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Early Years of Christianity: The Apostolic Era.
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G. [See page 204.]

THE EPISTLES OF ST. PAUL.

We admit the full authenticity of all the epistles to which the name of Paul is attached, with the exception of the Epistle to the Hebrews, which we attribute to Apollos. There are some about which no question at all is raised. The Epistles to the Galatians, to the Romans, and those to the Corinthians, are beyond a doubt. Baur himself admits their authenticity. The two Epistles to the Thessalonians have been attacked by some on the ground that they are insignificant, wanting in special interest, and give in detail, and without occasion, specific views of prophecy.662662Baur, "Paulus," pp. 250-259. We have already replied to the second objection by showing that the unhealthy excitement of some Christians at Thessalonica—who, under pretext of looking for the return of Jesus Christ, abandoned themselves to indolence—required from Paul some enlarged reference to prophecy. He must needs guard against one of the most serious abuses of his doctrine. We disallow utterly the objection founded on the want of interest and originality in these epistles-an objection which Baur urges in a general manner against all the minor epistles of the Apostle. A mere impression cannot be discussed. We appeal to the witness of the Christian conscience. The Epistle to the Ephesians is rejected by the same critic, because of its resemblance to the Epistle to the Colossians.663663Ibid, p. 481. But M. Reuss has perfectly shown that their resemblance is not as complete as is asserted. "Geschichte H. Schr., N. T.," p. 102. It is not surprising that the Apostle, writing to Churches placed in similar circumstances, should have addressed to them the same counsels. Baur urges, in objection to the genuineness of these letters, certain Gnostic tendencies, which he believes he discovers in the writer.664664Ibid., pp. 423, 424. He thus characterizes the metaphysical expansion of the doctrine as to the person of Jesus Christ; he makes much of the word πλήρωμα. Col. i, 20. But in its essence the doctrine set forth in these letters is as far removed as possible from Gnostic dualism, and from the doctrine of emanation. Jesus Christ is not the first emanation of the Godhead; he possesses it in its fullness. Baur makes the same objection to the Epistle to the Colossians as to the pastoral epistles;665665Ibid., p. 493. he asserts that the heresies pointed out by the author of these letters do not appear till the second century. Let us observe, first, that the learned critic finds in these epistles that which is not there. He sees in them a complete description of Gnosticism, while the writer confines himself entirely to general features, such as belong to a nascent heresy. The discovery of the "Philosophoumena " has thrown a flood of light on this much controverted point, and the picture which we have presented of the Churches founded by St. Paul is the best reply we can make to the attacks of the Tübingen school. Too much attention cannot be bestowed on that part of M. Reuss's "History of the New Testament" which takes up this delicate question. In our opinion, it is a masterpiece of wise and learned criticism. (See "Gesch. der H. Schr., N. T.," page 113.)

The objections brought against the epistles of Paul are drawn, as we have seen, from internal evidence. No one denies that their authenticity was unanimously recognized in the third century. Placing ourselves on the ground occupied by our adversaries, it is impossible to us to discover in the disputed epistles a single point not in accordance with the character of the Apostle, and with the history of his life. What shall we say of the extravagance of a criticism which goes so far as to assert that Paul's comparison of the Christian to a soldier, (2 Tim. ii, 3,) being peculiarly in agreement with the taste of the writers of the second century, (by whom it is frequently used,) cannot belong to the first? One is surprised to see a man so sagacious as De Wette bringing the charge of pride against the sublime close of the Second Epistle to Timothy. De Wette's "Commentary on 2 Tim. iv, 8."


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