internal evidence also clearly points to Paul as the writer. The Epistle comes to us under the name of Paul; and those that were associated with him in writing it, viz. Silvanus (Silas) and Timotheus, are known to have been Paul’s companions on the second missionary journey. It is marked by the usual Pauline blessing, thanksgiving and salutation, and clearly reflects the character of the great apostle to the Gentiles. Although it has been subject to attack, it is now defended by critics of nearly every school as an authentic production of Paul.
Schrader and Baur were the first ones to attack it in 1835. The great majority of critics, even those of Baur’s own school, turned against them; such men as Hilgenfeld, Pfleiderer, Holtzmann, Davidson, Von Soden and Jülicher defending the genuineness of the letter. They found followers, however, especially in Holsten and Van der Vies.
Of the objections brought against the Epistle the following deserve consideration: (1) As compared with the other writings of Paul, the contents of this Epistle are very insignificant, not a single doctrine, except that in 4:13–18, being made prominent. In the main it is but a reiteration of Paul’s work among the Thessalonians, and of the circumstances attending their conversion, all of which they knew very well. (2) The letter reveals a progress in the Christian life that is altogether improbable, if a period of only a few months had elapsed between its composition and the founding of the church, cf. 1:7, 8; 4:10. (3) The passage 2:14–16 does not fit in the mouth of him who wrote Rom. 9–11 and who was himself at one time a fierce persecutor of the Church. Moreover it implies that the destruction of Jerusalem was already a thing of the past. (4) The Epistle is clearly dependent on some of the other Pauline writings, especially I and II Corinthians. Compare 1:5 with 1 Cor. 2:4;—1:6 with 1 Cor. 11:1;—2:4 ff. with 1 Cor. 2:4; 4:3 ff.; 9:15 ff.; 2 Cor. 2:17; 5:11.
The cogency of these arguments is not apparent. Paul’s letters have an occasional character, and the situation at Thessalonica did not call for an exposition of Christian doctrine, save a deliverance on the parousia; but did require words of encouragement, guidance and exhortation, and also, in view of the insinuations against the apostle, a careful review of all that he had done among them. Looked at from that point of view the Epistle is in no sense insignificant. The words of 1:7, 8 and 4:10 do not imply a long existence of the Thessalonian church, but simply prove the intensity of its faith and love. Three or four months were quite sufficient for the report of their great faith to spread in Macedonia and Achaia. Moreover the very shortcomings of the Thessalonians imply that their religious experience was as yet of but short duration. In view of what Paul writes in II Corinthians and Galatians respecting the Judæizers, we certainly need not be surprised at what he says in 2:14–16. If the words are severe, let us remember that they were called forth by a bitter and dogged opposition that followed the apostle from place to place, and on which he had brooded for some time. The last words of this passage do not necessarily imply that Jerusalem had already been destroyed. They are perfectly intelligible on the supposition that Paul, in view of the wickedness of the Jews and of the calamities that were already overtaking them, Jos. Ant. XX 2, 5, 6, had a lively presentiment of their impending doom. The last argument is a very peculiar one. It is tantamount to saying that the Epistle cannot be Pauline, because there are so many Pauline phrases and expressions in it. Such an argument is its own refutation, and is neutralized by the fact that in the case of other letters dissimilarity leads the critics to the same conclusion.

Thessalonica, originally called Thermae (Herodotus), and now bearing the slightly altered name Saloniki, a city of Macedonia, has always been very prominent in history and still ranks, after Constantinople, as the second town in European Turkey. It is situated on what was formerly known as the Thermaic gulf, and is built “in the form of an amphitheater on the slopes at the head of the bay.” The great Egnatian highway passed through it from East to West. Hence it was of old an important trade center and as such had special attraction for the Jews, who were found there in great numbers. Cassander, who rebuilt the city in 315 B. C. in all probability gave it the name Thessalonica in honor of his wife. In the time of the Romans it was the capital of the second part of Macedonia and the seat of the Roman governor of the entire province.
Paul, accompanied by Silas and Timothy, came to that city, after they had left Philippi about the year 52. As was his custom, he repaired to the synagogue to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. The result of this work was a spiritual harvest consisting of some Jews, a great number of proselytes (taking the word in its widest significance) and several of the city’s chief women. From the Acts of the Apostles we get the impression (though it is not definitely stated) that Paul’s labors at Thessalonica terminated at the end of three weeks; but the Epistles rather favor the idea that his stay there was of longer duration. They pre-suppose a flourishing, well organized congregation, 5:12, whose faith had become a matter of common comment, 1:7–9; and show us that Paul, while he was in Thessalonica, worked for his daily bread, 2:9; 2 Thess. 3:8, and received aid at least twice from the Philippians, Phil. 4:16.
His fruitful labor was cut short, however, by the malign influence of envious Jews, who attacked the house of Jason, where they expected to find the missionaries, and failing in this, they drew Jason and some of the brethren before the rulers, πολιτάχας (a name found only in Acts 17:6, 8, but proved absolutely correct by inscriptions, cf. Ramsey, St. Paul the Traveler and the Roman Citizen p. 227) and charged them with treason. “The step taken by the politarchs was the mildest that was prudent in the circumstances; they bound the accused over in security that peace should be kept.” (Ramsay) As a result the brethren deemed it advisable to send Paul and his companions to Berea, where many accepted the truth, but their labors were again interrupted by the Jews from Thessalonica. Leaving Silas and Timothy here, the apostle went to Athens, where he expected them to join him shortly. From the narrative in the Acts it seems that they did not come to the apostle until after his arrival at Corinth, but 1 Thess. 3:1 implies that Timothy was with him at Athens. The most natural theory is that both soon followed the apostle to Athens, and that he sent Timothy from there to Thessalonica to establish and comfort the church, and Silas on some other mission, possibly to Philippi, both returning to him at Corinth.
From the data in Acts 17:4 and 1 Thess. 1:9; 2:14 we may infer that the church of Thessalonica was of a mixed character, consisting of Jewish and Gentile Christians. Since no reference is made in the Epistles to the tenets of the Jews and not a single Old Testament passage is quoted, it is all but certain that its members were mostly Christians of the Gentiles. Only three of them are known to us from Scripture, viz. Jason, Acts 17:5–9, and Aristarchus and Secundus, Acts 20:4. The congregation was not wealthy, 2 Cor. 8:2, 3; with the exception of a few women of the better class, it seems to have consisted chiefly of laboring people that had to work for their daily bread, 4:11; 2 Thess. 3:6–12. They had not yet parted company with all their old vices, for there was still found among them fornication 4:3–5, fraud 4:6 and idleness 4:11. Yet they were zealous in the work of the Lord and formed one of the most beloved churches of the apostle.

1. Occasion and Purpose. What led Paul to write this letter, was undoubtedly the report Timothy brought him respecting the condition of the Thessalonian church. The apostle felt that he had been torn away from them all too soon and had not had sufficient time to establish them in the truth. Hence he was greatly concerned about their spiritual welfare after his forced departure. The coming of Timothy brought him some relief, for he learnt from that fellow-laborer that the church, though persecuted, did not waver, and that their faith had become an example to many. Yet he was not entirely at ease, since he also heard that the Jews were insinuating that his moral conduct left a great deal to be desired, while he had misled the Thessalonians for temporal gain and vainglory, 2:3–10; that some heathen vices were still prevalent in the church; and that the doctrine of the parousia had been misconstrued, giving some occasion to cease their daily labors, and others, to feel concerned about the future condition of those who had recently died in their midst. That information led to the composition of our Epistle.
In view of all these things it was but natural that the apostle should have a threefold purpose in writing this letter. In the first place he desired to express his gratitude for the faithful perseverance of the Thessalonians. In the second place he sought to establish them in faith, which was all the more necessary, since the enemy had sown tares among the wheat. Hence he reminds them of his work among them, pointing out that his conversation among them was above reproach, and that as a true apostle he had labored among them without covetousness and vainglory. And in the third place he aimed at correcting their conception of the Lord’s return, emphasizing its importance as a motive for sanctification,
2. Time and Place. There is little uncertainty as to the time and place of composition, except in the ranks of those who regard the Epistle as a forgery. When Paul wrote this letter, the memory of his visit to Thessalonica was still vivid, chs. 1 and 2; and he was evidently in some central place, where he could keep posted on the state of affairs in Macedonia and Achaia, 1:7, 8, and from where he could easily communicate with the Thessalonian church. Moreover Silas and Timothy were with him, of which the former attended the apostle only on his second missionary journey, and the latter could not bring him a report of conditions at Thessalonica, until he returned to the apostle at Corinth, Acts 18:5. Therefore the Epistle was written during Paul’s stay in that city. However it should not be dated at the beginning of Paul’s Corinthian residence, since the faith of the Thessalonians had already become manifest throughout Macedonia and Achaia, and some deaths had occurred in the church of Thessalonica. Neither can we place it toward the end of that period, for II Thessalonians was also written before the apostle left Corinth. Most likely it was composed towards the end of A. D. 52.

The canonicity of this Epistle was never questioned in ancient times. There are some supposed references to it in the apostolic fathers, Clement of Rome, Barnabas, Ignatins and Polycarp, but they are very uncertain. Marcion and the Muratorian Fragment and the old Latin and Syriac Versions testify to its canonicity, however, and from the end of the second century its canonical use is a well established fact.
In this letter we behold Paul, the missionary, in the absence of any direct controversy, carefully guarding the interest of one of his most beloved churches, comforting and encouraging her like a father. He strengthens the heart of his persecuted spiritual children with the hope of Christ’s return, when the persecutors shall be punished for their evil work, and the persecuted saints, both the dead and the living, shall receive their eternal reward in the Kingdom of their heavenly Lord. And thus the apostle is an example worthy of imitation; his lesson is a lesson of permanent value. The glorious parousia of Christ is the cheering hope of the militant church in all her struggles to the end of time.

The Second Epistle to the Thessalonians



The contents of the letter naturally falls into three parts:
I. Introduction, ch. 1. The apostle begins his letter with the regular blessing, 1, 2. He thanks God for the increasing faith and patience of the Thessalonians, reminding them of the fact that in the day of Christ’s coming God will provide rest for his persecuted church and will punish her persecutors; and prays that God may fulfil his good pleasure in them to the glory of his Name, 3–12.
II. Instruction respecting the Parousia, ch. 2. The church is warned against deception regarding the imminence of the great day of Christ and is informed that it will not come until the mystery of iniquity has resulted in the great apostacy, and the man of sin has been revealed whose coming is after the work of satan, and who will utterly deceive men to their own destruction, 1–12. The Thessalonians need not fear the manifestation of Christ, since they were chosen and called to everlasting glory; and it is the apostle’s wish that the Lord may comfort their hearts and establish them in all good work, 13–17.
III. Practical Exhortations, ch. 3. The writer requests the prayer of the church for himself that he may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men, and exhorts her to do what he commanded, 1–5. They should withdraw from those who are disorderly and do not work, because each one should labor for his daily bread and thus follow the example of the apostle, 6–12. Those who do not heed the apostolic word should be censured, 13–15. With a blessing and a salutation the apostle closes his letter, 16–18.

1. The main characteristic of this letter is found in the apocalyptic passage, 2:1–12. In these verses, that contain the most essential part of the Epistle, Paul speaks as a prophet, revealing to his beloved church that the return of Christ will be preceded by a great final apostacy and by the revelation of the man of sin, the son of perdition who, as the instrument of satan, will deceive men, so that they accept the lie and are condemned in the great day of Christ. II Thessalonians, no doubt, was written primarily for the sake of this instruction.
2. Aside from this important doctrinal passage the Epistle has a personal and practical character. It contains expressions of gratitude for the faith and endurance of the persecuted church, words of encouragement for the afflicted, fatherly advice for the spiritual children of the apostle, and directions as to their proper behavior.
3. The style of this letter, like that of I Thessalonians, is simple and direct, except in 2:1–12, where the tone is more elevated. This change is accounted for by the prophetic contents of that passage. The language clearly reveals the working of the vigorous mind of Paul, who in the expression of his thoughts was not limited to a few stock phrases. Besides the many expressions that are characteristically Pauline the Epistle contains several that are peculiar to it, and also a goodly number which it has in common only with I Thessalonians. Of the 26 ἅπαξ λεγόμενα in the letter 10 are not found in the rest of the New Testament, and 16 are used elsewhere in the New Testament but not in the writings of Paul.

The external testimony for the authenticity of this Epistle is just as strong as that for the genuineness of the first letter. Marcion has it in his canon, the Muratorian Fragment names it, and it is also found in the old Latin and Syriac Versions. From the time of Irenaeus it is regularly quoted as a letter of Paul, and Origen and Eusebius claim that it was universally received in their time.
The Epistle itself claims to be the work of Paul, 1:1; and again in 3:17, where the apostle calls attention to the salutation as a mark of genuineness. The persons associated with the writer in the composition of this letter are the same as those mentioned in I Thessalonians. As in the majority of Paul’s letters the apostolic blessing is followed by a thanksgiving. The Epistle is very similar to I Thessalonians and contains some cross-references to it, as f. i. in the case of the parousia and of the idlers. It clearly reveals the character of the great apostle, and its style may confidently be termed Pauline.
Nevertheless the genuineness of the Epistle has been doubted far more than that of I Thessalonians. Schmidt was the first one to assail it in 1804; in this he was followed by Schrader, Mayerhof and De Wette, who afterwards changed his mind, however. The attack was renewed by Kern and Baur in whose school the rejection of the Epistle became general. Its authenticity is defended by Reuss, Sabatier, Hofmann, Weiss, Zahn, Jülicher, Farrar, Godet, Baljon, Moffat e. a.
The principal objections urged against the genuineness of this letter are the following: (1) The teaching of Paul regarding the parousia in 2:1–12 is not consistent with what he wrote in 1 Thessalonians 4:13–18; 5:1–11. According to the first letter the day of Christ is imminent and will come suddenly and unexpectedly; the second emphasizes the fact that it is not close at hand and that several signs will precede it. (2) The eschatology of this passage 2:1–12 is not Paul’s but clearly dates from a later time and was probably borrowed from the Revelation of John. Some identify the man of sin with Nero who, though reported dead, was supposed to be hiding in the East and was expected to return; and find the one still restraining the evil in Vespasian. Others hold that this passage clearly refers to the time of Trajan, when the mystery of iniquity was seen in the advancing tide of Gnosticism. (3) This letter is to a great extent but a repitition of I Thessalonians, and therefore looks more like the work of a forger than like a genuine production of Paul. Holtzmann says that, with the exception of 1:5, 6, 9, 12; 2:2–9, 11, 12, 15; 3:2, 13, 14, 17, the entire Epistle consists of a reproduction of parallel passages from the first letter. Einl. p. 214. (4) The Epistle contains a conspicuously large number of peculiar expressions that are not found in the rest of Paul’s writings, nor in the entire New Testament. Cf. lists in Frame’s Comm. pp. 28–34, in the Intern. Crit. Comm. (5) The salutation in 3:17 has a suspicious look. It seems like the attempt of a later writer to ward off objections and to attest the Pauline authorship.
But the objections raised are not sufficient to discredit the authenticity of our Epistle. The contradictions in Paul’s teaching regarding the parousia of Christ, are more apparent than real. The signs that precede the great day will not detract from its suddenness any more than the signs of Noah’s time prevented the flood from taking his contemporaries by surprise. Moreover these two features, the suddenness of Christ’s appearance and the portentous facts that are the harbingers of his coming, always go hand in hand in the eschatological teachings of Scripture. Dan. 11:1–12:3; Mt. 24:1–44; Lk. 17:20–37. As to the immediacy of Christ’s coming we can at most say that the first Epistle intimates that the Lord might appear during that generation (though possibly it does not even imply that), but it certainly does not teach that Christ will presently come.
The eschatology of the second chapter has given rise to much discussion and speculation regarding the date and authorship of the Epistle, but recent investigations into the conditions of the early church have clearly brought out that the contents of this chapter in no way militate against the genuineness of the letter. Hence they who deny the Pauline authorship have ceased to place great reliance on it. There is nothing improbable in the supposition that Paul wrote the passage regarding the man of sin. We find similar representations as early as the time of Daniel (cf. Dan. 11), in the pseudepigraphic literature of the Jews (cf. Schürer, Geschichte des Jüdischen Volkes II p. 621 f.), and in the eschatological discourses of the Lord. The words and expressions found in this chapter are very well susceptible of an interpretation that does not necessitate our dating the Epistle after the time of Paul. We cannot delay to review all the preterist and futurist expositions that have been given (for which cf. Alford, Prolegomena Section V), but can only indicate in a general way in what direction we must look for the interpretation of this difficult passage. In interpreting it we should continually bear in mind its prophetic import and its reference to something that is still future. No doubt, there were in history prefigurations of the great day of Christ in which this prophecy found a partial fulfilment, but the parousia of which Paul speaks in these verses is even now only a matter of faithful expectation. The history of the world is gradually leading up to it. Paul was witnessing some apostacy in his day, the μυστήριον της ἀνομίας was already working, but the great apostacy (ἡ ἀποστασία) could not come in his day, because there had been as yet but a very partial dissemination of the truth; and will not come until the days immediately preceding the second coming of Christ, when the mystery of godlessness will complete itself, and will finally be embodied in a single person, in the man of sin, the son of perdition, who will then develop into a power antagonistic to Christ (anti-christ, ὃ ἀντικείμενος), yea to every form of religion, the very incarnation of satan. Cf. vs. 9. This can only come to pass, however, after the restraining power is taken out of the way, a power that is at once impersonal (κατέχον) and personal (κατέχων), and which may refer first of all to the strict administration of justice in the Roman empire and to the emperor as the chief executive, but certainly has a wider signification and probably refers in general to “the fabric of human polity and those who rule that polity.” (Alford). For a more detailed exposition cf. especially, Alford, Prolegomena Section V; Zahn, Einleitung I p. 162 ff.; Godet, Introduction p. 171 ff.; and Eadie, Essay on the Man of Sin in Comm. p. 329 ff.
We fail to see the force of the third argument, unless it is an established fact that Paul could not repeat himself to a certain degree, even in two Epistles written within the space of a few months, on a subject that engaged the mind of the apostle for some time, to the same church and therefore with a view to almost identical conditions. This argument looks strange especially in view of the following one, which urges the rejection of this letter, because it is so unlike the other Pauline writings. The points of difference between our letter and I Thessalonians are generally exaggerated, and the examples cited by Davidson to prove the dissimilarity are justly ridiculed by Salmon, who styles such criticism “childish criticism, that is to say, criticism such as might proceed from a child who insists that a story shall always be told to him in precisely the same way.” Introd. p. 398. The salutation in 3:17 does not point to a time later than that of Paul, since he too had reason to fear the evil influence of forged Epistles, 2:2. He merely states that, with a view to such deception, he would in the future authenticate all his letters by attaching an autographic salutation.

1. Occasion and Purpose. Evidently some additional information regarding the state of affairs at Thessalonica had reached Paul, it may be through the bearers of the first Epistle, or by means of a communication from the elders of the church. It seems that some letter had been circulated among them, purporting to come from Paul, and that some false spirit was at work in the congregation. The persecution of the Thessalonians still continued and had probably increased in force, and in some way the impression had been created that the day of the Lord was at hand. This led on the one hand to feverish anxiety, and on the other, to idleness. Hence the apostle deemed it necessary to write a second letter to the Thessalonians.
The purpose of the writer was to encourage the sorely pressed church; to calm the excitement by pointing out that the second advent of the Lord could not be expected immediately, since the mystery of lawlessness had to develop first and to issue in the man of sin; and to exhort the irregular ones to a quiet, industrious and orderly conduct.
2. Time and Place. Some writers, such as Grotius, Ewald, Vander Vies and Laurent advocated the theory that II Thessalonians was written before I Thessalonians, but the arguments adduced to support that position cannot bear the burden. Moreover 2 Thess. 2:15 clearly refers to a former letter of the apostle. In all probability our Epistle was composed a few months after the first one, for on the one hand Silas and Timothy were still with the apostle, 1:1, which was not the case after he left Corinth, and they were still antagonized by the Jews so that most likely their case had not yet been brought before Gallio, Acts 18:12–17; and on the other hand a change had come about both in the sentiment of the apostle, who speaks no more of his desire to visit the Thessalonians, and in the condition of the church to which he was writing, a change that would necessarily require some time. We should most likely date the letter about the middle of A. D. 53.

The early Church found no reason to doubt the canonicity of this letter. Little stress can be laid, it is true, on the supposed reference to its language in Ignatius, Barnabas, the Didache and Justin Martyr. It is quite evident, however, that Polycarp used the Epistle. Moreover it has a place in the canon of Marcion, is mentioned among the Pauline letters in the Muratorian Fragment, and is contained in the old Latin and Syriac Versions. Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian and others since their time, quote it by name.
The great permanent value of this Epistle lies in the fact that it corrects false notions regarding the second advent of Christ, notions that led to indolence and disorderliness. We are taught in this Epistle that the great day of Christ will not come until the mystery of iniquity that is working in the world receives its full development, and brings forth the son of perdition who as the very incarnation of satan will set himself against Christ and his Church. If the Church of God had always remembered this lesson, she would have been spared many an irregularity and disappointment. The letter also reminds us once more of the fact that the day of the Lord will be a day of terror to the wicked, but a day of deliverance and glory for the Church of Christ.
Berkhof, L. (1915). New Testament Introduction (S. 117–234). Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans-Sevensma Co.


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