|« Prev||Lecture I||Next »|
Rom. i. 8: ‘First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world.'
The subject of these lectures is in one sense a well-worn theme. The literature bearing upon the history of the Church in Rome during the first century is enormous, and unfortunately in modem times the prevailing note has been controversial. It has seemed as if it were impossible even for those who have tried to write on the beginnings of Roman Christianity in the impartial spirit of the scientific historian to free themselves from bias and prejudice. This very fact, however, only proves that this has been and is a subject of profound and indeed of absorbing interest, and it is so from whatever point of view we regard it, the political, no less than the. ecclesiastical and religious. That interest indeed, so far from diminishing, has been greatly stimulated and increased by the archaeological researches and discoveries made in Rome and its immediate neighbourhood during the past half-century. Year by year additions have been made to our knowledge, and it is now generally admitted that the last word on many most important and critical questions has not yet been spoken. Already many assertions once confidently made have had to be modified or abandoned, opinions put forward with authority are constantly being revised, and a careful study of avail-able evidence has convinced me that there are grounds for questioning seriously certain conclusions now generally received, and at the same time for upholding the historical character of some ancient traditions too hastily rejected.
The first point to grasp is the character of the spell exercised over the minds of men by the very name of Rome during the period of the early Caesars. Rome in the first century of our era occupied a position of influence unique in the annals of history. It had become the magnetic centre of the civilised world, and it was itself the most cosmopolitan of cities that have ever existed. The Rome of Claudius and of Nero was the seat of an absolute and centralised Government, whose vast dominion stretched from the shores of the Atlantic to the borders of Parthia, from Britain to the Libyan deserts, over diverse lands and many races, all of them subdued after centuries of conflict and of conquest by the Roman arms, but now forming a single empire under an administrative system of unrivalled flexibility and strength, which enforced obedience to law and the maintenance of peace without any unnecessary infringement of local liberties or interference with national religious cults. One of the most remarkable features of this great Empire was the freedom of intercourse that was enjoyed, and the safety and rapidity with which travelling could be undertaken. Never until quite modern times has any such ease and security of communication between place and place been possible. And this not merely by those admirable military roads which were one of the chief instruments for the maintenance of the Roman rule and for the binding together of province with province and of the most distant frontiers with the capital; the facilities for intercourse by water also were abundant and were, except during the winter months, freely used. The Roman Empire, as a glance at the map reveals, was—even at its zenith—essentially a Mediterranean power. Its dominion consisted mainly of the fringe of territory encircling that sea. In the midst stood the capital. The greatest cities of the Empire were ports, and Rome itself, the chief among them, was dependent upon sea-borne traffic for its daily food.'11See Sir W. Ramsay's Article in Hasting's Dict. vol. v. ‘Roads and Travel in N.T. Times'; his Seven Churches, p. 15, and elsewhere in his writings. Friedlander, Sittengeschichte Roms, ii. 3; Sanday and Headlam, Ep. to Rom. p. xxvi; Merivale, St. Paul at Rome, p. 5; Miss C. Skeet, Travel in the First Century; Renan, Hibbert Lectures, 1850, ‘The Influence of the Institutions, Thought, and Culture of Rome on Christianity and the Development of the Catholic Church,' Eng. tr., pp. 17–19.
At the beginning of the Christian era the population of the imperial city has been estimated at not less than 1,300,000, of which more than one half were slaves. The entire number of citizens owning private property was very small—a few thousands only.'22Cicero (De Officiis, ii. 21) speaks of the number as 2000 in 102 B.C. Each of these possessed vast numbers of slaves,33At the end of the Republic and under the Empire it was not a rare thing to meet rich Romans possessing many thousands. Under Augustus a simple freedman, C. Caecilius Isidorus, although he had lost a considerable part of his fortune during the civil wars, still left at his death 4116 slaves. Pliny, Historia Naturalis, xxxiii. 47. who were trained to perform every kind of work, so that a considerable portion of the free inhabitants found themselves without occupation or employment. In the time of Julius Caesar44Suetonius, Caesar, 41; Dion Cassius, xliii. 21. no fewer than 320,000 were supported by the state, and though Augustus was able to reduce this multitude of paupers to 200,000,55Dion Cassius, lv, 10. the number afterwards rapidly increased. This huge population was, as has been already said, one of the most cosmopolitan that has ever been gathered together to form one community. This was due in the first instance to the practice of selling prisoners of war, and the inhabitants of captured cities, as slaves. The institution of slavery therefore implied that in every wealthy household in Rome there was a great mixture of races, and the custom of manumission on a large scale was continually admitting batches of persons of foreign extraction to many privileges of citizenship. Thus was formed the large and important class of freedmen (liberti) containing men of culture and ability, who not only filled posts of responsibility in their former masters' households but not seldom became rich and rose to high official positions in the state. Freedmen indeed and the descendants of freedmen played no small part in the history of the times with which we are dealing, and Christianity found among them many of its early converts and most earnest workers. But the freedmen and the slaves by no means comprised all the foreign population of Rome at this epoch. The legionaries were recruited in all parts of the empire; the Pretorian camp contained contingents drawn from distant frontier tribes. Traders, travellers, adventurers of every kind thronged to Rome—particularly from the East. So did the preachers and teachers of many philosophies, cults, and modes of worship, Greek, Egyptian, and Phrygian. The very language of ordinary everyday life in Rome had become Greek, and the whole atmosphere of the great city was in no small measure orientalised.66Among the upper classes it had become the fashion to speak and write Greek; for trade purposes and among the lowest classes of mixed race a debased Greek was used, as the language most generally understood. Juvenal, Sat. iii. 60 ‘Non possum ferre, Quirites, Graecam urbem'; ibid. 62 ‘Jam pridem Syrus in Tiberim defluxit Orontes.' Also 73–80.
Amongst this large alien element in the population the Jews formed one of the most marked and important sections. Their position indeed was at once singular and exclusive, for they had privileges accorded to none others. The origin77Berliner, Abraham (Geschichte der Juden in Rom, one of the best monographs on the subject), thinks that there must have been Jewish settlers in Rome before 63 B.C., or else it is difficult to account for Cicero, when pleading for Flaccus in 59 B.C., affecting to be intimidated by the crowd of Jews thronging the Aurelian steps—‘multitudinem Iudaeorum flagrantium nonnunquam in concionibus' (Cic. pro Flacco xxviii.), and probably he was right. Cicero however was no doubt greatly exaggerating his fear for his advocate's purpose. See Sanday and Headlam, Ep. to Rom. p. xix. of the Jewish colony at Rome may be traced back to 63 B.C., when Pompeius after the capture of Jerusalem brought back a large number of prisoners, who were sold as slaves. But the Jew, as a slave, was always difficult to deal with, through his obstinate adherence to his ancestral faith and peculiar customs, and so many of these slaves were speedily manumitted88Philo, Leg. ad Caium, 568. that they were able to form a community apart on the far side of the Tiber.99The Transtiberine ‘Ghetto,' which was first removed across the river in 1556. Julius Caesar from motives of expediency showed especial favour to the Jews, and his policy was continued by Augustus and, except for brief intervals, by his successors. The privileges thus conferred were very great, and included liberty of worship, freedom from military service and from certain taxes, the recognition of the Sabbath as a day of rest, the right of living according to the customs of their forefathers, and full jurisdiction over their own members.1010Schürer, Hist. of the Jewish People in N.T. Times, 2nd Div., vol. ii. pp. 234, 259, 264. Josephus (Ant. xiv.) gives a number of the edicts conferring these privileges. See also Suet. Caesar, 42. The action of Julius Caesar was the more remarkable as he took energetic steps to repress all collegia which were unable to prove ancient prescriptive rights and liberty of association generally. Consult also Harnack, Expansion of Christianity, vol. i. pp. 5–10, 350–371; Fouard, S. Pierre, c. xiv. ‘Les Juifs de Rome'; Renan, Hibbert Lectures, Eng. tr., pp. 45–55. Once in the reign of Tiberius1111Josephus (Ant. xviii. 5) tells us that the anger of Tiberius was aroused by the complaint of Saturninus, a friend of the emperor, that his wife Fulvia, who was a proselyte, had been induced to give money for the service of the Temple at Jerusalem under false pretences. Suetonius (Vit. Tib. 36) writes: ‘Iudaeorum iuventutes per speciem sacramenti in provincias gravioris caeli distribuit, reliquos gentis eiusdem vel similia sectantes urbe summovit, sub poena perpetuae servitutis nisi obtemperassent.' Tacitus (Ann. ii. 85) confirms the account of Josephus about the sending of this body of Jews to Sardinia and characteristically remarks ‘si ob gravitatem caeli interiissent; vile damnum.' The action of Tiberius was confined to the Jews of Rome. the worshippers of Jahveh and of Isis fell under the heavy displeasure of the emperor; some were punished, others expelled from the city, and the consuls were ordered to enlist 4000 Jews for military service in the malarious climate of Sardinia, 19 A.D. The determination of Caligula to set up a statue of himself in the Temple of Jerusalem aroused a storm of opposition, which would undoubtedly have brought a fierce persecution upon the Jews but for the assassination of the tyrant (41 A.D.), before his design was carried into effect.1212Much may be learnt about the position of the Jews in the Empire and of Caligula's disposition towards them in Philo's Legatio ad Caium, in which he gives an account of the reception by the emperor of a deputation from the Jews of Alexandria headed by himself. Claudius, however, on his accession at once renewed all the old privileges, and took steps to allay the fanatical passions stirred up by the action of his half-insane predecessor. From this time forward the Jews were never compelled to take part in Caesar-worship.1313Tacitus, Hist. v. 5 ‘Non regibus haec adulatio, non Caesaribus honor.' To them alone of all the peoples of the empire was this concession made.
This Jewish colony in Rome seems from the descriptions of contemporary writers to have had the same characteristics as the Jewish colonies in European cities throughout the Middle Ages, and indeed much as we see them to-day. A large proportion of these Roman Jews were very poor, living in rags and squalor, making a precarious livelihood as hawkers, pedlars, and dealers in second-hand goods. Above these were then, as now, the moneylenders, larger traders, and shopkeepers, and at the head the wealthy financiers, and in the days of Tiberius and his successors many members of the Herodian family made Rome their home and lived on terms of close intimacy with the Imperial circle.1414For the Herodian family at Rome see Josephus, Ant. xviii. 5, 6. It is a curious fact that the Jewish race, while hated and despised by the people of Rome, should have been endowed with so many immunities by the Emperors, and above all that its exclusive religion and ceremonial rites should have possessed such an attraction as undoubtedly they did possess, and should have drawn so many adherents from all classes.1515Harnack, Expansion of Christianity, i. 7–11; Schürer, 2 Div. ii. 220–242; Allard, Hist. de Perséc. c. i. sec. 1; Hardy, Studies in Roman Hist. pp. 14–28; Workman, Persecutions in Early Church, pp. 108–115. The truth is that the privileges, as I have said before, were granted from motives of pure expediency. The Jewish race was numerous, it had settlements in practically every important city in the empire, and it was financially indispensable. The number of Jews in Rome in 5 B.C. has been estimated at 10,000; in Egypt, 1,000,000; in Palestine, 700,000; in the whole Roman Empire (out of a total population of fifty-four to sixty millions) four to four and a half millions.
As 4000 adult males were actually sent to Sardinia in 19 A.D. it may safely be said that a quarter of a century later, allowing for the natural growth of population, for fresh batches of slaves receiving manumission, and for immigration from outside, the total Jewish settlement in Rome would not be less than 30,000 and might reach 50,000.
Everywhere the Jew however held aloof from his Gentile neighbours, and his absolute refusal to mingle with them and to share their life could only be met either by coercion or by favoured treatment. To the wise statesmanship of the dictator Julius the latter course commended itself, and the permanence of the policy he adopted is sufficient proof of its prescience. The attractiveness of Judaism, as a religious cult, is more difficult to explain. It had neither the mysticism nor the sensuousness of the worship of Isis or of Cybele. Yet although the Jew was hated and scorned, his religion became to a surprising degree the mode in Rome, especially among ladies of the patrician houses. The number of actual proselytes of Gentile origin was large, and still larger the number of those whom St. Luke in the Acts styles ‘God-fearers'1616These people, described in the Acts and elsewhere as σεβόμενοι (or φοβούμενοι) τὸν Θεόν or simply as σεβόμεηοι, were by Schürer, in the 1st ed. of his Geschichte d. Jüdischen Volkes im Zeitalter Jesu Christi, described as being ‘the Proselytes of the Gate' of the Talmud. He followed the commonly received opinion. He has however since then, by a careful study of inscriptions, been led to change his opinion. In his 4th ed. 1909 (iii. 173 ff.) he is able to show that the term ‘proselyte of the gate' was not used until a much later period than that with which we are dealing, and that the real meaning is that given above, heathen who had partially adopted Judaism, but without becoming proselytes. See Kirsopp Lake, Early Epistles of St. Paul, pp. 37–39. (σεβόμενοι τὸν Θεόν), i.e. people who adopted the Jewish monotheism, attended the synagogue1717The synagogues in Rome were each separately organised and independent. The entire body of Jews of the capital were not allowed, as at Alexandria, to form a state within a state, self-administered with an Alabarch at their head. The names of seven synagogues have been discovered in the inscriptions of the ancient Jewish cemeteries: (1) Αὐγουστησέων, (2) Ἀγριππησίων, (3) Bolumni, (4) Καμπησίων, (5) Σιβουρησίων, (6) Ἀιβρέων, (7) Ἐλαίας. The first two were probably the synagogues of the households of Augustus and Agrippa. The fourth and fifth belong to Jewish settlements on the outskirts of the Campus Martius and in the crowded Suburra. The third may have been built by some one of the name of Volumnus, or have been associated with him in some unknown way. The seventh, the synagogue of the Olive Tree, may have suggested the simile of Rom. xi. 17–24. The sixth inscription does not seem to have referred to any special synagogue but to have been a generic term, ‘a synagogue of the Hebrews (or Jews).' In addition to settlements in the Suburra and near the Campus Martius, the discovery of two ancient Jewish cemeteries on the Appian Way, one of them close to the Porta Capena, bears evidence to yet another Jewish colony at this point, not inconsiderable in numbers. The Transtiberine, however, was always by far the largest of the Jewish quarters. See Schürer, 2 Div., ii. 247–249; Fouard, S. Pierre, pp. 316–322; Garrucci, Cimetero degli antichi Ebrei in Roma, and Marucchi, Elements d'Archéologie Chrétienne, vol. ii. pp. 208–226, 259–274. services, and observed the Sabbath and certain portions of the ceremonial law. These ‘God-fearers,' in every place where Jewish communities were to be found, formed a fringe round the Synagogue of bodies of men and women, who, in this age of religious electicism, without altogether abandoning their connexion with Paganism, had become semi-Jews.
In a city such as the Rome we have been describing it is not difficult to see a seed-plot ready prepared for the planting of a new religion like Christianity, oriental in its origin, an outgrowth of Judaism, akin in so many points to the Mystery-Religions of Egypt and Asia Minor then so much in vogue, and bearing, as it did, in its ethical teaching so striking a resemblance to the moral code of the Stoics. That the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in some primitive form reached the banks of the Tiber very early there is, as I shall show later, good reason to believe, but of the when or how we know nothing directly. The converts at first would be almost certainly few in number and drawn from the humbler class of Jews.1818For the chronology of these Lectures see Note A of the Appendix. The new sect, if it were noticed at all by the authorities, would be regarded with contemptuous indifference as a variety of Judaism, and therefore sheltered by the privileges which Judaism, as a religio licita, enjoyed.1919Tertullian (Apol. xxi.) says that the Church until the time of Nero's persecution grew up under the shadow of the synagogue: ‘quasi sub umbraculo religionis insignissimae certe licitae.' The only possible allusion in the first decade after the Crucifixion to the existence in Rome of a knowledge of Christian teaching is contained in a passage of Suetonius' ‘Life of Caligula,' in which he tells of the performance before the Emperor of a play in which a certain Laureolus, who gives his name to the piece, is crucified upon the stage. Might there not be here a cruel parody upon the central theme of Christian preaching? Probably not, though such an exhibition is at any rate thoroughly illustrative of the spirit of mockery with which the idea of a crucified Saviour would be received.2020Suet. Calig. 57. See also for later notices of Laureolus, Jos. Ant. xix. 18; Martial, Spect. 7; Tertullian, Valent. 14. In Mayor's Juvenal, vol. ii. p. 40, the following note appears to Sat. viii. 167: ‘Laureolum Schol. In ipso mimo Laureolo figitur crux unde vera cruce dignus est Lentulus, qui tanto detestabilior est quanto melius gestum imitatus est scenicum. . . . Hic Lentulus nobilis fuit et suscepit servi personam in agendo mimo.'
There is evidence, however, in the pages of the same historian, Suetonius, that almost exactly a decade after the aforesaid production of the Laureolus Christianity in Rome had already become a force sufficiently potent to draw down upon it the fanatical antagonism of the Jews. Tumults and disorders seem to have arisen in the Jewish quarter of the city in 50 A.D. of such a threatening character as to force the Government, in spite of its favourable inclination to the Jews, to take strong action. This appears to me to be nothing more than a fair interpretation of Suetonius' words—‘the Jews who were continually rioting at the instigation of Chrestus he (Claudius) expelled from Rome.'2121Suet. Claudius, 25 ‘Iudaeos impulsore Chresto assidue tumultuantes Roma expulit.' To write Chrestus for Christus was quite natural to a Latin historian, for Chrestus was a name in use at Rome as extant inscriptions show,2222CIL. vi. 10233. The following inscription, which I came across, seemed to me specially interesting from the collocation of the names Chrestus and Paula. ‘P. Ælius Chrestus et Cornelia Paula hoc scalare adplicitum huic sepulchro quod emerunt a fisco agente Agathonico proc [-uratore] Augustorum nostrorum quod habet scriptura infra scripta. Gentiano et Basso cons. vii Kal. April.' Date, 211 A.D. and both Tertullian and Lactantius2323Tert. Apol. 3: ‘Sed ut cum perperam Chrestianos pronuntiatur a vobis, nam nec nominis certa est notitia penes vos'; Lact. Inst. Divin. iv. 17: ‘Sed exponenda huius nominis [Christi] ratio est propter ignorantium errorem, qui eum immutata litera Chrestum solent dicere.' Compare the title Le Roy très Chréstien of the French Kings. tell us that in their time the common pronunciation was “Chrestus' and ‘Chrestianos' for ‘Christus' and ‘Christianos.' The French word ‘chrétien' is to this day a living proof that this mode of spelling still survives. Dion Cassius2424Dion Cassius, lx. 6: τούς τε Ἰουδαίους, πλεονάσαντας αὖθις χαλεπῶς ἂν ἄνευ ταραχῆς ὑπὸ τοῦ ὄχλου σφῶν τῆς πόλεως εἰρχθῆναι, οὐκ ἐξήλασε μέν, τῷ δὲ δὴ πατρίῳ νόμῳ βίῳ χρωμένους, ἐκέλευσε μὴ συναθροίζεσθαι. τάς τε ἑταιρείας ἐπαναχθείσας ὑπὸ τοῦ Γαίου διέλυσε. informs us that the edict of expulsion, owing to the disturbance that it caused, was only partially carried out, but that the synagogues were closed and the clubs licensed by Caligula dissolved. Among the Jews that were expelled were no doubt the chief leaders of the contending factions. Among these were Aquila and Priscilla or Prisca, of whom we read in the Acts of the Apostles that in consequence of Claudius' edict of banishment they had left Rome and taken up their abode at Corinth, and were there brought into personal contact with St. Paul, when in the summer of 51 A.D. he first visited that city.
The intercourse which thus began was destined to be long-continued and intimate, and it was through this intercourse (such at least is my firm persuasion) that that eager desire to visit Rome, to which the Apostle gives such strong expression in his Epistle to the Romans some five or six years later, was first fanned into flame. Not without purpose did St. Luke, who never wastes words, give such an elaborate description of this husband and wife upon their first entry on the stage of his history. ‘Having departed from Athens' we read Acts, xviii. 1. ‘Paul came to Corinth and having met a certain Jew, by name Aquila, a Pontian2525I.e. a native of the Roman Province of Pontus. by birth, who had lately come from Italy, and Priscilla his wife, in consequence of the decree of Claudius that all the Jews should depart from Rome, betook himself to them, and because they were of the same trade he abode with them and wrought at his craft, for they were tentmakers by trade.' Here undoubtedly St. Luke intended in the first place to give the reason for the strong bond of sympathy which at once sprang up between these two Asiatic Jews and fellow craftsmen. The description of Aquila as a Jew does not mean that he was not a Christian. Had he and his wife required to be converted and baptised, it is almost impossible that so important a fact should not here have been mentioned. Compare the notice about Apollos, Acts xviii. 24-27, The Jews who were actually exiled by Claudius were no doubt the leaders of the contending factions, Aquila and Prisca having been in 50 A.D. as afterwards among the foremost of the Christian congregation. In the eyes of the Roman authorities, as has already been pointed out, Christianity was as yet simply a Jewish sect. The emphatic statement that Aquila was a Jew applies, as the context shows, not to his religion but to his race, and the separate mention of Priscilla without that epithet may be taken to imply, firstly, that she was not Jewish but Roman, and secondly that she was to play an independent role in the furtherance of St. Paul's missionary work. Never indeed in the New Testament is the one name mentioned without the other, and in four out of the six places in which they occur the name of Prisca or Priscilla stands first.2626For further details about Prisca and Aquila see Appendix, Note B. It is noteworthy that St. Paul according to the authority of the best authenticated readings always calls the wife Prisca, while St. Luke names her Priscilla. Both writers, except in one case, I Cor. xvi. 19, place the name of the wife first. St. Luke is wont to use the diminutive forms of names, which were usual in conversation, i.e. Priscilla, Silas, Sopatros; St. Paul the forms Prisca, Silvanus, Sosipatros. See Ramsay, St. Paul the Traveller, pp. 267–8. From this fact the deduction has been made, and in my opinion rightly, that Prisca was of more honourable position by birth than her husband, and that she possessed private means which she freely used in furthering the cause of the Gospel.2727Plumptre, Biblical Studies, p. 417; Hort, Romans and Philippians, pp. 12–14; Ramsay, St. Paul the Traveller, pp. 253 f., 267 f.; Zahn, Intr. to N.T. i. 263, etc. etc.
I have spoken, not without good reason, of this intercourse which began in 51 A.D. at Corinth, as being long-continued and intimate. During the whole of his eighteen months' sojourn in that city St. Paul lived under their roof, and when he sailed from Cenchraea for Ephesus in the early spring of 53 A.D. Aquila and Prisca accompanied him. At Ephesus they took up their abode, Acts, xviii. 11 and 18, 19. and at once set about active missionary work, while awaiting the Apostle's return some six months later. During this interval it was by their instrumentality that the eloquent and learned Apollos was instructed in the full Christian faith, and probably it was by their advice that he entered upon, what we know to have been, his fruitful ministry at Corinth. Acts, xviii. 24-27. Throughout the two years and a quarter Acts, xix. 10. that St. Paul made Ephesus the centre of his labours, Aquila and Prisca resided there. Probably their house was as before the Apostle's home; in any case we know that it was a meeting-place in which the faithful gathered for worship, for in his First Epistle to the Corinthians, I Cor. xvi. 19. which was written from Ephesus some time in the autumn of 55 A.D., St. Paul sends the salutations of Aquila and Priscilla and ‘of the Church that is in their house.' From these his close friends and fellow-workers, with whom he was for some five or six years in constant communication, St. Paul would therefore have ample opportunities for learning much about the condition of the Church in Rome, and this not only from Aquila and Prisca themselves but from other exiles and the many travellers and traders from the capital whom he must have met at their house, and who would bring with them the latest news as to the state of things in the Imperial City. Among other things would come the glad tidings of the accession of the young and popular Nero in the place of Claudius, and of the happy prospects that his reign promised, a promise that was justified so long as the boy emperor was content in his public administration to place himself under the guidance of his wise counsellors Seneca and Burrhus.2828For the good government of the Empire during the first five years of Nero's reign, known in history as the quinquennium of Nero, see Henderson's Life and Principate of the Emperor Nero. What is certain is that St. Paul at the close of his two years' ministry at Ephesus began to look ahead and to plan fresh schemes of missionary activity. His first task was to journey through Macedonia to Corinth, where his presence was called for and needed; his next to pay another visit after a long absence to Jerusalem, but ‘fter I have been there,' he said, ‘I must see Rome.'2929Acts, xix, 21. His departure from Ephesus was more hurried than he expected, for in the riots raised by Demetrius and his fellow-craftsmen against the Christians and the Jews with whom as usual they were confounded,3030Acts, xix. 33-4. Paul seems to have narrowly escaped from the violence of the angry throng, and to have succeeded in doing so only through the self-sacrificing courage of Aquila and Prisca,3131Rom. xvi. 34: Ἀσπάσασθε Πρίσκαν καί Ἀκύλαν τοὺς συνεργούς μου ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ, οἵτινες ὑπὲρ τῆς ψυχῆς μου τὸν ἑαυτῶν τράχηλον ὑπέθηκαν. Comp. 2 Cor. i. 8. The group of MSS. D, E, F, G, add παῤ οἷς καί ψενίζομαα, pointing to the tradition in the Western Church that St. Paul lived at Ephesus in the house of Aquila and Prisca. who risked their own lives in order to save his.
It had been Paul's intention to remain at Ephesus till Pentecost, but this serious tumult compelled3232Acts, xix. 31. him to leave much earlier in the year 56 A.D., and at the same time and for the same reasons his friends Aquila and Prisca may have taken the opportunity to start on their return journey to Rome, the edict of banishment having now been allowed to lapse by the conciliatory policy of Nero's advisers. The friendly Asiarchs, who warned Paul not to adventure himself into the theatre, would indeed feel it their duty, as soon as the riot was appeased, for the sake of the peace of the city to insist that both Paul and his protectors Aquila and Prisca should quit Ephesus for a time. Paul himself carried out his plan of journeying by way of Troas and Philippi to Corinth, where he passed the three winter months of 56–57 A.D. The project of a visit to Rome, so long cherished, so often hindered, now began to assume a concrete shape in his mind, and the result was the writing, almost certainly in the early spring of the year 57 A.D., of the Epistle to the Romans. Now this great epistle stands in the forefront of the Pauline writings chiefly as a theological treatise, but apart from its theology it has other claims, as an historical document of the highest evidential value, deserving from the Church historian's point of view the closest and most attentive study.
In the first place then this Epistle bears upon its face the clearest testimony to the existence in 57 A.D. of a distinguished and well-established Christian Church in Rome, a Church already of some standing and in which the Gentile element predominated. The mere fact that the Apostle, at a time when many cares pressed heavily upon him,33332 Cor. ii. 4, 5, 13; iv. 8-11; xi. 27-28; xii. 10, 20-21; Acts, xx. 19-25. took the pains to write this elaborate and carefully reasoned statement of his doctrinal teaching to a body of Christians that he had never visited, is evidence to the very important place they occupied in his thoughts. His words, ‘I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all that your faith34342 Rom. i. 8: ἡ πίστις ὑμῶν = your profession of Christianity. is proclaimed in all the world,' may be somewhat hyperbolic, but they mean at any rate that the Roman Church was well known and highly spoken of in all the various Christian communities with which St. Paul was acquainted. And the impression these words convey is emphasised by the Apostle's later declaration affirming even in stronger terms his personal assent to this widely received estimate of the character of Roman Christianity, for no language could be more explicit than this—‘I am persuaded, my brethren, I myself also concerning you, that even of yourselves'—i.e. without any extraneous help derived from such an epistle as I am sending to you—‘you are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another.'3535Rom. xv. 14: Πέπεισμαι δέ, ἀδελφοί μου, καὶ αὐτὸς ἐγὼ περὶ ὑμῶν, ὅτι καὶ αὐτοὶ μεστοί ἐστε ἀγαθωσύνης, πεπληρωμένοι πάσης γνώσεως, δυνάμενοι καὶ ἀλλήλους νουθετεῖν. Notice the emphatic position of καὶ αὐτὸς ἐγώ. Compare xvi. 19: ἡ γὰρ ὑμῶν ὑπακοὴ εἰς πάντας ἀφίκετο. Such a declaration implies a conviction based upon trustworthy evidence, otherwise his readers would be the first to perceive that here was only high-flown language covering an empty compliment. Such an utterance from a man and a writer like St. Paul presupposes an already existing acquaintance with a considerable number of Roman Christians, whose goodness, knowledge, and sound judgment he has tested and learnt to appreciate. Indeed it is not too much to say that Paul in writing this epistle is somewhat oppressed by a sense that those whom he is addressing—for a reason, which will appear presently—may possibly think that they have no special need either of his instruction or of his admonition. His epistle is an apologia for venturing to be so bold as to propose to pay a visit to Rome, even though that visit should be no more than a brief pause in the course of a journey farther west.3636Rom. xv. 24. He evidently had in his mind the fear that in Rome he had, as a preparatory step, to fight down disparaging rumours concerning himself, his teaching, and his office, and that he might be regarded as an intruder. If he had found it necessary even in Corinth, a Church which he himself had planted, and where even now he was writing, to defend strenuously his Apostolic claims and doctrine,37372 Cor. x. 12-18; xii. 11-13; and elsewhere. how much more in Rome among Christians of old standing, in whose conversion he had had no hand. So in the Introductory Salutation St. Paul sets forth his credentials. He is no mere ordinary apostle, a man commissioned by the Twelve or by some particular Church to go forth to some limited field of missionary work. His Apostleship differed from that of their own Junias and Andronicus,3838Rom. xvi. 7. whom later he describes as ‘apostles of note,' differed—perhaps it is implied—even from that of so eminent a man as Barnabas,3939There are grounds, as will appear in the sequel, for believing that Barnabas had already visited Rome. in that he [Paul] like the Twelve had been chosen out and set apart4040Rom. i. 1: κλητὸς ἀπὸστολος, ἀφωρισμένος εἰς εὐαγγέλιον θεοῦ. for the preaching of the Gospel by the Lord Jesus Christ Himself—chosen and set apart for preaching the Gospel among all nations and bringing them to the obedience of the faith.4141Rom. i. 5: δἰ οὗ [Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν] ἐλάβομεν χάριν καὶ ἀποστολὴν εἰς ὑπακοὴν πίστεως ἐν πᾶσιν τοῖς ἔθνεσιν. And though the Gospel has already been preached in Rome and with such success that the faith of the Roman Christians is spoken of everywhere in terms of praise, yet Rome too lies within the bounds of his commission, and so he has many times planned, though hitherto always hindered, to come to them that he might have some fruit amongst them also. Indeed he calls God to witness that he had prayed continually that he might be prospered on his way to visit them, that he might be able to impart to them some spiritual gift for their confirmation. Immediately, however, adding lest he should offend their susceptibilities by any assumption of superiority—‘that is that while I am amongst you we may be jointly strengthened by the mutual faith of you and me.'4242Rom. i. 12: τοῦτο δέ ἐστιν συνπαρακληθῆναι ἐν ὑμῖν διὰ τῆς ἐν ἀλλήλοις πιστέως ὑμῶν τε καὶ ἐμοῦ. See Zahn, Int. to N.T. pp. 355-8, 369. Kirsopp Lake, Early Epist. of St. Paul, pp. 378-9.
But if the note of apologia can be discerned here in the introductory verses, it comes out much more strongly in what may be styled the body of the epistle. The difficulties of interpretation theologically of the Apostle's reasoning and arguments, in that grand series of chapters which end with chapter xi., lie outside my province. Those difficulties, admittedly very great, are caused in no small degree by our ignorance of the circumstances, of the persons, parties, questions, and situation generally with which St. Paul was dealing. We lack in fact the historical background. It is my present object to try to trace out from the materials, which the epistle itself supplies in definite even though in parts but in faint outline, such features of that background as are discernible through the mist of ages. Leaving on one side for the present the extremely important autobiographical passage in chapter xv., also the valuable testimony as to the composition of the Roman Church furnished by the list of salutations in chapter xvi., which require special and separate treatment, we can, I think, make certain well-grounded assertions concerning the three distinct groups of persons whom St. Paul had in his thoughts as he wrote this epistle. These three groups are (1) a body of Jewish Christians, (2) a larger body of converted Gentiles, (3) the mass of unbelieving Jews. St. Paul leaves in no doubt that the third group comprised the vast majority of the Roman Jews, including practically the whole of official Israel. And what is more, as yet these rabbis, elders, and rulers of the Synagogues were not so much actively hostile to the preaching of Christianity as simply deaf, contemptuously indifferent. Those of Group No. 1, the Jewish Christians, were relatively small in number, but though small they were divided into two very distinct sections or parties. One of these sections consisted of Jews like Aquila and others mentioned in the salutations, who were Paul's friends and fellow-workers; the other, an extremely influential and energetic section of Judaeo-Christians, Jews rather than Christians, who, like the Judaisers who are brought before us in the Epistle to the Galatians and elsewhere, were bitterly opposed to St. Paul, disputed his Apostolic authority, traduced and misrepresented his teaching, and denounced him as a renegade from the faith of his fathers. The Gentiles of the second group formed the chief element in. the Roman Church. Of these no doubt a certain number had been converted straight from heathendom, but the assumption which runs through the epistle, that they were familiar with the Jewish Scriptures in the Septuagint version, and with the Jewish ceremonial law, would seem to point to their being largely drawn from the class of Greek-speaking ‘God-fearers,' which, as I have already stated, in all the chief towns of the Empire, and conspicuously in Rome, formed a fringe round the synagogue. If it be asked, what was the impelling motive which led to the writing of this epistle, and which dictated the order and character of the arguments, the answer surely is not far to seek. St. Paul had made up his mind after many hesitations to visit Rome, but from information that had come to him he was not altogether happy about the reception he would meet. To the Christian community of the imperial city as a whole he was a stranger, and as I have said, he was aware that there was a Judaising faction there busy at their usual task of stirring up enmity against him. His own words (Rom. iii. 8), ‘as we are slanderously reported and as some affirm that we say, let us do evil that good may come,' are a proof that he had been informed that his great doctrine of Justification by Faith had been seized upon by these adversaries to represent him as an antinomian. He therefore felt it to be incumbent upon him to answer at once and in advance these Judaistic attacks by a full exposition of his teaching on the subject of Justification by Faith, and at the same time he desired to make clear what was his real attitude towards many disputed questions concerning Judaism and the observance of the Mosaic Law, and the relation between Jew and Gentile in the Church of Christ.
If this be granted then a flood of light is immediately thrown on the interpretation and import of that central portion of this epistle, which begins with the words (Rom. ii. 17)—‘but if thou bearest the name . . . of Jew and possessest a law to rest upon'—up to the end of chapter xi. It is unmistakably addressed to Jews.4343Rom. ii. 17–29; iii. 1, 2; iv. 1. That this body of Judaeo-Christians were still active in Rome, and doing their utmost at a later time to counteract St. Paul's influence and oppose his teaching, see Phil. i. 15, 16; iii. 1-6. It was to these same Jews that chap. xiv. 1–23 appears to have been addressed. The extreme particularity about meats and rigid asceticism were characteristic of the party of the circumcision. See Zahn, Int. to N.T. pp. 366-7. Not to the strict orthodox Jews of the Synagogues, who in their haughty aloofness would not be likely either to see or to read the Apostle's arguments. The Jews addressed were men who had indeed accepted Jesus as the Jewish Messiah but who perhaps only the more obstinately for that very reason clung to their Judaism, and hated the thought of losing any of those exclusive religious privileges, as Israelites, which were their pride and boast. The doors of the Christian Church, as they conceived it, might be open to Gentiles, but only if they would consent to be circumcised and to conform to the ordinances of the Mosaic Law.
But though in form he is addressing himself to Jews, Paul's thoughts are all the time directed to his Gentile readers, and it is for their sake and for their edification quite as much as for the persuasion of his Jewish fellow-countrymen that he step by step leads up to the establishment of the fundamental principles of the Gospel that he preached. This is made quite clear by his own words (chap. xi. 13–14): ‘For it is to you the Gentiles that I am speaking. Nay, more,4444So Sanday and Headlam give the force of the μὲν οὖν in this verse. Commentary on Romans, p. 324. in so far as I am the Gentiles' Apostle I make-the-most-of4545Lit. glorify. my ministry; if by any means I may stir to jealousy my own flesh and might save some.'4646On St. Paul's attitude towards Jewish Christianity and Judaism see the extremely interesting section of Harnack's Neue Untersuchungen sur Apostelgeschichte, 1911 (Eng. tr. by Rev. J. R. Wilkinson in Crown Theol. Lib.), pp. 28–47. Of the evidence supplied by that section of the Epistle to the Romans from which these words are taken, Harnack writes: ‘Der Grosse Abschnitt—c. 9–11—ist aus der Feder eines Juden geflossen der mit allen Fasern seiner Seele an seinem Volke hängt' (p. 31). And again concerning the simile of the olive-tree in c. xi.: ‘Man beachte wohl, das (gläubige) Israel κατὰ σάρκα ist and bleibt “der güte Ölbaum” (gegenüber dem wilden Ölbaum der Heiden); jeder Israelit ist ein “naturlicher Zweig” dieses guten Ölbaums, wenn er auch unter Umständen abgehauen werden muss, and er d.h. das gläubige Israel κατὰ σάρκα ist die Wurzel an deren Safte and Fettigkeit die eingepropften wilden Schösslinge teilnehmen und die sie trägt' (p. 32). See also the quotation from Herzog in note. I have already pointed out the possibility that the name of one of the Roman synagogues ‘The Olive Tree' may have suggested this simile to St. Paul.
The lengthy list of salutations to be found in the first
twenty-three verses of chapter xvi. is a passage of great and peculiar
interest historically, for it enables us to form some estimate, not conjecturally
but positively, concerning the social and racial composition of the Roman Christian
community at this time. It also gives indirectly an indication of the close relations
of intercourse subsisting between the Churches of the chief cities of the Mediterranean
coast. The very fact of its historical importance has however caused doubts to be
raised by certain critics of the hypercritical school whether the passage is really
an integral part of the Epistle to the Romans. Its Pauline authorship is not assailed,
but attempts have been made to show that the list where it stands has (wholly or
in part) been displaced and that it should be attached to some hypothetical epistle
addressed at some unknown time to another Church, most probably to that of Ephesus.
It must suffice here to say that I accept without hesitation the whole of this sixteenth
chapter as an original and authentic portion of the Epistle to the Romans on the
following grounds. First, to quote the words of Professor Kirsopp Lake, one of the
most recent advocates of the Ephesian hypothesis, ‘There is no trace of any external
evidence for doubting that this section has always belonged to the epistle.'4747Kirsopp Lake, The Early Epistles of St. Paul, their motive and origin, p. 325 ff. This
then is admitted, and it counts heavily. Secondly, all the names, some of them rare
and uncommon names, contained in the list of salutations have been discovered in
the inscriptions found in the colurnbaria and cemeteries of Rome, of a date contemporary
or nearly contemporary with the date of the epistle: an evidence in favour of authenticity,
which, if not absolutely conclusive, is at least remarkably convincing.4848Sanday and Headlam, Ep. to Romans, pp. xciii–xcv; Lightfoot, Ep. to Philippians, see dissertation
on Caesar's Household, pp. 169–176. The arguments
in favour of the anti-Roman hypothesis are of a purely a priori character, and there
are only two of them, it seems to me, of weight sufficient to deserve consideration.
The first is the difficulty of imagining that Paul could possibly
have been acquainted with the names of so many members of a Church he had never
visited, and still more that he should have been able in quite a large proportion
of cases to add personal details. With this argument I have already dealt in part.
Besides the information which he must have acquired from Aquila and Prisca during
those four years they spent together at Corinth and Ephesus, he would be brought
into contact at those two great centres of Mediterranean traffic with a constant
stream of travellers and traders from Rome. Among these would be Christians, whose
first thought would be to find their way to the friendly house of their banished
fellow-citizens. Criticism here, as in many other instances, has gone astray from
its failure to recognise the great facilities for intercourse in Apostolic times,
especially between cities on the shores of the Mediterranean, and the freedom with
which those facilities were used. The travels of Apollonius of Tyana as told by
Philostratus are a good instance in point, for Apollonius was a contemporary of
St. Paul. The Apostle did not draw up, we may be sure, this unusually long list
of salutations without an object. Diffident, as he seems to have been, of the welcome
he would receive upon his visit to Rome, may we not regard these salutations as
in some sense a tactful act of diplomacy? He wished to remind those who are mentioned
that he bore them in his remembrance and affection, and at the same time to bespeak,
as it were, their good offices with their brethren for the time when he actually
came amongst them.4949Zahn (Int. to N.T. i. 388) says: ‘Who does not
see that all these personal references are due to Paul's desire to make the Church
feel that it is not such a stranger to him as it seems, and at the same time are
indications of an effort on his part to bring himself into closer touch with the
Church where as yet he was really a stranger?' That Paul himself could not have made out such a list with its
many details without assistance is possibly true, but that assistance was at his
very side, as his words were being written down. Very interesting, as a mark of
the genuineness of this passage, is the sudden interpolation, in the midst of the
Pauline phrases, of a salutation
from another hand, ‘I, Tertius, the scribe of this epistle, salute
you.'5050 Rom. xvi. 22.In
the first-century Cemetery of Priscilla close to the mausoleum of the noble family
of the Acilii there may be seen to-day a Greek inscription in red (a proof of its
very early date):
The Tertius here mentioned is probably not St. Paul's amanuensis, but there is no reason why he should not be. It is interesting that a well-authenticated tradition places the tombs of Aquila and Prisca in the vicinity of this inscription. Horace Marucchi, Eléments d'Archéologie Chrétienne, ii. 419. See also i. 104. Tertius was then a Roman Christian, and he had doubtless been chosen by Paul on this occasion to act as his amanuensis, for this very reason.
The second argument relied upon by the critics is at first sight more plausible. Paul in writing his First Epistle to the Corinthians from Ephesus sends salutations from Aquila and Prisca and the Church in their house, adding according to one group of authorities the words ‘with whom also I am a guest.'5151παῤ οἷς καὶ ξενίζομαι. D, F, lat, goth, Bede. Nothing could be more natural, and the inference seems to follow that when previously the Apostle was a guest in their house at Corinth, there likewise that house was a meeting-place for a Christian congregation. About a year and a quarter after this Paul, writing from Corinth to the Romans, again sends salutations to these same fellow-workers (Aquila and Prisca), and then after a eulogistic reference to their having risked their lives to save his, and thanking them not only in his own name but in that of all the Churches of the Gentiles, he proceeds to salute ‘the Church that is in their house.' Now to the critics with whom I am dealing it appears very improbable that if Aquila and Prisca had only returned to Rome so recently there could have been already a Church in their house with the existence of which St. Paul could have been sufficiently acquainted to deem it worthy of a special salutation. It is pointed out, moreover, that in his Second Epistle to Timothy (an epistle, by the by, not accepted by these same critics as Paul's or contemporary) Paul sends salutations from Rome to Prisca and Aquila apparently at Ephesus, and the suggestion is put forward that during the decade which intervened between the first and last of these salutations the home of this husband and wife had always been at Ephesus. This being so, this section of the sixteenth chapter of the Romans cannot belong to the epistle in which we find it.
It might be thought a sufficient answer to this allegation that external authority in its favour is confessedly nonexistent—to say nothing of the fact that tradition with no uncertain voice connects the names of Prisca and Aquila with definite localities in Rome.5252The Church of St. Prisca and the Cemetery of Priscilla. See Appendix, Special Note B. But quite apart from this there is no real difficulty in accepting the usual interpretation of the salutation.
When the Apostle parted at Ephesus with the faithful companions and fellow-workers who had been so long of such service to him, one may be quite sure it would not be without full knowledge on both sides of their future intentions and plans. On his reaching Corinth a whole twelve-month at least must have passed, ample time for news to have come, by some of those using the highway of traffic across the isthmus, that Aquila and Prisca were again settled at Rome and carrying on their work there on the same lines as at Corinth and Ephesus. There is nothing whatever impossible in this, nothing certainly to afford the slightest pretext for the rejection of a well-authenticated text. Personally however I do not believe that there is any necessity for entering upon the consideration of what I venture to call ‘time-table calculations.' There is nothing in St. Paul's words to warrant us in assuming that this ‘Church in the house' of Aquila and Prisca was new to Roman Christianity. The banishment decreed by Claudius was according to Dion Cassius most leniently carried out and would not involve the confiscation of property.5353Relegatio, not deportatio. Dion Cassius, lx. 6. It is one of those minute points that are often so significant, that St. Paul speaks of the house at Ephesus as that of Aquila and Prisca, of the house at Rome as that of Prisca and Aquila. If Prisca were, as is commonly supposed, when they were resident at Rome the more important person of the two spouses, and the owner of property, then the unusual inversion of the names is explicable. But at Ephesus where they were strangers the house would naturally be described as that of Aquila and Prisca, the husband's name standing first in order of precedence.5454See Zahn, Int. to N.T. p. 390, for a useful comment on the movements of Aquila and Prisca.
Since Aquila and Prisca were expelled, it must have been, as I have already said, because they were recognised leaders of that faction of ‘Chrestus' of which Suetonius speaks. May one not be justified then in the assumption that the readiness of the exiles at Corinth and at Ephesus to offer hospitality and a room for worship in their house was but the continuation of their previous practice at their Roman home before their banishment? But if the Church in their house was thus in existence before 50 A.D., it is scarcely likely that the owners in their enforced absence would forbid its use. It would but lessen their sense of separation, if they were thus able to be of continued service to their poorer Christian brethren in Rome. Such a supposition of course involves certain assumptions about the state of the Church in Rome in 50 A.D., but I hope to be able to show that it is a reasonable assumption, and consistent alike with the positive and traditional data that we possess.5555See Marucchi, Eléments d'Archéologie Chrétienne, iii. p. 180 ff and 364 ff. The Epistle to the Romans is itself a proof that Christianity was firmly established in the metropolis some time before 57 A.D.; there must therefore before that date have been houses where the faithful met. Tradition mentions only two such places of assembly—the house of Prisca and Aquila and the house of Pudens. The localities are still supposed to be marked by the very ancient Churches of St. Prisca and St. Pudenziana.
Granting then that this list of salutations is addressed to the Roman community, let us glance very briefly at its general features. A study of the names enables us to draw the conclusion that the Roman Christians mainly belonged to the class of Greek-speaking freedmen and slaves.5656They would consist of people of every nationality, but among those converted to Christianity probably a large proportion were Orientals by race. Certain of these are addressed by the Apostle as kinsmen (συγγενεῖς), and it is safe to assume that these were Jewish fellow-countrymen.5757Compare Rom. ix. 3: ηὐχόμην γὰρ ἀνάθεμα εἶναι αὐτὸς ἐγὼ ἀπὸ τοῦ χριστοῦ ὑπὲρ τῶν ἀδελφῶν μου, τῶν συγγενῶν μου κατὰ σάρκα, οἵτινές εἰσιν Ἰσραηλῖται. It is possible that some others not so designated may have been Jews, but the probability is the other way. The evidence already adduced points clearly to a hostility to Paul among the Judaeo-Christians at Rome, which would naturally exclude them from receiving friendly greetings. Two names in this group deserve special mention. ‘Salute Andronicus and Junias my kinsmen and my fellow-prisoners, who are men of mark among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me'5858ἀσπάσασθε Ἀνδρόνικον καὶ Ἰουνιᾶν τοὺς συγγενεῖς μου καὶ συναιχμαλώτους μου, οἵτινές εἰσιν ἐπίσημοι ἐν τοῖς ἀποστόλοις, οἳ καὶ πρὸ ἐμοῦ γέγοναν ἐν Χριστῷ. It is possible that Ἰουνίαν might be feminine = Junia, but it is generally taken as masculine, Junias an abbreviation for Junianus. is the remarkable language of the seventh verse. When and where these two had been Paul's fellow-prisoners we know not. Paul in his Second Epistle to the Corinthians—only a few months before—had spoken of frequent imprisonments59592 Cor. xi. 23: ἐν φυλακαῖς περισσοτέρως. of which we know nothing. The very fact that he describes Andronicus and Junias as ‘men of mark among the apostles' makes it probable that he had encountered them in his journeys, for the term ‘apostle' at this early period seems to have been applied generally to delegates sent out with a commission by some Church for some special field of missionary work, and to have carried with it as a necessary qualification the possession of charismatic gifts.6060See Harnack, Expansion of Christianity, i. 398–412; Lightfoot, Epistle to Galatians, p. 93; Kirsopp Lake, Early Epistles of St. Paul, pp. 108–110. Comp. 2 Cor. viii. 23: ἀπόστολοι ἐκκλησιῶν. But a still greater distinction is conferred on these two by Paul's admission that ‘they were in Christ before me,' words which imply that their conversion dated back at least as far as the days of St. Stephen's activity. Possibly they belonged to that ‘Synagogue of the Libertines'6161Acts, vi. 9. Andronicus and Junias may, of course, have been among the ‘strangers of Rome, Jews and Proselytes,' who were converted on the Great Day of Pentecost. in which Stephen argued, and afterwards became, a little later, the first preachers of the Gospel at Rome. Very interesting are the salutations to the households of Aristobulus and Narcissus. These would all be freedmen or slaves. Aristobulus may well have been that grandson of Herod the Great who is described by Josephus6262Josephus, Ant. xx. 1. 2; Bell. Iud. ii. 11. 6. as making his permanent home at Rome. This is borne out by the salutation to ‘Herodion my kinsman' intervening between those of the two households. The name suggests a member of the family to which Aristobulus belonged. Narcissus can scarcely be any other than the freedman and favourite of Claudius. He had been put to death some three years before this epistle was written, but his slaves and dependents, though they would after his execution be incorporated in the Imperial household, might still retain the distinctive name of Narcissiani.6363Lightfoot, Epistle to Philippians, Dissertation on Caesar's Household, p. 169; Sanday and Headlam, Romans, pp. 405–6. It is possible that Aristobulus may have been dead in 57 A.D., and have bequeathed his slaves to the emperor. If so, both these groups would form part of that vast body of freedmen and slaves known as Caesar's Household, to which St. Paul refers writing from Rome to the Philippians: ‘all the Saints salute you, specially they of Caesar's Household.'
How vast a number composed the imperial household may be gathered from the statement of Lanciani (‘Ancient Rome in the Light of Recent Discoveries,' p. 130) that in two columbaria of the servants and freedmen of Augustus and Livia the remains of no fewer than 6000 persons have been found. The two groups of names in verses 14-15 seem to indicate that they were members of two smaller households belonging to private persons.6464Lanciani (p. 132) says that in certain columbaria on the Esquiline at least 370 members of the household of Statilius Taurus are buried. The expression ‘all the Churches of Christ salute you' (v. 16) is unique in the New Testament, and when taken in connexion with the language of this epistle elsewhere upon the high repute of the Roman Church may be held (to quote the words of Dr. Hort) to signify that that Church was already ‘an object of love and respect to Jewish and Gentile Churches alike.'6565Sanday and Headlam, Romans, pp. 128–9; Hort, Romans and Ephesians, i. 52.
And now we come to a consideration of the all-important autobiographic passage in the fifteenth chapter,6666Rom. xv. 14-29. which contains, if rightly interpreted, an explanation at once of St. Paul's attitude of deference to the Roman Church and the widespread esteem in which, as he declares, it was held by its sister Churches. This passage may be regarded as an expansion of the earlier autobiographic section with which the epistle opens. The object and the tone are the same, only here the Apostle enters more into detail. After recounting how ‘from Jerusalem and round about even to Illyricum I have fully carried the Gospel of Christ, but in doing so making it my pride-and-care6767v. 20 φιλοτιμούμενον = (lit.) priding myself, or endeavouring earnestly. to preach not where Christ was named lest I should build upon another man's foundation,' Paul proceeds ‘wherefore also I was hindered many times6868διὸ καὶ ἐνεκοπτόμην τὰ πολλὰ τοῦ ἐλθεῖν πρὸς ὑμᾶς. τὰ πολλὰ seems to be the equivalent of the πολλάκις of i. 13 = the many times to which I have already referred: ‘οὐ θέλω δὲ ὑμῠς ἀγνοεῖν, ἀδελφοί, ὅτι πολλάκις προεθέμην ἐλθεῖν πρὸς ὑμᾶς καὶ ἐκωλύθην ἄχρι τοῦ δεῦρο.' from coming to you. But now having no more place in these regions and having had these many years a keen-longing6969ἐπιποθίαν. to come to you, whenever I journey to Spain [I will come to you]7070These words are omitted in the best MSS., but are necessary to complete the sense. for I hope to see you, as I am journeying through, and to be sent forward on my way thitherward by you after I have first in some measure enjoyed-my-fill of your company.' The meaning of this statement, though the language and sequence of thought are somewhat involved, is nevertheless, so it seems to me, as plain and direct as it is possible to be. St. Paul had been hindered hitherto from visiting Rome, because he had made it a cardinal principle of his missionary life not to trespass in fields opened out by other men's labours, in Churches whose foundations others had laid. May not this ordinance of limitation imposed by the Apostle on himself afford the explanation of Acts xvi. 6-7, ‘And they went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the word in Asia; and when they came over against Mysia, they assayed to go into Bithynia; and the Spirit of Jesus suffered them not'? If the South Galatian theory be accepted (I myself accept it unreservedly), it is really remarkable how small a portion of what is now known as Asia Minor was actually evangelised by St. Paul.7171Bigg, Comment on 1 Peter, pp. 73-4. Even now he does not propose to come to Rome with any intention of undertaking a prolonged spell of missionary work, but merely to pay a brief passing visit on his journey further west, in order to make the acquaintance of the Roman Christians, of whom he had heard so much, and to receive at their hands a friendly and encouraging send-off when he leaves them for the scene of his new labours in Spain. It has often been asked, why St. Paul, if he meant that another had preached at Rome and been the founder of the Roman Church, did not mention his name? The answer is a very simple one: he was not writing for the information of students and critics of the twentieth century, but for the Roman Christians, who knew the facts.
There had then been a founder of this great Church of world-wide fame with whom Paul was well acquainted and into whose special sphere of successful preaching he did not think it right to intrude. Who was he?7272Professor Kirsopp Lake in his Early Epistles of St. Paul, pp. 378-9, writes: ‘St. Paul clearly implies that the Roman Church was another man's foundation, and that he had hitherto refused to preach in such places where others had made a beginning: this was the reason why he had never yet been to Rome. “Wherefore” he says “I was greatly hindered from coming to you.” That “you” implies that the Church was someone else's foundation and the “wherefore” explains that this was his reason for not coming. He then goes on to explain why he now proposes to depart from his principle: there is now “no place left for him in these districts,” i.e. from Jerusalem to Illyricum. Thus with a proper exegesis the meaning of this passage is that the Church of Rome was founded by some one else, and the question will always remain, why not St. Peter?' A remarkable admission on the part of this writer. All tradition answers with one voice the name of St. Peter. In the next lecture I shall attempt to set forth the grounds on which this tradition rests, and to show that its acceptance, so far from being inconsistent with those fragments of early Christian history which have been preserved to us in the Acts and in the Epistles, serves to complete and bind them together and to explain much that is otherwise inexplicable in the rapid spread of Christianity in the three decades which followed the Great Day of Pentecost.
|« Prev||Lecture I||Next »|