« ÎnapoiContinuă »
expectation of Christ's coming, in the midst of the persecution to which the converts were exposed, had grown even more serious, and demanded the apostle's attention (i. 5; ii. 6; iii. 6-11).
; 4. Character and Contents.-Along with an expression of satisfaction with their continued faith and steadfastness in the midst of their persecutions and afflictions (i. 1-4), Paul assures the Thessalonians that Christ will infallibly come to vindicate their cause, “rendering vengeance” to His and their enemies, and at the same time “to be glorified in his saints” (i. 5-12). But he warns them against being carried away with the idea—due in some measure to a misconstruction of his own teaching or to the circulation of a forged epistle bearing his name (ii. 1, 2 iii. 17)—that Christ's coming was immediately to take place. He mentions that certain great events must first come to pass (ii. 3-12), and exhorts them to the exercise of continued patience in the strength of divine grace (ii. 13-17), bidding them lead a quiet, honest, and industrious life, such as he had given an example of while he was yet with them, and commanding them to "withdraw (themselves) from every brother that walketh disorderly" (iii. 6-16).
The characteristic passage of the epistle is that which deals with “the falling away” that must "
come first” before Christ's appearing (ii. 1-12). Its meaning has been the subject of endless controversy, owing to the attempts which have been made to identify the “ sin," and the “one that restraineth now," with historical dynasties or persons.
For the former there have been suggested Nero, Mahomet, the Pope, Luther, Napoleon ; for the latter the Roman Empire, the German Empire, Claudius, and even Paul himself. But the truer interpretation seems to be to regard the expressions in question as referring to two great' tendencies—the one
antichristian, in the form of secular ambition, which was all that the hope of a Messiah then amounted to in many Jewish minds, and the other political, in the form of the civil power, represented in the first instance by the Roman Empire. The breakdown of the civil power before the aggressive march of an ungodly Socialism, under the leadership perhaps of some one realising on a gigantic scale the antichristian feeling and ambition of the age, may be the signal for the Advent of the true Christ in His heavenly power and glory.
1 The obscurity of the passage is partly due to its prophetic character, partly to the need for caution in any references to the interests of the state, and partly to the fact that the apostle takes for granted the personal instruction he had already given to the Thessalonians on the same sıbject.
THE FIRST EPISTLE OF PAUL THE APOSTLE
TO THE CORINTHIANS
1. Authorship. -As already mentioned, the Pauline authorship of this epistle is admitted with practical unanimity. The external evidence is abundant, from the end of the first century onward. In particular we find in the first epistle of Clement of Rome to the Church of Corinth (95 A.D.) the following unmistakable reference: “Take up the epistle of the blessed Paul the apostle. What was it that he first wrote to you in the beginning of the gospel ? Of a truth it was under the influence of the Spirit that he wrote to you in his epistle concerning himself and Cephas and Apollos, because then as well as now you had formed partialities" (cf. 1 Cor. i. 12).
But the internal evidence would of itself be decisive. For this epistle—and still more 2 Corinthians—bears very distinct traces of the opposition which Paul had to encounter before his apostolic authority was firmly established ; and we know that such opposition had been vanquished long before his death. It is full of minute references to the state of the Corinthian Church—being to a large extent the apostle's reply to a letter of inquiry from that Church (vii. 1), although it also deals with a number of evils and disorders in the Church which, it appears, had come to the apostle's knowledge through other channels (i. 11; v. 1; xi. 18).
This last circumstance, as Paley points out in his Horæ Paulino (iii. 1), is a token of historical reality, as it is not likely that the Corinthians would deliberately expose their own faults. Indeed their very acknowledgment and preservation of the epistle, notwithstanding the aspersions which it casts on their early character as a Church, is a proof of its apostolic claims to their regard. It is worthy of remark, too, that it contains numerous references to Paul's movements, which would scarcely have been ventured on by an impostor; and a comparison of the epistle with the Book of Acts and other parts of the New Testament brings out many striking coincidences, which can best be accounted for on the supposition of its genuineness.1
Along with Paul Sosthenes is associated in the opening verse (possibly the converted ruler of the synagogue, Acts xviii. 17). He may have acted as the apostle's amanuensis.
2. The Readers. “Unto the church of God which is at Corinth ” (i. 2). In the apostle's time Corinth was practically the capital of Greece. It had attained preeminence at a much earlier period, owing to its commercial advantages, but had been destroyed by the Roman conqueror about two hundred years before Paul's visit. After lying in ruins for a century, it was rebuilt by Julius Cæsar 46 B.C., and peopled by a Roman colony. This may account for the Roman names mentioned in the epistle (i. 14 ; xvi. 17). We have an allusion to the effects produced by the ravages of the conqueror on the various kinds of buildings (iii. 12, 13), and also to the gladiatorial exhibitions (iv. 9).
Situated at the foot of a great rock called Acrocorinthus about 2000 feet high on the Isthmus (famous for
i Cf. iii. 6 and Acts xviii. 24, xix. 1 ; xvi. 10, 11, Acts xix. 21, 22 and 1 Tim. iv. 12; i. 14-17, xvi. 15, Acts xviii. 8 and Rom. xvi. 23.
its games, ix. 24-27) which connected the Peloponnesus with the mainland, and lying in the direct route between Ephesus and Rome, Corinth rapidly regained its former prosperity, and became the chief emporium of Europe, with a population of more than half a million, drawn from many lands. It was so notorious for its profligacyencouraged by its very worship- that a “Corinthian life” was synonymous with luxury and licentiousness. At the same time its inhabitants made such pretensions to philosophical and literary culture that “Corinthian words” was a phrase meaning polished and cultivated speech.
In this great and busy centre Paul spent a year and a half or more (Acts xviii.) in his second missionary journey-being the longest time he had ever yet laboured continuously in any city. He found a home in the house of Aquila and Priscilla, a Jewish couple who had recently come from Rome in consequence of the decree of Claudius (xvi. 19), eminent for their generosity and devotion (Rom. xvi. 4, 5); and with them he wrought at his trade of tent-making (Acts xviii. 2, 3 ; xx. 34, 35; 1 Cor. iv. 11, 12).
Beginning his ministry in the synagogue as usual, he was soon compelled by the opposition of the Jews to seek another place of meeting, which he found in the house of Justus, a converted proselyte. There he preached the Gospel, encouraged by a message from God in a vision, and continued to do so with no small success notwithstanding an attempt of the Jews to invoke the civil power against him (Acts xviii. 4-18). His converts appear to have been chiefly drawn from the lower classes (i. 26-29), but they were not free from the prevailing
1 It had two harbours, Eastern and Western, named Cenchreæ and Lechæum. A few years after the apostle's visit Nero cut the first turf for a canal across the Isthmus; but the project was not carried out.