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question whether the Gentile Church was bound to submit to circumcision and the law of Moses, Acts xv. 1, 2, is reckoned to have been held fourteen years after the Apostle Paul's conversion, A.D. 35 + 14 = A.D. 49. Compare Gal. ii. 1-4. This fundamental date has been adopted by Petavius, Pearson, Barrington, Lardner, Paley, and Michaelis *.
This important date, however, has been much disputed upon the grounds of the ambiguity of the original expression, επειτα, δια δεκατεσσάρων ετών, παλιν ανέβην εις Ιεροσόλυμα, Gal. i. 1.
1. It has been contended that these “fourteen years” are rather to be counted from Paul's first visit to Jerusalem, three years after his conversion, A.D. 35 + 3 = A.D. 38, Gal. i. 18; which would give the date of the council, A.D. 38 + 14 = A.D. 52, three years later. And this has been adopted by Jerom, Usher, &c. and A.D. 51, by the Bible Chronology.
But it is more natural to refer them to the fundamental date of his conversion; especially as another ETTα intervenes, Gal. i. 21, to break the connexion with the first visit to Jerusalem, Gal. i. 18.
Lardner observes that the expression dia signifies "about," or "during," and that the fourteen years are current, not complete. If so, the date of the council should be A.D.35 + 13 = A.D. 48; which, perhaps, is rather more correct
2. But Paley doubts whether the visit to Jerusalem might not have been different from that at the time of the council, from the following differences in the circumstances of both, Hora Paulinæ, p. 195–207.
1. Titus is mentioned as accompanying Paul and Barnabas in the Epistle, but not in the Acts.
But Titus is plainly included in the definite expression of their attendants, and " some others of them," Acts xv. 2. The name of Titus is no where found in the Acts.
2. Paul is said to have gone up to Jerusalem by "revelation," Gal. ii. 2; whereas he is represented as deputed by the Church of Antioch in the Acts.
Both these accounts are consistent. Thus Peter was sent for by Cornelius, but the HOLY SPIRIT directed him to go with the messengers, Acts x. 20.
3. Paul communicated his Gospel to the Gentiles, "privately to them which were of reputation," or the Pillars of the Church, Peter, James, and John, (Gal. ii. 2—9;) for which there seemed to be no occasion, since this formed the subject of his public mis ion, (Acts xv. 4.)
But Paul's peculiar mission as an extraordinary Apostle to the remote Gentiles, Acts xxii. 21, (paкpav ežaπooτeλw,) would have been offensive to the Mother Church in general. The public avowal of it afterwards at Jerusalem occasioned great offence to the Jewish zealots, and much persecution of the Apostle, Acts xxii. 21–22, xxvi. 21.
4. The last and chief difficulty is, that in the Epistle no notice is taken of the deliberation and decree of the Council of Jerusalem, which formed the business, for the sake of which they were sent thither from Antioch.
But Paley himself has furnished satisfactory answers to this:
1. It was not agreeable to St. Paul's manner to defer much to the authority of the Apostles, with the chief of whom he reckoned himself equal, as receiving his commission not from man, but immediately from CHRIST himself, Gal. i. 1.
2. The authority of the council of Jerusalem would have had little weight with the Gentile Galatians. He, therefore, argues the point with them upon principle.
Cumanus was banished for mal-administration, and Felix, the brother of Pallas, the favourite freedman of Claudius, was appointed procurator in the twelfth year of his reign complete, A.D. 40 + 12 = A.D. 52, Ant. XX. 6, 1; Bell. Jud. II, 12—8 *. Josephus has not noticed the length of Felix's administration,
3. The decree did not go the length of the Epistle, for the latter abrogated the Mosaic institution even to the Jews themselves, in the case of justification by faith.
⚫ This date also is confirmed by Tacitus, who, in his Annals of the year U.C. 805, or A.D. 52, (Faustus Sylla and Salvius Otho, Coss.) after relating the shameful adulation of the Senate to Pallas, the favourite freedman of Claudius, and his mock moderation in refusing a more elevated station, when he had accumulated no less than three millions of Sesterces; proceeds thus: "But his brother, surnamed Felix, did not act with equal moderation; having been lately appointed governor of Judea, and thinking that he had } an impunity for all manner of misdemeanors, relying upon so powerful a support," Annal. XII. 53, 54.
Here the phrase, jam pridem Judææ impositus, intimates recent preferment. For jam pridem signifies a short time back, which is still subsisting, as Istud jampridem scio, Plaut. jam dudum ausculto, Hor. Jampridem equidem audivi cepisse odium tui Philumenam, Ter. where jam pridem audivi, is explained by Valla, jam aliquanto abhinc tempore audivi. See other instances, Stephens's Lat. Thesaurus.
Not adverting to this earlier meaning of the word, which was afterwards ambiguously used to denote remoter time, as, quod majores nostros jampridem fecisse manifestum est, Pliny; that great chronologer Petavius unfortunately mistook the word in the foregoing passage of Tacitus in the latter sense; and thence antedated the appointment of Felix about the eighth year of Claudius, A.D. 48, which has deranged the ensuing part of his chronology, De doctriná temporum, Lib. XI. 11. p. 174, Vol. II. And Pearson has supposed two appointments of Felix, one in A.D. 48, in conjunction with Cumanus, and another A.D. 53, after his condemnation; preferring the authority of Tacitus to Josephus, a Jewish historian, and certainly more conversant in Jewish affairs, especially those of his own times; who might as well say,
-Quæque ipse miserrima vidi,
Et quorum pars magna fui.
For Tacitus, quitting his surer guide in the sequel of the foregoing cha, ter, supposes that Cumanus and Felix were governors at the same time, the former of Galilee, the latter of Judea and Samaria; that both fomented the public disorders and quarrels between these neighbouring states for their own emolument, for which they were called to account by the emperor, who had them tried by Quadratus, president of Syria, and he, to curry favour with Pallas, brought Felix into the tribunal among the judges, when he should have been tried as a delinquent; and so Cumanus was condemned alone for the crimes of both, and Felix continued in office.
Josephus much more consistently relates the trial of Cumanus alone, who was condemned to banishment by Claudius on a hearing of the cause, and Felix appointed procurator in his room, Ant. XX. 5, 3, 6, 1. This part of his excellent history appears to be written with peculiar accuracy of information. Brotier, the learned editor of Tacitus, in his Notæ et Emendationes ad Annal. XII. 54. Vol. II. p. 392, 4to. gives the preference to Tacitus; but he did not consider the subject as an historian and chronologer, but merely as a commentator prejudiced in favour of his author.
nor when he was succeeded by Portius Festus, Ant. XX. 7, 9; but it may be collected from the following curious circumstances of the life of Josephus, written by himself, 1-3.
Josephus states that himself was born in the first year of the Emperor Caius, (A.D. 36;) that when he was twenty-six years old, (A.D. 62,) he undertook a hazardous voyage to Rome, (in which he was shipwrecked, and out of six hundred souls in the vessel only eighty were saved,) in order to solicit the release of some priests, his friends, honest and good men, whom Felix, during his administration, had sent prisoners to Rome, for some trivial and ordinary offence, where they lived in penury, subsisting on figs and nuts; and that when he arrived there, he procured their release by the interest of the Empress Poppoa, to whom he had been introduced by Aliturus, a Jewish stageplayer, in great favour with Nero. She kindly granted his request and dismissed him with presents.
While Felix was in office, and his brother Pallas in power at the Roman court, Josephus would not have ventured to set aside his arbitrary proceedings. Felix, therefore, must have been deposed the year before, A.D. 61, and though he escaped the punishment due to his crimes, by the interest of his brother Pallas, Ant. XX. 7,9; yet Pallas himself next year, A.D. 62, was put to death by Nero for his immense wealth *.
Hence, we may collect, with a considerable degree of precision, the important fundamental date of Paul's last visit to Jerusalem, and imprisonment there, A.D. 59, two years before the expiration of Felix's government, and the succession of Pontius Festus, in A.D. 61, as we learn from the Acts xxiv. 27. And the length of his administration, which began seven years before the Apostle's visit, corresponds with the declarations of the Orator Tertullus, in his speech against Paul, that the country had enjoyed much peace under his government; and of Paul's, in his defence, that Felix had been Governor of the Jewish nation for many years, Acts xxiv. 3—10, which was true, in part, by his clearing the country of the brigands, or robbers, who had long infested it.
Paul, on his appeal to Cæsar, was sent prisoner by Festus to
Eodem anno, (U.C. 815 = A.D. 62,) libertorum potissimos veneno interfecisse creditus est [Nero.]—Pallantem, quòd immensam pecuniam longá senectâ detineret, Annal. XIV. 65.
Rome, A.D. 61, shortly before "the fast," or great day of atonement, about the autumnal equinox, Acts xxvii. 9. He was shipwrecked on the island of Melite, in the Adriatic, and wintered there for three months, Acts xxviii. 1, and so proceeded to Rome early in A.D. 62, Acts xxviii. 14.
Festus died in office, and was succeeded by Albinus, about A.D. 63, the date adopted by Usher. Ant. XX. 8, 1.
Albinus was removed for mal-administration, and succeeded by Gessius Florus, in the eleventh year of Nero, A.D. 64; Ant. XX. 8, 5; XX. 10, 1.
The imprisonment of Paul at Rome lasted two years, Acts xxviii. 30, therefore he was liberated about the spring of A.D. 64, and then visited Greece, Macedon, and Asia Minor, and returned again to Rome towards the close of A.D. 64, where he was imprisoned, 2 Tim. iv. 9-21. Soon after, Peter visited Rome, 1 Pet. v. 13.
In the next year, A.D. 65, we are warranted to date the martyrdom of Paul and Peter at Rome*; commencing the first Roman persecution of the Christians by Nero, in the twelfth year of his reign, according to Epiphanius, followed by Orosius, from Tacitus, Ant. XVI. 13, and by the moderns, Dupin, Pagi, Basnage, and Lardner. The last of these judiciously infers, from the silence of the Apostles Paul and Peter respecting this persecution, in their Epistles, written shortly before their death, that it did not happen till after. Lardner, vi. p. 300, 301.
In this ominous year, A.D. 65, the second of the administration of Florus, the Jewish war broke out, which Josephus attributed to his cruelty, rapacity, and corruption.
The destruction of Jerusalem by Titus, A.D. 70, is critically ascertained by the lunar eclipse of the year before, Oct. 18, A.D. 69, the night of the battle of Cremona. See Vol. I. p. 76, of this work.
THE CANONICAL ACTS AND EPISTLES OF THE
The Acts of the Apostles form a truly valuable supplement to the Gospels. They were written by the Evangelist Luke in
continuation of his Gospel, about the same year, A.D. 66, to the same Theophilus, probably president of Achaia, and at Corinth, the capital city of that province, and the residence of his predecessor Gallio, Acts xviii. 12.
The early fathers, Clemens Romanus, Polycarp, Irenæus, Origen, Eusebius, &c. all agree in ascribing this work to him. Its authenticity, therefore, is unquestionable, both from the external and internal evidence, Acts i. 1.
The design of the book appears from its divisions. The first states the rise and progress of the mother Church at Jerusalem, from the time of OUR LORD's ascension to the first Jewish persecution, A.D. 34, chap. i.-viii.
The second relates the dispersion of the disciples, (all but the Apostles,) in consequence of this persecution. Their planting the Gospel in Judea and Samaria, and probably in Ethiopia; the miraculous conversion of Saul; the miraculous conversion of Cornelius, the first fruits of the home Gentiles ; and the foundation of the first Gentile Church at Antioch, in Syria, until the second Jewish persecution, A.D. 44, chap. viii.-xii.
The third relates the conversion of the remoter Gentiles, and the planting of their several Churches in Asia Minor or Natolia, Macedonia, Greece, Illyricum, &c. by the supernumerary Apostles Barnabas and Paul; and, after their separation, by Paul and his associates, among whom was Luke himself during the latter part of Paul's travels, until his first visit to Rome; ending with his liberation there, A.D. 63, chap. xiii.—xxviii.
The Epistles form a most excellent commentary, both on the Gospels and the Acts. They help to unfold the grand mysteries and leading doctrines of THE GOSPEL, as we have already seen in the foregoing articles of THE SPIRIT OF THE GOSPEL, &c. and they continue the history of the Church beyond the period of the Acts; while OUR LORD's prophecies in the Gospels, and those of his Apostles, Peter, Paul, and John in the Epistles, pursue the general outline of its history, militant and triumphant, to the end of the world.
Such being the high importance of the Epistles in general, we shall enquire into their authenticity, design, order, time, and plan of composition, style, inspiration, and credibility. And this enquiry is rendered more necessary, by the mischievous industry of many ancient and modern Heretics and Sceptics