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Gospel on the interests of law and righteousness, proving the guilt of all men, both Jews and Gentiles, at the bar of Divine judgment, and proclaiming the doctrine of justification by faith as the only means of acceptance with God.
Having set forth the great scheme of redemption, the apostle deals with its bearing on the fortunes of the chosen people (ix.-xi.). He shows that their failure to enter into the blessings of the New Covenant, which gave him "6 great sorrow and unceasing pain in (his) heart," was due to their own spiritual blindness, as foretold in the writings of the prophets. Their recent experience was in keeping with the analogy of God's dealings with them in the past, but their rejection was only partial and temporary, destined to lead in the mysterious wisdom of Divine providence to a still fuller manifestation of Divine goodness. "For God hath shut up all unto disobedience, that he might have mercy upon all" (xi. 32).
After this lesson on the philosophy of history, in which the apostle seeks to justify the ways of God to men and is moved again and again to adoration of the Divine wisdom, he exhorts his readers to the cultivation of various graces and virtues as the best refutation of the charge of lawlessness to which the gospel of the free grace of God is liable (xii.-xiv.). In conclusion, he sends numerous greetings to individual Christians with whom he is personally acquainted, many of whom had rendered valuable service to the Church, and with whom he had probably been brought into contact at Ephesus and other great centres.
There are several breaks in the epistle where it might have fitly terminated. This circumstance, together with variations in the arrangement of the last two chapters in some of the MSS. (and the blanks left in a MS. of some importance where the words "in Rome" occur in the
opening chapter, vv. 7 and 14), has given rise to the idea that the epistle was sent as an encyclical or circular-letter, with varying terminations, to a number of Churches.1 We may add that the fact of this epistle, although addressed to Romans, being written in Greek, is not only in keeping with the apostle's literary habit, but is also in accordance with the general use of Greek at the time throughout the civilised world. The Christian congregations of the first century were like so many Greek colonies, as far as language was concerned; and it was not till the latter part of the second century that a Latin version and a Latin literature arose, chiefly for the benefit of the Christians in North Africa. It may be noted that most of those to whom the apostle sends salutations in this epistle bear Greek names.
FORBES THE ISSUE
1 The shorter recension, consisting of chapters i.-xiv. with the addition of xvi. 25 ff., which is known to have existed as early as the second century, is attributed by some to Marcion the heretic. Many hold that the sixteenth chapter, with its long list of salutations and its recommendation of Phoebe, who appears to have been the bearer of the letter, was intended for the Church at Ephesus. But it has been shown by Lightfoot and others that the names mentioned in the chapter are on the whole more related to Rome than to any other city.
2 "Even later, the ill-spelt, ill-written inscriptions of the catacombs, with their strange intermingling of Greek and Latin characters, show that the Church (in Rome) was not yet fully nationalised” (Lightfoot).
THE EPISTLES OF THE IMPRISONMENT
AFTER the letter to the Romans there is an interval of three or four years before we can trace any further correspondence on the part of the apostle. Leaving Corinth in the spring of 58 A.D., he made his way to Jerusalem along the coast of Macedonia and Asia Minor. In the course of his journey we find him taking farewell of one Church after another, under a strong presentiment of approaching calamity. Soon after his arrival in Jerusalem, he was arrested on account of a tumult resulting from a last effort which he made to conciliate the Jewish Christians. Removed as a prisoner to Cæsarea, he was there detained in custody for two years under the governor Felix; but, soon after the appointment of Festus as the successor of Felix, the apostle appealed for trial to the imperial judgment-seat, and was sent to Rome accordingly, under a military escort. After a disastrous voyage, in which he suffered shipwreck on the island of Malta, where he had to pass the winter, he arrived at Rome in the early summer of 61 a.d.—his long-cherished wish at length realised, but in a very different manner from what he had at one time anticipated. Owing to protracted delay in the hearing of his case-a thing by no means uncommon under the
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Emperors—he remained for two years in military custody, his right hand chained to the left hand of the soldier who guarded him. He was permitted, however, to reside in his own hired lodging, and to hold free converse with friends and visitors.
It was during this period that the epistles to the Philippians, the Colossians, Philemon, and the Ephesians were composed. Each of these epistles bears tokens of having been written during the author's imprisonment (Phil. i. 7, 13, 14, 17; Col. iv. 3, 18; Philemon vv. 9, 10, 13; Eph. iii. 1, iv. 1; cf. Acts xxviii. 16, 20). It is further evident that this imprisonment was occasioned by his preaching of the Gospel to the Gentiles (Col. i. 24-27; Eph. vi. 19, 20; Acts xxii. 21, 22, xxvi. 19-21). Some think that the imprisonment in question was that which the apostle endured at Cæsarea. But in several respects the circumstances referred to in the epistles harmonise better with his stay in Rome. (a) The impression made by his bonds which "became manifest in Christ throughout the whole prætorian guard, and to all the rest (Phil. i. 13), and the mention of "Cæsar's household" (iv. 22), point to the imperial city as the scene of his influence.1 (b) The apostle's purpose of visiting Macedonia after his release (ii. 24), would not answer to his state of mind while he was looking forward to a visit to Rome. (c) The expression used in Acts xxviii. 20 to describe Paul's confinement, namely, "this chain," is almost identical with the language of Eph. vi. 20 (margin) on the same subject; while the same cannot be said of the apostle's allusion to his condition at Cæsarea when he replied to Agrippa, "I would to God,
1 "The camp and the court were always centres of Christianising influence" (Mommsen). Cæsar's household formed an immense establishment, including thousands of slaves and freedmen employed in all kinds of official and domestic duties (as we learn from recently discovered monuments in Rome).
THE EPISTLES OF THE IMPRISONMENT
that whether with little or with much, not thou only, but also all that hear me this day, might become such as I am, except these bonds" (Acts xxvi. 29). (d) Both Colossians and Philippians are written in the name of Paul and Timothy, but we find no trace of the latter in connection with Paul's imprisonment at Cæsarea. (e) The great metropolis of the world was a much more likely refuge than Cæsarea for a runaway slave like Onesimus.
With regard to the order in which these four epistles were written, the tendency of recent critics is to assign Philippians to a later date than the three others. This is a departure from the view taken by Lightfoot and Hort, who based their judgment on the general character of the several epistles, and were led to the conclusion that this epistle marks the transition from Romans to Colossians and Ephesians. They were impressed by the fact that while it resembles Romans in many points both verbal and doctrinal,1 Colossians and Ephesians exhibit a new phase of doctrine of which scarcely any trace can be found in this epistle. In opposition to this view it is contended that the resemblance between Romans and Philippians, as contrasted with Colossians and Ephesians, may be accounted for by the fact that the two former were addressed to Churches in Europe, whereas the latter were addressed to the theosophic Christians of Asia Minor It is further argued that if the Church at Philippi was free from the heretical tendencies which had shown themselves at Colossæ, we have no right to expect that the apostle would introduce the subject into an epistle meant for Philippi. Positive arguments in favour of the later date are found in (1) Phil. i. 12-18; ii. 30; iv. 12-14, from which it appears that the two years
1 Cf. Phil. i. 3-8, Rom. i. 8-11; Phil. i. 10, Rom. ii. 18; Phil. iii. 4, 5, Rom. xii. 1; Phil. iii. 9, Rom. x. 3; Phil. iii. 10, 11, Rom. vi. 5.