« Prev Note F. On the Supposed Second Captivity of Paul. Next »

F. [See page 203.]


A large number of writers, both ancient and modern, have admitted a second captivity of the Apostle Paul. Eusebius656656Eusebius, "Hist. Eccles.," ii, 21. and Jerome657657Hieronym., "In Esaiam," xi, 14. support it with their testimony. Among modern writers Neander ("Pflanz.," i, 538) holds the same opinion. We are not prepared to admit it, and we adopt in this respect the views of M. Reuss658658"Geschichte der Heiligen Schriften, N. T.," p. 125. "Revue de Théologie," 2d vol., 3d part, p. 150. and of Wieseler.659659Wieseler, "Chronol. des Apost. Zeit.," p. 521. We shall confine ourselves to a refutation of Neander, who has presented with great ability all the arguments in favor of the second captivity of Paul. The learned historian does not attach much importance to the testimony of Eusebius, thus expressed:

"It is reported that after having presented his defense, the Apostle departed to continue his apostolic mission, and that he returned a second time to Rome, there to suffer martyrdom. At that time, while in bonds, his second letter to Timothy must have been written." It is clear that Eusebius does not affirm the fact; he merely says, "It is reported." It is only the echo of a tradition, of which he does not assume the responsibility. This tradition rests evidently on the famous passage of Clement of Rome, in his epistle to the Corinthians. It runs thus: "Paul, having preached righteousness through the whole world, and 493having reached the uttermost parts of the West, suffered martyrdom under the emperors, thus departed fiom their world."660660Clement, "Ep. ad Corinth.," chap. 5. This passage appears conclusive to Neander. He insists strongly on the expression, "The uttermost parts of the West." This appears to him to point to Spain, where Paul declared his intention to preach the Gospel. Rom. xv, 24. The latter declaration does not appear to Neander as irrefragable proof, for he admits, as we do, that Paul, though an Apostle, might form a project and yet be prevented from carrying it out. Combining this declaration, however, with the testimony of Clement, he draws the conclusion that Paul was actually enabled to fulfill it. But it is necessary to ascertain if the passage of Clement has in truth the signification attached to it. Wieseler has well shown that the text bears evident traces of interpolation, and cannot be relied upon with certainty. Then, also, the tone of Clement in this portion of his first letter to the Corinthians is not that of the historian, but of the orator, who uses hyperboles of speech. When he says that Paul preached the Gospel through the whole world, he makes no claim to be taken literally, and to affirm that Paul went into Gaul or Britain. He is not less hyperbolic when he uses the expression, " The uttermost parts of the West." Was not Rome the metropolis of the Western world? To preach the Gospel at Rome, was not this to preach it to the whole of the West? The vague expression of Eusebius, already quoted, ὁγόλος ἔχει, proves that in his time it was not considered permissible to take the passage of Clement literally. It does not seem to us needful to have recourse to the too ingenious explanation of M. Reuss, who sees in this passage a bold and poetic image—a comparison of the career of Paul to that of the sun.661661A fragment from the canon of Muratori is also called in evidence. It runs thus: "Sed profectionem Pauli ad urbe id Spaniam proficiscentis." Bunsen, "Analecta Antinicæna," i, 139. But it is not possible to draw conclusions of any certainty from so mutilated a text. All that can be inferred from it is, that at a period even then remote, the tradition of a journey of Paul into Spain was current in the Church. It was founded evidently upon the passage Rom. xv, 24. The passage of Dionysius of Corinth, quoted by Eusebius, ("Hist. Eccles.," ii, 25,) which states that Peter and Paul founded the Church at Corinth, and then came to Rome together, has clearly no historic value.

The other proof adduced by Neander is founded on exegesis. He bases it on the second Epistle to Timothy, in which Paul seems to speak of his deliverance. 2 Tim. iv, 16. We see no necessity for admitting this explanation, since the deliverance of which the Apostle 494speaks may very well be understood of the good effect produced by his first appearance before the imperial tribunal. Neander maintains that the manner in which Paul points out the heresies of Ephesus implies a recent journey to that place. 2 Tim. ii, 17. But we know how easy it was for him in the early stages of his captivity to obtain exact and frequent information as to the state of the Churches. The most plausible reason adduced by Neander is drawn from some perplexing features of the epistle, which seem to point to a recent journey of the Apostle in Asia Minor. For instance, he asks for his cloak and the parchments left at Troas. 2 Tim. iv, 13. But this may have reference to the journey from Troas, of which we read in Acts xx, 5. The parchments might be required by Paul for his defense, and he might not until this time have had an opportunity of having them brought to him. When he says (2 Tim. iv, 20) "Trophimus have I left at Miletum sick," it does not necessarily imply that he had been there himself. May we not suppose, with Wieseler, that Trophimus accompanied Paul in his journey from Asia Minor to Rome, and that when the travelers stopped at Myra in Lycia, (Acts xxvii, 5,) a town very near to Miletum, Trophimus was compelled by sickness to stop, and went on to Miletum? Paul's reference to the fact in his second letter to Timothy may be accounted for by supposing that he had need of the witness of Trophimus in the preparation for his trial, and it may be for the same reason that he speaks of Erastus, who "abode at Corinth," (2 Tim. iv, 20,) for the latter, who, we learn from Rom. xvi, 23, was one of the chamberlains of the city, might be able to render him valuable service on his trial. With reference to the reasons drawn by Neander from the date of the First Epistle to Timothy, and from that of the letter to Titus, we have already set these aside by accepting the hypothesis of a journey made by Paul into Europe, during his stay at Ephesus. We have also obviated the objection founded on the growth of heresies in Asia Minor, by proving the antiquity of those heresies, as shown in Paul's farewell address at Miletum. Thus we hold none of the arguments in favor of a second captivity of Paul to be conclusive. We see two serious objections to this hypothesis: 1. The difficulty of supposing that Paul can have obtained a regular trial from Nero, after the terrible persecution recorded by Tacitus. 2. The small probability that the main facts of the first captivity, such as the appeal to Cæsar, should have been repeated in the very same manner in the second.

« Prev Note F. On the Supposed Second Captivity of Paul. Next »
Please login or register to save highlights and make annotations
Corrections disabled for this book
Proofing disabled for this book
Printer-friendly version


| Define | Popups: Login | Register | Prev Next | Help |