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characteristic peculiarities of style,1-as to preclude the idea of forgery, which is now generally abandoned.
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The language of the epistle with reference to the Second Coming of Christ is also at variance with the supposition of forgery. It seems to imply an expectation on the part of the apostle that he would live to see that event (iv. 15-17). But such an expectation was not likely to be introduced by a forger when it had already been falsified by the apostle's death,—as it must have been, long before forgery could have been successfully attempted. In this connection we may also note the apparent discrepancy between the statements in Acts. xviii. 5 and 1 Thess. i. 3 regarding the movements of Timothy, into which a forger depending for his information on the Book of Acts would not have been likely to fall, and which can only be accounted for by supposing a journey of Timothy (from Athens or Beroa to Thessalonica) left unrecorded in the Book of Acts. There is a similar discrepancy between chapter i. 9, which speaks of the converts as having "turned from their idols,” and Acts xvii. 4, as the latter would lead us to suppose that the Church of Thessalonica was largely composed of Jews and proselytes.2 In ii. 17, 18 there is a reference to the apostle's disappointment in not being able to carry out his intention of revisiting his converts, but such an intention is nowhere mentioned in the Book of Acts. All the three variations may be regarded as a proof that the epistle
1 E.g. a cursory sequence of thought (i. 2-8); the combination of seeming contraries (i. 6, cf. 2 Cor. viii. 1, Col. i. 11, 12); verbal contrasts (ii. 17; iv. 7, cf. 1 Cor. v. 3, 2 Cor. v. 1, 2). The force of these arguments cannot be fully understood without a knowledge of the original (Jowett, vol. i. pp. 19-25).
2 The difficulty may be met by adopting a reading of Acts xvii. 4 that is found in some MSS. and is followed in the Vulgate, namely, "of the devout (proselytes) and the Greeks a great multitude," or by supposing that the apostle preached to the Gentiles after the three Sabbath-days mentioned in Acts xvii. 2.
was written independently of the Acts, and that their general harmony is due to their common fidelity to facts.
2. The Readers." Unto the Church of the Thessalonians." Thessalonica was then, as it is still (under the name of Saloniki), an important mercantile emporium, at the head of the Thermaic Gulf, with a considerable proportion of Jewish inhabitants sharing in its general prosperity. It is now the second city of European Turkey; in the time of the apostle it was the capital of Macedonia. It lay in the neighbourhood of Mount Olympus, the fabled home of the gods, and was a place of exile for Cicero, who tells how he gazed up at the sacred summit but saw nothing save snow and ice.
The Church of Thessalonica was planted by St. Paul in the course of his second missionary tour in 52 a.d. (Acts xvii. 1-11), after his memorable visit to Philippi. His stay in Thessalonica seems to have been short, owing to a rising of the mob, stirred up against him by the Jews; but it was long enough for the Philippians to send once and again" unto his need (Phil. iv. 16). Previously he had been earning his own bread (ii. 9; 2 Thess. iii. 7, 8)-doubtless in the exercise of his calling as a tentmaker (Acts xviii. 3), as one of the staple manufactures of the city was and is goats'-hair cloth. The sound that follows the ear as one walks through the streets of Saloniki to-day is the wheezing and straining vibration of the loom and the pendulum-like click of the regular and ceaseless shuttle." 1 Paul paid a second visit to the place shortly before his last journey to Jerusalem. The Church was mainly Gentile, as we may infer not only from its members having "turned unto God from idols" (i. 9), but also from the fact that the epistles addressed to it do not contain a single quotation from the Old Testament. Thessalonica played a great part in the history of
1 Dods' Introduction to the New Testament, p. 153.
Christendom, as a bulwark against the Turks, whence it was known as the Orthodox city. Its modern population (about 90,000) consists chiefly of Mohammedans and Jews, and includes but a small number of Christians.
3. Date and Place of Composition.—The epistle itself supplies us with an answer. From iii. 6-8 we learn that it was written on the return of Timothy, whom Paul had sent (apparently from Athens) to revisit the Thessalonian Church (iii. 1, 2). But Acts xviii. 5 informs us that Silas and Timothy rejoined the apostle during his stay of a year and a half at Corinth. We conclude therefore that the epistle was written from that city,-not long after the apostle's arrival, as we may infer from his language in ii. 17: "But we, brethren, being bereaved of you for a short season, in presence, not in heart." This would be about 53 A.D., probably early in that year.
4. Character and Contents.-This epistle is an outpouring of the apostle's feelings towards a Church whose hearty reception of the Gospel was to him a matter of constant gratitude to God (i. 2-6), from which he had been reluctantly separated (ii. 17; iii. 1, 2), whose reputation (owing to the constant traffic of the city both by land and sea) had already spread far and wide (i. 7-10), and of whose patience and constancy he had received a gratifying report from Timothy (iii. 6-9). It contains also a vindication of his own character from the aspersions of the Jews, who were imputing to him the basest motives, and seem in particular to have put a bad construction on his sudden departure from the city. In refutation of these calumnies Paul appeals to the experience his converts had of his life and conduct while he was with them, and to the salutary effects of his preaching (ii.) After telling of the yearning anxiety he had felt on their account, and of the joy which Timothy's report had given him, he prays that God would grant him
a fulfilment of the desire, which he feels intensely, to re visit them for the perfecting of "that which is lacking in (their) faith," and that meanwhile their spiritual life may be developed and strengthened (iii 10-13). With this view he exhorts them (iv.) to the cultivation of certain virtues— purity (vv. 1-8), brotherly love (vv. 9, 10), industry (vv. 11, 12) which they were in danger of neglecting.
The characteristic feature of this epistle, however, as of that which follows, is the prominence it gives to Christ's Second Coming. This had been a main theme of Paul's preaching when he was in Thessalonica (i. 10; ii. 12; cf. Acts xvii. 7), and it had so taken possession of his hearers that the bereavements they had suffered by the death of relatives since the apostle left them, were chiefly mourned because they thought the departed friends would have no share in the glory of the Saviour's Advent. The comfort which Paul administers (iv. 13-18) when he assures his converts that their fears in this matter are groundless, gives one the idea that he expected Christ to come in his own lifetime. In this respect the language of this epistle differs widely from the allusions to his approaching death in his later epistles (2 Cor. v. 1; Phil. i. 21-24; 2 Tim. iv. 6). That the apostle should have been left to his own impressions in this matter is in striking harmony with our Lord's statement, "But of that day and hour knoweth no one, not even the angels of heaven, neither the Son, but the Father only" (Matt. xxiv. 36, cf. Acts i. 7). That it would come suddenly and called for constant watchfulness was a truth often dwelt upon by Christ, which the apostle could safely enforce, as he does in this epistle (v. 1-11).1
1 With regard to the arrangement of topics in this the earliest of Paul's writings that has come down to us, we can trace the order that may be said to be characteristic of his epistles generally, viz.: (1) Salutation, (2) Thanksgiving and Prayer, (3) Doctrinal Instruction, (4) Practical Exhortation, (5) Personal Messages, (6) Concluding Salutation and Benediction.
66 THE SECOND EPISTLE OF PAUL THE APOSTLE
1. Authorship.—We have the same external evidence for the genuineness of the second epistle as of the first. Internally it bears evidence of being a sequel to the other, being written, like it, in the name of Paul and Silas and Timothy (i. 1), and containing a direct allusion to the previous epistle (ii. 15). As might have been expected, it contains fewer and more distant allusions to the apostle's sojourn in Thessalonica, although it expressly recalls the teaching he had then imparted regarding the revelation of "the man of sin," and may also have reference to a letter he had received from Thessalonica in answer to his first epistle (cf. i. 2-11; iii. 1-5). As regards style and language it exhibits many Pauline peculiarities in common with the first epistle.
The prophetic passage in chapter ii. 1-12 has been a stumbling-block to many critics, who have imagined it to bear the stamp of a later period. In reality, however, it is quite consistent with the teaching of the first epistle, which nowhere implies that the coming of Christ was to be immediate, although it was to be sudden and was apparently to take place in the apostle's lifetime. Predictions of a similar kind had been uttered by our Lord Himself (Matt. xxiv.), and were also to be found in the books of Daniel and Ezekiel.
2. The Readers.-See page 66.
3. Date and Place of Composition. -As above remarked, this epistle, like the first, is written in the name of Paul, Silas, and Timothy. The three were together at Corinth, and apparently, so far as the Book of Acts informs us, nowhere else. This leads to the inference that this epistle, like the first, was written from that city—