« PreviousContinue »
rinth before Silas and Timotheus were come from Macedonia (Acts xviii. 5). If this was the first time of their coming up with him after their separation at Berea, there is nothing to account for a delay so contrary to what appears from the history itself to have been St. Paul's plan and expectation. This is a conformity of a peculiar species. The epistle discloses a fact which is not preserved in the history; but which makes what is said in the history more significant, probable, and consistent. The history bears marks of an omission; the epistle by reference furnishes a circumstance which supplies that omission.
No. V. Chap. ii. 14: “For ye, brethren, became followers of the churches of God which in Judea are in Christ Jesus; for ye also have suffered like things of your own countrymen, even as they have of the Jews."
To a reader of the Acts of the Apostles, it might seem, at first sight, that the persecutions which the preachers and converts of Christianity underwent, were suffered at the hands of their old adversaries the Jews. But if we attend carefully to the accounts there delivered, we shall observe, that, though the opposition made to the gospel usually originated from the enmity of the Jews, yet in almost all places the Jews went about to accomplish their purpose, by stirring up the Gentile inhabitants against their converted countrymen. Out of Judea they had not power to do much mischief in
any oth was the case at Thessalonica in particular: “The Jews which believed not, moved with envy, set all the city in an uproar.” Acts xvii. 5. It was the same a short time afterwards at Berca: “ When the Jews
way. This of Thessalonica had knowledge that the word of God was preached of Paul at Bercea, they came thither also, and stirred up the people.” Acts xvii. 13. And before this our apostle had met with a like species of persecution, in his progress through the lesser Asia : In every city “the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles, and made their minds evil affected against the brethren.” Acts xiv. 2. The epistle therefore represents the case accurately as the history states it. It was the Jews always who set on foot the persecutions against the apostles and their followers. He speaks truly therefore of them, when he says in this epistle, “they both killed the Lord Jesus and their own prophets, and have persecuted us—forbidding us to speak unto the Gentiles” (ii. 15, 16). But out of Judea it was at the hands of the Gentiles, it was “of their own countrymen," that the injuries they underwent were immediately sustained : “Ye have suffered like things of your own countrymen, even as they have of the Jews.”
No. VI. The apparent discrepancies between our epistle and the history, though of magnitude sufficient to repel the imputation of confederacy or transcription (in which view they form a part of our argument), are neither numerous, nor very difficult to reconcile.
One of these may be observed in the ninth and tenth verses of the second chapter: "For ye remember, brethren, our labour and travail ; for labouring night and day, because we would not be chargeable unto any of you, we preached unto you the gospel of God. Ye are witnesses, and God also, how holily and justly and unblameably we behaved ourselves among you that believe.” A person who reads this passage is naturally led by it to suppose, that the writer had dwelt at Thessalonica for some considerable time; yet of St. Paul's ministry in that city, the history gives no other account than the following: “that he came to Thessalonica, where was a synagogue of the Jews; that, as his manner was, he went in unto them, and three sabbath-days reasoned with them out of the scriptures; that some of them believed and consorted with Paul and Silas.” The history then proceeds to tell us, that the Jews which believed not set the city in an uproar, and assaulted the house of Jason, where Paul and his companions lodged ; that the consequence of this outrage was, that “ the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea.” Acts xvii. 1-10. From the mention of his preaching three sabbathdays in the Jewish synagogue, and from the want of any farther specification of his ministry, it has usually been taken for granted that Paul did not continue at Thessalonica more than three weeks. This, however, is inferred without necessity. It appears to have been St. Paul's practice, in almost every place that he came to, upon his first arrival to repair to the synagogue. He thought himself bound to propose the gospel to the Jews first, agreeably to what he declared at Antioch in Pisidia; "it was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you.” Acts xiii. 46. If the Jews rejected his ministry, he quitted the synagogue, and betook himself to a Gentile audience. At Corinth, upon his first coming thither, he reasoned in the synagogue every sabbath ; " but when the Jews opposed themselves, and blasphemed, he departed thence,"expressly
telling them, "from henceforth I will go unto the Gentiles; and he remained in that city a year and six months.” Acts xviii. 6-11. At Ephesus, in like manner, for the space of three months he went into the synagogue; but, “when divers were hardened and believed not, but spake evil of that way, he departed from them and separated the disciples, disputing daily in the school of one Tyrannus; and this continued by the space of two years." Acts xix. 9, 10. Upon inspecting the history, I see nothing in it which negatives the supposition, that St. Paul pursued the same plan at Thessalonica which he adopted in other places; and that, though he resorted to the synagogue only three sabbath-days, yet he remained in the city, and in the exercise of his ministry amongst the Gentile citizens, much longer; and until the success of his preaching had provoked the Jews to excite the tumult and insurrection by which he was driven away.
Another seeming discrepancy is found in the ninth verse of the first chapter of the epistle: “For they themselves show of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God.” This text contains an assertion, that, by means of St. Paul's ministry at Thessalonica, many idolatrous Gentiles had been brought over to Christianity. Yet the history, in describing the effects of that ministry, only says, that "some of the Jews believed, and of the devout Greeks a great multitude, and of the chief women not a few (xvii. 4). The devout Greeks were those who already worshipped the one true God; and therefore could not be said, by embracing Christianity, “to be turned to God from idols.”
This is the difficulty. The answer may be assisted by the following observations. The Alexandrian and Cambridge manuscripts read (for των σεβομένων ελλήνων πλήθος πολύ) των σεβομένων και ελλήνων πλήθος Tolù. In which reading they are also confirmed by the Vulgate Latin. And this reading is in my opinion strongly supported by the considerations, first, that oi oeßouévoi alone, i. e. without enves, is used in this sense in this same chapter, Paul being come to Athens, διελέγετο εν τη συναγωγή τους Ιούδάιους και τους σεβομένοις· secondly, that σεβόμενοι and enves no where come together. The expression is redundant. The oι σεβόμενοι must be έλληνες. Thirdly, that the kai is much more likely to have been left out incuriâ manûs than to have been put in. Or, after all, if we be not allowed to change the present reading, which is undoubtedly retained by a great plurality of copies, may not the passage in the history be considered as describing only the effects of St. Paul's discourses during the three sabbath-days in which he preached in the synagogue? and may it not be true, as we have remarked above, that his application to the Gentiles at large, and his success amongst them, was posterior to this?
The Second Epistle to the Thessalonians.
No. I. It may seem odd to allege obscurity itself as argument, or to draw a proof in favour of a writing