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THE SECOND EPISTLE TO THE CORINTHIANS.
but that a thread of truth winds through the whole, which preserves every circumstance in its place.
Chap. x. 14–16. "We are come as far as to you also, in preaching the Gospel of Christ; not boasting of things without our measure, that is, of other men's labours; but having hope, when your faith is increased, that we shall be enlarged by you, according to our rule, abundantly to preach the Gospel in the regions beyond you.'
This quotation affords an indirect, and therefore unsuspicious, but at the same time a distinct and indubitable recognition of the truth and exactness of the history. I consider it to be implied by the words of the quotation, that Corinth was the extremity of St Paul's travels hitherto. He expresses to the Corinthians his hope, that in some future visit he might preach the Gospel to the regions beyond them;' which imports that he had not hitherto proceeded beyond them, but that Corinth was as yet the farthest point or boundary of his travels. Now, how is St Paul's first journey into Europe, which was the only one he had taken before the writing of the epistle, traced out in the history ? Sailing from Asia, he landed at Philippi : from Philippi, traversing the eastern coast of the peninsula, he passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia to Thessalonica; thence through Berea to Athens, and from Athens to Corinth, where he stopped ; and whence, after a residence of a year and a half, he sailed back into Syria. So that Corinth was the last place which he visited in the peninsula ; was the place from which he returned into Asia; and was, as such, the boundary and limit of his progress. He could not have said the same thing, viz. 'I hope hereafter to visit the regions beyond you,' in an epistle to the Philippians, or in an epistle to the Thessalonians, inasmuch as he must be deemed to have already visited the regions beyond them, having proceeded from those cities to other parts of Greece. But from Corinth he returned home; every part therefore, beyond that city, might properly be said, as it is said in the passage before us, to be unvisited.
Yet is this propriety the spontaneous effect of truth, and produced without meditation or design.
THE EPISTLE TO THE GALATIANS.
The argument of this epistle in some measure proves its antiquity. It will hardly be doubted, but that it was written whilst the dispute concerning the circumcision of Gentile converts was fresh in men's minds: for, even supposing it to have been a forgery, the only credible motive that can be assigned for the forgery, was to bring the name and authority of the apostle into this controversy. No design could be so insipid, or so unlikely to enter into the thoughts of any man, as to produce an epistle written earnestly and pointedly upon one side of a controversy, when the controversy itself was dead, and the question no longer interesting to any description of readers whatever. Now the controversy concerning the circumcision of the Gentile Christians was of such a nature, that, if it arose at all, it must have arisen in the beginning of Christianity. As Judea was the scene of the Christian history; as the author and preachers of Christianity were Jews, as the religion itself acknowledged and was founded upon the Jewish religion, in contradistinction to every other religion then professed amongst mankind; it was not to be wondered at, that some of its teachers should carry it out in the world rather as a sect and modification of Judaism, than as a separate original revelation ; or that they should invite their proselytes to those observances, in which they lived themselves. This was likely to happen : but if it did not happen at first ; if, whilst the religion was in the hands of Jewish teachers, no such claim was advanced, no such condition was attempted to be imposed, it is not probable that the doctrine would be started, much less that it should prevail, in any future period. I likewise think, that those pretensions of Judaism were much more likely to be insisted upon, whilst the Jews continued a nation, than after their fall and dispersion; whilst Jerusalem and the temple stood, than after the destruction brought upon them by the
Roman arms, the fatal cessation of the sacrifice and the priesthood, the humiliating loss of their country, and, with it, of the great rites and symbols of their institution. It should seem, therefore, from the nature of the subject, and the situation of the parties, that this controversy was carried on in the interval between the preaching of Christianity to the Gentiles and the invasion of Titus ; and that our present epistle, which was undoubtedly intended to bear a part in this controversy, must be referred to the same period.
But, again, the epistle supposes that certain designing adherents of the Jewish law had crept into the churches of Galatia ; and had been endeavouring, and but too successfully, to persuade the Galatic converts, that they had been taught the new religion imperfectly and at second hand ; that the founder of their church himself possessed only an inferiour and deputed commission, the seat of truth and authority being in the apostles and elders of Jerusalem ; moreover, that, whatever he might profess amongst them, he had himself at other times, and in other places, given way to the doctrine of circumcision. The epistle is unintelligible without supposing all this. Referring therefore to this, as to what had actually passed, we find St Paul treating so unjust an attempt to undermine his credit, and to introduce amongst his converts a doctrine which he had uniformly reprobated, in terms of great asperity and indignation. And in order to refute the suspicions which had been raised concerning the fidelity of his teaching, as well as to assert the independency and divine original of his mission, we find him appealing to the history of his conversion, to his conduct under it, to the manner in which he had conferred with the apostles when he met with them at Jerusalem ; alleging, that so far was his doctrine from being derived from them, or they from exercising any superiority over him, that they had simply assented to what he had already preached amongst the Gentiles, and which preaching was communicated not by them to him, but by himself to them; that he had maintained the liberty of the Gentile church, by opposing, upon one occasion, an apostle to the face, when the timidity of his behaviour seemed to endanger it; that from the first, that all along, that to that hour, he had constantly resisted the claims of Judaism; and that the persecutions which he daily underwent, at the hands or by the instigation of the Jews, and of which he bore in his person the marks and scars, might have been avoided by him, if he had consented to employ his labours in bringing, through the medium of Christianity, converts over to the Jewish institution, for then would the offence of the cross have ceased.' Now an impostor who had forged the epistle for the purpose of producing St Paul's authority in the dispute, which, as has been observed, is the only credible motive that can be assigned for the forgery, might have made the apostle deliver his opinion upon the subject, in strong and decisive terms, or might have put his name to a train of reasoning and argumentation upon that side of the question, which the imposture was intended to recommend. I can allow the possibility of such a scheme as that. But for a writer, with this purpose in view, to feign a series of transactions supposed to have passed amongst the Christians of Galatia, and then to counterfeit expressions of anger and resentment excited by these transactions; to make the apostle travel back into his own history, and into a recital of various passages of his life, some indeed directly, but others obliquely, and others even obscurely bearing upon the point in question; in a word, to substitute narrative for argument, expostulation and complaint for dogmatic positions and controversial reasoning, in a writing properly controversial, and of which the aim and design was to support one side of a much agitated question is a method so intricate, and so unlike the methods pursued by all other impostors, as to require very flagrant proofs of imposition to induce us to believe it to be one.
In this number I shall endeavour to prove,
1. That the Epistle to the Galatians, and the Acts of the Apostles, were written without any communication with each other.
2. That the epistle, though written without any communication with the history, by recital, implication, or reference, bears testimony to many of the facts contained in it.
1. The epistle and the Acts of the Apostles were written without any communication with each other.
To judge of this point, we must examine those passages in each, which describe the same transaction; for, if the author of either writing derived his information from the account which he had seen in the other, when he came to speak of the same transaction, he would follow that account. The history of St Paul, at Damascus, as read in the Acts, and as referred to by the epistle, forms an instance of this sort. According to the Acts, Paul (after his conversion) was certain days with the disciples which were at Damascus. And straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God. But all that heard him were amazed, and said, Is not this he which destroyed them which called on this name in Jerusalem, and came hither for that intent, that he might bring them bound unto the chief priests? But Saul increased the more in strength, confounding the Jews which were at Damascus, proving that this is very Christ. And after that many days were fulfilled, the Jews took counsel to kill him. But their laying wait was known of Saul; and they watched the gates day and night, to kill him. Then the disciples took him by night and let him down by the wall in a basket. And when Saul was come to Jerusalem, he assayed to join himself to the disciples. Acts, chap. ix. 19–26.
According to the epistle, when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb, and called me by his grace,
to reveal his own son in me, that I might preach him among
the heathen, immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood, neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me: but I went into Arabia, and returned again to Damascus: then, after three years, I went up to Jerusalem.'
Beside the difference observable in the terms and general complexion of these two accounts, 'the journey into_Arabia, mentioned in the epistle, and omitted in the history, affords full proof that there existed no correspondence between these writers. If the narrative in the Acts had been made
from the epistle, it is impossible that this journey should have been passed over in silence; if the Epistle had been composed out of what the author had read of St Paul's history in the Acts, it is unaccountable that it should have been inserted.*
The journey to Jerusalem, related in the second chapter of the Epistle ( then, fourteen years after, I went up again to
* N. B. The Acts of the Apostles simply inform us that St Paul left Damascus in order to go to Jerusalem, 'after many days were fulfilled. If any one doubt whether the words 'many days,' could be intended to express a period which included a term of three years, he will find a complete instance of the same phrase used with the same latitude in the first book of Kings, ch. xi. 38, 39. And Shimei dwelt at Jerusalem many days; and it came to pass at the end of three years, that two of the servants of Shimei ran away.'