Imagini ale paginilor

were written by the authors, assigned to them, or not.

And if such evidence had been produced in favour of a classic author, there is no scholar, who would not be fully satisfied with the proof.

But another view may be taken of the subject, in which it will appear, that from the evidence already produced we may obtain a result, which is still more decisive. This result is obtained by reasoning from the statement of Eusebius, with respect to the books, which were universally received. These books were, the four Gospels, the Acts of the Apostles, thirteen Epistles of St. Paul, the first Epistle of St. Peter, and the first Epistle of St. John. That all these books had been universally received, is a fact, attested by Eusebius, and confirmed by the writers, who preceded him. Now if the historical books of the New Testament were universally received, they must have been received as authentic in the very places, where they were composed, and by the persons, to whom they were first delivered. And whatever apostolic epistles were universally received, they must have been received as authentic by the very persons, or communities, to whom they were immediately addressed.

Let us first apply the argument to the Epistles of St. Paul, which are of two kinds, Epistles to whole communities, and Epistles addressed to individuals. Of the former kind are the Epistles to the Romans, the Corinthians, the Galatians, the Ephesians, the Philippians, the Colossians, and the Thessalonians. These Epistles having been universally acknowledged as Epistles of St. Paul, they must have been acknowledged as such by those particular communities, to whom they were respectively addressed. Let us inquire then, whether these Epistles could have been so acknowledged, if they had not been written by St. Paul. No forgery in the name of St. Paul could have been successfully attempted during the life of the Apostle : for his long and continued intercourse with the several communities, to whom those Epistles are addressed, would unquestionably have led to a detection of the fraud. If therefore these Epistles were forgeries, they must have been fabricated after the death of St. Paul. Having ascertained the point of time, after which they must have been forged, if they really were forged, let us next consider the point of time before which the forgery must have taken place, if there was forgery at all. Whether written by an Apostle, or not, their existence in the middle of the second century, is a fact, which it is impossible to deny. For all these Epistles are repeatedly quoted by Irenæus in one part of the Roman Empire, and by Clement of Alexandria in another. And no doubt can be entertained in regard to their quotations, whatever be the doubts attending those of the Apostolic Fathers. The portion of time therefore, in which a forgery was possible, was confined to so small a compass, as to render it impracticable. If a work is fabricated by one writer in the name of another, there is no chance of succeeding with the imposition, unless a considerable period has elapsed, between the time of the fabricator, and the time of the person, to whom he ascribes his fabrication. If this person lived at so remote a time, that no external evidence can be obtained in confutation of the fraud, an ingenious impostor may excite a belief, that a work, which is really his own, is the work of a writer, who lived in a former age. But between the death of St. Paul, and the middle of the second century, when these Epistles, whether authentic or not, are known to have existed, the interval was so short, that no forgery could have escaped detection. In whatever portion of this interval such a forgery is supposed to have been committed, the supposition is equally absurd.


That the absurdity of such a supposition may be rendered apparent, we must argue on some particular Epistle. Let us take therefore, as an example the Epistle to the Romans, and consider the absurdities, to which the supposition of a forgery will lead. If we suppose, that the Epistle to the Romans was forged during the former half of the period, which has been proved to be the limiting period, it was forged at a time, when many persons must have been still living, who were members of the Christian community at Rome, when St. Paul himself was there. And these persons must surely have known, whether they had ever received from St. Paul an Epistle, or not. Unless therefore an impostor could have made them believe, that they had received an Epistle from St. Paul, which they knew they had not received, it was impossible that a forgery could then be attended with success. Let us now suppose it to have been fabricated during the latter half of the limiting period, which is the most advantageous supposition, that can be made in behalf of a forgery

At that time perhaps no one was living, who remembered St. Paul at Rome: and so far many obstacles were removed, which, on the former supposition, were in the way of a forgery. But other obstacles existed, which were still sufficient to counteract it. If no one was then living, who remembered St. Paul at Rome, the next generation could not have been extinct, or the children of those who remembered St. Paul. And is it credible, that they should have admitted an Epistle addressed to their fathers, as coming from St. Paul, an Epistle containing salutations to more than twenty of their fathers by name, if they had never heard from their fathers, that such an Epistle had been received from St. Paul ? And this must have been the case, if the Epistle to the Romans was first brought to light in the second century. Whatever be the time therefore assigned for a forgery, the supposition of it is attended with equal absurdities : and hence we must draw the only inference, which remains, that the Epistle to the Romans is authentic.

The same kind of reasoning, which has been used on the Epistle to the Romans, applies also to the Epistles, which were written to the Corinthians, the Galatians, the Ephesians, the Philippians, the Colossians, and the Thessalonians. A fraud on those communities was impracticable, for the same reasons that a fraud was impracticable on the Christian community at Rome.

On the Epistles addressed to Timothy, Titus,

« ÎnapoiContinuați »