« PreviousContinue »
must apologize for this minute discussion of a few leading points of his prolix argument.
The style of this mighty master of Grecian eloquence, like his own magnificent compounds, πολυμερως, πολυτροπως, (Heb. i. 1,) Toλνποikiλos, Eph. ji. 10, (which were evidently forged on the same anvil,) is "abundantly variegated and diversified ;" animated with all the energy and vehemence and abruptness of Demosthenes; and enriched and adorned with all the amplifications, tropes, and figures of Cicero; while he excelled them both in the sublime, the beautiful, and the pathetic, on account of the greater dignity, importance, and variety of the subjects that engaged his highly furnished, ardent, and versatile mind, making himself all things to all men, if by any means he might win
Still it must be confessed, that there is much obscurity in his writings, arising from various sources.
1. Several of his Epistles were answers to questions put to him, on doctrinal or ceremonial points that were then contested between the Jewish and Gentile Churches; we therefore want, in many cases, the key to his arguments, in answer thereto.
2. The abrupt change of person, from Paul to his correspondents, or opponents, without notice given, often occasions perplexity; speaking of them in the first person, and of himself in the third, 2 Cor. xii. 2, &c. Rom. vii. 21-25, &c.
3. The involution of his flowing sentences, including parentheses, and digressions without number, often renders it extremely difficult to follow the thread of his argument*, through the labyrinth of his language. Even Peter complained that he was "hard to be understood," and James intimated, that he was liable to be misunderstood †.
THE SECOND EPISTLE TO TIMOTHY.
"I am now ready to be offered up as a libation,
And the season of my dissolution is at hand," iv. 6.
From this passage, Eusebius, Jerom, Chrysostom, and the ancient tradition, held, that this was the last of Paul's Epistles,
See several ingenious and judicious remarks on the peculiarities of Paul's style, in Paley's Hora Paulinæ, Michaelis, and Gilpin, &c. .
+ Compare Jam. ii. 24, with Rom. iii. 28.
written not long before his predicted martyrdom; and this opinion is generally followed by learned moderns.
Whether Paul visited Rome once only, or twice, has been much contested by critics; at the head of the former class ranks Lardner; at the head of the latter, Michaelis*. The latter opinion is better founded.
1. In the foregoing Epistles to the Colossians, Philemon, and the Philippians, the Apostle expressed, as we have seen, a confident hope of seeing them soon; and we learn from the last chapter of this Epistle, that his expectation was realized; describing his route, shortly before he wrote it, through Corinth, Philippi, Troas, Miletus, and Colosse; as traced in a foregoing note, on the Epistle to Titus.
2. This route is not to be confounded with that described in the two last chapters of the Acts; for Paul could neither visit Corinth, Troas, nor Miletus, on his first voyage to Rome, which lay considerably to the north of his course; as Michaelis has acutely observed, p. 173—175.
3. That the Apostle was now at Rome, and in prison, when he wrote this Epistle, is plain, from i. 8-17, &c.; therefore he visited Rome a second time, according to the received tradition.
4. His treatment was different both times. During the first visit, he was confined, indeed, according to the Roman usage, until both he and his accusers could be heard together before Cesar, to whom he had appealed from the provincial tribunal at Cæsarea, as we may judge from the conduct of Felix, Acts xxiii. 35. But he was confined only to his own house, and treated with much indulgence; probably in consequence of the favourable representations of his case by Festus, xxv. 24-27, and of his exemplary good conduct, and prediction, and miraculous powers, during the voyage, by his friend Julius, the centurion, Acts xxvii. 3-43; insomuch, that he made many converts at Rome, and even in Caesar's household, Phil. i. 13, iv. 22; and at the end of two years, when either his accusers had failed to appear, or to substantiate their charges at Cæsar's tribunal,
Michaelis has here again redeemed his character as a sacred critic. Though not to be implicitly trusted, as we have seen, he is sometimes excellent; and no where more so than in his remarks on this Epistle; in which, following a skilful guide, the learned Mosheim, he has ably and fully exposed the mistakes of Lardner and his party.
(before which he seems to have been brought to a hearing, Phil. i. 7,) he was honourably acquitted, and dismissed, Acts xxviii. 30, 31, as he expected, Phil. ii. 24; Philemon 22.
But on the second visit, his former success in proselytizing Cæsar's household, (Phil. iv. 22,) and probably among the rest, the Empress Poppea * herself, as we may collect from Josephus, who remarkably styles her cooσEẞns, "devout," or a "proselyte," θεοσεβης, and represents her as a friend to the Jews, Ant. XX. 7, 11, Vita. 3, probably gave umbrage to Nero. He was now "imprisoned, as a malefactor," or a mover of sedition, 2 Tim. ii. 9, perhaps on account of the uproar at Ephesus, which the recorder might have reported to the Emperor, Acts xix. 40, and for which the Apostle was brought to a first hearing before Nero, when "all the Christians of Asia, or Ephesus, then at Rome, deserted him ;" and "Alexander the coppersmith did him much harm," by witnessing against him maliciously; so that he with difficulty was then "saved from the mouth of the lion," or the cruelty of Nero †, iv. 14—17, i. 15. Sentence, indeed, was not passed at this first hearing, or apology; for, according to the forms of Roman judicature, a nondum liquet was declared, or the cause was put off to a second hearing, and his prosecutors still bound over to prosecute, and perhaps enjoined to procure fuller evi
* Poppaa Sabina was remarkable for her beauty, and not less for her lust and cruelty, according to Tacitus; whereas Josephus celebrates her for piety, humanity in pleading for his friends the priests, and personal kindness to himself, whom she dismissed with presents.
↑ In a foregoing note on the Epistle to the Hebrews, we stated the opinion of Michaelis, that this expression was to be understood literally, as according with the description Tacitus gives of the sufferings of the Christians in Nero's persecution, "who were clothed in the skins of wild beasts, and exposed to be torn in pieces by dogs, with the most cruel mockery." Annal. XV. 44. But the figurative application of the "lion," to Nero himself, and the most generally received, is preferable. Nero had all the Roman “fierceness of countenance," as appeared from the description of an impostor that resembled him, given in a foregoing note, Vol. II. p. 212. And his tutor Seneca, who for some time had, by dint of instruction, softened the native cruelty and ferocity of his disposition, used to say, among his intimate friends, non fore savo illi Leoni, quin gustato semel hominis sanguine, ingenita redeat sævitia, "that surely when once that fierce lion had tasted human blood, his innate cruelty would break out again." Lipsius Not. Tacit. An. XII. 9. A prediction soon verified by the event. Seneca himself did not long survive Paul, being put to death in the same year, A.D. 65. On that emergency, he thus consoled his weeping friends: "Who can be ignorant of Nero's cruelty? Nothing can be wanting to fill up the measure of it, after the murder of his mother, (Agrippina,) and his brother, (Britannicus,) but the death of his tutor and preceptor !" Annal. XV. 62.
dence. But in the interim, as it seems, " Paul converted Nero's cup-bearer," which so provoked the jealous tyrant, that "he cut off" or beheaded the Apostle, as we learn from Chrysostom *.
That the Apostle, indeed, had no further hope of deliverance from his present bonds, is evident from his prediction, iv. 6, and from the sequel: "And THE LORD will deliver me [not from death, but] from every wicked work, [with which I am charged as a malefactor,] and will save me unto his heavenly kingdom. To whom be glory for evermore. Amen," iv. 18.
Here the Apostle is clearly resigned to his fate.
5. In his disgrace, Paul was deserted by all his acquaintances, and most of his intimates. His Asiatic friends, Phygellus, Hermogenes, &c. forsook him at his first hearing, except Onesiphorus, of whose attentions and kindnesses, both at Ephesus and Rome, he makes honourable mention, i. 15—18, iv. 16; and what was more grievous, of his own disciples, Demas quitted him from worldly motives, and went to Thessalonica, Crescens to Galatia; and even Titus, (who could have expected that!) unto Dalmatia ; none remained but the faithful Luke,
"Faithful found Among the faithless; faithful only he."
The friends who now adhered to him were strangers, unnoticed in his former Epistles, Eubulus, Pudens, Linus, Claudia, &c. who join in the salutation to Timothy. No wonder, then, that he was anxious for the speedy return of his beloved pupil, Timothy, and his old friend Mark," who was serviceable to him in the ministry," to bid them farewell, and give them his parting instructions, iv. 9-21.
From Paul's earnestness to see those two dearest friends, without delay, we may fairly collect, that Nero's dreadful persecution of the Christians, at Rome, had not yet commenced; for surely if it had, he would not wish to bring them into the lion's mouth, to inevitable destruction, when the bare confession of Christianity was sufficient for their seizure; according to Tacitus, correpti qui fatebantur. And if this conjecture be well
* Ποιαν δε πρωτην απολογιαν λεγει; παρεστη ἡδε τῳ Νερωνι και διέφυγεν επειδη δε τον οινοχοον αυτου κατηχησε, τοτε αυτον απετεμεν. Lardner, VI. p. 351. This testimony of Chrysostom carries its own evidence with it, and refutes the perplexed anachronisms of Pearson, respecting this event, which are justly censured by Lardner.
founded, we can determine the date of Paul's martyrdom with considerable precision. For Nero's burning of Rome is placed by Tacitus under the consulate of C. Læcanius and M. Licinius, about the month of July, A.D. 64. This act procured him the hatred and clamours of the people, which having endeavoured several ways to remove and pacify, but in vain, he at last devised the base and wicked expedient of throwing the odium of it upon the Christians. Whom, therefore, to appease the gods, and to please the people, he condemned as guilty of the fact, and caused to be executed with all manner of acute and exquisite tortures. This persecution took place, therefore, in the course of the year A.D. 65, when on June 29th, according to the annals both of the eastern and western Church, noticed by Usher, the Apostle was slain with the sword. Tacit. Annal. XV. 33-34. Usher's Annal. A.D. 67.
Hence we may be morally certain, that this leading date of Paul's martyrdom, could not have been later than A.D. 65 *, in the twelfth of Nero, according to Epiphanius, Pagi, and Lardner, VI. p. 300, 301.
An hypothesis similar to that of Doctor Marsh respecting the Gospels, was proposed by Doctor Paley, in his ingenious Horæ Paulina; namely, that the Epistles of Paul and the Acts of the Apostles were written without concert on either side, while their undesigned coincidences, and incidental references to each other, mutually attest the truth of the facts as independent vouchers. See pp. 6, 47, 111, 158, 160, 171, 270, 278, 287, 306, &c.
In this work, many curious instances of remote resemblance, and latent coincidence, which have escaped ordinary readers, and even the best commentators, are deduced from minute and critical inspection and comparison of the originals: but the hypothesis itself that they were undesigned, appears to be rather specious than solid, for the following reasons:
1. Paul did not, indeed, consult the Acts, which were not written until after his decease, according to the present chronological adjustment; but it is most highly probable that Luke both saw and consulted Paul's Epistles; because he attended
Michaelis dates it about......
Usher, Petavius, and Bible Chronology