Billeder på siden

that city upon“ his first entrance in unto them," which the history informs us was in the course of his first visit to the peninsula of Greece.

As St. Paul tells the Philippians, “ that no church communicated with him, as concerning giving and receiving, but they only,” he could not, consistently with the truth of this declaration, have received any thing from the neighbouring church of Thessalonica. What thus appears by general implication in an epistle to another church, when he writes to the Thessalonians themselves, is noticed expressly and particularly; “ neither did we eat any man's bread for nought, but wrought night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you."

The texts here cited further also exhibit a mark of conformity with what St. Paul is made to say of himself in the Acts of the Apostles. The apostle not only reminds the Thessalonians that he had not been chargeable to any of them, but he states likewise the motive which dictated this reserve: “not because we have not power, but to make ourselves an ensample unto you to follow us." (ch. iii. 9.) . This conduct, and, what is much more precise, the end which he had in view by it, was the very same as that which the history attributes to St. Paul in a discourse, which it represents him to have addressed to the elders of the church of Ephesus: “ Yea, ye yourselves also know that these hands have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me. I have showed you all things, how, that so labouring ye ought to support the weak.Acts, ch. xx. 34. The sentiment in the epistle and in the speech is in both parts of it so much alike, and yet the words which



[ocr errors]

convey it show so little of imitation or even of resemblance, that the agreement cannot well be explained without supposing the speech and the letter to have really proceeded from the same person.

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

No. III. Our reader remembers the passage in the First Epistle to the Thessalonians, in which St. Paul spoke of the coming of Christ : “ This we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive, and remain unto the coming of the Lord, shall not prevent them which are asleep: for the Lord himself shall descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ shall rise first ; then we which are alive and remain, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, and so shall we be ever with the Lord. But

ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief.1 Thess. iv. 15–17, and ch. v. 4. It should seem that the Thessalonians, or some however amongst them, had from this passage conceived an opinion (and that not very unnaturally) that the coming of Christ was to take place instantly, OTI EVEOTYUE *; and that this persuasion had produced, as it well might, much agitation in the church. The apostle therefore now writes, amongst other purposes, to quiet this alarm, and to rectify the misconstruction that had been put upon his words :-“ Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto

* Οτι ενεστηκεν, nempe hoc anno, says Grotius, ενεστηκεν hic dicitur de re præsenti, ut Rom. viii. 38. I Cor. iii. 22. Gal. i. 4. Heb. ix. 9.

him, that ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand.” If the allusion which we contend for be admitted, namely, if it be admitted, that the passage in the second epistle relates to the passage in the first, it amounts to a considerable proof of the genuineness of both epistles. I have no conception, because I know no example, of such a device in a forgery, as first to frame an ambiguous passage in a letter, then to represent the persons to whom the letter is addressed as mistaking the meaning of the passage, and lastly, to write a second letter in order to correct this mistake.

I have said that this argument arises out of the text, if the allusion be admitted ; for I am not ignorant that many expositors understand the passage in the second epistle, as referring to some forged letters, which had been produced in St. Paul's name, and in which the apostle had been made to say that the coming of Christ was then at hand. In defence, however, of the explanation which we propose, the reader is desired to observe,

1. The strong fact, that there exists a passage in the first epistle, to which that in the second is capable of being referred, i. e. which accounts for the error the writer is solicitous to remove. Had no other epistle than the second been extant, and had it under these circumstances come to be considered, whether the text before us related to a forged epistle or to some misconstruction of a true one, many conjectures and many probabilities might have been admitted in the inquiry, which can have little weight when an epistle is produced, containing the very sort of passage we were seeking, that is, a passage liable to the misinterpretation which the apostle protests against.

2. That the clause which introduces the passage in the second epistle bears a particular affinity to what is found in the passage cited from the first epistle. The clause is this: “ We beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him.Now in the first epistle the description of the coming of Christ is accompanied with the mention of this very circumstance of his saints being collected round him. « The Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trump of God, and the dead in Christ shall rise first; then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air."

1 Thess. chap. iv. 16, 17. This I

suppose to be the “gathering together unto him” intended in the second epistle: and that the author, when he used these words, retained in his thoughts what he had written on the subject before.

3. The second epistle is written in the joint name of Paul, Silvanus, and Timotheus, and it cautions the Thessalonians against being misled " by letter as from us” (ws 8x yux). Do not these words si ripwr, appropriate the reference to some writing which bore the name of these three teachers ? Now this circumstance, which is a very close one, belongs to the epistle at present in our hands; for the epistle which we call the First Epistle to the Thessalonians contains these names in its superscription.

4. The words in the original, as far as they are material to be stated, are these : EIS TO un taxews OCλευθηναι υμας απο του νοος, μητε θροεισθαι, μητε δια πνευματος, μητε δια λογου, μητε δι' επιστολης, ως δι' ημων, ως ότι ενεστηκεν η ημερα του Χριστου. Under the weight of the preceding observations, may not the words μητε δια λογου, μητε δι' ETIOTOMMS, ws di juwy, be construed to signify quasi nos quid tale aut dixerimus aut scripserimus *, intimating that their words had been mistaken, and that they had in truth said or written no such thing?



From the third verse of the first chapter, “as I besought thee to abide still at Ephesus when I went into Macedonia," it is evident that this epistle was written soon after St. Paul had gone to Macedonia from Ephesus. Dr. Benson fixes its date to the time

* Should a contrary interpretation be preferred, I do not think that it implies the conclusion that a false epistle had then been published in the apostle's name. It will completely satisfy the allusion in the text to allow, that some one or other at Thessalonica had pretended to have been told by St. Paul and his companions, or to have seen a letter from them, in which they had said, that the day of Christ was at hand. In like manner as Acts, xv. 1. 24, it is recorded that some had pretended to have received instructions from the church at Jerusalem, which had been received, “to whom they gave no such commandment.” And thus Dr. Benson interpreted the passage μητε θροεισθαι, μητε δια ανευματος, μητε δια λογου, μητε δι' επιστολης, ως δι' ημων, "nor be dismayed by any revelation, or discourse, or epistle, which any one shall pretend to have heard or received from us."

« ForrigeFortsæt »