The Books of the New Testament
by Leighton Pullan
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We conclude, therefore, that the author was a Jew of Palestine, and that he was not a Gentile or in any sense a Gnostic.

III. The author was a contemporary and an eye-witness of the events described.

His knowledge of Jerusalem and of the temple, which we have already noticed, strongly suggests that he knew the city before its destruction in A.D. 70. So far as can be tested, his treatment of the Messianic ideas of the people is exactly accurate, and of a kind which it would have been difficult for a later writer to exhibit. This Gospel represents the people as pervaded by a nationalist notion of the Messiah as of a king who would deliver them from foreign powers (vi. 15, xi. 48; xix. 12), a notion which was dispelled in A.D. 70, and apparently did not revive until the rising of Bar Kocheba in A.D. 135, a date which is now almost universally recognized as too late for this Gospel to have been written. We also find the two contradictory ideas as to the place of the Messiah's origin then current (vii. 27, 42), and the writer distinguishes "the prophet" (i. 21, 25; vi. 14; vii. 40), who was expected to precede Christ, from Christ Himself. At a very early date the Christians identified "the prophet" with Christ, and it is in the highest degree improbable that any but a contemporary of our Lord would have been aware of this change of belief.

It is claimed that the author is an eye-witness in i. 14; xix. 35; and xxi. 24. We may add 1 John i. 1, for the author of the Epistle was obviously the author of the Gospel. Numerous details, especially the frequent notes of time, suggest the hand {92} of an eye-witness. And the delicate descriptions of the inner life of the disciples and of Christ Himself point to the same conclusion. The description of the Last Supper and the words spoken at it suggest with overwhelming force that the writer knew the peculiar manner of seating employed at this ceremony. Another Jew would have known where the celebrant sat, but he would scarcely have been able to make the actions of our Lord and Judas, St. John and St. Peter, fit their places at the table with such perfection.[4]

The Gospel claims that the disciple who "wrote these things" is the disciple "whom Jesus loved," and who reclined "in Jesus' bosom" at the Supper. It was not Peter, for Peter did not recline "in Jesus' bosom." The presumption therefore is that it was either James or John, these two being with Peter the closest friends of Jesus. It could hardly have been James, who was martyred in A.D. 44, as the whole weight of tradition and external evidence is against this. It must, then, have been John, or a forger who wished to pass for that apostle. And to suppose that an unknown forger, born two generations, or even one generation, later than the apostles, could invent such sublime doctrine, and insert it in so realistic a story, and completely deceive the whole Christian world, including the district where St. John lived and died, is to show a credulity which is without parallel in the history of civilization.[5]

Now that we have reviewed the internal evidence for the authenticity, we are able to return with renewed vigour to deal with the popular rationalistic hypothesis that the author was a Christian who had learned some genuine stories about Jesus current in the Church at Ephesus, and then wove them into a narrative of his own composing. We have observed that the marks of an eye-witness and contemporary of Jesus are {93} scattered over the whole surface of the Gospel. If the Gospel is not by St. John, only one other explanation is possible. It must be composed of three distinct elements: (a) some genuine traditions, (b) numerous fictions, (c) a conscious manipulation of the narrative contained in the Synoptists. But the internal evidence is absolutely opposed to any such theory. We can trace no manipulation of the Synoptic narrative. The writer seems to be aware of St. Mark's Gospel, and possibly the other two, but he evidently did not write with them actually before him. He plainly had a wholly independent plan and an independent source of information. And if we turn to the passages which tell us facts not recorded by the Synoptists, it is quite impossible to separate the supposed fictions from the supposed genuine traditions. Both style and matter proceed from one and the same individuality. One passage alone can be separated from the rest without interrupting the flow of the story, and that passage is absent in the best manuscripts. It is the story of the woman taken in adultery (vii. 53-viii. 11). It seems to have been originally placed after Luke xxi. 36, and was inserted into St. John's Gospel after it was completed. We cannot apply the same process to any other passage in the Gospel. It is an organic whole, as much as any play of Shakespeare or poem of Tennyson. And over the whole book we find the same morsels of history and geography. They are of a kind which tradition never hands down unimpaired, and which no Ephesian disciple of an apostle would be likely to commit to memory. In spite of all attempts to divide the Gospel into parts derived straight from an apostle and parts invented by later minds, the Gospel remains like the seamless coat which once clothed the form of the Son of man.

[Sidenote: Date.]

It is important to observe that even the most hostile criticism has tended to recede in its attempt to find a probable date for this Gospel. Baur fixed it about A.D. 160-170, Pfleiderer at 140, Hilgenfeld 130-140; Juelicher and Harnack will not date it later than 110, {94} and the latter grants that it may be as early as 80. The year 80 is as early a date as the most orthodox Christian need desire, and we can reasonably believe that it was written by the apostle at Ephesus between A.D. 80 and A.D. 90. We learn from Irenaeus that St. John survived until A.D. 98.

[Sidenote: Literary Style.]

Several points in the literary style of the apostle have been noticed in dealing with the internal evidence which they afford to the authenticity of his Gospel. But it is necessary to add something more, for there is no writer to whom we can more fitly apply the profound saying that "the style is the man." The language of St. John is the result of a long and impassioned contemplation. Whether he writes down his own words, or records the words and deeds of our Lord, his language shows the result of careful reflection.

The teaching of Jesus exhibits a development different from that in the Synoptists. We find in chs. ii., iii., and iv. that our Lord definitely taught that He was the Son of God and Messiah quite early in His ministry, while in the earlier part of Mark our Lord's teaching about His Messiahship is far less definite. And the method of teaching is also different. In the Synoptists we find picturesque parables and pointed proverbs, while in John we find long discourses and arguments. In the Synoptists the teaching is generally practical, in John it is much more openly theological. This difference between the Synoptists and St. John can be partly accounted for by the fact that St. John's Gospel contains much more of the instruction given by our Lord to His intimate friends, and that this instruction was naturally more profound than that which was given to the multitude. But there is another reason for the difference. If we attend to such passages as xiv. 15-21, 25-26; xv. 26-27, we see that our Lord teaches that there are two manifestations of His Person, one during the time between His birth and His death, and the other after the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is not a substitute {95} for an absent Christ; His coming brings with it an inward presence of Christ within the Christian soul (xiv. 18). By the aid of the Spirit, St. John condenses and interprets the language of our Lord in a manner which can be understood by the simplest of simple souls who live the inner life. In St. John we find a writer who is writing when Jesus spoke no longer in parables and proverbs, but "plainly" (xvi. 25, 29). He records the teaching of Jesus, as it had shaped itself in his own mind, but not so much by his own mind as by perpetual communion with the ascended Christ.

[Sidenote: Character and Contents.]

We have noted on p. 31 the fact that St. John's Gospel shows that he was acquainted with facts in the Synoptic Gospels which he does not himself narrate. Yet the broad difference between the character of the Synoptic writers and that of St. John is that the Synoptists are historical, he is mystical. We do not mean that St. John does not trouble about historical accuracy. His history is often more minute than that of the Synoptists. But his purpose is to bring his readers into deeper life through union with the God who is in Christ and is Christ. The true mystic ever desires to maintain the knowledge of this inward union in life with God. It is a knowledge which is made possible by obedience, made perfect by love, and causes not new ecstasies, but a new character. St. John adjusts all his material to this one purpose. "These are written that ye may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye may have life in His name" (xx. 31).

The Introduction or Prologue (i. 1-18) teaches that Jesus Christ is that personal manifestation of God to whom the Jews had given the name of the Word. The Palestinian Jews were accustomed to describe God acting upon the world by the name Memra, or "Word" of the Lord. The Alexandrian Jews also were in the habit of giving the title Logos, which means both "Word" and "Reason," to an idea of God which perfectly expressed all that God is. The Greek Stoics had {96} used the name in a similar sense, and thus St. John, having realized that Jesus is truly God made manifest, called Him by a name which every educated Jew and Greek would understand. Unlike Philo, the great Alexandrian Jew who tried to combine Greek philosophy with Jewish religion, St. John teaches that this divine Word is a Person, and took human flesh and revealed Himself as the Messiah. The whole Gospel shows how this revelation met with increasing faith on the part of some, and increasing unbelief and hatred on the part of others. The crises of this unbelief are represented chiefly in connection with our Lord's visits to Jerusalem, when He made His claims before the religious leaders of Judaism. His revelation is attended by various forms of witness. There is that of the apostle himself (i. 14); that of the other apostles who also witnessed His "glory," as displayed by His miracles (ii. 11). There is that of John the Baptist (i. 34); and when we remember that there had existed at Ephesus an incomplete Christianity which had only known the baptism given by John the Baptist (Acts xix. 3), we see how fit it was that the apostle should record the Baptist's testimony to Christ's superiority. There is the witness of His works, and that which the Father Himself bore (v. 34-36). We should notice that the miracles are called "signs," and are carefully selected so as to give evidence to the reader concerning particular aspects of our Lord's glory.[6] Even the Passion is described as containing an element of glory (xii. 28, 32), it contains a secret divine triumph (cf. Col. ii. 15), and is a stage towards the glory of the Ascension. The "darkness" contends with the {97} divine "light," but cannot "suppress" it. After the "world" has done its worst, the final victory of faith is seen in the confession of St. Thomas, "My Lord and my God" (xx. 28).

We find other points of doctrine corresponding with the mystical teaching that "eternal life" does not begin after the last judgment, but may be enjoyed here and now by knowing "God and Jesus Christ whom He hath sent" (xvii. 3). Thus the judgment is shown to be executed in one sense by the mere division which takes place among men when they come in contact with Christ, according as they are good or bad (v. 30; viii. 16; ix. 39). The principle of this moral testing is made plain in iii. 19. Those who stand the test, and believe in Christ, undergo a resurrection here (xi. 26). On the other hand, there is also a future judgment (v. 22, 29) and a future consummation (v. 28, 29; vi. 39 f., xiv. 3).

Similar beautiful paradoxes are found in the teaching that the "work" which God requires of us is to believe in His Son (vi. 28, 29); and that to fulfil God's will is the mark not of servants but of friends (xv. 14). And those who hope that they are numbered among the friends of Jesus will find in this Gospel all the deepest experiences of the soul—the new birth, the finding of the living water and the true light, and that abiding in Christ which is made complete by the eating of His flesh and the drinking of His blood.

To realize the meaning of Jesus it is necessary to follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit. The Synoptists tell us comparatively little of His work, though they show us the Spirit descending on Christ at His baptism, driving Him into the wilderness to be tempted, speaking in His disciples, pervading His work (Luke iv. 18), and possessed of a personality into which the Christian is baptized (Matt. xxviii. 19), and against which blasphemy is unpardonable (Luke xii. 10). In John we find a much fuller doctrine of the Holy Spirit. The fact that He is not a mere impersonal influence of God is very clearly shown. And it is impossible to accept the modern rationalistic {98} hypothesis that the Holy Spirit is only a phrase for describing the idea which the apostles had about the invisible presence of Christ. He is called "another Advocate" (xiv. 16). Christ was an Advocate or Helper; the Spirit will be another. Again, it is the work of the Spirit to refresh the memory and strengthen the apprehension of the disciples concerning Christ (xiv. 26); and our Lord definitely says, "If I go, I will send Him unto you" (xvi. 7). With regard to the unbelieving world, the Spirit will prove the sinfulness of opposition to Christ, will convince the world of His righteousness as testified by the Father's approval manifested in the Ascension, and will procure the verdict of history that by the crucifixion the evil spirit who inspires worldliness was condemned (xvi. 8-11). The Spirit's work is the same in kind as the work of Christ, but the two Persons are distinct. That Christ continues His advent and His work in the world through the Spirit implies neither that the Spirit is an impersonal influence nor that He is personally identical with Christ.

This Gospel gives us invaluable help in determining the chronology of our Lord's ministry. His ministry is connected with six Jewish feasts (ii. 13; v. 1; vi. 4; vii. 2; x. 22; xii. 1). All are named except that in v. 1, which is probably Pentecost, A.D. 27. The forty-six years in ii. 20 are correct. Herod began to rebuild the temple in 20-19 B.C. Therefore the Passover in ii. 13 cannot be before A.D. 27.


Introduction: i. 1—i. 18.—The Word ever with God and Himself God, manifested in creation, in conscience, in the incarnation.


Winter A.D. 26 till after Passover 27.

The preparation and beginning of the ministry: i. 19-iv. 54.—The testimony of John the Baptist to Jesus {99} and his baptism of Jesus, his disciples come to Jesus, the gathering of other disciples, the promise of seeing heaven opened (i.). Jesus and Mary at the marriage at Cana, the disciples believe. Jesus at Capernaum. At the Passover Jesus goes to Jerusalem and cleanses the temple (ii). At Jerusalem Jesus teaches Nicodemus of the new birth, He labours in Judaea while John is at Aenon (iii.). The woman of Samaria converted; Jesus returns and is welcomed in Galilee, is again at Cana, cures the Capernaum nobleman's son (iv.).


Pentecost A.D. 27 till before Passover 28.

The increased self-revelation of Jesus at Jerusalem: v.—Jesus cures the infirm man at the pool of Bethesda, is accused of sabbath-breaking. He co-ordinates His work and His honour with the work and honour of the Father, claims to give life now and execute judgment, claims the testimony of John, of His own miracles, of the Scriptures.


Passover A.D. 28 till before Tabernacles 28.

Full self-revelation of Jesus in Galilee: vi.—Christ sustains physical life by feeding the 5000, the people wish to make Him King. He again shows power over nature by walking on the sea. He reveals Himself as the Bread sustaining all spiritual life, commands the eating of His flesh and drinking of His blood. The effect of this teaching is increased enmity, the desertion by nominal disciples, and intensified faith as shown by Peter's confession.


Tabernacles, September A.D. 28 till early 29.

Further self-revelation at Jerusalem: conflict: journey to Peraea; vii. 1-xi. 57.—Jesus at the feast, {100} is accused of having a devil, defends His former action on the sabbath, attempt to seize Him, His invitation to all who thirst, the people divided, the officers refuse to arrest Him (vii.). [Interpolated story of the woman taken in adultery, vii. 53-viii. 11.]

Jesus reveals Himself as the Light of the world, the Jews no longer Abraham's children, the Jews reject His claim to pre-existence, and attempt to stone Him (viii.). Jesus gives sight to the blind man at Siloam, discussion about healing on the sabbath (ix.). Jesus the good Shepherd, at the feast of the Dedication in December the Jews try to stone Him and He goes east of Jordan (x.).

Jesus as Conqueror of death goes to Bethany, raises Lazarus and proclaims Himself as the Resurrection and the Life. On the advice of Caiaphas, the Council propose to put Jesus to death. After raising Lazarus Jesus retires to Ephraim, a city on the edge of the wilderness to the north-east of Jerusalem (xi.).


Passover A.D. 29.

Last public ministry at Jerusalem: xii.—Mary anoints Jesus for burial, the entry into Jerusalem, the Greeks who desire to see Jesus, a voice from heaven promises to glorify Him. Rejecting or receiving Christ.

Full self-revelation of Jesus to His apostles: xiii.-xvii.—At the Passover He washes the disciples' feet. Judas pointed out and departs. The question of Peter (xiii. 37), of Thomas (xiv. 5), of Philip (xiv. 8), of Judas (xiv. 22). The work of the Advocate who is to come (xiv. 26). Abiding in Christ, the new commandment to love one another, the hatred of the world, future testimony of the Spirit of truth (xv.). The Spirit will convict the world, guide the disciples. Sorrow only for a little while, final assurances, warm expression of faith on the part of the apostles, Christ's warning (xvi.).

Christ's intercession (xvii.).


The death of Jesus, the apparent triumph of unbelief: xviii.-xix.—Betrayal in the garden, trial before Annas and Caiaphas, Peter's denial, trial before Pilate, Jesus or Barabbas (xviii.).

The scourging, Pilate's futile endeavour to release Jesus, his political fears, the crucifixion, "behold thy mother," the spear-thrust, the writer's personal testimony, the burial by Joseph of Arimathaea (xix.).

The resurrection, the victory over unbelief: xx.—Mary Magdalene, Peter and the writer at the sepulchre, the writer records his own conviction. Jesus manifests Himself to the Magdalene, to the ten disciples, most of whom had deserted Him, and to Thomas who doubted. Thomas is convinced of the Divinity of Jesus, the writer states that this Gospel was written "that ye might believe."

Epilogue: xxi.—The manifestation of Jesus by the sea of Galilee, the solemn charge to Peter. The editors of the Gospel assert that the author was the beloved disciple.

(John xxi. 24 was probably written by the Ephesian presbyters who knew St. John. The rest of the chapter is evidently by the apostle himself, although, it may have been added at a time later than the rest of the Gospel, which seems to come to an end with the impressive words in xx. 31. The most contradictory hypotheses have been broached by writers who have denied the authenticity of ch. xxi. Some have held that it was added in order to exalt St. John, the apostle of Asia Minor, over St. Peter, the patron of Rome. Others have held that it was added to exalt St. Peter. Those who deny the authenticity of the whole Gospel are compelled to regard ch. xxi. 24 as deliberate false witness.)

St. John's Oral Teaching.—It seems that before St. John wrote his Gospel, he had adapted it to oral teaching. This is shown by the arrangement of facts in combinations of 3, possibly suggested by the 3 manifestations of the Word recorded in the Introduction. There are 3 Passovers recorded, 3 feasts besides the Passovers, 3 journeys to Judaea, 3 discourses on the last day of Tabernacles before the address to believing Jews (viii. 31), 3 sayings from the Cross. If we regard ch. xxi. as added later by St. John, we find in the rest of the Gospel 3 miracles in Judaea, 3 in Galilee, and 3 appearances of the risen Lord.

[1] Apostolic Age of the Church, vol. ii. p. 211. (English translation.)

[2] Dr. James Moffat, Introduction to the Literature of the New Testament, p. 601.

[3] Eusebius, H. E. v. 20. It is worth noting that Dr. Moffat, op. cit. p. 609, admits that "if Irenaeus is correct, his testimony to John the Apostle is of first-rate importance." So he adds, "he must be held to have mistaken what Polykarp said, and to have confused John the Presbyter with John the Apostle."

[4] See Edersheim, Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, vol. ii. p. 494.

[5] The difficulties which arise from the difference between the history of our Lord's ministry as given by St. John, and by the Synoptists, have been discussed on p. 27, ff.

[6] He changes the good into better (ii. 9); saves the dying (iv. 50); gives power (v. 8); gives food (vi. 11); gives sight (ix. 7); is Lord over death (xi. 44); blesses the work done in faith (xxi. 11). It should be noticed that St. John never mentions that our Lord cured any one possessed with a devil, which according to the Synoptists was a common kind of miracle. But St. John does not therefore contradict the other evangelists. He recognizes that there are visible works of the devil (viii. 41; cf. 1 John iii. 8), and mentions "the prince of this world" as causing the trials of our Lord.




[Sidenote: The Author.]

The Christian Church has never attributed the Book of Acts to any other writer than St. Luke. The external proofs of the primitive date of the book are important, and point to the apostolic age as the date of its composition. St. Clement of Rome, about A.D. 95, in referring to Ps. lxxxviii. 20, quotes it in words which are almost certainly based on Acts xiii. 22. There are two apparent quotations from Acts in the letters of St. Ignatius and one in the letter of St. Polycarp. It is also quoted in the works of Justin Martyr, Tatian, and Athenagoras, and in the letter of the Churches of Vienne and Lyons written in A.D. 177. It was evidently read throughout the 2nd century, and it is definitely assigned to St. Luke by Irenaeus, the Muratorian Fragment, Tertullian, and Clement of Alexandria.

In opposition to this tradition, a persistent effort has been made to prove that the book belongs to the early part of the and century. There are certain passages in which the writer uses the first person plural, implying that he was personally present on the occasions described. The sections of the book in which that peculiarity is found are ordinarily called the "we sections," and it has been asserted that though the "we sections" are primitive they have been worked into the narrative of a later writer.[1] Furthermore it is asserted that {103} the book was deliberately intended to be a fictitious account of the primitive Church, and that its special purpose was to balance the story of St. Peter with that of St. Paul in such a manner as to completely disguise the fundamental antagonism of the two apostles.

The force of this argument has been weakened by the general admission of non-Christian writers that the differences of opinion between the two apostles were grossly exaggerated by the critics of fifty years ago. It is therefore granted that there was less necessity for the forgery than there was said to be by the critics in question. It is also very obvious that we cannot fairly charge a historian with dishonesty because he wishes to balance one great character with another. No one would assert that a modern writer was a partisan or a liar because he devoted in the same book twenty appreciative pages to the Evangelical Revival and twenty appreciative pages to the Oxford Movement. In spite of this fact, the trustworthy character of the book is still vigorously assailed. It is said that no statement in the book deserves ready belief except the "we sections," that those sections were written by an unknown companion of St. Paul, and impudently "appropriated" by a Christian who wrote between A.D. 105 and A.D. 130.

This argument about the "we sections" can be completely overthrown by a consideration of the linguistic evidence of Acts. If language implies anything, the peculiarities of Acts imply that the author of the "we sections," who was a companion of St. Paul, was the author of the whole book. And they also show that the author of the whole book was the person who wrote the third Gospel. There are many words and phrases found only in the "we sections" and in the rest of Acts. There is, too, a large number of words and phrases in the "we sections" which are rarely used in those books of the New Testament which are not attributed to St. Luke, and occur frequently in the rest of Acts and in St. Luke's Gospel. If {104} we compare Acts with St. Luke's Gospel, we find that Acts contains 108 out of 140 which are characteristic of this Gospel, whereas it contains only about a half of those which are characteristic of Matt. and Mark. There are 58 Greek words which are found in both Acts and Luke and nowhere else in the New Testament.[2] Among the terms which serve as connecting links between St. Luke's Gospel and Acts, including the "we sections," occur various medical phrases. It is becoming more and more widely recognized that these phrases imply that the writer was a physician, such as we know St. Luke to have been (Col. iv. 14). It is all the more remarkable that many of the words peculiar to Acts are found in St. Luke's contemporary, the physician Dioscorides.

It is true that the sections taken from Mark show numerous "Lucan" characteristics as they appear in our third Gospel, but these characteristics are due to the third evangelist, and not to St. Mark. So, it can be urged, the "Lucan" characteristics in the "we sections" are due not to the author, but to an expert editor of a later time. In reply, we can answer that the cases are not strictly parallel. For if the "we sections" are not by the writer of Acts, he must have almost entirely rewritten them, and, at the same time, have been guilty of a gross fraud, which he stupidly dropped in passages where it could have been effectively used.

To this linguistic evidence of authenticity we can add archaeological evidence. The discoveries of the last thirty years have greatly confirmed the accuracy of the writer in points where a writer of the 2nd century would have betrayed his ignorance. In fact, we are able to compare his accuracy with the inaccuracy of the writing known as the Acts of Paul and Thecla, a 2nd century blend of sensationalism and piety based on a document of the 1st century. Now, in almost every point where we are able to test the knowledge possessed by the author of Acts with regard to the topography of Asia {105} Minor and the details of Roman government, it can be pronounced correct. This has been admirably shown by Prof. Ramsay's works on The Church in the Roman Empire and St. Paul. St. Luke knows that Cyprus was governed by a pro-consul, which had ceased to be the case early in the 2nd century; that the magistrates at Philippi were called strategoi, and were attended by lictors, while those at Thessalonica were called politarchai (xvii. 6), a title which has been verified by inscriptions. He is aware that the governor of Malta was only called the head-man (xxviii. 7). He knows that Derbe and Lystra, but not Iconium, were cities of Lycaonia, and that "great Artemis" was the cry used at Ephesus in invoking the patronal goddess of the city (xix. 28). We must not assert that these and similar details absolutely prove that the writer was a companion of St. Paul; but we can say that he was peculiarly well acquainted with the life of that period. The account of St. Paul's voyage and shipwreck is equally accurate.

A very favourite argument against the genuineness of Acts is that Acts xv., in its account of St. Paul's third visit to Jerusalem, A.D. 49, is inconsistent with Gal. ii. It is asserted that the author deliberately falsified the story in order to represent the older apostles as promoting the union of Gentile and Jewish Christians, some modern critics assuming that the apostles would never have done anything so Catholic. But there is no real discrepancy between the two accounts, if we are ready to believe that St. Luke gives the public and exterior view of the proceedings, while St. Paul, as is natural, describes the personal aspect of those proceedings. According to Acts xv. 2, St. Paul and St. Barnabas were deputed to go to Jerusalem by the Church at Antioch; according to Gal. ii. 2, St. Paul went there "by revelation." The internal motive is surely compatible with the external. Again, both Acts xv. and Gal. ii. show that the momentous Council at Jerusalem included private and public meetings. The two accounts fit one another all the better in consequence of the fact that Acts {106} lays stress upon the public settlement (xv. 7 f.) and Galatians upon a private conference (ii. 2). Acts shows that there was much dispute, and Galatians shows that the dispute included opposition to St. Paul's methods. Acts shows that St. Paul greatly desired to be on good terms with the older apostles, Galatians shows that they gave him the right hand of fellowship. The historical situation, the occasion of dispute (viz. the attempt to impose circumcision on the Gentiles), the chief persons concerned and the feelings which they entertained, are the same in both books.[3]

As to the fact that St. Paul in Galatians makes no mention of a second visit to Jerusalem about A.D. 46, he ignores it because it was devoted to the specific business mentioned in Acts xi. 30; xii. 25. Nothing arose out of it affecting his relations with the first apostles or his own apostleship. A description of this visit was therefore quite beside the argument of Galatians. We cannot therefore say that its omission in Galatians proves that it was an invention of the author of Acts.

The fact that Acts does not depend upon St. Paul's writings and nevertheless shows many undesigned points of contact with them, leads us to a very important conclusion. This conclusion is that the writer of Acts was a companion of St. Paul. It is incredible that a later writer, who took an eager interest in St. Paul's adventures, should have made no use of St. Paul's letters. Those letters made a deep impression upon St. Paul's contemporaries (cf. 2 Cor. x. 10), and they were carefully treasured by all succeeding generations. We can only explain the relation between Acts and the Pauline Epistles by the theory that the author of Acts was sufficiently intimate with the apostle to be able to write his book without feeling the necessity of enriching it by references to those Epistles. The theory, then, fits with the theory which is suggested to us by the "we sections." The only remaining question is whether this companion was, or was not, St. Luke. {107} He was evidently with St. Paul at Rome, and this makes it impossible to attribute the authorship of Acts to Titus, as there is no hint in the New Testament of Titus being there. Nor was the author Silas, for Silas was not with St. Paul on the third missionary journey, while the author of Acts was. Acts xx. 5, 6 seems to prove that the book was not written by Timothy. No one seems so likely to have been the author as St. Luke. For the writer of Acts xxvii. 1-xxviii. 16 evidently accompanied St. Paul to Rome, and we learn from Col. iv. 14 and Philem. 24 that St. Luke was with the apostle during his first imprisonment in that city. We may therefore say that every line of evidence points to the truth of the ancient tradition that St. Luke wrote Acts.

The sources of information employed by St. Luke can sometimes be determined with a high degree of probability. Where he did not draw upon his own recollections he could often rely upon those of St. Paul. The apostle was, as we should expect, in the habit of narrating his own experiences (cf. 2 Cor. i. 8-10; xii. 9; Gal. i. 11-ii. 14; Phil. iii. 3-7; Rom. xv. 16-32). Acts xxi. 19; xiv. 27; xv. 3, 12, 26, show how St. Paul related his travels. Acts i.-v. probably incorporates an early Jewish Christian document, and contains features which unmistakably point to the truthfulness of the record. A good deal of information was probably obtained from John Mark: it was to the house of Mark's mother that St. Peter made his way after his escape from prison recorded in ch. xii. As St. Mark was with St. Luke and St. Paul at Rome, and acted as St. Peter's interpreter, St. Luke had the opportunity of learning from him many facts concerning St. Peter. St. Barnabas also perhaps furnished some details concerning the history of the early Church at Jerusalem. Some of the converts who fled from Judaea to Antioch (xi. 19) were probably men who witnessed the wonders of the Day of Pentecost. And if St. Luke was a Christian of Antioch, as tradition says, he may have made inquiries of these converts.


From Philip the evangelist, St. Luke may have learnt the history of events with which Philip was concerned, as he stayed with him at Caesarea (xxi. 8-12), and he also knew Mnason, who was one of the "original" disciples of Pentecost (xxi. 16). Finally, we notice that St. Luke had intercourse with St. James, the Bishop of Jerusalem, himself (xxi. 18).

[Sidenote: Date.]

We have seen above (p. 68) that St. Luke's Gospel was probably written soon after A.D. 70. As Acts i. 1 shows that Acts was written later than the Gospel, and as there is just enough difference in style between the two books to encourage the idea that Acts was not written immediately after the Gospel, we may reasonably place Acts between A.D. 75 and 80.

One obvious objection to placing the date of Acts so late is the fact that the writer does not record the death of St. Paul. This is certainly startling, for the martyrdom of the great apostle would have formed an impressive conclusion to the book. But there are several reasons which may be appropriately suggested to account for the omission. Possibly the author intended to write a third "treatise," in which the story of the martyrdom of his two great heroes, St. Peter and St. Paul, would be recounted; possibly Acts, which ends very abruptly, was never completed by the author. It is also possible that, after showing that the Roman civil power had generally been tolerant towards Christianity, he did not wish to endanger the circulation of his book by giving an account of Nero's brutal persecution of the Christians. If the book had contained any such history, the possession of it would have been regarded as no small offence by the civil authorities. Several years later, when the Church was probably much stronger, St. John, in writing the Revelation, disguised his description of Nero in symbolical language. In any case, St. Luke may have wished both to show Theophilus that Christianity was compatible with loyalty to the government, {109} and that the government had for a long time been tolerant towards Christianity.

[Sidenote: Character and Contents.]

The general plan of the book may easily be seen by a glance at the Analysis printed below. We may describe it by saying that the ruling ideas are the progress and the continuity of the Church. That is to say, St. Luke shows how the Church, the divinely organized society which promotes the kingdom of God, lives and develops through various stages and crises. It spreads from one upper room in Jerusalem to Rome, the world's mightiest city. From the election of Matthias, the new apostle, until the decision reached by the Council at Jerusalem twenty years afterwards, and recorded in ch. xv., we behold a slow but sure progress. The secret of this progress is dependence upon the risen Christ. We cannot conceive how the apostles could ever have come out of the perplexity and dismay caused by the death of their Lord, and laboured with such enthusiasm, unless they were certain that the Lord was indeed risen. Without the resurrection, the Church would have collapsed at once. Knowing that it could not be possibly disproved, the apostles appeal to it as their reason for advancing out of Judaism. Two points with regard to the doctrine implied in chs. i.-xv. deserve special attention.

(1) The doctrine of Christ's Person. The doctrine is of the simplest kind, but the facts asserted by the apostles imply that He is divine. He is the Messiah, anointed by God, and the Holy One, and He is in a special sense the Holy Servant or Child of God (iii. 14; iv. 27). He is seated at the right hand of God (v. 31), He is Prince and Saviour. He fulfils divine functions. It is He who has poured out the Holy Spirit (ii. 33). He is the object of man's faith, and His name or revealed personality is declared to have just restored a lame man to soundness (iii. 16); signs and wonders are expected to be done through Him (iv. 30). There is "salvation" in none other (iv. 12), and He is to be "the Judge of quick and dead" {110} (x. 42). St. Stephen in dying prays to Him. He is perpetually called Lord, and the fact that the same name is applied to Jehovah in the Septuagint makes it impossible to suppose that Christ is not regarded as possessed of divine attributes.

(2) The doctrine of the salvation of the world. Rationalist critics have asserted that the first apostles had no idea that the gospel was meant for the world, and that they limited its light to the children of Abraham. The unfairness of this assertion is shown by the consistent manner in which the same doctrine of the salvation of all men is interwoven in different parts of Acts, including the early chapters, which are generally acknowledged to be derived from an early Jewish Christian source. The doctrine is that salvation is offered to the Jews first (iii. 26), but "all that are afar off" may share in it (ii. 39; iii. 25). This is exactly the doctrine expressed by St. Paul in Rom. i. 16. And the conversion of Gentiles of different classes, as recorded in Acts, testifies that the apostles acted up to the doctrine. They did not doubt that the Gentiles had a right to the gospel. The point which did agitate them was, how much of the Jewish ceremonial ought the Gentiles to be required to observe. When the Gentile converts became numerous the question became acute, being sharpened by the demand of certain Jewish Christians that all converts should be circumcised.

St. Peter and St. James set their faces against this demand, and it was determined on their advice that the Gentiles should only be required to abstain from "meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication" (xv. 29). The rule was primarily meant for Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia. It prohibits complicity in idolatry, and in the immorality with which Syrian idolatry had been historically associated. And it prohibits the eating of blood and things strangled, a practice which might cause friction in the presence of Jewish communities. Nothing is said about circumcision or the sabbath. It is impossible to reconcile Acts xv. with the {111} theory that the original apostles were merely Jewish Unitarians who detested St. Paul. And the Rationalists who have propagated this theory gain no help either from Galatians or from Acts xxi. For St. Paul, in writing to the Galatians, asserts the two central facts which we find in Acts xv., viz. (i.) that his policy of an open gospel was opposed by a party which appealed to the original apostles, (ii.) that the original apostles gave him the hand of fellowship and repudiated the Judaizers. In Acts xxi. 24 we find St. Paul himself performing a Jewish ceremonial act at the request of St. James. The request was made in order to counteract the falsehood that he had been trying to make the Hebrew converts desert the old Jewish customs. It cannot be interpreted as a proof of the supposed blind Judaism of St. James. For St. Paul voluntarily performed a similar act at Cenchreae, and we have no ground for believing that he always claimed for himself that entire freedom from Jewish usages which he always claimed for his Gentile converts. His own words contradict such a notion emphatically (1 Cor. ix. 20).

The truth is that it is only by doing violence to all the evidence which we possess, that anything can be done to support either the theory of Baur and his school that the apostles of the Church were divided with regard to the Law, or the more recent theory of Harnack and others that they were divided with regard to the Person of Christ. All the apostles believed that the gospel was for all men on equal terms, and that Christ was the divine Lord of all.

In addition to these points, it is necessary to say a few words about the ministry of the Church which is described in Acts. It is asserted by such writers as Martineau, Sabatier, and Schmiedel, that the state of the Church and the ministry in Acts betrays the fact that the author did not write in the apostolic age. It is said that "hierarchical ideas" or "hierarchical pretensions" can be detected in such passages as i. 17, 20; viii. 14-17; xv. 28; xx. 28, and that such ideas {112} could not have been entertained by the apostles. It is not possible to give a full discussion of such a theory in this book.[4] We must be content with noting that, in order to give it any appearance of validity, it is necessary to reject every part of the New Testament which does not happen to agree with it. Schmiedel, who places Acts between A.D. 110 and 130, says that "Acts xx. 18-35 has many ideas in common with those of the Pastoral Epistles," but that "the author has not yet reached the stage in the development of Church government which characterizes the First Epistle to Timothy." [5] He says this simply because that Epistle, which he regards as a late forgery, shows a form of Church government practically identical with Episcopacy, while he thinks that Acts xx. shows a form of government intermediate between the genuine apostolic form and Episcopacy. To this we may make two answers; (a) that the Church government in Acts and 1 Timothy is practically the same, the work of the apostle being in r Timothy partly delegated to an apostolic vicar; (b) as there is excellent evidence for regarding 1 Timothy as a genuine writing of St. Paul, it gives us an additional cause for believing that the description of Church government in Acts is not fictitious.


The outline of the book is laid down in the words of our Lord quoted in i. 8, "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 Judaea, and Samaria, and unto the uttermost parts of the earth."



From A.D. 29 to ? 34,

The Church at Jerusalem: i.-viii. 1.—Introduction; the commission to the apostles, the Ascension, choice of Matthias in place of Judas (i.). Outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, Peter's speech, the unity of the Church (ii.). Cure of a lame man, Peter's speech on the occasion (iii.). Peter and John imprisoned and before the Council, their dismissal and return to the Church, community of goods in the Church (iv.). Ananias and Sapphira, miracles of healing, especially by Peter, second imprisonment of Peter and John, Peter's speech, Gamaliel's advice to refrain from persecution (v.). Appointment of the seven deacons, Stephen's ministry and arrest (vi.). Stephen's defence, in which he shows that the Jews have always opposed the chief servants of God and that true worship is independent of the Jewish temple, Stephen's martyrdom (vii.-viii. 1).


From A.D. ? 34 to 46.

Christianity spreads through Judaea and Samaria and to the Gentiles, St. Paul's conversion: viii.-xii.—Church scattered by persecution, Philip in Samaria, Simon Magus, Peter and John at Samaria, Philip baptizes an Ethiopian proselyte to Judaism (viii.). Conversion of Paul, his baptism, he is introduced to the apostles, Peter at Joppa and Lydda, raising of Tabitha by Peter (ix.). Peter and Cornelius, Peter's trance, he eats with and has baptized Gentiles who had previously believed in God but were uncircumcised (x.). He explains his conduct and the Church approves (xi. 1-18).

Christianity spreads to Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, where it is preached to pagan Greeks (xi. 19-30). Herod's {114} persecution, murder of James, Peter's third imprisonment and escape, death of Herod in A.D. 44, Paul returns from his second visit to Jerusalem (xii.).


From A.D. 47 to 49.

St. Paul's First Missionary Journey: xiii. 1-xv. 35.—Barnabas and Paul receive the laying on of hands at Antioch, journey through Cyprus, Elymas the sorcerer blinded, visit to Antioch in Pisidia, Paul's speech in the synagogue, he turns to the Gentiles (xiii.). Paul preaches at Iconium, cures lame man at Lystra, is stoned, returns to Antioch (xiv.). Persecution of the Christians by Jews.

The Jerusalem Church Council decides that Gentiles need not be circumcised (xv. 1-35).


From A.D. 49 to 52.

St. Paul's Second Missionary Journey: xv. 36-xviii. 22.—Paul with Silas visits the Churches founded during the first journey, Timothy circumcised (xv. 36-xvi. 5). Paul crosses to Europe, imprisoned at Philippi, conversion of the jailor (xvi.). At Thessalonica and Beroea, at Athens, Paul's speech at the Areopagus (xvii.). At Corinth, brought before Gallic the Roman proconsul, travels by Ephesus and Caesarea to Jerusalem and Antioch (xviii. 1-22). Persecution by Jews, or by Gentiles whose pockets are affected (xvi. 19).


From A.D. 52 to 56.

St. Paul's Third Missionary Journey: xviii. 23-xxi. 16.—Paul revisits Galatia and Phrygia; Apollos, a converted {115} Jew, defends Christianity at Corinth (xviii. 23-28). Paul stays at Ephesus, great riot (xix.). Roman officials tolerant to Christianity, craftsmen whose pockets are affected show violence. Journey to Macedonia and Greece, Paul at Troas, Eutychus' fall and cure, journey to Miletus where Paul meets the presbyters of Ephesus (xx.). Voyage to Tyre and Caesarea (xxi. 1-16).


From A.D. 56 to 61.

St. Paul arrested at Jerusalem, imprisoned at Caesarea, voyage to Rome: xxi. 17-xxviii. 31.—Paul visits James and the presbyters, the Jews try to kill him, he is rescued and taken to the castle (xxi. 17-40). His speech to the Jews, is removed by the chief captain (xxii.). His speech before the Jewish Council, is taken to Caesarea (xxiii.). Appears before the procurator Felix (xxiv.). Appears before the procurator Festus, appeals to the emperor, speaks before Agrippa (xxv., xxvi.). Roman officials still tolerant, but obliged to interfere. The voyage and shipwreck (xxvii.). Paul at Melita (xxviii. 1-10). He journeys to Rome and expounds the gospel at Rome, where the Jews had not previously heard anything against him. He preaches the kingdom of God for two years (xxviii. 11-31).

Similar Characteristics of St. Luke's Gospel and Acts.—Among such are the continued interest in Samaritans (Acts i. 8; viii. 5-25) John the Baptist (Acts i. 22; x. 37; xiii. 24; xviii. 25; xix. 3), women (Acts i. 14; ix. 36; xii. 12; xvii. 4), the poor (Acts ii. 45; iii. 3; iv. 32; ix. 39, etc.). In both books Christ is specially called "Lord," and is the great Prophet (Luke vii. 16, 39; xxiv. 19-27; cf. Acts iii. 22; vii. 37), also the suffering "Servant" (Luke xxiv. 36, 45; cf. Acts iii. 13, 18; iv. 27; viii. 32). Notice, too, in both books the long reports of prayers and speeches.

[1] The "we sections" contain 97 verses. They are xvi. 10-17, xx. 5-15; xxi. 1-18, xxvii. 1-xxviii. 16.

[2] See Rev. Sir John C. Hawkins, Bart., M.A., Horae Synopticae.

[3] See Lightfoot, Commentary on Galatians.

[4] The reader is referred to Dr. Gore, The Church and the Ministry, p. 234 f. (fourth edition).

[5] Encyclopaedia Biblica, vol. i. p. 49.




Although the Christian cannot regard the Epistles contained in the New Testament as having quite the same importance as the Gospels which record the life and sayings of his Divine Master, he must regard them as having a profound significance. They deal with the creed and the conduct of the Church with an inspired insight which gives them an undying value, and they are marked by a personal affection which gives them an undying charm. They lend, too, a most powerful support to the historical evidence of the truth of Christianity. We have already noticed that the earliest Gospel was probably not written before A.D. 62, while St. John's Gospel is probably as late as A.D. 85. But several of the twenty-one Epistles in the New Testament are certainly earlier than A.D. 62, and out of the whole number only the three by St. John can be confidently placed at a later date than St. John's Gospel. Now, these twenty-one Epistles assume the truth of the story contained in the Gospels. They do more than this. For they prove that during the lifetime of men who had personally known Jesus Christ, there were large numbers of earnest men and women who were at home with the same ideas as those which Christians have cherished until modern times. Some of these ideas explain what we find in the Gospels. For instance, the doctrine of the Atonement is more plainly expounded in the Epistles than in the Gospels. This doctrine, together with those which concern the Person of Jesus Christ, the Holy {117} Trinity, the sacraments, the Church, and the ministry, could be shown to have existed about A.D. 60, even if the Gospels had perished or were proved to be forgeries. The indirect evidence which the Epistles give to the life and teaching of our Lord is therefore of immense importance. If the infidel says that these doctrines are mere theories, we can ask him how these theories arose, and challenge him to produce a cause which so adequately accounts for them as the incarnation of the Son of God.

The origin of "spiritual letters" or "epistles" was perhaps due to the wisdom and originality of St. Paul. At any rate, there is nothing improbable in this conjecture, nor need it draw us into any sympathy with the recent attempts to use it as a means for discrediting those Epistles in the New Testament which bear the names of other authors. It is possible that the earliest Epistle is that of St. James, and we have no means of telling whether St. Paul did or did not anticipate him in writing Epistles. In any case, if St. Paul is not the pioneer, he is the captain of epistle-writers. St. Cyprian, St. Jerome, St. Bernard, and in modern times Archbishop Fenelon and Dr. Pusey, have illustrated the power of making a letter the vehicle of momentous truths. But on the greatest of them there has fallen only a portion of the mantle of St. Paul.

We possess thirteen Epistles written by St. Paul. There is no real reason for doubting the genuineness of any of them, and a remarkable change has lately taken place in the manner in which the opponents of orthodox Christianity have treated them. When the ingenious attempt was made, sixty years ago, to prove that St. Paul invented a type of Christianity which was not taught by Christ, it was held that only Galatians, Romans, and 1 and 2 Corinthians were genuine. The other Epistles attributed to St. Paul were said to be forgeries written after St. Paul's death, and intended to act as certificates for the Catholic faith of the 2nd century. Since then criticism has grown wiser. The genuineness of Philippians and 1 Thessalonians was first conceded. Then it became necessary to {118} admit the genuineness of Colossians and Philemon; and 2 Thessalonians and Ephesians are now being placed in the same list even by some extreme critics. In fact, the use made of St. Paul's Epistles in the 2nd century, and the impossibility of finding any one who had the genius to personate the great apostle, are two things which have disabled fancy-criticism. The Epistles to Timothy and Titus are still confidently rejected by some authors, but this confidence is being undermined. Some special attention is given to the question of their genuineness in this book.

The writings of St. Paul fall into four groups, each group being shaped by something which is unmistakably novel and by something which it has in common with the other groups.

I. A.D. 51. 1 and 2 Thessalonians.

II. A.D. 55-56. 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Romans.

III. A.D. 59-61. Colossians, Philemon, Ephesians, Philippians.

IV. A.D. 61-64. 1 Timothy, Titus, 2 Timothy.

St. Paul was in the habit of dictating his letters. In Rom. xvi. 22 occurs the name of Tertius, who was then acting as his secretary. But St. Paul wrote the little letter to Philemon himself, and in Gal. vi. 11-18 we find a postscript which the apostle wrote in his own large handwriting. Similar instances are found in 1 Cor. xvi. 21-24 and Col. iv. 18, while in 2 Thess. iii. 17 he shows us that he sometimes made these additions in order to protect his converts from being deceived by forged letters written in his name.

In order to enter into the spirit of St. Paul's letters it is necessary to understand his history, a brief outline of which will now be given.

Saul, who changed his name to Paul, was born at Tarsus in Cilicia, a city which prided itself upon its good education. The language of the city was Greek; Saul's father was a Jew and a Roman citizen. He was trained at Jerusalem by {119} Gamaliel, a renowned Pharisee. The future apostle was therefore born a member of the most religious race in the world, spoke the language of the most cultivated race in the world, and lived under the most masterly and fully organized government. All these three influences left their mark on a soul which was always impressible towards everything great and noble. But his nature was not only impressible; it was endowed as well by God with a strong pure heat which could fuse truths together into an orderly and well-proportioned form, and purge away the falsehoods which clung to truths. It is plain that he was not a Pharisee of the baser sort, even when he believed that the Messiah was a pretender. Righteousness was his ideal, and because he hated sin, a struggle raged between his conscience and his lower instincts (Rom. vii. 7-25). He fiercely persecuted the Christians, whom he regarded as traitors to their race and their religion. On his way from Jerusalem to Damascus with a warrant from the high priest to arrest the Christians, he was converted (about A.D. 35) by a direct interposition of the risen Lord. Every effort has been made by modern rationalists to explain this revelation as either an imaginary vision or an inward light in his conscience. The fact remains that St. Paul never speaks of it as a merely inward reality, that he does not number his conversion among the ecstatic states to which he was subject (2 Cor. xii. 1), and that he reckons the appearance of Christ to himself as an outward appearance like the appearances to the older apostles (1 Cor. xv. 5-8). We cannot get behind the statements made by St. Paul and those made in Acts by his friend, St. Luke. They show that he was met and conquered by Christ. The appearance of Christ changed his whole career, transformed his character, convinced him that Jesus was the Messiah, and that salvation can only be obtained by faith in Him—that is, by a devoted adherence to His Person and His teaching. After preaching Christ in Damascus, he retired into the keen air and inspiring solitude of the Arabian desert. {120} During this period the outline of his creed seems to have grown clear and definite. It afterwards expanded and developed, as truly as youth passes into manhood, but there is no evidence for any material alteration having taken place after his return from Arabia. Many Christians doubted the sincerity of his conversion, but St. Barnabas, a conciliatory and kind evangelist, introduced him to St. Peter and St. James at Jerusalem, A.D. 38. His life being threatened by the Greek-speaking Jews, he departed for Tarsus. In due time he was brought by St. Barnabas to aid the new mission to the Gentiles at Antioch, a large and splendid city, admirably adapted for the first propagation of the gospel among the heathen. In A.D. 46 he paid with Barnabas a second visit to Jerusalem, taking thither a contribution from Antioch to relieve the famine which raged there. In A.D. 47 he went from Antioch in company with Barnabas on his first missionary tour, visiting Cyprus and part of Asia Minor. On his return, A.D. 49, he attended the Council at Jerusalem (Acts xv.; Gal. ii.), at which he insisted that converts from paganism should not be required to submit to circumcision and the other ceremonial rules of the Jewish Church. Only once again has any Council of the Church had to discuss such a burning and weighty question, and that once was at the Council of Nicaea in 325, when it was determined to describe the fact that Jesus is God in language which would admit of no possible mistake or jugglery. At Jerusalem, in A.D. 49, the Church had to determine whether it was sufficient for a man to be a Christian, or necessary for him to become a Jew and a Christian simultaneously. Some Judaizing Christians maintained the latter. Faithful to the teaching of our Lord, who laid on no Gentile the necessity of adopting Judaism, the Church decided that Gentile converts need not be circumcised.

In A.D. 49, soon after the Council at Jerusalem, St. Paul began a second missionary journey, and crossed over into Europe, where he founded several Churches, including those of Philippi and Thessalonica. At Athens he seems to have made {121} but little impression, but at Corinth, the busy and profligate centre of Greek commerce, he was more successful. He stayed there for eighteen months, and during this stay he wrote the Epistles to the Thessalonians. They are marked by the attention given to eschatology, or doctrine of "the last things"—the second coming of Christ, the resurrection of mankind, and the judgment.

This second journey closed with a visit to Jerusalem, and was followed by an incident which shows that the apostle's long warfare with Judaism was not over. The Judaizers had been defeated at the Council of Jerusalem, and they were aware that the Gentiles were pouring into the Church. So they attempted a new and artful plan for securing their own predominance. They no longer denied that uncircumcised Christians were Christians, but they tried to gain a higher status for the circumcised. They asserted that special prerogatives belonged to the Messiah's own people, and to the apostles whom He had chosen while He was on earth. When St. Paul went from Jerusalem to Antioch in A.D. 52, St. Peter, fearing to offend these Judaizers, was guilty of pretending to believe that he agreed with them.[1] He refused to eat with Gentile (uncircumcised) Christians. He thereby tried to compel the Gentiles to "Judaize" (Gal. ii. 14), treating them as if they were an inferior caste. St. Barnabas was carried away by St. Peter's example. St. Paul then openly rebuked the leader of the apostles. It is on this incident that F. C. Baur and the Tuebingen school founded their fictitious history of a doctrinal struggle between St. Paul and the original apostles. The fundamental falsehood of this history lies in the fact that there was no real difference of opinion between St. Peter and St. Paul. The latter rebuked the former for "dissembling," i.e. for acting on a special occasion in a {122} manner contrary to his convictions and openly professed principles.

The Judaizing party not only tried to inoculate the Church with Judaism, but strained every nerve to undermine the authority of St. Paul. They said that he had no authority to preach Christ unless it was derived through the Twelve, and they showed "letters of commendation" (Gal. ii. 12; 2 Cor. iii. 1), to the effect that they represented the first apostles and came to supply the defects of St. Paul's teaching. With these opponents he was in conflict during his third missionary journey, which began about August, A.D. 52. On this journey he revisited Galatia and Phrygia, made a long stay at Ephesus, and went to Macedonia and Greece. During this third missionary journey he wrote 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, and Romans. It is hard to determine the exact order in which they were written, as Galatians may have been written before 1 Corinthians. These Epistles are the noblest work of St. Paul. The persistent efforts of his opponents compel him to defend both his principles and his character. Amid the perplexity of the time, his clear and clarifying mind formulated Christian doctrine so perfectly that he compels his readers to see what he sees. This group of Epistles is mainly devoted to soteriology, or the method by which God saves man. It contains abundant teaching about God's purpose of saving us, the use of the Jewish law, the struggle between our flesh and our spirit, the work of Jesus Christ in dying and rising for us, the work of the Holy Spirit, and the morals and worship of the Church. St. Paul's arguments are mainly addressed to believing Christians, whom he wishes to preserve from Jewish or heathen error. They are marked by the strongest light and shade. Nowhere does sin appear more awful, and the love of God to undeserving man appear more generous. At one moment the apostle writes as a logician, at another as a mystic. Now he is stern, and now he is pathetic. In compass, in variety, in depth, these four Epistles are great works of art, and all the greater {123} because the writer esteems his intellectual powers as nothing in comparison with the story of the Cross.

In May, A.D. 56, St. Paul was arrested at Jerusalem, after which he was detained by the Roman procurator Felix for two years at Caesarea, and then sent to Rome because he appealed to have his case tried by the emperor. He arrived at Rome early in A.D. 59, and was imprisoned for two years in his own hired house before his trial. During this imprisonment he wrote the Epistles to the Colossians, Ephesians, and Philippians, and the exquisite private letter to Philemon. In Philippians there is a strong reprimand of the infatuation of trusting in Jewish privileges, but it is plain from Colossians and Ephesians that Gentile Christianity was already firmly established, and that in Asia Minor the Judaizing heresies were becoming fainter and more fanciful. St. Paul criticizes a Judaic Gnosticism, a morbid mixture of Jewish ritual with that Oriental spiritualism which fascinated many devotees in the Roman empire at this period. The Philippians do not seem to have been infected with the same religious malaria as the Christians who dwelt in the valley of the Lycus. But St. Paul in writing to them, as to the Colossians and Ephesians, takes great pains to show who Christ is and what our relation towards Him ought to be. This group is therefore distinguished by its Christology.

St. Paul was released from his first imprisonment at Rome, though we know no details of his release. He again resumed his missionary life, and wrote the First Epistle to Timothy and that to Titus. According to a tradition of very great antiquity, he visited Spain. But the changed attitude of the Roman government towards the Christians soon cut short his work. Earlier in his career the Roman officials had regarded the new religion with easy though somewhat supercilious toleration. In 2 Thessalonians we find St. Paul apparently describing the Roman authorities as the restraining power which hindered the malice of antichristian Judaism from working revenge upon {124} the Church. At Ephesus he had been personally protected from the mob by the men who were responsible for the public worship of the Roman emperor. But under Nero an active persecution of the Christians was set on foot, and St. Paul was again imprisoned at Rome. During this last imprisonment he wrote his Second Epistle to Timothy. This letter, like the First Epistle to Timothy and that to Titus, deals specially with the organization and ministry of the Church, and was intended to consolidate the Church before the apostle's death. The martyrdom of the apostle probably took place in A.D. 64. His tomb, marked by an inscription of the 4th century, still remains at Rome in the church of "St. Paul outside the walls," which stands near the scene of his martyrdom. Unless the relics were destroyed by the Saracens who sacked Rome in 846, they probably remain in this tomb. The festival of June 29, which in mediaeval times was kept in honour of St. Peter and St. Paul, and which in our present English Prayer-book is wrongly dedicated to St. Peter only, is probably not the day on which either of the apostles suffered. It is the day on which their relics were removed for safety to the catacombs in the time of the persecution of the Christians by the Emperor Decius, A.D. 258.

[1] The above account places the dispute at Antioch before the third missionary journey. Some writers of deserved repute place it in the winter of A.D. 48, before the Council of Jerusalem.





[Sidenote: The Author.]

Among all schools of thought there has been an increasing conviction that this Epistle is genuine. It was included in Marcion's Apostolicon, or list of Pauline writings, it is contained in the Muratorian Fragment, it is quoted by the great Fathers of the close of the 2nd century, and is found in the Old Latin and Peshitta Syriac versions of the New Testament. The earnest and affectionate tone of the Epistle is thoroughly Pauline, and the argument that it is not genuine because it does not contain the same pronounced anti-Jewish teaching as we find in Romans is precarious, though it has seemed to some sceptics to be convenient. The argument might be turned in the opposite direction. For it would be just as reasonable to say that the absence of anti-Jewish doctrine proves that the Epistle was written before the great conflict with the semi-Christian Jews began, as to say that it proves that it was written by a forger after the conflict was over. One paragraph in the Epistle points decisively to an early date. In iv. 13-18 we find that some Thessalonians were under the delusion that it would be an exceptional thing for a Christian to die before the second coming of our Lord, and that those who did so die would miss some of the felicity appointed for the rest. Such a delusion must have been dispelled at a very early date. Moreover, the {126} comfort which St. Paul administers to those who are agitated by this notion gives us the idea that he expected Christ to return in his own lifetime. In this respect he writes to the Thessalonians something very different from what he writes in his later Epistles (Phil. i. 21-24; 2 Tim. iv. 6), or even in 2 Cor. v. 1. We need not be surprised that God left the great apostle in ignorance of an event which it is not given even to the angels to understand (Matt. xxiv. 36). But a forger, living after the apostle's death, would not be at all likely to represent his hero as falling into such a mistake.

[Sidenote: To whom written.]

Thessalonica, the modern Saloniki, was the capital of part of Macedonia, situated in the middle of the bend of the Thermaic Gulf, and not far from Mount Olympus, the snow-clad home of the gods of Greece. It was a busy mercantile town, and in ready communication with Italy, as the great road called Via Egnatia passed through its walls. It contained then, as now, a considerable number of Jews among its inhabitants. In Christian times it became a great ecclesiastical centre, and was influential in the conversion of the Slavs and Bulgarians. It is still famous for its splendid Byzantine churches, though the finest have long since been converted into mosques by the Turks.

The Church was planted there by St. Paul on his second missionary journey, in A.D. 50 (Acts xvii.). He preached first to the Jews, and after his third visit to the synagogue he was rejected by the Jews, and he turned to the Gentiles. Some of these Thracian Gentiles were converts to Judaism, but they were people whose character could be trusted. In the mean time his Philippian converts twice sent aid to him (Phil. iv. 16). Previous to this the apostle had been earning his own bread, no doubt by tent-making. St. Paul was forced to leave Thessalonica in consequence of a riot stirred up by the Jews. He visited it again before his last journey to Jerusalem in A.D. 56.

1 Thess. i. 9 shows that the majority of the Christians had {127} been Gentile idolaters, though there were a few of Jewish blood. It was among the sturdy people of Macedonia that St. Paul won his steadiest recruits for Christ. Here, as in the letter to Philippi, we find that he uses words of more than ordinary affection. These converts are to St. Paul his "joy and crown" (1 Thess. ii. 19; Phil. iv. 1). He compares his relation with them to that of a nurse with her own children (1 Thess. ii. 7). When he wrote to the Corinthians he displayed his Macedonians as brilliant examples of Christian liberality and Christian loyalty (2 Cor. viii. 1-5). In this passage he alludes to their poverty, and these Epistles show that they had to work for their bread. They were exposed to bitter and continuous persecution from Jews, who were capable of inciting the roughs of the town to set on St. Paul (Acts xvii. 5).

[Sidenote: Where and when written.]

The Epistle was written from Corinth on the occasion of St. Paul's first visit there. When St. Paul had to leave Beroea in A.D. 50, Silas and Timothy remained (Acts xvii. 14, 15; xviii. 5). He sent for them to meet him at Athens, and when they had come, he despatched Timothy to Thessalonica (1 Thess. iii. 2). In October A.D. 50, St. Paul arrived at Corinth from Athens: Timothy and Silas rejoined him at Corinth, and the letter was written soon afterwards, probably early in A.D. 51.

[Sidenote: Character and Contents.]

The immediate cause of the Epistle was the arrival of Timothy with news from Thessalonica. The apostle's reasons for writing were: (a) to calm and encourage the converts whom he had so abruptly left; (b) to urge them to perform their ordinary duties. They had fallen into a state bordering on religious hysteria. Quite determined to be true to Christ, they had been demoralized by the strain of facing constant hostility. They had begun to take excessive interest in unfulfilled prophecy and eschatological speculation. The result was that individuals had become careless as to the performance of simple duties.

The apostle comforts the Thessalonians by reminding them {128} of the happiness and reality of their own spiritual experience. He wishes them to see plainly the working of God both in his own preaching of the gospel and their acceptance of it. On the one hand, he gladly recognizes the faith, charity, hope, and constancy under persecution: the story of their conversion, as it had been known everywhere, has won many friends for the Faith (i.). On the other hand, St. Paul is aware that his own conduct has not been unworthy of an apostle. Probably to vindicate himself against Jewish calumnies, he declares that his ministry at Thessalonica was bold, pure, honest, and gentle. Moreover, he did not quarter himself upon his converts; he worked with his hands, and was just and fatherly (ii. 1-12).

After a thanksgiving for the manner in which they received the word of God, he speaks of his eager wish to see his friends again. He had sent Timothy that he might comfort them, and Timothy has returned with glad tidings. He prays for their establishment in holiness (ii. 13-iii. 13).

He goes on to exhort them to avoid impurity and work quietly, and then he speaks of the eschatological difficulties. The Thessalonians wondered whether the Christians already dead would miss a share in the joy of Christ's second coming. St. Paul replies that those who are alive at Christ's appearing will have no advantage over the dead (iv. 15). On the contrary, the dead will rise first, and then the living Christians will be caught up together with them to meet the Lord. The day will come with surprise, and will terrify the unprepared (iv. 1-v. 3).

He then calls them to watchfulness and sobriety. There follows an exhortation to obey the clergy, and the early date of the Epistle is again suggested by the fact that the titles which are used in his later epistles are not given to the clergy of Thessalonica. The existence of an order of prophets seems implied (v. 20). The Epistle has a special blessing for these troubled Christians who look so wistfully for "the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ."



Salutation, thanksgiving, and congratulation. The good fruit borne by Christianity at Thessalonica is known of through all Macedonia and Achaia (i.).

The character of the apostle's ministry there, a fresh thanksgiving, the apostle desires to see his friends, but is hindered by Satan working through adverse circumstances (ii.).

Timothy's expedition, a prayer (iii.).

Encouragement to obedience, exhortation against impurity and to work; the blessed dead and Christ's second coming. The sudden coming of the Lord (iv. 1-v. 3).

Practical conclusion based on the above doctrine (v. 4-28).


[Sidenote: The Author.]

The external evidence for the genuineness of the Second Epistle is even stronger than that of the First. It is mentioned by Polycarp,[1] and apparently by Justin Martyr.[2] It is also supported by the same versions of the New Testament and by the same Fathers as the First Epistle. In modern times it has been rejected even by some who accept 1 Thessalonians. Some of the objections which have been raised are almost too trivial to deserve attention. But the prophetic and apocalyptic passage in ii. 1-12 has been regarded by many critics as a serious stumbling-block. It has been urged (a) that 1 Thessalonians implies that St. Paul believed Christ would return immediately, whereas 2 Thessalonians implies that certain important occurrences must first intervene. But there is no real contradiction. For 1 Thessalonians represents the return of Christ as certainly sudden {130} and possibly soon; it does not represent it as certainly immediate. A thief may come suddenly in the night, and yet the man who gives warning that the thief will come, does not necessarily mean that the thief is coming without delay. It has been urged (b) that the doctrine of Antichrist in 2 Thessalonians is un-Pauline, and depends on the Book of Revelation. But there is not the least improbability in supposing that St. Paul was in touch with these ideas about the end of the world. We know that such ideas were common among the Jews at this period. Nor is there any proof that the teaching of 2 Thessalonians on this subject is derived from the Revelation of St. John. Moreover, on the least Christian view with regard to Christ and the Gospels, it is irrational to deny that our Lord made various predictions about His second coming. We find a list of such predictions in Matt. xxiv. and in the parallel passages of the other Gospels. It is therefore natural to find St. Paul speaking about the end of the world in language which resembles that used by our Lord, or that found in Daniel, Ezekiel, and the later Jewish Apocalypses.

[Sidenote: Where and when written.]

St. Paul sent this Epistle from Corinth, probably towards the end of the year 51.

Several modern writers have dated 2 Thessalonians earlier than 1 Thessalonians. The grounds for this view are the references in this Epistle to the teaching lately given by St. Paul while at Thessalonica. But although these references would be natural in any Epistle written first after his departure from that place, they do not necessarily imply that 2 Thessalonians was the first. Moreover, ii. 2 probably contains a reference to the First Epistle, and this letter was apparently written to clear up a difficulty which the First Epistle did not solve. Persecution had continued at Thessalonica, and higher excitement and wider confusion prevailed. The Thessalonians were more sure than ever that Christ's advent was coming immediately, on the strength, perhaps, of some words in St. Paul's earlier letter to them, {131} supported by a forged letter which pretended to be his and by feigned revelations. The result was entire neglect of daily duties. "There is no reason," men said, "why I should work for my living or try to be provident, because the Lord is sure to come to-day or to-morrow."

As the circumstances are so similar to those in the First Epistle, and as Silvanus (otherwise Silas) and Timothy are still with the apostle, we may be sure that 2 Thessalonians was written during St. Paul's first stay at Corinth.

[Sidenote: Character and Contents.]

The Epistle consists of instruction and exhortation. The most characteristic passage is ii. 1-12. The apostle declares that he never taught that the day of the Lord is about to dawn immediately (ii. 2). It must be preceded by several events. There will be an apostasy, the revelation of "the man of sin, the son of perdition," who will assume equality with God and sit in the temple of God. Over against this "man of sin" we find placed "one that restraineth now." Many strange interpretations of these two phrases have been devised, and the fancy of commentators has ranged over various historical monsters from Mohammed to Napoleon Bonaparte. One favourite idea is that the description of the man of sin "setting himself forth as God" refers to the worship offered to the Roman emperors, and to the attempt made by Caligula in A.D. 39 to place his statue in the temple at Jerusalem. But it seems far better to regard the man of sin as hostile Judaism, personified in an Antichrist who pretends to be the representative of God foretold in Mal. iii. 1. The other force which St. Paul personifies is the curbing power of a strong government as then seen in the administrative system of the Roman empire. The power of Rome protected him against Jewish fanaticism at this period (Acts xix. 35-41; xxii. 22-29), but in this truly irreligious fanaticism he discerned a latent mysterious evil (ii. 7) which would afterwards reveal itself in hideous excesses. While "the man of sin," or {132} "wicked one," thus wreaks his will, Christ will come and consume him with the breath of His mouth.

St. Paul understood the real genius of the antichristian Jews. Early in the 2nd century they began a series of rebellions against the power of Rome, committing horrible atrocities. These rebellions culminated between A.D. 132 and 135. The Jews then rallied round a pretended Messiah, Simon Bar Kocheba, whom they named "Prince of Israel"; they killed the Christians who refused to blaspheme Jesus, and they captured Jerusalem from the Romans. After a fierce struggle the Romans took Jerusalem again, and crowds of Jews were either massacred, or sold as slaves by the oak of Abraham at Hebron and in the markets of Egypt.


Salutation, thanksgiving for faith, charity, steadfastness, the certainty of Christ's coming to "render vengeance" and "to be glorified in His saints" (i.).

Apocalyptic passage, renewed thanksgiving, exhortation to hold the traditions already received, invocation of Christ and our Father to comfort and stablish the converts (ii.).

St. Paul requests their prayers for himself, anticipates their Christian progress, excommunication of disorderly brethren commanded. The apostle had worked for his living, they must do likewise. He commends them to the Lord, and appends a salutation in his own hand as a seal of authenticity (iii.).

[1] Ad Phil. ii.

[2] Trypho, 110.




[Sidenote: The Author.]

The genuineness of 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, and Romans is admitted by almost every modern critic, Christian or not Christian. It was always acknowledged by F. C. Baur, who rejected all the Epistles bearing the name of St. Paul except these four. This Epistle is referred to in several writings of the 2nd century, and is unmistakably mentioned in the letter written to the Corinthians by St. Clement of Rome about A.D. 95. He says, "Take up the Epistle of the blessed Paul the apostle. What did he first write to you in the beginning of the Gospel? Of a truth he sent a letter to you by the Spirit concerning himself, and also Cephas and Apollos, because you had even then formed parties" (cf. 1 Cor. i. 12). The style of the Epistle is spontaneous, vivid, and coherent. The authenticity is only disputed by a tiny group of infidel writers who, in reaction against Baur, have endeavoured to make good their unbelief by asserting the genuineness of the Scriptures which Baur rejected, and rejecting what Baur defended.

[Sidenote: To whom written.]

"Unto the Church of God which is at Corinth" (i. 2). In former times Corinth had been the most important city in Greece after Athens itself. It was one of the earliest homes of Greek art, and its position made it so favourable for commerce that it attracted a colony of Phoenician traders at a very remote period. When its art declined, it remained celebrated for its wealth and its {134} extreme licentiousness. The patron deity of the Corinthians was Aphrodite, who was no other than the foul Phoenician Astarte. Her temple on the rock of the Acrocorinthus dominated the city below, and from it there came a stream of impure, influences "to turn men into swine."

In B.C. 146 the city was captured by the Roman general Mummius. It was left desolate until B.C. 46, when Julius Caesar refounded it as a Roman colony. The Romans called the whole of Greece the province of Achaia, and constituted Corinth the capital of it. While Athens was still the seat of the greatest university in the world, where lived most vigorously the glorious memories of bygone Greece, the government of the province was directed from Corinth. When St. Paul visited it, it was under a proconsul, Junius Gallio, the brother of the philosopher Seneca. The possession of two good harbours, and its position on the quickest route from Rome to the East, caused a rapid revival of Corinthian wealth and Corinthian manners. There was also a good deal of literary and philosophic culture. In the time of St. Paul the descendants of the original Roman colonists probably formed a small aristocracy among the mass of Greek dwellers at Corinth, and some settlements of various nationalities, including one of Jews, were living there. A few miles away, at the shrine of Poseidon, were held the athletic Isthmian games, and still by the sea-shore there grow the pine trees, such as furnished the quickly withering wreaths which were given to the victors in the race.

The Church of Corinth was founded by St. Paul on his second missionary journey, during his first visit to Europe. His stay at Corinth lasted for eighteen months. There is an account of it in Acts xviii. He laboured at tent-making, and found a home with a devout Jewish couple, Aquila and Priscilla. At first he preached in the synagogue, where he converted the ruler of the synagogue, Crispus. Being rejected by the Jews, he turned to the Gentiles, and held his meetings {135} in the house of Justus, a converted proselyte. The Jews prosecuted St. Paul before Gallio, who, however, dismissed the case with contemptuous indifference. The converts to Christianity were numerous. They were mostly Gentiles (1 Cor. xii. 2), but there were a few influential Jewish Christians and some Gentiles who had been proselytes of Judaism. It is clear that the Church contained a few men of good birth and education (1 Cor. i. 26), but the majority were from the poorer classes. The Corinthians as Christians were by no means entirely free from the characteristics which had marked them as citizens. They were ready to form cliques and quarrel in the name of Christ, and they still showed the same quarrelsome mood in the time of St. Clement. They found it hard to hate the sensuality which in their earlier days they had regarded as divine. They were puffed up with eloquence and philosophic speculation, and forgot that there is no "sweetness and light" comparable to the Gospel.

[Sidenote: Where and when written.]

This Epistle was written from Ephesus in the spring of A.D. 55. The note at the end of the Epistle to the effect that it was written "from Philippi," though ancient, is incorrect, and is due to a misunderstanding of xvi. 5.

When St. Paul left Corinth in April, A.D. 52, to go to Jerusalem, Apollos came to take his place, and preached with much success (Acts xviii. 27). St. Paul returned to Ephesus at the end of the summer of 52, and Apollos left Corinth and joined St. Paul. Soon some Judaizing teachers appeared at Corinth, and the apostle was obliged to go thither, though "in sorrow" (2 Cor. ii. 1; cf. 2 Cor. xii. 14; xiii. 1). After this disciplinary visit he returned to Ephesus, and sent the Corinthians a sharp letter, now lost, about the relations which they should have with open and notorious evil-livers (1 Cor. v. 9).

St. Paul's next news from Corinth caused him to write this letter. Some members of Chloe's household told him of the development of factions there; and a letter was sent, perhaps {136} by the hands of Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus (xvi. 15-18), asking for advice about matters of grave importance, including litigation between Christians and an unseemly freedom in public worship. Realizing the serious state of affairs, St. Paul determined to visit Corinth a third time, and sent Timothy as his representative to prepare for his coming (1 Cor. iv. 17, xvi. 10). After Timothy's departure he wrote this Epistle.

The above account assumes that St. Paul's second visit to Corinth was paid before 1 Corinthians was written, but it is thought by some writers of repute that it was paid after 1 Corinthians was written and before 2 Corinthians.

[Sidenote Character and Contents.]

This Epistle, like each of the three other Epistles belonging to the same group, has a perfectly distinct character of its own. It expounds the doctrine of a crucified Christ as applied to social difficulties. What Romans does as a theological treatise, and Galatians as a controversial admonition, and 2 Corinthians as a record of personal experience and vocation, this 1 Corinthians does as an instruction for influencing a corrupt urban life with the leaven of the gospel. It is very practical in tone, and the doctrine which it contains is not stated separately, but is throughout woven into the cords of the apostle's argument. There is nothing in the New Testament equal to this Epistle in its power of bringing us close to the difficulties of the Church in an ancient city. We seem to see the men and women who composed it—their eagerness for religious novelties, their debased surroundings, their anarchic divisions, their frail sense of moral responsibility. And a modern reader will probably lay the letter down with a conviction that our great modern cities have much to learn from the words written by St. Paul to Corinth, "the light of Greece."

The Epistle is very olderly in arrangement. It deals first with the report which St. Paul had received about the Corinthian Church (i.-vi.); then it answers various questions {137} which the Corinthians had submitted to him (vii.-xi. 1). Then follow directions based on the report and the questions.

The letter opens with a significant salutation and thanksgiving (i. 1-9). St. Paul then proceeds to rebuke the Corinthian tendency to party spirit. There were apparently four parties in the Church. The first asserted that they were followers of Paul; the second preferred the rhetorical preaching of Apollos to Paul's simplicity; the third—probably Judaizers—ranged themselves under the name of Cephas as the leader of the original apostles; the fourth repudiated human leaders, and arrogantly named their clique that of Christ, thereby insinuating that the other parties were less Christian than themselves. It is evident that all these four names were really used as party watchwords. St. Paul says that he has transferred by a fiction (iv. 6) the action of the wranglers to himself and Apollos. He means by this, not that the Corinthians did not employ these names in their strife, but that he and Apollos were in no sense responsible for the strife. Some perplexity has been caused by the name of the Christ-party. It is thought by some that they were rigid Jewish Christians from Jerusalem (2 Cor. iii. 1; xi. 22). But it is more probable that they were only a body of Christians who protested against the parties named after human leaders, and saying, "We are the people," made a new party of their own.

St. Paul shows that this sectarian spirit is entirely alien to the whole principle and history of the Christian faith. That faith, though it is a wisdom which comes from God, does not lend itself to pride of intellect. It is deliberately content to be counted foolish by the world; its sign is the cross, its converts are the poor and insignificant Corinthians, its eloquence the unpolished speaking of the apostle himself. And as to their personal preferences for receiving spiritual benefits from one Christian teacher rather than another, this shows a complete misconception as to the source of the benefit and the position of the teacher. This is explained in iii. 1-iv. 5. All spiritual {138} increase comes from God. Christ is the Foundation. Human teachers are not figure-heads of different schools, but the instruments and the stewards through whom God dispenses His gifts. It is not the duty of Christian teachers to put forward original ideas on religion.

Then the apostle, after referring to their ostentatious self-righteousness, pathetically shows the unfitness of pitting against one another teachers who share in an equality of forlorn destitution and contempt (iv. 6-13). He concludes this section with an affectionate but authoritative speech: he says that he has sent Timothy to Corinth, and hopes shortly to come himself (iv. 14-21).

The apostle proceeds with sharp decision to deal with a case of incest. The Corinthians had treated this gross offence almost with levity, but St. Paul declares that the offender shall be excommunicated and shall be punished by disease (v. 1-8). After explaining some advice of his earlier letter (v. 9-13), he goes on to rebuke a third abuse—litigation between Christians in pagan law-courts. The love of law-suits was mischievous in itself, as involving a breach of Christian brotherhood. It was also scandalous in its effects, as exposing the bickerings of the disciples of Christ to the ridicule of unbelievers. A stern rebuke of vice follows (vi. 1-11). Then comes an indignant and lofty argument against fornication, which is a defilement of the temple of the Holy Ghost (vi. 12-20).

St. Paul now turns to the various questions that the Corinthians have asked him. He first gives some advice about matrimony, carefully distinguishing between statements which he makes on his own authority, and rules laid down by Christ, and also between counsels of perfection and the obligations of ordinary Christians. It is excellent to lead a single life, but in view of prevailing sensuality, he recommends marriage as generally more prudent. He advises that when people do marry, there should be a fulfilment of conjugal duties except for {139} occasional devotion "unto prayer." One permanently important assertion in the apostle's teaching is that both marriage and celibacy imply a "gift from God." St. Paul would have had no sympathy with either any mediaeval depreciation of married life, or the modern English notion that a man has not "settled down" until he has married (vii. 1-40).

The next question is whether converts may eat meat that has been offered to idols. With strong common-sense, the apostle points out that there is here no alternative between essential right and wrong. You may eat it, because an idol is nothing, but you must take care not to hurt the consciences of other Christians (viii.). You may eat anything that you buy in the market-place, but you must not attend an idolatrous feast in a temple, and if you are at a private house you must not eat food offered to idols if your attention has been directly called to its character (x. 23-32). St. Paul illustrates his meaning by reference to his own self-denial—the policy he had at Corinth of exacting no payment for his ministry, his tactful caution, his severe self-control (ix.). The need of such self-control is proved by the fact that the ancient Jews, in spite of their high privileges, fell into carelessness and sin (x. 1-13). The Corinthians must not be like the Jews. The nature of the Eucharist warns them to be scrupulously careful about temple feasts. There cannot be a drinking of the chalice of Christ and of the cup of devils (x. 14-22).

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