« FöregåendeFortsätt »
it be in close and verbal conformity with the account of the same transaction preserved by St. Luke, is yet a conformity of which no use can be made in our argument; for if it should be objected that this was a mere recital from the Gospel, borrowed by the author of the epistle, for the purpose of setting off his composition by an appearance agreement with the received account of the Lord's supper, I should not know how to repel the insinuation. In like manner, the description which St. Paul gives of himself in his epistle to the Philippians (iii. 5.)—“Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church ; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless"-is made up of particulars so plainly delivered concerning him, in the Acts of the Apostles, the Epistle to the Romans, and the Epistle to the Galatians, that I cannot deny but that it would be easy for an impostor, who was fabricating a letter in the name of St. Paul, to collect these articles into one view. This, therefore, is a conformity, which we do not adduce. But when I read, in the Acts of the Apostles, that “when Paul came to Derbe and Lystra, behold a certain disciple was there, named Timotheus, the son of a certain woman which was a Jewess ;” and when, in an epistle addressed to Timothy, 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 : I 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 bet, ter, because the agreement which finally results is thereby further 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 connexion 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 one with 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, and general reflexions*; or if, for the sake of im
This, however, must not be misunderstood. A person writing to his friends, and upon a subject in which the transactions of his 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 publick at large, or under the form of an episte delivering a discourse upon some speculative argument, would
itating 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
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 catholick epistle. Although, therefore, the presence of these allusions and agreements be a valuable accession to the arguments by which the authenticity of a letter is maintained, yet the want of them certainly forms no positive objection.
account sufficiently particular of the manner in which the epistle was sent from Corinth to St. Paul, 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 any other. 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
VOL. V. 3
elsewhere ; and whether, if we do find them, they meet together in respect of date. Turn to the Acts of the Apostles, chap. xx. ver. 2, 3, and you read the following ac
When he had gone over those parts, (viz. Macedonia), and had given them much exhortation, he came into Greece, and there abode three months; and when the Jews laid wait for him, as he was about to sail into Syria, he purposed to return through Macedonia.” From this passage, compared with the account of St. Paul's travels given before, and from the sequel of the chapter, it appears, that upon St. Paul's second visit to the peninsula of Greece, his intention was, when he should leave the country, to proceed from Achaia directly by sea to Syria; but that, to avoid the Jews, who were lying in wait to intercept him in his route, he so far changed his purpose as to go back through Macedonia, embark at Philippi, and pursue his voyage from thence towards Jerusalem. Here therefore is a journey to Jerusalem ; but not a syllable of any contribution. And as St. Paul had taken several journeys to Jerusalem before, and one also immediately after his first visit into the peninsula of Greece (Acts xviii. 21.), it cannot from hence be collected in which of these visits the epistle was written, or with certainty, that it was written in either. The silence of the historian, who professes to have been with St. Paul at the time (c. XX. v. 6.), concerning any contribution, might lead us to look out for some different journey, or might induce us perhaps to question the consistency of the two records, did not a very accidental reference, in another part of the same history, afford us sufficient ground to believe that this silence was omission. When St. Paul made his reply before Felix, to the accusations of Tertullus, he alleged, as was natural, that neither the crrand which brought him to Jerusalem, nor his con