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CRITICISM OF ORIGINAL DOCUMENTS.
The fifteen or sixteen years of religious history comprised in this volume in the embryonic age of Christianity, are the years with which we are best acquainted. Jesus and the primitive Church at Jerusalem resemble the images of a far-off paradise, lost in a mysterious mist. On the other hand, the arrival of St Paul at Rome, in consequence of the step the Author of the Acts has taken in closing at that juncture his narrative, marks in the history of Christian origins the commencement of a profound darkness into which the bloody glare of the barbarous feasts of Nero, and the thunders of the Apocalypse, cast only a few gleams. In particular, the death of the Apostles is enveloped in an impenetrable obscurity. On the contrary, the era of the missions of St Paul, especially of the second mission and the third, is known to us through documents of the greatest value. The Acts, till then so legendary, become suddenly quite authentic; the last chapters, composed in part of the narrative of an eye-witness, are the sole complete historical writings which we have of the early times of Christianity. In fine, those years, through a privilege very rare in similar circumstances, provide us with documents, the dates of which are absolutely authentic, and a series of letters, the most important of which have withstood all the tests of criticism, and which have never been subjected to interpolations.
In the introduction to the preceding volume, we have made an examination of the Book of Acts. We must now discuss seriatim the different epistles which bear the name of St Paul. The Apostle informs us himself, that even during his lifetime there were in circulation in his name several spurious letters, and he often took precautions to prevent frauds. We are, therefore, only carrying out his intentions in subjecting the writings which have been put forth as his to a rigorous censorship.
There are in the New Testament fourteen of such epistles, which it will be necessary at the outset to divide into two distinct categories. Thirteen of these writings bear in the text of the letter the name of the Apostle. In other words, these letters profess to be the works of viiiPaul, so that there is no choice between the following two hypotheses: either that Paul is really the author, or that they are the work of an impostor, who wished to have his compositions passed off as the work of Paul. On the other band, the fourteenth epistle, the one to the Hebrews, does not bear the name of Paul in the superscription)11In a note, the author defines “superscription” to mean the first phrase of the texts, and “title “as the heading of each chapter.—Translator.; the author plunges at once in medias res without giving his name. The attribution of that epistle to Paul is founded only on tradition.
The thirteen epistles which profess to belong to Paul may, in regard to authenticity, be ranged into five classes:—
1. Epistles incontestable and uncontested. These are the Epistles to the Galatians, the two Epistles to the Corinthians, and the Epistle to the Romans.
2. Epistles that are undoubted, although some objections have been taken to them. These are the two Epistles to the Thessalonians, and the Epistle to the Philippians.
3. Epistles of a probable authenticity, although grave objections have been taken to them. This is the Epistle to the Colossians, to which is annexed the note to Philemon
4. Epistle doubtful. This is the epistle addressed to the Ephesians.
5. Epistles false. These are the two Epistles to Timothy, and the Epistle to Titus.
We have nothing to remark here in regard to the epistles of the first category; the most severe critics, such as Christian Baur, accept them reservedly. We shall hardly insist on discussing the epistles of the second class either. The difficulties which certain modern writers have raised against them, are merely those slight suspicions which it is the duty of the critic to point out frankly, but without being determined by them when stronger reasons should sway him. Now, these three epistles have a character of authenticity which outweighs every other consideration. The only serious difficulty which has been raised against the Epistles to the Thessalonians, is deduced from the theory of the Anti-Christ appended in the second chapter of the second Epistle to the Thessalonians,—a theory which seems identical with that of the Apocalypse, and which consequently assumed Nero to be dead when the books were written. But that objection permits of solution, as we shall see in the course of the present volume. The author of the Apocalypse only applied to his times an assemblage of ideas, one part of which went back even to the origins of Christian belief, while the other part had reference to the times of Caligula.
The Epistle to the Colossians has been subjected to a much more serious fire of objection.. It is undoubted that the language used in that epistle to express the part played by Jesus in the bosom of the divinity, as creator and prototype of all creation, trenches strongly on the language of certain other epistles, and seems to approach in style the writings attributed to John. In rending such passages one believes oneself to be in the full swing of Gnosticism. The language of the Epistle to the Colossians is far removed from that of the undoubted epistles. The vocabulary is a little different; the style is more emphatic and more ixround, and less abrupt and natural. At points it is embarrassed, declamatory and overcharged, similar to the style of the false Epistles to Timothy and to Titus. The ideas are hardly those with which one would expect to meet in Paul. Nevertheless, justification by faith occupies no longer the first place in the predilections of the Apostle. The theory of the angels is much more developed; the æons begin to appear. The redemption of Christ is no longer simply a terrestrial fact; it is extended to the entire universe. Certain critics have been able to discern in many passages either imitations of the other epistles, or the desire of reconciling the peculiar bias of Paul to the different schools of his own (a desire so apparent in the author of the Acts), or the inclination to substitute moral and metaphysical formulas, such as love and science, for the formulas of faith and works which, during the first century, had caused so many contests. Other critics, in order to explain that singular mixture of things agreeable to Paul, and of things but little agreeable to him, have recourse to interpolations, or assume that Paul confided the editing of the epistle in question to Timothy. It is certain that when we sift this epistle to the bottom, as well as the one to the Philippians, for a continued account of the life of Paul, we are not quite so successful as in the great epistles of certain authenticity, anterior to the captivity of Paul. In the latter, the operation furnished, so to speak, its own proofs; the facts and the texts fit the one into the other without effort, and seem to recall one another. In the epistles pertaining to the captivity, on the contrary, more than one laborious combination is required, and more than one contradiction has to be silenced; at first sight, the goings and comings of the disciples do not agree, many of the circumstances of time and place are presented, if we may so speak, backwards.
There is, nevertheless, nothing about all this which is decisive. If the Epistle to the Colossians is, as we believe it to be, the work of Paul, it was written during the last days of the life of the Apostle, at a date when his biography is very obscure. We shall show later on that it is quite admissible, that the theology of St Paul, which, from the Epistles to the Thessalonians to the Epistle to the Romans, is so strongly developed, was developed still further in the interval between the Epistle to the Romans and that of his death. We shall show likewise, that the most energetic expressions of the Epistle to the Colossians were only a short advance upon those of the anterior epistles. St Paul was one of those men who, through their natural bent of mind, have a tendency to pass from one order of ideas to another, even though their style and their manner of perception present sentiments the most fixed. The taint of Gnosticism which is to be found in the Epistle to the Colossians is encountered, though less articulated in the other writings of the New Testament, in the Apocalypse, and in the Epistle to the Hebrews. In place of rejecting some passages of the New Testament in which are to be found traces of Gnosticism, we must sometimes reason inversely, and seek out in these passages the origin of the gnostic ideas which prevailed in the Second Century. We may, in a sense, even say, that these ideas were anterior to Christianity, and that nascent Christianity borrowed more than once from Gnosticism. In a xword, the Epistle to the Colossians, though full of eccentricities, does not embrace any of those impossibilities which are to be found in the Epistles to Titus and to Timothy. It furnishes even many of those details which reject the hypothesis as false. Assuredly of this number is its connection with the note to Philemon. If the epistle is apocryphal, the note is apocryphal also; yet few of the pages have so pronounced a tone of sincerity; Paul alone, as it appears to us, could write that little master-piece. The apocryphal epistles of the New Testament—those, for example, to Titus and to Timothy—are awkward and dull. The Epistle to Philemon resembles in nothing these fastidious imitations.
Finally, we shell soon show that the so-called Epistle to the Ephesian is in part copied from the Epistle to the Colossians, which leads to the supposition, that the compiler of the Epistle to the Ephesians firmly regarded the Epistle to the Colossians as an original apostolic. Note, also, that Marcion, who is in general so well informed in his criticism on the writings of Paul,—Marcion who so justly rejected the Epistles to Titus and to Timothy,—admits unreservedly in his collection the two epistles of which we have just been speaking.
Infinitely more strong are the objection. which can be raised against the so-called Epistle to the Ephesians. And first of all, note that this designation is nothing if not certain. The epistle has absolutely no seal of circumstance; it is addressed to no one in particular; those to whom it was addressed occupied for the moment a smaller place in the thoughts of Paul than his other correspondents. Is it admissible that Paul could have written to a Church with which he had so intimate relations, without saluting anybody, without conveying to the brethren the salutation of the brethren with whom they were acquainted, and particularly Timothy, without addressing to his disciples some counsel, without reminding them of anterior relations, and without the composition presenting any of those peculiar features which constitute the most authentic character of the other epistles?
The composition is addressed to converted Pagans; now the Church at Ephesus was, in great part, Judæo-Christian. When we remember with what eagerness Paul in all his epistles seized on and invented pretexts for speaking of his ministry and of his preaching, we experience a lively surprise in seeing him throughout the course of a letter addressed to these same Ephesians—“that for the space of three years he did not cease, night and day, to exhort with tears”—lose every opportunity presented to him of reminding them of his sojourn amongst them; in seeing him, I say, obstinately confining himself to abstract philosophy, or, what is more singular, to the lifeless formulas least suited to the growth of the first Church. How different it is in the Epistles to the Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, and Thessalonians, even in the Epistle to those Colossians, whom, however, the Apostle even only knew indirectly. The Epistle to the Romans is the only one which in this respect resembles somewhat the epistles in question. Like them, the Epistle to the Romans is a complete doctrinal expos’; whilst in regard to the epistles addressed to those readers who had received from him the Gospel, Paul supposes always the basis of his teaching to be known, and contents himself with insisting upon some point which is related to xiit. How does it come about that the only two impersonal letters of St Paul are, in the one case, an epistle addressed to a Church which he had never seen, and in the other, an epistle addressed to the Church with which he had the most extended and continuous relations!
The reading of the so-called Epistle to the Ephesians suffices, therefore, to awaken the suspicion that the letter in question had not been addressed to the Church at Ephesus. The evidence furnished by the manuscripts changes these suspicions into certainty. The words ἐν Ἐφέσῳ, in the first verse, were introduced about the end of the fourth century. The Vatican manuscript, and the Codex Sinaiticus, both of the fourth century, and whose authority, at least, when they are in accord, are more important than that of all the other manuscripts together, do not contain these words. A Vienne manuscript, the one which is designated in the collection of the Epistles of Paul by the figures 67, of the eleventh or twelfth centuries, presents them erased. St Basil maintains that the ancient manuscripts which he was able to consult did not have these word. Finally, the testimony of the third century proves that at that epoch, the existence of the said words in the first verse was unknown. If then everybody believed that the epistle of which we are speaking had been addressed to the Ephesians, it was in virtue of the title, and not in virtue of the superscription. A man who, in spite of the a priori dogmatic sprit which is often carried into the correction of the holy books, had frequently flashes of true criticism, Marcion (about 150 A.D.), contended that the so-called Epistle to the Ephesians was the Epistle to the Laodicæans, of whom St Paul speaks in the Epistle to the Colossians. That which appears the most certain is, that the so-called Epistle to the Ephesians was not addressed to any special Church, and that if it belongs to St Paul, it is a simple circular letter intended for the churches in Asia which were composed of converted Pagans. The superscription of these letters, of which there are several copies, might present, according to the words τοῖς οὖσιν, a blank destined to receive the name of the Church to which it was addressed. Perhaps the Church at Ephesus possessed one of these copies of which the compiler of the letters of Paul availed himself. The fact of finding one such copy at Ephesus appeared to him a sufficient reason for writing at the head Πρὸς Ἐφεσίους. As it was omitted at an early date to preserve a blank after οὖσιν, the superscription became: τοῖς αγίοις τοῖς οὖσιν, χαὶ πιστοῖς, a rather unsatisfactory reading which may have been rectified in the fourth century, by inserting after οὖσιν, in conformity with the title, the words ἐν Ἐφέσῳ.
This doubt in regard to the recipients of the so-called Epistle to the Ephesians might be very readily reconciled with its authenticity; but critical reflection upon this second point excites new suspicion. One fact which confronts us at the very threshold, is the resemblance which is to be remarked between the so-called Epistle to the Ephesians and the Epistle to the Colossians. The two epistles are copies of one another. Which is the epistle that has served for the original, and which is to be considered as an imitation? It looks indeed as if it were the Epistle to the Colossians which has served for the original, and that it is the so-called Epistle to the Ephesians which is the imitation. The second epistle is the most xiifully developed; the formulas in it are exaggerated; everything that distinguishes the Epistle to the Colossians among the epistles of St Paul is more pronounced still in the so-called Epistle to the Ephesians. The Epistle to the Colossians is full of special details; it has a dictum which corresponds well with the historical circumstances in which it must have been written; the Epistle to the Ephesians is altogether vague. We can understand how a general catechism might be drawn from a particular letter, but not how a particular letter might be drawn from a general catechism. In fine, the 21st verse of chapter vi. of the so-called Epistle to the Ephesians takes it for granted that the Epistle to the Colossians was previously written. As soon as it is admitted that the Epistle to the Colossians is a work of St Paul’s, the question then may be stated as follows:—How could Paul waste his time in counterfeiting one of his own works, repeating himself, to make an ordinary letter out of a topical and special letter?
This is not altogether impossible; but it is not very probable. The improbability of such a conception is diminished if we suppose that Paul delegated that task to one of his disciples. Perhaps Timothy, for example, may have taken the Epistle to the Colossians so as to apply it, and to make of it a general composition which could be addressed to all the Churches of Asia. It is difficult to speak with assurance on this point: for it is also supposable that the epistle may have been written after the death of Paul, at an epoch when people set about seeking out apostolic writings, and when, seeing the small number of such writings, people were not over scrupulous in producing new ones—imitating, assimilating, copying, and diluting writings previously held to be apostolic. Thus, the second general Epistle of Peter was manufactured out of the first epistle, and out of the Epistle of Jude. It is possible that the so-called epistle to the Ephesians owed its origin to the same process. The objections which have been raised against the Epistle to the Colossians, both as regards language and doctrines, are addressed principally to the latter. The Epistle to the Ephesians, in respect of style, is sensibly different from the undisputed epistles; it contains favourite expressions, gradations which only belong to it; words foreign to the ordinary language of Paul, some of which are to be found in the Epistles to Timothy, to Titus, and to the Hebrews. The sentences are diffuse, feeble, and loaded with useless words and repetition, entangled with frivolous incidents, full of pleonasms and of encumbrances. The same difference is apparent in the ideas. In the so-called Epistle to the Ephesians Gnosticism is plainly manifest; the idea of the Church conceived as a living organism, is developed in it in such a way as to carry the mind to the years 70 or 80; the exegesis is foreign to the custom of Paul; the manner in which he speaks of the “holy Apostles” surprises one; the theory of marriage is different from that which Paul expounded to the Corinthians.
On the other hand, it must be said that the aim and the interest the counterfeiter might have had in composing this piece is not altogether apparent, inasmuch as it adds little to the Epistle to the Colossians. It seems, moreover, that a forger would have written a letter plainly addressed and circumstantial, as was the case with the Epistles xiiito Timothy and to Titus. That Paul wrote or dictated this letter is almost impossible to admit; but that some one may have composed it during his lifetime, under his eyes, and in his name, is what cannot be declared as improbable. Paul, a prisoner at Rome, is able to charge Tychicus to go and visit the Churches of Asia and to remit several letters—the Epistle to the Colossians, the Note to Philemon, and the Epistle, now lost, to the Laodicæans; he could, besides, remit to him copies of a sort of circular letter in which the name of the destined Church was left in blank, and which could be the so-called Epistle to the Ephesians. On his way to Ephesus, Tychicus may have shown this open letter to the Ephesians; and it in permissible to suppose that the latter took or retained a copy of it. The resemblance of this general epistle to the Epistle to the Colossians was, as if that a man who had written several letters at intervals of a few days, and who, being pre-occupied, with a certain number of fixed ideas, had relapsed, without knowing it, into the same expressions; or, rather, as if that Paul had charged either Timothy or Tychicus in composing the circular letter to make it fit in with the Epistle to the Colossians, and to exclude everything of a topical character. The passage, Colossians iv. 16, shows that Paul sometimes caused the letters to be carried from one Church to another. We shall see presently that a similar hypothesis must be made use of to explain certain peculiarities of the Epistle to the Romans. It appears that, in these last years, Paul adopted encyclical letters as a form of writing well adapted to the vast rural ministry that he had to fulfil. In writing to one Church, the thought occurred to him that the things which he indited might be suitable for other Churches, and he so arranged matters that the latter might not be deprived of them. We come in this way to regard the Epistle to the Colossians and the so-called Epistle to the Ephesians, taken together, as a pendant to the Epistle to the Romans, as a sort of theological exposition, which was destined to be transmitted in the form of a circular letter to the different Churches founded by the Apostle. The Epistle to the Ephesians had not the same degree of authenticity as the Epistle to the Colossians; but it had a more general application, and it was preferred. In very early times it was taken for a work of Paul’s, and for a writing of high authority. This is proved by the use which is made of it in the first epistle attributed to Peter, a treatise whose authenticity is not impossible, and which, in any case, belongs to the apostolic period. Among the letters which bear the name of Paul, the Epistle to the Ephesians is probably the one which was the first cited as a composition of the Apostle of the Gentiles.
There remain the two Epistles to Timothy and the Epistle to Titus. The authenticity of these three epistles presents some insurmountable difficulties. I regard them as apocryphal productions. To prove this, I would point out that the language of the three writings is not that of Paul. I would take note of a series of turns and expressions either exclusively peculiar, or particularly dear to the author, which being characteristic, ought to be found in similar proportions in the other epistles of Paul, or, at least, in the proportion desired. Other expressions, which bear in a kind of way the signature of Paul, are lacking in xivthis. I would particularly point out that these epistles embrace a multitude of inconsistencies, both as regards the supposed author and the supposed recipients. The ordinary characteristic of the letters fabricated with a doctrinal intention is, that the forger sees the public over the head of the pretended recipient, and writes to the latter about things of which he is entirely conversant, and to which the forger desires the public to listen. The three epistles under discussion partake in a high degree of this character. Paul, whose authenticated letters are so particular, so precise; Paul, who, believing in the near end of the world, never supposed that he would be read in after ages. Paul was herein a general preacher, just enough interested in his correspondent to make sermons to him which had not relation to himself, and to address to him a small code of ecclesiastical discipline in view of the future. But these arguments, which of themselves ought to be decisive, I can afford to pass over. I shall only, in proving my thesis, make use of reasonings which are more or less material. I shall attempt to demonstrate that there is no possible means of putting these into the known frame, or even into a possible frame of the life of St Paul. A very important preliminary observation is the perfect similarity of these three epistles, the one to the other—a similarity which compels the admission that either all three are authentic or all three must be rejected as apocryphal. The particular features which separate them widely from the other epistles of St Paul are the same. The odd expressions in the language of St Paul, which are to be remarked in them, are to be discovered equally in the three. The defects which render the style unworthy of St Paul are identical. It is a curious enough fact that each time St Paul takes the pen to write to his disciples he forgets his habitual mannerisms, falls into the same looseness, the same idioms. The ground-work of the ideas gives rise to a similar observation. The three epistles are full of vague counsels, or moral exhortations, of which Timothy and Titus, familiarised by daily intercourse with the ideas of the Apostle, had no need. The errors which are combatted in them are always a sort of Gnosticism. The predilections of the author in the three epistles do not much vary; we see the jealous and anxious care of an orthodoxy already formed and of a hierarch already developed. The three narratives are sometimes a repetition of one another, and copies of the other epistles of St Paul. One thing is certain, namely, that if the three epistles had been written at the dictation of Paul, they belong to the same period of his life—a period separated by long years from the time when he composed the other epistles. Any hypotheses which place between the three epistles in question an interval of three or four years, for example, or which placed between them some one of the other epistles which are known to us, ought to be rejected. To explain the similarity, the one to the other, of the three epistles, and their dissimilarity to the others, admits of but one possible construction, and that is to suppose that they were written in a space of time somewhat short, and a long time after the others—at an epoch when all the circumstances which surrounded the Apostle had been changed, when he had become old, when his ideas and his style had undergone modification. Certainly one might succeed in proving the possibility of such xvan hypothesis, but that would not resolve the question. The style of a man may change; but from a style the most striking and the most inimitable that ever existed, one cannot fall into a style, prolix and destitute of vigour. In any case, such an hypothesis is formally excluded by what we know for certain of the life of Paul. We proceed now to demonstrate this.
The first Epistle to Timothy in the one which presents the fewest individual traits, and nevertheless, did it stand alone, we would not be able to find in it an incident in the life of Paul. Paul, when he was reputed to have written this epistle, had, for a long time, left Timothy, for he had not written to him since he went away (i. 3). The Apostle quitted Timothy at Ephesus. Paul at that same time had departed for Macedonia. Not having time to combat the errors which had begun to spread at Ephesus, the chief advocates of which were Hymenæus and Alexander (i. 20), Paul had left Timothy in order to combat these errors. The journey which Paul made was to be of short duration; he calculated to return soon to Ephesus (iii. 14, 16; vi. 13).
Two hypotheses have been proposed in order to include this epistle in the contexture of the life of Paul, each as those which are furnished by the Acts, and confirmed by the certain epistles. According to the one, the journey from Ephesus into Macedonia, which separated Paul and Timothy, is the one which is narrated in Acts xx. 1. That journey took place during the third mission. Paul remained three years at Ephesus. He left in order to see once more his churches in Macedonia, and those in Achaia. It was, it is said, from Macedonia or Achaia that he wrote to the disciple whom he had left in Ephesus, giving him full powers. This hypothesis is inadmissible. First, the Acts inform us (xix. 22) that Timothy had gone in advance of his master into Macedonia, where in fact Paul joined him (2 Cor. i. 1). And then is it probable that, almost on the morrow of his departure from Ephesus, Paul should have given to his disciple the instructions of which we read in the first Epistle to Timothy? The errors which he singled out in it he had himself been able to combat. The turn of the verse (1 Tim. i. 3) is not compatible with a man who is about to depart from Ephesus after a long sojourn. Besides, Paul announces the intention of returning to Ephesus (iii. 14; iv. 13); but Paul, in quitting Ephesus, had the fixed intention of going to Jerusalem without passing again through Ephesus (Acts xix. 21; xx. 1, 3, 16; 1 Cor. xvi. 4; ii. 1, 16). Let us add, that if we suppose the epistle to be written at that moment, everything about it becomes awkward; the defect of the apocryphal letters, which are anything but precise, in which the author holds up to his fictitious correspondent things au courant of what was about to be; such a defect, I say, is carried so far as to be absurd.
In order to avoid this difficulty, and above all to explain the intention announced by Paul of returning to Ephesus, some have had recourse to another explanation. It is supposed that the journey from Macedonia, mentioned in the verse (1 Tim. i. 3), is a journey not recounted in the Acts which Paul would have made during his three years’ sojourn at Ephesus. It is certainly permissible to believe that Paul was not all that time stationary. It is supposed, then, that he made a journey xviinto the Archipelago, and through there, at the same sweep, a link was designed to be attached to the Epistle to Titus in a manner more or leas conformable to the life of Paul. We do not deny the possibility of such a journey, although the silence of the Acts presents, it is true, a difficulty: yet, we cannot deny that it is here where the embarrassments begin which are found in First Timothy. By accepting this hypothesis, we understand less than if we had adopted the former one as to the meaning of the verse i. 3. Why does he tell Timothy what he already knows quite well? Paul had just passed two or three years at Ephesus, and he will soon again return there. What signifies these errors he has suddenly discovered at the moment of departure, which he leaves Timothy at Ephesus to settle? By the latter hypothesis, moreover, the first Epistle to Timothy should have been written about the same time as the great authentic epistles of Paul. What! is it on the morrow of the Epistle to the Galatians, and on the eve of the Epistles to the Corinthians, that Paul could have written such a milk-and-water amplification? He must have dropped his habitual style in setting out from Ephesus; he must have found it again on returning there, in order to write the letters to the Corinthians, excepting on one occasion, a few years after, when he took up again the pretended style of the journey for the purpose of writing to the self-same Timothy. The second to Timothy, by the admission of everybody, could not have been written before the arrival of Paul at Rome, a prisoner. Accordingly, there must have elapsed several years between the first Epistle to Timothy and that to Titus, on the one hand, and the second to Timothy, on the other. This could not be. The three narratives have been copied the one from the other; but how are we to suppose that Paul, after an interval of five or six years, in writing to a friend, should make extracts from old letters? Would that be a proceeding worthy of a master of the epistolary art, one so ardent and so rich in ideas? The second hypothesis is then, like the first, a tissue of improbabilities. The verse (1 Tim. i. 3) is a maze from which the apologist cannot extricate himself. That verse raises an impossibility in the biography of St Paul. We must find an instance where Paul, in going into Macedonia, could only have touched at Ephesus; that instance has no existence in the life of St Paul previous to his imprisonment. Let us add, that when Paul is reputed to have written the epistle in question, the Church of Ephesus possessed a complete organisation of elders, deacons, and deaconesses; this Church even presents the usual appearances of a community already grown old with its schisms and errors, nothing of all of which is applicable to the time of the third mission. If the first to Timothy was written by Paul, we must throw it into an hypothetical period of his life posterior to his imprisonment, and beyond the scope of the Acts. This hypothesis, involving also the examination of the two other epistles of which we have just been speaking, will be reserved by us, till later on.
The second Epistle to Timothy furnishes many more facts than the first. The Apostle is evidently in prison at Rome (i. 8, 12, 16, 17; ii. 9-10). Timothy is at Ephesus, (i. 16-18; ii. 17; iv. 14-15, 19), where the false doctrines continue to increase through the fault of Hymenæus and Philetus (ii. 17). Paul has not been long at Rome and xviiin prison, when he gives to Timothy, in the form of news, certain details about a journey into the Archipelago he had just made; at Miletum he has left Trophimus sick (i. 11, 20); at Troas he has left several things with Carpus (iv. 13), and Erastus remained at Corinth (iv. 20). At Rome the Asiatics, among others Phygellas and Hermogenes, have abandoned him (i. 15). Another Ephesian, on the other hand, Onesiphorus, one of his old friends, having come to Rome, sought him out, and found him, and cared for him in his captivity (i. 16-18). The Apostle is filled with a presentiment of his near end (iv. 6-8). His disciples are far removed from him. Demas has forsaken him to pursue his worldly interests, and is departed unto Thessaloncia (iv. 10); Crescens to Galatia (ibid.), Titus unto Dalmatia (ibid.); and he has sent Tychicus to Ephesus (iv. 12); only Luke is with him (iv. 11). A certain Alexander, a copper-smith from Ephesus, did him much harm, and opposed him actively; this Alexander has set out again for Ephesus (iv. 14-15). Paul has already appeared before the Roman authorities; on this occasion no one has assisted him (iv. 16), but God has aided him, and delivered him from out of the mouth of the lion (iv. 17). In consequence of this, he begs Timothy to come before the winter (iv. 9, 21), and to bring Mark with him (iv. 11). He gives him at the same time a commission, which is, to bring him his cloak, the books, and the parchment which he left at Troas with Carpus (iv. 13). He recommends him to salute Prisca, Aquila, and the household of Onesiphorus. He sends to him the greetings of Pudens, of Linus, of Claudia, and of all the brethren (iv. 21).
This simple analysis suffices to point out some strange incoherencies. The Apostle is at Rome; he has just made a journey of the Archipelago, he gives to Timothy the particulars of it, as though he had not written to him since the journey. In the same letter he speaks to him of his prison and of his trial. Will any one say that this journey into the Archipelago was the journey of Paul the captive, narrated in the Acts? But in this journey Paul did not traverse the Archipelago, neither could he go to Miletum, nor to Troas, nor, above all, to Corinth, since at the elevation of Cnide, the tempest drives the vessels upon Crete, then upon Malta. Will any one say that the voyage in question was the last voyage of St Paul, a free man, his return voyage to Jerusalem in company with the deputies charged with accusing him? But Timothy was in that voyage, at least from Macedonia (Acts xx. 4). More than two years rolled away between that voyage and the arrival of Paul at Rome (Acts xxiv. 27). Can we conceive that Paul would recount to Timothy as being news, things which took place in his presence a long time before, when, in the interval, they had lived together, and had hardly been separate? Far from being left sick at Miletum, Trophimus followed the Apostle to Jerusalem, and was the cause of his arrestment (Acts xx. 29). The passage, 2 Tim. iv. 10, 11, compared with Col. v. 10, 14, and with Philemon — 24, forms a contradiction not less serious. How could Demas have forsaken Paul when the latter wrote the second to Timothy, seeing that epistle was posterior to the Epistle to the Colossians and to the Epistle to Philemon? When writing these last two epistles Paul has Mark near him; how, in writing to Timothy, xviiicould he therefore say,—“Take Mark and bring him with thee; for he is profitable to me for the ministry?” On the other hand, we have established the fact, that it is not allowable to separate the three letters; but in the manner it has been treated by some there would be three years at least between the first and the second to Timothy, and it is necessary to place between them the second to the Corinthians and the Epistle to the Romans. One single refuge then remains here for the first to Timothy, and that is to suppose that the second to Timothy was written during a prolongation of the life of the Apostle of which the Acts makes no mention. This hypothesis may be demonstrably possible, but a multitude of inherent difficulties to the epistle would still remain. Timothy is at Ephesus, and (iv. 12) Paul says dryly, “I have sent Tychicus to Ephesus,” as if Ephesus was not the place of destination. What could be more barren than the passage 2 Tim. iii. 10-11? Nay, what could be more inexact? Paul was only associated with Timothy in the second mission, but the persecutions which Paul underwent at Antioch in Pisidia, at Iconium, and Lystra took place during the first mission. The real Paul writing to Timothy would have had many other mutual experiences to put him in mind of. Let us add, that he would not have dreamt of losing his time in recalling them to him. A thousand improbabilities rise up on every side, but it is useless to discuss them, for the hypothesis itself is in question, and according to which our epistle would be posterior to the appearance of Paul before the council of Nero. This hypothesis, I say, ought to be discarded, as we shall demonstrate when we come to discuss, in its turn, the Epistle to Titus.
When Paul wrote the Epistle to Titus, the latter was in the island of Crete (i. 5). Paul, who had just visited that island, and had been very much dissatisfied with the inhabitants (i. 12, 13), left his disciples there, in order to complete the organisation of the churches, and to go from city to city to establish presbyteri or episcopi (i. 6). He promised Titus to send him soon Artemas and Tychicus; he begged his disciples to come, when he had received these two brethren, to rejoin him at Nicopolis where he calculated to pass the winter (iii. 12), The Apostle next recommends his disciple to bring diligently Zenas and Apollos, and to take great care of them (iii. 13).
And here, again, with every phrase, difficulties present themselves. Not a word for the faithful Cretians—nothing but hurtful and unbefitting severity (i. 12, 13)—fresh declamations against errors, the existence of which the churches recently established had not dreamt of (i. 10 et suivi)—errors Paul, absent, saw and was better acquainted with than Titus who was on the spot—details which presumed Christianity to be already old and completely developed in the island (i. 5, 6)—trivial recommendations bearing upon points quite clear. Such an epistle would have been useless to Titus, as it did not contain a single word that he ought not to have known by heart. But it is by direct arguments, and not by plausible inductions, that the apocryphal character of the document in question can be made clear.
If it is wished to connect this letter with the period in the life of Paul known through the Acts, the same difficulties are experienced as in those xixwhich precede. According to the Acts, Paul only touched at Crete once, and that was when shipwrecked. He made but a very short stay there, and during the stay he was a captive. It is surely not at this moment that Paul was able to commence the founding of churches in the island. Besides, if it were the voyage of Paul as a captive which is related (Tit. i. 5), Paul, when he wrote, ought to be a captive at Rome. How could he say from his prison at Rome that he intended to pass the winter at Nicopolis? Why did he not make, as wan his custom, some allusion to his being in the condition of a prisoner?
Another hypothesis has been tried. It has been attempted to connect the Epistle to Titus and the Epistle to Timothy the one with the other. It has been premised that these two epistles were the results of the episodical voyage, which St Paul might have composed during his sojourn at Ephesus. No doubt this hypothesis may go a very little way to explain the difficulties in the first to Timothy, but we most investigate it to see whether the Epistle to Titus can lend it any support.
Paul was at Ephesus for a year or two. During the summer he formed the project of making an apostolic tour, of which the Acts has made no mention. He left Timothy at Ephesus, and took with him Titus and the two Ephesians, Artemas and Tychicus. He went first into Macedonia, then from there to Crete, where he founded several churches. He left Titus in the island, charging him to continue his work, and to repair to Corinth with Artemas and Tychicus. He made there the acquaintance of Apollos, whom he had not seen before, and who was on the point of setting out for Ephesus. He begged Apollos to go a little way out of his straight route so as to pass through Crete, and to carry to Titus the epistle which has been preserved. His plan at that moment was to go into Epirus, and to pass the winter at Nicopolis. He sends to inform Titus of that plan, announces to him that he will see again Artemas and Tychicus in Crete, and begs him, as soon as he shall have seen them, to come and rejoin him at Nicopolis. Paul then made his journey into Epirus. He wrote from Epirus the first to Timothy, and charged Artemas and Timothy to take it with them; he enjoined them likewise to pass through Crete, so as to give at the same time the notice to Titus to come and join him at Nicopolis. Titus repaired to Nicopolis, and the Apostle and his disciple returned together to Ephesus.
With this hypothesis we can in a fashion give an account of the circumstances contained in the Epistle to Titus, and the first to Timothy. Nay, more, we obtain two apparent advantages by it. It serves to explain the passages of the Epistles to the Corinthians, from which it appears, at first glance, to result that St Paul, in going to Corinth at the end of his long sojourn at Ephesus, went there for the third rime (1 Cor. xvi. 7; 2 Cor. ii. 1; xii. 14, 21; viii. 1); it serves further to explain the passage in which St Paul pretends to have preached the Gospel as far away as Illyrium (Rom. xv. 19). There is nothing substantial about these advantages, nor anything to compensate for the injuries done to probability in order to obtain them!
First, this pretended episodical voyage, so short that the author of the Acts did not judge it proper to speak of it, must have been very considerable, xxsince it embraced a journey into Macedonia, a voyage to Crete, a sojourn at Corinth, and wintering at Nicopolis. This must have taken almost a year. Why, then, does the author of the Acts say that the sojourn of Paul at Ephesus extended over three year. (Acts xix. 8, 10; xx. 31)? Doubtless these expressions do not exclude short absences, but they exclude a series of journeys. Besides, in the hypothesis we are discussing, the voyage to Nicopolis should have taken place before the second Epistle to the Corinthians. Yet, in that epistle, Paul declares that Corinth is, at the date when he wrote, the extreme point of his missions towards the west. Finally, the itinerary which has been traced of the journey of Paul is not very natural. Paul went first into Macedonia—the text is formal (1 Tim. i. 3)—and thence he repairs to Crete. In going from Macedonia into Crete, Paul must have cruised about the coast, either at Ephesus—in which case the verse, 1 Tim. i. 3, is denuded of meaning—or at Corinth, in which case we cannot conceive why he wanted to return there immediately after. And how is it that Paul, in desiring to make a journey from Epirus, speaks of the winter which he must pass, and not of the journey itself? And this sojourn at Nicopolis, how is it that we do not know more about it? To suppose the Nicopolis in question to be the one in Thrace, on the Nestus, only adds to the confusion, and does not possess any of the apparent advantages of the hypothesis discussed above.
Some exegites think to remove the difficulty by modifying a little the journey required by this hypothesis. According to them, Paul went from Epirus into Crete, from there to Corinth, then to Nicopolis, then to Macedonia. The fatal verse, 1 Tim. i. 3, is opposed to that. Let suppose a person starting from Paris, with the intention of making a trip to England, following the banks of the Rhine in Switzerland and Lombardy. Would that person, having arrived at Cologne, write to one of his friends in Paris: “I have left you at Paris, and am going to Lombardy?” The conduct of St Paul, in any of these suppositions, is not less absurd than the route of such a one. The journey of Tychicus and Artemas into Crete is not susceptible of proof. Why did Paul not give to Apollos a letter for Timothy? Why did he delay writing to him through Tychicus and Artemas? Why did he not fix a time with Titus when he should come to join him, seeing that his projects were arrested? These journeys from Corinth to Ephesus, all made by way of Crete, for the lack of an apology, are not at all natural. Paul, in this hypothesis of the episodical journey, in whatever manner we may regard the itinerary, gives and holds back perpetually; he does things without due consideration; he extracts only from his wanderings a portion of their advantages, reserving for future occasions that which he could very well accomplish at the moment. When these epistles are in question, it seems that the ordinary laws of probability and of good sense are reversed.
All attempts to include the Epistles to Titus and Timothy in the work of the life of St Paul traced by the Acts are tainted with insoluble contradictions. The authentic epistles of St Paul explain, suppose, and permeate one another. The three epistles in question may be compared to a small round which has been punched out by a xxisevere critic; and this is so much the more singular when two of them, the first to Timothy and the one to Titus, should happen just in the middle of that whirl of affairs, so very consecutive and so well known, which have reference to the Epistle to the Galatians, the two to the Corinthians, and that to the Romans. Several also of the exegites who defend the authenticity of these three gospels have had recourse to another hypothesis. They pretend that these epistles ought to be placed at a period in the life of St Paul of which the Acts makes no mention. According to the latter, Paul, after having appeared before Nero, as is implied in the Acts, was acquitted, which is very possible, nay, even probable. Set at liberty, he resumed his apostolic career, and went into Spain, which is likewise probable. According to the critics, of whom we are speaking, Paul, at that period of his life, made a fresh journey to the Archipelago—the journey which is referred to in the Epistles to Timothy and Titus. He returned again to Rome, and was there made prisoner a second time, and from his prison wrote the second to Timothy.
All this, it most be owned, resembles much the artificial defence of an accused person who, in order to answer objections, is driven to vent an assemblage of facts which have no connection with anything that is known. These isolated hypotheses, without either support or force, are in the eyes of the law a sign of culpability, in criticism the sign of apocryphy. Even admitting the possibility of that new voyage to the Archipelago, it would take no end of pains to bring into accord the facts related in the three epistles; these goings and comings are susceptible of very little proof. But such a discussion is useless. It is evident, in fact, that the author of the second to Timothy knew well how to speak of the captivity mentioned in the Acts, and to which allusion is made in the Epistles to the Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon. The similarity of 2 Tim. iv. 9-22 with the endings of the Epistles to the Colossians and to Philemon, proves it. The personnel which surrounded the Apostle is nearly identical in both cases. The captivity, from the midst of which Paul is reputed to have written the second to Timothy, finishes with his liberation (2 Tim. iv. 17-18). Paul in this epistle is full of hope; he meditates new schemes, and is pre-occupied with the thought, which, in fact, he is full of during the whole of his first (and only) captivity, namely, to perfect evangelical preaching—to preach Christ to all nations, and in particular to peoples of the far west. If the three epistles were of so far advanced a date, we cannot conceive why Timothy should always be spoken of in them as a young man. We are able, besides, to prove directly that the voyage to the Archipelago, posterior to the sojourn of Paul at Rome, did not take place. In such a voyage, indeed, St Paul would have touched at Miletum (2 Tim. iv. 20). Now in the fine discourse which the author of the Acts attributes to St Paul at the end of the third mission, while passing through Miletum, he makes Paul say, “And now, behold, I know that ye all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, shall see my face no more” (Acts xx. 25). But it is not argued that Paul was deceived in his previsions, so that he had to change his opinions, and to see again a church to which he thought he had said a final adieu. This is not the question, however. It matters little to us xxiiwhether Paul may or may not have uttered these words. The author of the Acts was well acquainted with the routine of Paul’s life, although, unfortunately, he has not judged it proper to inform us of it. It is impossible that he could have put into the mouth of his master what he knew very well could not be verified.
The letters to Timothy and to Titus are therefore refuted by the whole contexture of the biography of Paul. When they are forced into it by one party, they are thrust out of it by another party. Even if an express period in the life of the Apostle were created for them, the result would not be any more satisfactory. These epistles refute themselves; they are full of contradictions; the Acts and the authentic epistles would be lost if we could not succeed in creating another hypothesis to uphold the epistles of which we are speaking. And may it not be alleged that a forger could not have thrown a little more sprightliness into these contradictions? Demo of Corinth, in the second century, has a theory not less chimerical in regard to the journeys of St Paul, inasmuch as he makes him arrive at Corinth and to depart from Corinth for Rome in the company of St Peter—a thing utterly impossible. There is no doubt that the three epistles in question were fabricated at a period when the Acts had not yet gained full authority. Later, the canvas of the Acts was embellished, like as did the author of the fable of Theckla about the year 200. The author of our epistles knew the names of the principal disciples of St Paul; he had read several of his epistles; he had formed a vague idea of his journeyings; justly enough, he is struck by the multitude of disciples which surrounded Paul, and whom he sends out as messengers in every direction. But the details which he has invented are false and inconsistent: they always represent Timothy as being a young man; the imperfect notion he has of a journey Paul made into Crete makes him believe that Paul had founded churches there. The personnel which he introduces into the three epistles is peculiarly Ephesian; we are tempted at moments to think that the desire to exalt certain families of Ephesus and to depreciate some others belonging to it was not altogether singular in a fabricator.
The three epistles in question, were they apocryphal from one end to the other? or were they made use of for the purpose of composing authentic letters addressed to Titus and to Timothy, that they should have been diluted, in a sense, to conform with the ideas of the times, and with the intention of leading the authority of the apostles to the developments which the ecclesiastical hierarchy took? It is this that is difficult to decide. Perhaps, in certain parts, at the close of the second to Timothy, for example, letters bearing different dates have been mixed up; but even then it must be admitted that the forger has given himself plenty of scope. Indeed, one consequence which is derived from what precedes, is that the three epistles are sisters, that, to speak accurately, they are one and the same work, and that no distinction can be drawn between them in anything that regards their authenticity.
It is quite otherwise with the question of finding out whether some of the data of the second to Timothy (for example, i. 15-18; ii. 17, 18; xxiiiiv. 19-21) have not a historical value. The forger, though not knowing all the life of Paul, and not possessing the Acts, might have, notably in the last days of the Apostle, some original details. Especially do we believe that the passage in the second of Timothy (iv. 19-21) has much importance, and throws a true light upon the imprisonment of St Paul at Rome. The fourth gospel is also, in one sense, apocryphal; yet we cannot say that on this account it is a work destitute of historical importance. As to that which it possesses of chimera, according to our ideas of such supposititious works, it must, on no account, be discarded from the New Testament. This ought not to occasion the least scruple. If the pious author of the false letters to Timothy and to Titus could be brought back and made to assist amongst us in the discussions of which he has been the cause, he would not be forbidden; he would respond, like the priest of Asia, author of the Romance of Theckla, when he found himself pressed into a corner: convictum atque confessum id se amore Pauli fecisse.
The time of the composition of these three epistles may be placed about the year 96 to 100. Theophilus of Antioch (about the year 170) cited them expressly. Irenæus, Clement of Alexandria, and Tertullian admitted them also. Marcion, on the contrary, rejected them, or did not know them. The allusions which are believed to have been found in the epistles attributed to Clement of Rome, to Ignatius, to Polycarp, are doubtful. There were floating about at that epoch a certain number of hemitetic phrases, all facts; the presence of those phrases in a writing does not prove that the author has borrowed them directly from some other writing in which he has found them. The agreements which we remark between certain expressions of Hegesippe and certain passages in the epistles in question, are singular; one does not know what consequence to draw from them, for if, in those expressions, Hegesippe has in his eye the first Epistle to Timothy, it would seem that he regarded it as a writing posterior to the death of the Apostles. However that may be, it is clear that when he had collected the letters of Paul, the letters to Titus and to Timothy, he enjoyed full authority. Where were they composed? Probably at Ephesus; probably at Rome. The partisans of this second hypothesis may say that, in the East, people do not commit errors which are remarked on. Their style bristles with Latinisms. The intention which prompted the writing, to wit, the desire of augmenting the force of the hierarchical principle, and of the authority of the Church, in presenting a model of piety, of docility, of “ecclesiastical spirit,” traced by the Apostle himself, is altogether in harmony with what we know of the character of the Roman Church from the first century.
It only remains for us now to speak of the Epistle to the Hebrews. As we have already said, that epistle does not belong to Paul; but it ought not to be put in the same category as the two epistles to Timothy and the one to Titus, the author not seeking to pass off his work for a writing of Paul. What is the value of the opinion which is established in the Church, and according to which Paul is the author of this maudlin epistle? A study of the manuscripts, an examination of the ecclesiastical tradition, and a searching criticism of the work itself, will xxivenlighten us on that point. The ancient manuscripts bear simply at the head of the epistle, Πρὸς Εβραίους. As to the order of transcription, the Codex Vaticanus and the Codex Sinaiticus representing the Alexandrine tradition, place the epistle among those of Paul. The Græco-Latin manuscripts, on the contrary, exhibit all the hesitation which still remained in the West during the first half of the middle ages, as to the canonicity of the Epistle to the Hebrews, and, by consequence, its attribution to Paul. The Codex Bœrnerianus omits it; the Codex Augiensis gives it only in Latin after the epistles of Paul. The Codex Claramontanus puts the epistle in question outside the list, as a sort of appendix, after the stichometry general of the writing, a proof that the epistle was not found in the manuscript from which the Claramontanus was copied. In the aforesaid stichometry (a very ancient composition) the Epistle to the Hebrews does not appear, or, if it appears it is under the name of Barnabas. In fine, the errors which abound in the Latin text of the Epistle of the Claramontanus are sufficient to awaken the suspicion of the critic, and prove that that epistle was only included gradually, and as if surreptitiously, in the canon of the Latin Church. But there is uncertainty even as to the tradition. Marcion did not have the Epistle to the Hebrews in his collection of the epistles of Paul: the author of the canon attributed to Muratori omits it in his list. Irenæus was acquainted with the writing in question, but he did not consider it as belonging to Paul. Clement of Alexandria believed it was Paul’s; but he felt a difficulty in attributing it to him, and, to get out of the embarrassment, had recourse to a not very acceptible hypothesis: he assumes that Paul wrote the epistle in Hebrew, and that Luke translated it into Greek. Origen admits also, in a sense, the Epistle to the Hebrews as belonging to Paul, but he recognised that many people denied that it had been written by the latter. Nowhere in it could he discover the style of Paul, and supposes, almost as Clement of Alexandria did, that the origin of the ideas belonged only to the Apostle. “The character of the style of the epistle,” says he, “has not the ruggedness of that of the Apostle.” This letter is, as regards the arrangement of the words, much more Hellenic, as everybody must avow who is capable of judging of the difference of styles. . . . As for me, if I had to express an opinion, I should say that the thoughts are the Apostle’s, but that the style and the arrangement of the words belong to some one who has revoked from memory the words of the Apostle, and who has reduced to writing the discourse of his master. If, then, any church maintains that this epistle belongs to Paul, it has only to prove it; for the ancients must have had some reason to go on handing it down as the work of Paul. As to the question—Who wrote this epistle? God alone knows the truth. Amongst the opinions which have been transmitted to us by history, one appears to have been written by Clement of Alexandria, who was Bishop of the Romans; another by Luke, who wrote the Gospels and the Acts. Tertullian does not observe the same discretion: he unhesitatingly puts forward the Epistle to the Hebrews as the work of Paul. Gaius, a priest of Rome, St Hippolytus, and St Cyprian did not place it among the epistles of Paul. During the novatianistic quarrel, xxvin which, for many reasons, this epistle might have been employed, it is not even mentioned.
Alexandria was the centre where the opinion was formed that the Epistle to the Hebrews should be intercalated in the series of the letters of Paul. Towards the middle of the third century Dionysius of Alexandria appeared to entertain no doubt as to Paul being its author. From that time this became the opinion most generally accepted in the East; nevertheless, protestations did not cease to make themselves heard. The Latins especially protested vigorously; particularly the Roman Church, who maintained that the epistle did not belong to Paul. Eusebius hesitated much, and had recourse to the hypothesis of Clement of Alexandria and of Origen; he was inclined to believe that the epistle had been composed in Hebrew by Paul, and translated by Clement of Rome. St Jerome and St Augustine have been at pains to conceal their doubts, and rarely cite that part of the canon without a reservation. Divers documents insist always in giving as the author of the work either Luke, Barnabas, or Clement. The ancient manuscripts of Latin production sufficed, as we have seen, to attest the repugnance which the West experienced when this epistle was put forward as a work of Paul’s. It is clear that when we have made, if we may so speak, the editio princeps of the letters of Paul, the number of letters must be fixed at thirteen. People were no doubt accustomed very early to place after the thirteen epistles the Epistle to the Hebrews—an anonymous apostolic writing, whose ideas approached in some respects those contained in the writings of Paul. Hence, one had only a step to take to arrive at the conclusion that the Epistle to the Hebrew’s belonged to the Apostle. Everything induces the belief that this induction was made at Alexandria, that is to say, in a Church relatively modern as compared with the Churches of Syria, Asia, Greece, and Rome. Such an induction is of no value in criticism, if the clear, intrinsic proofs are perverted by another party in attributing the epistle in question to the Apostle Paul.
Now, this is in reality what has taken place. Clement of Alexandria and Origen, very good judges indeed of the Greek style, could not find in our epistle any semblance of the style of Paul. St Jerome is of the same opinion; the fathers of the Latin Church who refused to credit that the epistle was Paul’s,—all gave the some reason for their doubts; propter styli sermonis que distantiam. This is an excellent reason. The style of the Epistle to the Hebrews is, in a word, different from that of Paul; it is more oratorical, more periodic; the diction contains a number of idiomatic expressions. The fundamental basis of the thoughts is not far removed from the opinions of Paul, especially Paul as a captive; but the exposition and the exegesis are quite distinct. There is no nominal superscription, which was contrary to the usage of the Apostle; characteristics which one always expects to find in an epistle of Paul’s are wanting in the former. The exegesis is particularly allegorical, and resembles much more that of Philo than that of Paul. The author has imbibed the Alexandrian culture. He only makes use of the version called the Septuagint; from the text of this he adduces reasons which exhibit a complete ignorance of Hebrew; his method of xxviciting and of analysing Biblical texts is not in conformity with the method of Paul. The author, moreover, is a Jew; he fancies himself to be extolling Christ when he compares him to a great Hebrew priest; Christianity is to him none other than perfected Judaism; he is far from regarding the Law as abolished. The passage ii. 3, where the author is placed among those who have only indirectly heard of the mysteries of the life of Christ from the mouth of the disciples of Jesus, does not accord at all with one of the most fixed pretensions of Paul. Let us remark, finally, that, in writing of the Christian Hebrews, Paul must have deviated from one of his most fixed rules, which was, never to perform a pastoral not upon the soil of churches Judæo-Christian, so that the apostles of circumcision might not, on their side, encroach upon the churches of uncircumcision.
The Epistle to the Hebrews was not, therefore, written by St Paul. By whom and where was it written? and to whom was it addressed? We shall examine all these points in our fourth volume. For the present, the simple date of a writing so important interests us. Now, this date has been determined with sufficient decision. The Epistle to the Hebrews was, according to all probability, anterior to the year 70, inasmuch as the Levitical service of the Temple is represented in it as being regularly, and without interruption, continued. On the other hand, at xiii. 7, and even at v. 12, there would appear an allusion to the death of the apostles,—of James, the brother of the Lord, for example; at xiii. 13, there seems to be recorded a deliverance to Timothy posterior to the death of Paul; at x. 32, and suivi, and probably at xiii. 7 there is, I think, a distinct mention of the persecutions of Nero in the year 64. It is probable that the passage xiii. 7, and following, contains an allusion to the commencements of the revolt of Judea (year 66), and a foreboding of the misfortunes which are to follow; this passage implies, moreover, that the year 40, after the death of Christ, had not passed, and that this term was drawing near. Everything, therefore, combines to support the hypothesis that the compiling of the Epistle to the Hebrews took place between the years 65 and 70, probably in the year 66.
After having discussed the authenticity, it remains now for us to discuss the integrity of the epistles of Paul. The authentic epistles have never been interpolated. The style of the Apostle was so individual, and so original, that every addition would drop off from the body of the text by reason of its own inertness. In the labour of publication which took place when the epistles were collected, there were, nevertheless, some operations, the import of which must be taken into account. The principle upon which the compilers proceeded appears to have been; 1st, to add nothing to the text; 2d, to reject nothing which they believed to have been dictated or written by the Apostle; 3d, to avoid repetitions which could not fail, especially in the circular letters, but contain identical statements. In like manner, the compilers would appear to have followed a system of patching up, or of intercalating, the aim of which seems to have been to save some portions which would otherwise have been lost. Thus the passage (2 Cor. vi. 14; viii. 1) forms a small paragraph which breaks so singularly the sequence of the epistle, and which xxviidisposes one to believe that it has been clumsily pieced in there. The last chapters of the Epistle to the Romans presents facts much more striking, and which will require to be discussed with minuteness; for many portions of the biography of Paul depend upon the system which is adopted in regard to these chapters.
In reading the Epistle to the Romans, after quitting chap. xii., we experience some astonishment. Paul appears to have departed from his habitual maxim, “Mind your own business.” It is strange that he gives imperative counsels to a Church he has not founded, and which resembles so closely the impertinence of those who seek to build upon foundations established by others. At to the close of chap. xiv., some peculiarities still more capricious make their appearance. Several manuscripts—que suit Gresbach—according to St John Chrysostom, Theodoretus, Theophylactus, Œcumenius, fix on that place as the finale of chap. xvi. (verses 25-27). The Codex Alexandrinus, and some others, repeat twice this finale—once at the end of chap. xiv., and once more at the end of chap. xvi. Verses 1-13 of chap. xv. excite anew our surprise. These verses repeat and take up tacitly again what has preceded. It is hardly to be supposed that they would be found in the same letter as the one which precedes. Paul repeats himself frequently in the course of the same disquisition; but he never returns to a disquisition in order to repeat and to enfeeble it. It must also be added that verses 1-13 appear to be addressed to Judæo-Christians. St Paul therein makes concessions to the Jews. How singular it is that, in verse 8, Christ is called δάχουος Περιτογης? We might say that we have here a resumé of chapters xii., xiii., xiv., for the use of Judæo-Christian readers, which Paul has seized on, to prove by texts that the adoption of the Gentiles did not exclude the privilege of Israel, and that Christ had fulfilled the ancient promises.
The portion, xv. 14-33, is evidently addressed to the Church of Rome, and to this Church only. Paul expressed himself there without reserve, was proper in writing to a Church which he had not seen, and the majority of which, being Judæo-Christians, was not directly under his jurisdiction. In chapters xii., xiii., xiv., the tone of the letter is firmer; the Apostle speaks there with mild authority; he makes use of the verb Παραχαλῶ, a verb, no doubt, of a very mitigated nature, but which is always the word he employs when he speaks to his disciples.
Verse 33 makes a perfect termination to the Epistle to the Romans, according to Paul’s method of making terminations. Verses 1 and 2 of chapter xvi. might also be admitted as a postscript to the Epistle to the Romans; but what follows verse 3 creates veritable difficulties. Paul, as though he had not closed his letter with the word Amen, undertakes to salute twenty-six persons, not to speak of five churches or groups. In the first place, he never thus puts salutations after the benediction and the Amen as the finale. Besides, the salutations here are not the common salutations that one would employ in addressing people one has not seen. Paul had evidently had the most intimate relations with the persons he salutes. Each of these persons has his or her special characteristics; these have laboured with him; those have been imprisoned with him; another has been a mother to him (doubtless in caring for him when he was sick); he knows at what date each has been converted; all are his xxviiifriends, his fellow-workers, his dearly beloved. It is not natural that he should have so many ties with a Church in which he had never been, one that does not belong to his school, with a Church Judæo-Christian which his principles forbade him labouring for. Not only does he know by their names all the Christians in the Church to which he is addressing himself, but he knows also the masters of those who are slaves, Aristobulus, Narcissus. Why does he designate with so much assurance these two houses, if they are at Rome, a place he has never seen? Writing to the Churches which he has founded, Paul salutes two or three persons. Why does he salute so considerable a number of brothers and sisters of a Church which he has never visited?
If we study in detail the persons he salutes, we shall discover still more evidence that this page of salutations was never addressed to the Church at Rome. Amongst them we find no persons that we know who formed part of the Church at Rome, and we find amongst them many persons who assuredly never belonged to it. In the first line we encounter Aquila and Priscilla. It is universally admitted that only a few months elapsed between the compilation of the first chapter of the Corinthians and the compilation of the Epistle to the Romans. Now, when Paul wrote the first chapter to the Corinthians, Aquila and Priscilla were at Ephesus. In the interval, that apostolic couple were able, it is said, to set out for Rome. This is very singular. Aquila and Priscilla were of the party which was at first driven from Rome by an edict; we find them afterwards at Corinth, then at Ephesus; they return to Rome without their sentence of expulsion having been revoked, on the morrow of the day when Paul had just said adieu to them at Ephesus. This is to attribute to them a life much too nomadic; it is the accumulation of improbabilities. Let as add, that the author of the second apocryphal epistle of Paul to Timothy supposes Aquila and Priscilla to be at Ephesus, which proves that tradition has located them there. The little Roman martyrology (the source of posterior compilations) has a memorandum, of date the 8th July—“in Asia Minori, Aquilæ et Priscillæ uxoris ejus.” This is not all. At v. 5, Paul salutes Epenetus, “the first-born of Asia in Christ.” What! the whole Church of Ephesus has gone to Rome to take up its abode! The list of names which follows, applies equally as well to Ephesus as to Rome. Doubtless the first Church at Rome was principally Greek by language. Amongst the world of slaves and freedmen from which Christianity was recruited, the Greek names even at Rome were ordinary ones. Nevertheless, in examining the Jewish inscriptions at Rome, P. Garrucci has found that the number of proper Latin names doubled that of Greek names. Now here, of twenty-four names, there were sixteen Greek, seven Latin, one Hebrew, so that the number of Greek names is more than double that of Latin names. The names of the chiefs of the houses of Aristobulus and Narcissus are Greek also.
The verses, Romans xiv. 3-16, were therefore not addressed to the Church at Rome; they were addressed to the Church at Ephesus. The verses 17-20 could not have been addressed to the Romans either. St Paul there makes use of the word, which is habitual to him, when he gives an order to his disciples (παραχαλῶ); he expresses himself with xxixextreme acerbity in regard to the divisions sown by his adversaries; we see that he is there en famille; he knows the condition of the Church to which he addresses himself; he is delighted with the good reputation of this Church; he rejoices over her as a master would over his pupils (ἐφ᾽υμῖν καὶρω). These verses have no meaning, if we suppose them addressed by the Apostle to a church which must have been strange to him. Each sentence proves that he had preached to those to whom he wrote, and that they were solicited by his enemies. These verses could only have been addressed to the Corinthians or to the Ephesians. The epistle, at the end of which they were found, was written from Corinth; these verses, which constitute the close of a letter, had, therefore, been addressed to Ephesus. Seeing that we have shown that the verses 3-16 were likewise addressed to the faithful at Ephesus, we obtain than a long fragment (xvi. 3-20), which most have formed part of a letter to the Ephesians. Hence it becomes more natural to connect with these verses, 3-20, verses 1, 2 of the same chapter—verses which might be considered as a postscript after the Amen, except that it is better to attach them to that which follows. The journey of Phoebe becomes thus more probable. Finally, the somewhat imperative commands of xvi. 2, and the motive with which Paul applied them, are better understood when addressed to the Ephesians, who were under so many obligations to the Apostle, than to the Romans, who were not indebted to him for anything.
The verses 21-24 of chapter xiv. could not, any more than that which precedes, have made a part of the Epistle to the Romana. Why should all these people, who had never been to Rome, who had never known the faithful at Rome, salute the latter? What could these unknown person say to the Church of Rome? It is important to remark that all the names are those of Macedonians or people who could have become acquainted with the Churches of Macedonia. Verse 24 is the close of a letter. The verses (xvi.) 21-24 can then be made the close of a letter addressed to the Thessalonians.
The verses 25-27 give on a new finale, which contains nothing topical, and which, as we have already said, is found in several manuscripts at the end of chapter xiv. In other manuscripts, particularly in the Bœrnerianus and the Augiensis (the Greek part), this termination is wanting. Assuredly that portion did not constitute a part of the Epistle to the Romans, which terminates with verse (xv.) 33, nor of the Epistle to the Ephesians, which terminates with verse (xvi.) 20, nor of the Epistle to the Churches of Macedonia, which finishes with the verse (xvi.) 24. We arrive, then, at the curious result that the epistle closes four times, and in the Codex Alexandrinus five times. This is absolutely contrary to the practice of Paul, and even to good sense. Here, then, is a difficulty proceeding from some peculiar accident. Must we, with Marcion and with Baur, declare the two last chapters of the Epistle to the Romans to be apocryphal? We are surprised that a critic so acute as Baur should be contented with a solution so crude. Why should a forger invent such insignificant details? Why should he add to a sacred work a list of proper names? In the first and second centuries the authors of apocrypha had almost all some dogmatic motive; apostolic writings were xxxinterpolated either with a view to some doctrine, or to establish some form of discipline. We believe we are able to propose a theory more satisfactory than that of Baur. In our view, the epistle addrexsed to the Romans was (1) not addressed entirely to the Romans, and (2) was not addressed to the Romans only.
St Paul, advancing in his career, had acquired a taste for encyclical epistles, designed to be read in several churches. We presume that the intention of the Epistle to the Romans was an encyclical of this kind. St Paul, when he had reached his full maturity, addressed it to the most important churches, at least to three of them, and, as an exception, addressed it also to the Church of Rome. The four endings falling at verses, xv. 33, xvi. 40, xvi. 24, xvi. 27, are the endings of different copies despatched. When the epistles came to be published, the copy addressed to the Church of Rome was taken as a basis; but in order not to lose anything, there was annexed to the text thus constituted the various parts, and notably the different endings of the copies which were set aside. In this way many of the peculiarities are explained:—(1) The double use made of the passage xv. 1-13, with the chapters xii., xiii., xiv., chapters which, being appropriate only to the Churches founded by the Apostle, are not to be found in the copy sent to the Romans, whilst the passage xv. 1-13, not being appropriate to the disciples of Paul, but, on the other hand, perfectly adapted to the Romans; (2) Certain features of the epistle which were only partially adapted to the faithful of Rome, and which went even the length of indiscretion, if they had been addressed only to the latter; (3) The hesitation of the best critics on the question in distinguishing whether the epistle was addressed to the Pagan converts or to the Judæo-Christiana, a hesitation quite simple by our hypothesis, since the principal parts of the epistle had been composed for the simultaneous use of several churches; (4) What surprises is, that Paul should compose a letter so singularly important for a Church with which he was not acquainted, and in respect of which his title could be contested; (5) In a word, the capricious peculiarities of the chapters xv. and xvi., these nonsensical salutations, these four endings, three of which are certainly not to be found in the copy sent to Rome. We shall see, in the course of the present volume, how far this hypothesis is in accord with all the other necessities of the life of St Paul.
We must not omit the testimony of an important manuscript. The Codex Bœrnerianus omits the name of Rome in the verses 7 and 15 of the first chapter. We must not say that the omission is there made in view of its being read in the churches; the Bœrnerian manuscript, the work of the philologers of St Gall, about the year 900, proposed to itself a purely exegetic aim, and was copied in a very old manuscript.
I regret that I have not been able to find room in the present book to give an account of the last days of the life of St Paul: to have done that, it would have been necessary to largely increase the size of this volume. Moreover, the Third Book would have thus lost somewhat of the historical solidity which characterises it. After the arrival of Paul at Rome, in fact, we cease to tread on the ground of incontestable data; we begin to grope in the obscurity of legends and of apocryphal xxxidocuments. The next volume (fourth volume of the beginnings of Christianity) will contain the end of the life of Paul, the occurrences in Judea, the arrival of Peter at Rome, the persecutions of Nero, the death of the apostles, the apocalypse, the taking of Jerusalem, the compilation of synoptic gospels. Then, a fifth and last volume will comprise the compilation of writings more ancient than the New Testament, the interior movements of the Church of Asia Minor, the progress of the hierarchy and of discipline, the birth of the gnostic sects, the definitive constitution of a dogmatic orthodoxy and of the episcopate. When once the last book of the New Testament has been reduced to writing, when once the authority of the Church constituted and armed with a sort of touchstone to discern truth from error, when once the small democratic confraternities of the early apostolic age have abdicated their power into the hands of the bishop, then is Christianity complete. The infant will grow still, but he will have all his members; he will no longer be an embryo: he will acquire no more essential organs. At the same time, however, the last bonds which attached the Christian Church to its mother, the Jewish synagogue, has been snapped; the Church exists as an independent being; she has nothing left for her mother but aversion. The History of the Origins of Christianity ends at this moment. I trust that I shall be spared for five years to finish this work, to which I have wished to devote the most mature years of my life. It will cost me many sacrifices, especially in excluding me from the instruction of the College of France, a second aim I had proposed to myself. But one must not be too exacting; perhaps he to whom, of two designs, it has been given to realise one, ought not to rail against fate, the rather if he has understood these designs as DUTIES.
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