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To my mind, I confess, Dr. Paley's reasonings were alone sufficient to produce that conviction, before I read Michaelis's very able and decisive argument to prove this epistle the first of those extant written by St. Paul. But then I see no advantage or much probability in that eminent scholar's conjecture, that it was written at Thessalonica (A. xvii. 1...10.) or even before he arrived in that city. Vide Marsh's Translation of Michaelis on the New Testament, vol. iv. pp. 8, 9, 10. 1801.
A few observations, however, may not be without their effect in contributing to support the date from Corinth here assumed, pp. 47, 8., and against some objections which have been speciously urged on the other side.
1. The passage, iv. 13., has been appealed to: oldate δὲ, ὅτι δι ̓ ἀσθένειαν τῆς σαρκὸς εὐηγγελισάμην ὑμῖν τὸ πρότερον. Ye know how, through infirmity of the flesh, I preached the gospel unto you at the first." It has been maintained, that the concluding phrase ought to be translated, the first time, and that it clearly indicates St. Paul to have already visited the churches of Galatia more than once when he so wrote.
I answer, that the words rò póτepov might consist well enough with the fact of more than once, if more than once could otherwise be found. But, then, no direct or indirect allusion whatever to any other visit antecedent to this epistle any where appears in it.
Those words..."at the first"...only refer to his preaching while personally among them, as distinguished from his visitation now repeated through the medium of this epistle. And in the following verses,
18. It is good to be zealously affected always in a good thing, and not only when I am present with you. 19. My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you.
20. I desire [I could like] to be present with you now, and to change my voice; for I stand in doubt
Here we certainly read the apostle's strong wish that he might see them again, and in the word itself á (taken with the context) no obscure indication that it would then be for the second time.
2. That objection to the epistle having so early a date taken from the address, i. 2., "unto the churches of Galatia," may be easily disposed of.
We find only the church at Thessalonica, it is said, and the church only at Corinth. Some time, therefore, must have elapsed, before the Christians in Galatia could have formed themselves into separate churches.
I answer thus: Galatia was the name of a region having no single place of importance ever mentioned in the visitations of the apostle. As far therefore as his progress amongst them is concerned, we may rather conclude that the disciples did not live in any large city. The country may have been inhabited, vicatim, in small communities: a supposition which agrees well enough with the origin of the Galatic nation, as traced by St. Jerome, from their language, that of the Treviri (Michaelis, u. s. pp. 14, 15.) and which will also agree well with the several churches addressed in the opening of the epistle.
3. The following remark, as bearing on the early date, may have some weight, and deserve some attention.
According to our calculation, a short period only of time had intervened betwixt St. Paul's cruel treatment at Philippi, A. xvi. 23...33., and his arrival at Corinth, xviii. 1...4., the place from whence we think it most probable this epistle was written. In that singular expression then, GAL. vi. 17., “I bear in my body the
marks of the Lord Jesus," may we not trace something very like the recency of stripes, oriyμara, even yet in their scars visible?
And if the singularity of the phrase required explanation when that epistle was received by the Galatians, the messenger from St. Paul, who conveyed it, was at hand to interpret the meaning in all the particulars of the shameful infliction there alluded to. On some occasions, the messenger sent was expressly directed to give all requisite information beyond what was conveyed in the epistle thus, to the COLOSSIANS, iv. 7., “ All my state shall Tychicus declare unto you." At other times, as at v. 10., the parties addressed are reminded of some message previously transmitted by similar communication: thus, "Marcus, sister's son to Barnabas, touching whom ye received commandments: if he come unto you, receive him.” But the messages so sent (and to these add CoLoss. i. 7.) appear to have borne the character, be it remarked, of personal instruction or intelligence, not to have been charged with the delivery of any thing authoritative in a doctrinal
4. I am duely aware that the text, 1 COR. xvi. 1, 2. (see p. 57. of this work) in connection with that of GALAT. ii. 10. (there also) has been pressed into the service, for giving a later date to this epistle, as if it just preceded the Epistle to the CORINTHIANS.
The identity of that first general recommendation of a charity, in one of those texts, with the particular and exact direction for carrying it into effect, recorded in the other, has been assumed on very slight grounds of loose similitude. It cannot now be maintained, in the face, as I think these pages (already quoted) show, of that real occasion, on which such a direction would be naturally delivered by the apostle; that is, on his
second visitation of Galatia, under a change of circumstances more auspicious to such a purpose, and in part produced by the epistle itself, and when a contribution for the relief of the poor brethren at Jerusalem on a large scale was actually going forward.
On ACTS xviii. 9, 10. Vide p. 37. also.
The vision, and the thorn in the flesh as connected with that subject.
The thorn in the flesh, that vexata quæstio, belongs in the first instance to the epistle, 2 COR., as being there, xii. 7., most distinctly mentioned; while it is supposed, with good reason apparently, to have been the same with that infirmity of the flesh, and temptation, i. e. severe trial, in the flesh, at an earlier day recalled to the mind of the Galatians, GAL. iv. 13, 14., as having fallen under their notice.
Now the beatific vision enjoyed by St. Paul, to which he refers, 2 Cor. xii. 1...4., must have long preceded his first visit to Galatia: and therefore the thorn, if as a humiliation and chastisement, it came soon after that remarkable event, must also have preceded the visit into that region, and must have continued at least till that period, when they witnessed him actually suffering under it.
But in respect of the Corinthians, the case seems to be very different. different. Had they witnessed such a visible infirmity when he appeared in Corinth for the first time, A. xviii. 1., there could hardly be any need to tell them of it so very particularly now. Probably, therefore, even before he passed over into Europe, A. xvi. 11., his prayers for deliverance from the affliction had at length been heard. Not a vestige of its existence can be traced lower down than in that notice taken of it to the Galatians.
For be it here carefully remarked, that his being in presence base, or humble in look, among them, and the weakness of his bodily presence, 2 COR. x. 1. and 10., appear from the context to have formed the general character of the apostle, as opposed to the attributes of bold, weighty, powerful; whereas the thorn in the flesh, whatever else that buffeting of Satan was, must have been something in its very nature peculiar and for a season, perhaps only an affection under which he was made occasionally to labour.
But for a more decisive argument that St. Paul did not labour under it while at Corinth on his first visit there, the following consideration may be admitted, as coming at once to the point. When having at an early stage met with opposition and blasphemy in that city, A. xviii. 6., (and 1 Cor. ii. 3.) he stood in great need of supernatural support; do we find him, vv. 9, 10., relieved by exemption from any specific weakness? A general infusion of divine fortitude into his whole frame is there vouchsafed to the renovated apostle.