« PreviousContinue »
INTRODUCTION TO THE FIRST EPISTLE TO THE CORINTHIANS.
if God will." . Timothy's journey, we see, is mentioned, in the history and in the epistle, in close connexion with St. Paul's own. Here is the same order of thought and intention; yet conveyed under such diversity of circumstances and expression, and the mention of them in the epistle so allied to the occasion which introduces it, viz. the insinuation of his adversaries that he would come to Corinth no more, that I am persuaded no attentive reader will believe that these passages were written in concert with one another, or will doubt that the agreement is unsought and uncontrived.
But, in the Acts, Erastus accompanied Timothy in this journey, of whom no mention is made in the epistle. From what has been said in our observations upon the Epistle to the Romans, it appears probable that Erastus was a Corinthian. If so, though he accompanied Timothy to Corinth, he was only returning home, and Timothy was the messenger charged with St. Paul's orders. At any rate, this discrepancy shows that the passages were not taken from one another.
§ Chap. xvi. 10, 11: “Now if Timotheus come, see that he may be with you without fear; for he worketh the work of the Lord, as I also do: let no man therefore despise him, but conduct him forth in peace, that he may come unto me, for I look for him with the brethren."
From the passage considered in the preceding section, it appears that Timothy was sent to Corinth, either with the epistle, or before it : “ For this cause have I sent unto you Timotheus.". From the passage now quoted we infer that Timothy was not sent with the epistle ; for had he been the bearer of the letter, or accompanied it, would St. Paul in that letter have said, "If Timothy come?" Nor is the sequel consistent with the supposition of his carrying the letter; for if Timothy was with the apostle when he wrote the letter, could he say as he does, “ I look for him with the brethren?” I conclude therefore that Timothy had left St. Paul to proceed upon his journey before the letter was written. Farther, the passage before us seems to imply that Timothy was not expected by St. Paul to arrive at Corinth till after they had received the letter. He gives them directions in the letter how to treat him when he should arrive: “If he come," act towards him so and so. Lastly, the whole form of expression is most naturally applicable to the supposition of Timothy's coming to Corinth, not directly from St. Paul, but from some other quarter ; and that his instructions had been, when he should reach Corinth, to return. Now how stands this matter in the history ? Turn to the nineteenth chapter and twenty-first verse of the Acts, and you will find that Timothy did not, when sent from Ephesus, where he left St. Paul, and where the present epistle was written, proceed by a straight course to Corinth, but that he went round through Macedonia. This clears up every thing; for although Timothy was sent forth upon his journey before the letter was written, yet he might not reach Corinth till after the letter arrived there; and he would come to Corinth, when he did come, not directly from St. Paul at Ephesus, but from some part of Macedonia. Here therefore is a circumstantial and critical agreement, and unquestionably without design; for neither of the two passages in the epistle mentions Timothy's journey into Macedonia at all, though nothing but a circuit of that kind can explain and reconcile the expressions which the writer uses.
$ Chap. i. 12: "Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul, and I of Apollos, and I of Cephas, and I of Christ." Also iii. 6: "I have planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase.”
This expression, “ I have planted, Apollos watered," imports two things; first, that Paul had been at Corinth before Apollos; secondly, that Apollos had been at Corinth after Paul, but before the writing of this epistle. This implied account of the several events and of the order in which they took place, corresponds exactly with the history. St Paul, after his first visit into Greece, returned from Corinth into Syria, by the way of Ephesus; and dropping his companions Aquila and Priscilla at Ephesus, he proceeded forwards to Jerusalem ; from Jerusalem he descended to Antioch, and from thence made a progress through some of the
INTRODUCTION TO THE FIRST EPISTLE TO THE CORINTHIANS.
upper or northern provinces of the Lesser Asia, Acts xviii. 19, 23; during which progress, and consequently in the interval between St. Paul's first and second visit to Corinth, and consequently also before the writing of this epistle, which was at Ephesus, two years at least after the apostle's return from his progress, we hear of Apollos, and we hear of him at Corinth. Whilst St. Paul was engaged, as hath been said, in Phrygia and Galatia, Apollos came down to Ephesus; and being, in St. Paul's absence, instructed by Aquila and Priscilla, and having obtained letters of recommendation from the church at Ephesus, he passed over to Achaia; and when he was there we read that he “helped them much which had believed through grace, for he mightily convinced the Jews, and that publickly;” Acts xviii. 27, 28. To have brought Apollos into Achaia, of which Corinth was the capital city, as well as the principal Christian church, and to have shown that he preached the Gospel in that country, would have been sufficient for our purpose. But the history happens also to mention Corinth by name as the place in which Apollos, after his arrival in Achaia, fixed his residence ; for, proceeding with the account of St. Paul's travels, it tells us that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul, having passed through the upper coasts, came down to Ephesus, xix. 1. What is said, therefore, of Apollos in the epistle, coincides exactly and especially in the point of chronology what is delivered concerning him in the history. The only question now is, whether the allusions were made with a regard to this coincidence ? Now the occasions and purposes for which the name of Apollos is introduced in the Acts and in the Epistles are so independent and so remote, that it is impossible to discover the smallest reference from one to the other. Apollos is mentioned in the Acts in immediate connexion with the history of Aquila and Priscilla, and for the very singular circumstance of his “knowing only the baptism of John." In the epistle, where none of these circumstances are taken notice of, his name first occurs, for the purpose of reproving the contentious spirit of the Corinthians; and it occurs only in conjunction with that of some others : “Every one of you saith, I am of Paul, and I of Apollos, and I of Cephas, and I of Christ.” The second passage in which Apollos appears, “I have planted, Apollos watered,” fixes, as we have observed, the order of time amongst three distinct events; but it fixes this, I will venture to pronounce, without the writer perceiving that he was doing any such thing. The sentence fixes this order in exact conformity with the history; but it is itself introduced solely for the sake of the reflection which follows: “Neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth, but God that giveth the increase.”
$ Chap. iv. 11, 12: "Even unto this present hour we both hunger and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwelling-place; and labour, working with our own hands."
We are expressly told in the history, that at Corinth St. Paul laboured with his own hands : " He found Aquila and Priscilla; and, because he was of the same craft, he abode with them, and wrought; for by their occupation they were tent-makers." But in the text before us he is made to say, that “He laboured even unto this present hour,” that is, to the time of writing the epistle at Ephesus. Now, in the narration of St. Paul's transactions at Ephesus, delivered in the nineteenth chapter of the Acts, nothing is said of his working with kis own hands; but in the twentieth chapter we read, that upon his return from Greece he sent for the elders of the church of Ephesus to meet him at Miletus ; and in the discourse which he there addressed to them, amidst some other reflections which he calls to their remembrance, we find the following: “I have coveted no man's silver, or gold, or apparel ; yea, you yourselves also know, that these hands have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me.” The reader will not forget to remark, that though St. Paul be now at Miletus, it is to the elders of the church, Ephesus he is speaking, when he says, " Ye yourselves know that these hands have ministered to my necessities;” and that the whole discourse relates to his conduct during his last preceding residence at Ephesus. That manual labour, therefore, which he had exercised at Corinth, he continued at Ephesus ; and not only so, but continued it during that particular residence at Ephesus, near the conclusion of which this epistle was written ; so that he might with the strictest truth say, at the time of writing the epistle, "Even unto this present hour we labour, working with our own hands.” The correspondency is sufficient, then, as to the undesignedness of it. It is manifest
INTRODUCTION TO THE FIRST EPISTLE TO THE CORINTHIANS.
to my judgment, that if the history in this article had been taken from the epistle, this circumstance, if it appeared at all, would have appeared in its place, that is, in the direct account of St. Paul's transactions at Ephesus. The correspondency would not have been effected, as it is, by a kind of reflected stroke, that is, by a reference in a subsequent speech to what in the narrative was omitted. Nor is it likely, on the other hand, that a circumstance which is not extant in the history of St. Paul at Ephesus, should have been made the subject of a factitious allusion, in an epistle purporting to be written by him from that place; not to mention that the allusion itself, especially as to time, is too oblique and general to answer any purpose of forgery whatever.
$ Chap. ix. 20: “ And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law.”
We have the disposition here described exemplified in two instances which the history records ; one, Acts xvi. 3: “Him (Timothy) would Paul have to go forth with him, and took and circumcised him, because of the Jews in those quarters ; for they knew all that his father was a Greek.” This was before the writing of the epistle. The other, Acts xxi. 23, 26, and after the writing of the epistle: “Do this that we say to thee; we have four men which have a vow on them; them take, and purify thyself with them, that they may shave their heads; and all may know that those things whereof they were informed concerning thee are nothing ; but that thou thyself also walkest orderly, and keepest the law. Then Paul took the men, and the next day, purifying himself with them, entered into the temple." Nor does this concurrence between the character and the instances look like the result of contrivance. St. Paul, in the epistle, describes, or is made to describe, his own accommodating conduct towards Jews and towards Gentiles, towards the weak and over-scrupulous, towards men indeed of every variety of character : “ To them that are without law as without law, being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ, that I might gain them that are without law; to the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak; I am made all things to all men, that I might gain some.” This is the sequel of the text which stands at the head of the present section. Taking therefore the whole passage together, the apostle's condescension to the Jews is mentioned only as a part of his general disposition towards all. It is not probable that this character should have been made up from the instances in the Acts, which relate solely to his dealings with the Jews. It is not probable that a sophist should take his hint from those instances, and then extend it so much beyond them; and it is still more incredible that the two instances in the Acts, circumstantially related and interwoven with the history, should have been fabricated, in order to suit the character which St. Paul gives of himself in the epistle.
§ Chap. i. 14–17: “I thank God that I baptized none of you but Crispus and Gaius, lest any should say that I baptized in my own name; and I baptized also the household of Stephanas: besides, I know not whether I baptized any other; for Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the Gospel.”
It may be expected that those whom the apostle baptized with his own hands were converts distinguished from the rest by some circumstance, either of eminence or of connexion with him. Accordingly, of the three names here mentioned, Crispus, we find from Acts xviii. 8, was a “chief ruler of the Jewish synagogue at Corinth, who believed in the Lord with all his house.” Gaius, it appears from Romans xvi. 23, was St. Paul's host at Corinth, and the host, he tells us, " of the whole church.”. The household of Stephanas, we read in the sixteenth chapter of this epistle, “ were the firstfruits of Achaia. Here therefore is the propriety we expected ; and it is a proof of reality not to be contemned; for their names appearing in the several places in which they occur, with a mark of distinction belonging to each, could hardly be the effect of chance, without any truth to direct it: and on the other hand, to suppose that they were picked out from these passages, and brought together in the text before us in order to display a conformity of names, is both improbable
INTRODUCTION TO THE FIRST EPISTLE TO THE CORINTHIANS,
in itself, and is rendered more so by the purpose for which they are introduced. They come in to assist St. Paul's exculpation of himself against the possible charge of having assumed the character of the founder of a separate religion, and with no other visible or, as I think, imaginable design.
§ Chap. xvi. 10, 11. “Now if Timotheus come, let no man despise him."—Why despise him? This charge is not given concerning any other messenger whom St. Paul sent: and, in the different epistles, many such messengers are mentioned. Turn to 1st of Timothy, chap. ir. 12, and you will find that Timothy was a young man, younger probably than those who were usually employed in the Christian mission; and that St. Paul, apprehending lest he should on that account be exposed to contempt, urges upon him the caution which is there inserted : “Let no man despise thy youth.”
$ Chap. xvi. 1. “Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye.”
The churches of Galatia and Phrygia were the last churches which St. Paul had visited before the writing of this epistle. He was now at Ephesus, and he came thither immediately from visiting these churches: “He went over all the country of Galatia and Phrygia in order, strengthening all the disciples. And it came to pass that Paul, having passed through the upper coasts (viz. the above-named countries, called the upper coasts, as being the northern part of Asia Minor), came to Ephesus ;" Acts xviii. 23; xix. 1. These, therefore, probably, were the last churches at which he left directions for their public conduct during his absence. Although two years intervened between his journey to Ephesus and his writing this epistle, yet it does not appear that during that time he visited any other church. That he had not been silent when he was in Galatia upon this subject of contribution for the poor, is farther made out from a hint which he lets fall in his epistle to that church : “ Only they (viz. the other apostles) would that we should remember the poor; the same which I also was forward to do.”
$ Chap. iv. 18.
“Now some are puffed up, as though I would not come to you."
* Chap. i. 1. “Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and Sosthenes, our brother, unto the church of God, which is at Corinth." The only account we have of any person who bore the name of Sosthenes is found in the eighteenth chapter of the Acts. When the Jews at Corinth bad brought Paul before Gallio, and Gallio had dismissed their complaint as unworthy of his interference, and had driven them from the judgment-seat ; “then all the Greeks,” says the historian, “ took Sosthenes, the chief ruler of the synagogue, and beat him before the judgment-scat. The Sosthenes here spoken of was a Corinthian; and, if he was a Christian, and with St. Paul when he wrote this epistle, was likely enough to be joined with bim in the salutation of the Corinthian church. But here occurs a difficulty: If Sosthenes was a Christian at the time of this uproar, why should the Greeks beat him? The assault upon the Christians was made by the Jews. It was the Jews who had brought Paul before the magistrate. If it had been the Jews also who had beaten Sosthenes, I should not have doubted that he had been a favourer of St. Paul, and the same person who is joined with him in the epistle. Let us see, therefore, whether there be not some error in our present text. The Alexandrian manuscript gives Favreç alone, without oi ‘EAlnyes, and is followed in this reading by the Coptic version, by the Arabic version published by Erpenius, by the Vulgate, and by Bede's Latin version. Three Greek manuscripts again, as well as Chrysostom, give og lorcave, in the place of oi EXInves. A great plurality of manuscripts authorise the reading which is retained in our copies. In this variety it appears to me extremely probable that the historian originally wrote Tartas alone, and that oi 'Exnyes, and oi Iovòaloe, have been respectively added as explanatory of what the word Tartes was supposed to mean. The sentence without the addition of either name would run very perspicuously, thus: “Και απηλασεν αυτους απο του βηματος. Επιλαβομενοι δε παντες Σωσθενην τον αρχισυναγωγον, ετυπτων lumpotbky Tov Bauaros* and he drove them away from the judgment-seat; and they all,” viz. the crowd of Jews whom the judge had bid begone, "took Sosthenes, and beat him before the judgment-seat.” It is Certain that, as the whole body of the people were Greeks, the application of all to them was unusual and bard. If I were describing an insurrection at Paris, I might say all the Jews, all the Protestants, or all the English, acted so and so ; but I should scarcely say all the French, when the whole mass of the community were of that description. See the Note on Acts xviji. 17, where the subject mentioned here by the leaned Archdeacon is particularly considered.
INTRODUCTION TO THE FIRST EPISTLE TO THE CORINTHIANS.
Why should they suppose that he would not come? Turn to the first chapter of the Second Epistle to the Corinthians, and you will find that he had already disappointed them: “ I was minded to come unto you before, that you might have a second benefit; and to pass by you into Macedonia, and to come again out of Macedonia unto you, and of you to be brought on my way toward Judea. When I therefore was thus minded, did I use lightness ? Or the things that I purpose, do I purpose according to the flesh, that with me there should be yea, yea, and nay, nay? But, as God is true, our word toward you was not yea and nay." It appears from this quotation that he had not only intended, but that he had promised them a visit before; for, otherwise, why should he apologise for the change of his purpose, or express so much anxiety lest this change should be imputed to any culpable fickleness in his temper; and lest he should thereby seem to them as one whose word was not in any sort to be depended upon ? Besides which, the terms made use of plainly refer to a promise : “Our word toward you was not yea and nay.” St. Paul, therefore, had signified an intention which he had not been able to execute; and this seeming breach of his word, and the delay of his visit, had, with some who were evil affected towards him, given birth to a suggestion that he would come no more to Corinth.
§ Chap. v. 7, 8. “For even Christ, our passover, is sacrificed for us: therefore, let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth."
Dr. Benson tells us, that from this passage, compared with chapter xvi. 8, it has been conjectured that this epistle was written about the time of the Jewish passover ; and to me the conjecture appears to be very well founded. The passage to which Dr. Benson refers us is this: " I will tarry at Ephesus until Pentecost.” With this passage he ought to have joined another in the same context: “And it may be that I will abide, yea, and winter with you;" for, from the two passages laid together, it follows that the epistle was written before Pentecost, yet after winter; which necessarily determines the date to the part of the year within which the passover falls. It was written before Pentecost, because he says, “I will tarry at Ephesus until Pentecost.” It was written after winter, because he tells them, “It may be that I may abide, yea, and winter with you.” The winter which the apostle purposed to pass at Corinth was undoubtedly the winter next ensuing to the date of the epistle ; yet it was a winter subsequent to the ensuing Pentecost, because he did not intend to set forwards upon his journey till after that feast. The words, “Let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth,” look very like words suggested by the season; at least they have, upon that supposition, a force and significancy which do not belong to them upon any other; and it is not a little remarkable that the hints casually dropped in the epistle concerning particular parts of the year should coincide with this supposition.
London, Oct. 1, 1814.