« FöregåendeFortsätt »
to Timothy [2 Tim. ii. 15.], I find him reminded of his “ having known the holy scriptures from a child,” which implies that he must, on one side or both, have been brought up by Jewish parents ; 1 conceive that I remark a coincidence which shows, by its very obliquity, that scheme was not employed in its formation. In like manner, if a coincidence depend upon a comparison of dates, or rather of circumstances from which the dates are gathered — the more intricate that comparison shall be ; the more numerous the intermediate steps through which the conclusion is deduced ; in a word, the more circuitous the investigation is, the better, because the agreement which finally results is thereby farther removed from the suspicion of contrivance, affectation, or design. And it should be remembered, concerning these coincidences, that it is one thing to be minute, and another to be precarious; one thing to be unobserved, and another to be obscure; one thing to be circuitous or oblique, and another to be forced, dubious, or fanciful. And this distinction ought always to be retained in our thoughts.
The very particularity of St. Paul's epistles ; the perpetual recurrence of names of persons and places ; the frequent allusions to the incidents of his private life, and the circumstances of his condition and history; and the connection and parallelism of these with the same circumstances in the Acts of the Apostles, so as to enable us, for the most part, to confront them with one another ; as well as the relation which subsists between the circumstances, as mentioned or referred to in the different epistles - afford no inconsiderable proof of the genuineness of the writings, and the reality of the transactions. For as no advertency is sufficient to guard against slips and contradictions, when circumstances are multiplied, and when they are liable to be detected by cotemporary accounts equally circumstantial, an impostor, I should expect, would either have avoided particulars entirely, contenting himself with doctrinal discussions, moral precepts, aud general reflections *; or if, for the sake of imitating
* This, however, must not be misunderstood. A person writing to his friends, and upon a subject in which the transactions of his
St. Paul's style, he should have thought it necessary to intersperse his composition with names and circumstances, he would have placed them out of the reach of comparison with the history. And I am confirmed in this opinion by an inspection of two attempts to counterfeit St. Paul's epistles, which have come down to us; and the only attempts, of which we have any knowledge, that are at all deserving of regard. One of these is an epistle to the Laodiceans, extant in Latin, and preserved by Fabricius in his collection of apocryphal scriptures. The other purports to be an epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians, in answer to an epistle from the Corinthians to him. This was translated by Scroderus from a copy in the Armenian language which had been sent to W. Whiston, and was afterwards, from a more perfect copy procured at Aleppo, published by his sons, as an appendix to their edition of Moses Chorenensis. No Greek copy exists of either : they are not only not supported by ancient testimony, but they are negatived and excluded; as they have never found admission into any catalogue of apostolical writings, acknowledged by, or known to, the early ages of Christianity. In the first of these I found, as I expected, a total evitation of circumstances. It is simply a collection of sentences from the canonical epistles, strung together with very little skill. The second, which is a more versute and specious forgery, is introduced with a list of names of persons who wrote to St. Paul from Corinth; and is preceded by an account sufficiently particular of the manner in which the epistle was sent from Corinth to St. Paul,
own life were concerned, would probably be led in the course of his letter, especially if it was a long one, to refer to passages found in his history. A person addressing an epistle to the public at large, or under the form of an epistle delivering a discourse upon some speculative argument, would not, it is probable, meet with an occasion of alluding to the circumstances of his life at all : he might, or he might not; the chance on either side is nearly equal. This is the situation of the catholic epistles. Although, therefore, the presence of these allusions and agreements be a valuable ac. cession to the arguments by which the authenticity of a letter is maintained, yet the want of them certainly forms no positive objection.
and the answer returned. But they are names which no one ever heard of; and the account it is impossible to combine with any thing found in the Acts, or in the other epistles. It is not necessary for me to point out the internal marks of spuriousness and imposture which these compositions betray; but it was necessary to observe, that they do not afford those coincidences which we propose as proofs of authenticity in the epistles which we defend.
Having explained the general scheme and formation of the argument, I may be permitted to subjoin a brief account of the manner of conducting it.
I have disposed the several instances of agreement under separate numbers ; as well to mark more sensibly the divisions of the subject, as for another purpose, viz. that the reader may thereby be reminded that the instances are independent of one another. I have advanced nothing which I did not think probable ; but the degree of probability, by which different instances are supported, is undoubtedly very different. If the reader, therefore, meets with a number which contains an instance that appears to him unsatisfactory, or founded in mistake, he will dismiss that number from the argument, but without prejudice to
He will have occasion also to observe, that the coincidences discoverable in some epistles are much fewer and weaker than what are supplied by others. But he will add to his observation this important circumstance — that whatever ascertains the original of one epistle, in some measure establishes the authority of the rest. For, whether these epistles be genuine or spurious, every thing about them indicates that they come from the same hand. The diction, which it is extremely difficult to imitate, preserves its resemblance and peculiarity throughout all the epistles. Numerous expressions and singularities of style, found in no other part of the New Testament, are repeated in different epistles ; and occur, in their respective places, without the smallest appearance of force or art. An involved argumentation, frequent obscurities, especially in the order and transition of thought, piety, vehemence, affection, bursts of rapture, and of unparalleled sublimity, are properties, all or most of them, discernible
in every letter of the collection. But although these epistles bear strong marks of proceeding from the same hand, I think it is still more certain that they were originally separate publications. They form nó continued story; they compose no regular correspondence ; they comprise not the transactions of any particular period; they carry on no connection of argument; they depend not upon one another ; except in one or two instances, they refer not to one another. I will farther undertake to say, that no study or care has been employed to produce or preserve an appearance of consistency amongst them. All which observations show that they were not intended by the person, whoever he was, that wrote them, to come forth or be read together; that they appeared at first separately, and have been collected since.
The proper purpose of the following work is, to bring together, from the Acts of the Apostles, and from the different epistles, such passages as furnish examples of undesigned coincidence ; but I have so far enlarged upon this plan, as to take into it some circumstances found in the epistles, which contributed strength to the conclusion, though not strictly objects of comparison.
It appeared also a part of the same plan, to examine the difficulties which presented themselves in the course of our enquiry
I do not know that the subject has been proposed or considered in this view before. Ludovicus Cappellus, Bishop Pearson, Dr. Benson, and Dr. Lardner, have each given a continued history of St. Paul's life, made
from the Acts of the Apostles and the epistles joined together. * But this, it is manifest, is a different undertaking from the present, and directed to a different purpose.
* [Historia Apostolica illustrata ex Actis Apostolorum et Epistolis Paulinis, &c. studio Lud. Cappelli. SALMURII. M.DC.LXXXII. The dedication, to the celebrated John Daille, bears date 1633.
Johannis Pearsonii Opera Posthuma Chronologica. De Serie et Successione primorum Romæ Episcoporum, &c.; quibus præfiguntur Annales Paulini, &c. LONDINI. " 1688.
The references in this work to that of Lud. Cappellus are made according to the paging of the edition in 1682.
The History of the first planting of the Christian religion, taken from the Acts of the Apostles and their Epistles, &c. &c. By
If what is here offered shall add one thread to that complication of probabilities by which the Christian history is attested, the reader's attention will be repaid by the supreme importance of the subject ; and my design will be fully answered.
THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS.
The first passage I shall produce from this epistle, and upon which a good deal of observation will be founded, is the following:
“ But now I go unto Jerusalem to minister unto the “ saints ; for it hath pleased them of Macedonia and “ Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor “ saints which are at Jerusalem.” Rom. xv. 25, 26.
In this quotation three distinct circumstances are stated - a contribution in Macedonia for the relief of the Christians of Jerusalem, a contribution in Achaia for the same purpose, and an intended journey of St. Paul to Jerusalem. These circumstances are stated as taking place at the same time, and that to be the time when the epistle was written. Now let us enquire whether we can find these circumstances elsewhere, and whether, if we do find them, they meet together in respect of date. Turn the Acts of the
George Benson, D.D., 2d edit. 3 vol. 4to (generally bound in one), 1756.
A History of the Apostles and Evangelists, Writers of the New Testament, in 3 vols. By Nathaniel Lardner, D.D. London, 1760. ]