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Έι δε εν τοίς βίβλοις ετέραν έχουσι τάξιν, θαυμαστόν ουδεν επεί και οι προφήται οι δώδεκα ουκ εφεξής αλλήλοις όντες κατά τους χρόνους, αλλά πολύ διεστηκότες αλλήλων, εν τη των βιβλίων τάξει εφεξής εισι κείμενοι. .... όμως συνημμένοι πάσιν εισιν εκείνοις, ών τοσούτον τω χρόνω διεστήκασι.
Μηδείς δε πάρεργον τούτον ηγείσθω τον πόνον, μηδε περιεργίας περιττης την τοιαύτην έρευναν συντελεί γαρ ημίν προς τα ζητούμενα ου μικρών και των επιστολών χρόνος. – Chrysostom.
Multo autem dignior consideratu est ordo chronologicus. Eo constituto, et historia apostolica et ipsae epistolae mutuam sibi lucem afferunt: et congruentia noëmatum locutionumque in epistolis uno tempore super eodem rerum statu scriptis cernitur : et incrementum apostoli spirituale cognoscitur. Bengel.
If each Letter look dim, and have little light, after all study ;-yet let the Historical reader reflect, such light as it has cannot be disputed at all. ... The Letter hangs there in the dark abysses of the Past : if like a star almost extinct, yet like a real star ; fixed ; about which there is no cavilling possible. That autograph Letter, it was once all luminous as a burning beacon, every word of it a live coal, in its time; it was once a piece of the general fire and light of Human Life, that Letter ! Neither is it yet entirely extinct: well read, there is still in it light enough to exhibit its own self ; nay, to diffuse a faint authentic twilight some distance round it. By degrees the combined small twilights may produce a kind of general feeble twilight, rendering the Past credible! Such is the effect of contemporary letters always.-Carlyle.
THE LETTERS OF PAUL
A YEAR or two after the death of Jesus, one of the brilliant leaders in the Jewish party of the Pharisees suddenly (κατελήμφθην υπό Χριστου) became a Christian. Like John Knox, for the earlier part of his life Paul is largely a mystery, and even after his change into the Christian faith a serious gap occurs, unfilled by many incidents. But during the closing decade of his life he had a brilliant crowded career which has left copious and distinct traces of its effectiveness. The moral and spiritual change in Paul turned out to be a crisis for the Christian society as well as for himself.1 To many minds and hearts in that age he proved a veritable priest of the wonder and bloom of the Christian faith. But even apart from the new sweep given to the Christian spirit by his thought and practical energies, 2 his preaching brought to a head the conflict which had been implied in previous discussions, especially in the matter of Stephen's
attitude, between the universalism of the Christian principle and the 1 time-honoured privileges of the λαός, the νόμος, and the άγιος τόπος
(Ac 2128). His activity represents the expansion of the new faith into its legitimate sphere and destined vocation. It implied from the outset the enterprise of reaching the Gentiles, an expansion which came to be shaped constructively in controversy, first with Judaic principles, then, at a later period, with Hellenic speculation. These phases, especially the former, come out in Paul's letters, and give them a large part of their historic significance. In the mosaics of the Arian baptistery at Ravenna Paul is represented beside the throne of Jesus carrying in his hand two rolls of parchment; and from the point of view of the NT literature this gives an exact symbol of his position. Others may have written, but if so their writings perished. Several of Paul's own letters have been also lost. But even with those nine or ten which are still extant, graphic, pregnant, and suggestive, he remains the chief literary witness to a remarkable side of that church life in which he played himself so notable a part. He threw himself upon his age with an energy of insight and practical service which-the evidence amply justifies us in believing—was not equalled, as it was hardly approached by any one of the original disciples or of their immediate successors. In relation to the Christian faith, he performed two signal services : reflection and expression.3 By means of his correspondence,
1“ Here, if at any point in history, we may believe that the Spirit of the World, if the world' has a spirit, was at work (Goldwin Smith).
2 Note an incidental proof of his immediate impressiveness and attraction (Ac 925, o' peelingoà xútoû).
3 “ The upshot of his meditation was a body of doctrine which for subtlety, penetration, harmony, and completeness, is unsurpassed in the history of religious
it is feasible to construct not only an outline of his characteristic personality, but also a sketch of the general situation within many of the early Christian societies. Thanks to those writings which have survived, more materials exist for gaining some inner knowledge of the Christian history between 45 and 60, than for almost any other period within the first century. These years at least are vocal. To step after step within the whole of that period Paul is a contemporary witness in the same exact and historical sense as (say) Andokides to the crisis of 415-390 B.C. in Athens, Philo to the sufferings of the Jews under Sejanus and Caligula, or Procopius to the African campaigns of Belisarius. His letters indeed are transcripts of an individual mind. The “beautiful human Paul,” whom Steck so strangely misses outside 1 the pages of “ Acts," can be recognised most distinctly in his epistles. At the same time, the Pauline letters have an even wider and more representative value. In many a passage they reflect the common ideas and emotions that surged round himself and other members of the Christian communities in that age under the pressure exerted by its civil and religious environment. Paul stood in the mid-current of his time. He has gathered up in himself and expressed not merely the activity and far-reaching views which characterised the best Christianity among his contemporaries, but also its two features of supreme interest and significance — the transition of Judaism into or away from Christianity, and the earliest attempts of the new faith to define its attitude towards the responsibilities and destinies involved in a mature existence. It is this representative element that brings the Pauline letters irresistibly to the mind as we read the vaster correspondence of a man like Bernard in the twelfth century. Lying at opposite poles of conviction and interest, both mirror as they helped originally to move, in its personal and social aspects, a religious force which spread with flooding waves over contemporary life ; both also are the revelation of a personal ascendancy quite unique in its range, and of a strangely isolated influence over these communities and individuals who were drawn within the circle of its passionate imperious devotion, to be swayed and served.
A scheme of Paul's life, with his work and works, lies outside the scope of these pages. At this point there is only need and room for an outline of the author's career that may serve as a setting for his writings.
To conceive of literary composition as anything like a predominating interest, and thus to underestimate the absorbing claims of his practical mission, would be as erroneous in a study of Paul as in an appreciation, for example, of Ezekiel's career among the Jews in Babylon. But there are two noticeable features upon the surface of his biography. (a) Paul's literary productions—those at least which have come down to us
-were evidently occasional. Within the closing decade of his life they speculation. It bears the same relation to dogmatic Christianity that Platonism does to Greek philosophy, being the source to which Christianity has had to return for refreshment and renewal at every crisis of her history. It proceeds on the assumption that if Christianity is to be fitted for universal acceptance, it must rely on something more than the mere testimony of eye-witnesses, or the demonstrations of fulfilled prophecy-or even of such visions as he himself had had” (J. B. Crozier, Hist. Intell. Developm., pp. 340, 341). (Havet, “Je ne dirai pas : Voilà la théologie de Paul. Je dirai : Voilà la théologie !) Cp. also Wrede, Veber Aufgabe u. Methode d. sogen. NT Th. (1897), p. 64 f.
1 On the contrast between the Paul of Acts and the Paul of the epistles, see Dr. Cone, Paul the Man, the Missionary, and the Teacher, ch. vii., where most of the chief points are thrown into sharp relief.