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ko-losh'-ans, ko-los'-i-anz: This is one of the group of Paul's epistles known as the Captivity Epistles (see PHILEMON, EPISTLE TO, for a discussion of these as a group).

I. Authenticity.

1. External Evidence:

The external evidence for the Epistle to the Colossians, prior to the middle of the 2nd century, is rather indeterminate. In Ignatius and in Polycarp we have here and there phrases and terminology that suggest an acquaintance with Colossians but not much more (Ignat., Ephes., x.3, and Polyc. x0.1; compare with Colossians 1:23). The phrase in Ep Barnabas, xii, "in him are all things and unto him are all things," may be due to Colossians 1:16, but it is quite as possibly a liturgical formula. The references in Justin Martyr's Dialogue to Christ as the firstborn (prototokos) are very probably suggested by Colossians 1:15, "the firstborn of all creation" (Dial., 84, 85, 138). The first definite witness is Marcion, who included this epistle in his collection of those written by Paul (Tert., Adv. Marc., v. 19). A little later the Muratorian Fragment mentions Colossians among the Epistles of Paul (10b, l. 21, Colosensis). Irenaeus quotes it frequently and by name (Adv. haer., iii.14, 1). It is familiar to the writers of the following centuries (e.g. Tert., De praescrip., 7; Clement of Alexandria, Strom., I, 1; Orig., Contra Celsum, v. 8).

2. Internal Evidence:

The authenticity was not questioned until the second quarter of the 19th century when Mayerhoff claimed on the ground of style, vocabulary, and thought that it was not by the apostle. The Tubingen school claimed, on the basis of a supposed Gnosticism, that the epistle was the work of the 2nd century and so not Pauline. This position has been thoroughly answered by showing that the teaching is essentially different from the Gnosticism of the 2nd century, especially in the conception of Christ as prior to and greater than all things created (see V below). The attack in later years has been chiefly on the ground of vocabulary and style, the doctrinal position, especially the Christology and the teaching about angels, and the relation to the Ephesian epistle. The objection on the ground of vocabulary and style is based, as is so often the case, on the assumption that a man, no matter what he writes about, must use the same words and style. There are thirty-four words in Colossians which are not in any other New Testament book. When one removes those that are due to the difference in subject-matter, the total is no greater than that of some of the acknowledged epistles. The omission of familiar Pauline particles, the use of genitives, of "all" (pas), and of synonyms, find parallels in other epistles, or are due to a difference of subject, or perhaps to the influence on the language of the apostle of his life in Rome (von Soden). The doctrinal position is not at heart contradictory to Paul's earlier teaching (compare Godet, Introduction to the New Testament; Paul's Epistles, 440). The Christology is in entire harmony with Philippians (which see) which is generally admitted as Pauline, and is only a development of the teaching in 1 Corinthians (8:6; 15:24-28), especially in respect of the emphasis laid on "the cosmical activity of the preincarnate Christ." Finally, the form in which Paul puts the Christology is that best calculated to meet the false teaching of the Colossian heretics (compare V below). In recent years H. Holtzmann has advocated that this epistle is an interpolated form of an original Pauline epistle to the Colossians, and the work of the author of the Epistle to the Ephesians (which see). A modification of this theory of interpolation has recently been suggested by J. Weiss (Theologische Literaturzeitung, September 29, 1900). Both these theories are too complicated to stand, and even von Soden, who at first followed Holtzmann, has abandoned the position (von Soden, Einleitung., 12); while Sanday (DB2) has shown how utterly untenable it is. Sober criticism today has come to realize that it is impossible to deny the Pauline authorship of this epistle. This position is strengthened by the close relationship between Colossians and Philemon, of which Renan says: "Paul alone, so it would seem, could have written this little masterpiece" (Abbott, International Critical Commentary, lviii). If Philemon (which see) stands as Pauline, as it must, then the authenticity of Colossians is established beyond controversy.

II. Place and Date.

The Pauline authorship being established, it becomes evident at once that the apostle wrote Colossians along with the other Captivity Epistles, and that it is best dated from Rome (see PHILEMON, EPISTLE TO), and during the first captivity. This would be about 58 or, if the later chronology is preferred, 63 or 64.

III. Destination.

The epistle was written, on the face of it, to the church at COLOSSAE (which see), a town in the Lycus valley where the gospel had been preached most probably by Epaphras (Colossians 1:7; Colossians 4:12), and where Paul was, himself, unknown personally (Colossians 1:4, 8, 9; Colossians 2:1, 5). From the epistle it is evident that the Colossian Christians were Gentiles (Colossians 1:27) for whom, as such, the apostle feels a responsibility (Colossians 2:1). He sends to them Tychicus (Colossians 4:7), who is accompanied by Onesimus, one of their own community (Colossians 4:9), and urges them to be sure to read another letter which will reach them from Laodicea (Colossians 4:16).

IV. Relation to Other New Testament Writings.

Beyond the connection with Ephesians (which see) we need notice only the relation between Colossians and Rev. In the letter to Laodicea (Revelation 3:14-21) we have two expressions: "the beginning of the creation of God," and "I will give to him to sit down with me in my throne," in which we have an echo of Colossians which "suggests an acquaintance with and recognition of the earlier apostle's teaching on the part of John" (Lightfoot, Colossians, 42, note 5).

V. The Purpose.

The occasion of the epistle was, we may be sure, the information brought by Epaphras that the church in Colosse was subject to the assault of a body of Judaistic Christians who were seeking to overthrow the faith of the Colossians and weaken their regard for Paul (Zahn). This "heresy," as it is commonly called, has had many explanations. The Tubingen school taught that it was gnostic, and sought to find in the terms the apostle used evidence for the 2nd century composition of the epistle. Pleroma and gnosis ("fullness" and "knowledge") not only do not require this interpretation, but will not admit it. The very heart of Gnosticism, i.e. theory of emanation and the dualistic conception which regards matter as evil, finds no place in Colossians. The use of pleroma in this and the sister epistle, Eph, does not imply Gnostic views, whether held by the apostle or by the readers of the letters. The significance in Colossians of this and the other words adopted by Gnosticism in later years is quite distinct from that later meaning. The underlying teaching is equally distinct. The Christ of the Colossians is not the aeon Christ of Gnosticism. In Essenism, on the other hand, Lightfoot and certain Germans seek the origin of this heresy. Essenism has certain affinities with Gnosticism on the one side and Judaism on the other. Two objections are raised against this explanation of the origin of the Colossian heresy. In the first place Essenism, as we know it, is found in the neighborhood of the Dead Sea, and there is no evidence for its establishment in the Lycus valley. In the second place, no references are found in Colossians to certain distinct Essene teachings, e.g. those about marriage, washings, communism, Sabbath rules, etc.

The Colossian heresy is due to Judaistic influences on the one hand and to native beliefs and superstitions on the other. The Judaistic elements in this teaching are patent, circumcision (Colossians 2:11), the Law (Colossians 2:14, 15), and special seasons (Colossians 2:16). But there is more than Judaism in this false teaching. Its teachers look to intermediary spirits, angels whom they worship; and insist on a very strict asceticism. To seek the origin of angel worship in Judaism, as is commonly done, is, as A. L. Williams has shown, to miss the real significance of the attitude of the Jews to angels and to magnify the bitter jeers of Celsus. Apart from phrases used in exorcism and magic he shows us that there is no evidence that the Jew ever worshipped angels (JTS, X, 413). This element in the Colossian heresy was local, finding its antecedent in the worship of the river spirits, and in later years the same tendency gave the impulse to the worship of Michael as the patron saint of Colosse (so too Ramsay, Hastings, Dictionary of the Bible (five volumes), under the word "Colossae"). The danger of and the falsehood in this teaching were twofold. In the first place it brought the gospel under the bands of the Law once more, not now with the formality of the Galatian opponents, but none the less surely. But as the apostle's readers are Gentiles (Colossians 1:27) Paul is not interested in showing the preparatory aspect of the Law. He simply insists to them that they are quite free from all obligations of the Law because Christ, in whom they have been baptized (Colossians 2:12), has blotted out all the Law (Colossians 2:14). The second danger is that their belief in and worship of the heavenly powers, false ideas about Christ and the material world, would develop even further than it had. They, because of their union with Him, need fear no angelic being. Christ has triumphed over them all, leading them as it were captives in His train (Colossians 2:15), as He conquered on the cross. The spiritual powers cease to have any authority over the Christians. It is to set Christ forward, in this way, as Head over all creation as very God, and out of His relation to the church and to the universe to develop the Christian life, that the apostle writes.

VI. Argument.

The argument of the Epistle is as follows:

Colossians 1:1, 2:


Colossians 1:3-8:

Thanksgiving for their faith in Christ, their love for the saints, their hope laid up in heaven, which they had in and through the gospel and of which he had heard from Epaphras.

Colossians 1:9-13:

Prayer that they might be filled with the full knowledge of God's will so as to walk worthy of the Lord and to be fruitful in good works, thankful for their inheritance of the kingdom of His Son.

Colossians 1:14-23:

Statement of the Son's position, from whom we have redemption. He is the very image of God, Creator, pre-existent, the Head of the church, preeminent over all, in whom all the fullness (pleroma) dwells, the Reconciler of all things, as also of the Colossians, through His death, provided they are faithful to the hope of the gospel.

Colossians 1:24-2:5:

By his suffering he is filling up the sufferings of Christ, of whom he is a minister, even to reveal the great mystery of the ages, that Christ is in them, the Gentiles, the hope of glory, the object of the apostle's preaching everywhere. This explains Paul's interest in them, and his care for them, that their hearts may be strengthened in the love and knowledge of Christ.

Colossians 2:6-3:4:

He then passes to exhortation against those who are leading them astray, these false teachers of a vain, deceiving philosophy based on worldly wisdom, who ignore the truth of Christ's position, as One in whom all the Divine pleroma dwells, and their relation to Him, united by baptism; raised through the faith; quickened and forgiven; who teach the obligation of the observance of various legal practices, strict asceticisms and angel worship. This exhortation is closed with the appeal that as Christ's they will not submit to these regulations of men which are useless, especially in comparison with Christ's power through the Resurrection.

Colossians 3:5-17:

Practical exhortations follow to real mortification of the flesh with its characteristics, and the substitution of a new life of fellowship, love and peace.

Colossians 3:18-4:1:

Exhortation to fulfill social obligations, as wives, husbands, children, parents, slaves and masters.

Colossians 4:2-6:

Exhortation to devout and watchful prayer.

Colossians 4:7-18:

Salutations and greeting.


Lightfoot, Paul's Epistles to the Colossians and Philemon; Abbott, Ephesians and Colossians, International Critical Commentary; Peake, Colossians, Expositor's Greek Testament; Maclaren, Colossians, Expositor's Bible; Alexander, Colossians and Ephesians, Bible for Home and School; Moule, Colossians, Cambridge Bible; Haupt, Meyer's Krit. u. Exeg. Kom.; von Soden, Hand-Kom. zum New Testament.

C. S. Lewis




1. External Evidence

2. Internal Evidence

3. Consent of Criticism

4. Ultra-Radical Attack (Dutch School)


Integrity of 1 Corinthians


1. Corinth in 55 A.D.

2. Founding of the Church



1. A Previous Letter

2. Letter from Corinth


1. General Character

2. Order and Division

3. Outline

(1) 1 Corinthians 1-6

(2) 1 Corinthians 7-10

(3) 1 Corinthians 11-16


1. Party Spirit

2. Christian Conscience

3. Power of the Cross


I. Authenticity of the Two Epistles.

1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians and Romans, all belong to the period of Paul's third missionary journey. They are the most remarkable of his writings, and are usually distinguished as the four great or principal epistles; a distinction which not only is a tribute to their high originality and intrinsic worth, but also indicates the extremely favorable opinion which critics of almost all schools have held regarding their authenticity. Throughout the centuries the tradition has remained practically unbroken, that they contain the very pectus Paulinum, the mind and heart of the great apostle of the Gentiles, and preserve to the church an impregnable defense of historical Christianity. What has to be said of their genuineness applies almost equally to both.

1. External Evidence:

The two epistles have a conspicuous place in the most ancient lists of Pauline writings. In the Muratorian Fragment (circa 170) they stand at the head of the nine epistles addressed to churches, and are declared to have been written to forbid heretical schism (primum omnium Corinthiis schisma haeresis intredicens); and in Marcion's Apostolicon (circa 140) they stand second to Gal. They are also clearly attested in the most important writings of the subapostolic age, e.g. by Clement of Rome (circa 95), generally regarded as the friend of the apostle mentioned in Philippians 4:3; Ignatius (Ad Ephes., chapter xviii, second decade of 2nd century); Polycarp (chapters ii, vi, xi, first half of 2nd century), a disciple of John; and Justin Martyr (born at close of let century); while the Gnostic Ophites (2nd century) were clearly familiar with both epistles (compare Westcott, Canon, passim, and Index II; also Charteris, Canonicity, 222-224, where most of the original passages are brought together). The witness of Clement is of the highest importance. Ere the close of the let century he himself wrote a letter to the Corinthians, in which (chapter xlvii, Lightfoot's edition, 144) he made a direct appeal to the authority of 1 Cor: "Take up the letter of Paul the blessed apostle; what did he write to you first in the beginning of the gospel? Verily he gave you spiritual direction regarding himself, Cephas, and Apollos, for even then you were dividing yourselves into parties." It would be impossible to desire more explicit external testimony.

2. Internal Evidence:

Within themselves both epistles are replete with marks of genuineness. They are palpitating human documents, with the ring of reality from first to last. They admirably harmonize with the independent narrative of Acts; in the words of Schleiermacher (Einltg., 148), "The whole fits together and completes itself perfectly, and yet each of the documents follows its own course, and the data contained in the one cannot be borrowed from those of the other." Complex and difficult as the subjects and circumstances sometimes are, and varying as the moods of the writer are in dealing with them, there is a naturalness that compels assent to his good faith. The very difficulty created for a modern reader by the incomplete and allusive character of some of the references is itself a mark of genuineness rather than the opposite; just what would most likely be the ease in a free and intimate correspondence between those who understood one another in the presence of immediate facts which needed no careful particularization; but what would almost as certainly have been avoided in a fictitious composition. Indeed a modicum of literary sense suffices to forbid classification among the pseudepigrapha. To take but a few instances from many, it is impossible to read such passages as those conveying the remonstrance in 1 Corinthians 9, the alternations of anxiety and relief in connection with the meeting of Titus in 2 Corinthians 2 and 7, or the ever-memorable passage which begins at 2 Corinthians 11:24 of the same epistle: "Of the Jews five times received I," ere, without feeling that the hypothesis of fiction becomes an absurdity. No man ever wrote out of the heart if this writer did not. The truth is that theory of pseudonymity leaves far more difficulties behind it than any it is supposed to solve. The unknown and unnamable literary prodigy of the 2nd century, who in the most daring and artistic manner gloried in the fanciful creation of those minute and life-like details which have imprinted themselves indelibly on the memory and imagination of mankind, cannot be regarded as other than a chimera. No one knows where or when he lived, or in what shape or form. But if the writings are the undoubted rescripts of fact, to whose life and personality do they fit themselves more exquisitely than to those of the man whose name stands at their head, and whose compositions they claim to be? They suit beyond compare the apostle of the missionary journeys, the tender, eager, indomitable "prisoner of the Lord," and no other. No other that has even been suggested is more than the mere shadow of a name, and no two writers have as yet seriously agreed even as to the shadow. The pertinent series of questions with which Godet (Intro to New Testament; Studies on the Epistles, 305) concludes his remarks on the genuineness may well be repeated: "What use was it to explain at length in the 2nd century a change in a plan of the journey, which, supposing it was real, had interest only for those whom the promised visit of the apostle personally concerned? When the author speaks of five hundred persons who had seen the risen Christ, of whom the most part were still alive at the time when he was writing, is he telling his readers a mere story that would resemble a bad joke? What was the use of discussing at length and giving detailed rules on the exercise of the glossolalia at a time when that gift no longer existed, so to say, in the church? Why make the apostle say: `We who shall be alive (at the moment of the Parousia)' at a time when everyone knew that he was long dead? In fine, what church would have received without opposition into its archives, as an epistle of the apostle, half a century after his death, a letter unknown till then, and filled with reproaches most severe and humiliating to it?"

3. Consent of Criticism:

One is not surprised, therefore, that even the radical criticism of the 19th century cordially accepted the Corinthian epistles and their companions in the great group. The men who founded that criticism were under no conceivable constraint in such a conclusion, save the constraint of obvious and incontrovertible fact. The Tubingen school, which doubted or denied the authenticity of all the rest of the epistles, frankly acknowledged the genuineness of these. This also became the general verdict of the "critical" school which followed that of Tubingen, and which, in many branches, has included the names of the leading German scholars to this day. F. C. Baur's language (Paul, I, 246) was: "There has never been the slightest suspicion of unauthenticity cast on these four epistles, and they bear so incontestably the character of Pauline originality, that there is no conceivable ground for the assertion of critical doubts in their case." Renan (St. Paul, Introduction, V) was equally emphatic: "They are incontestable, and uncontested."

4. Ultra-Radical Attack (Dutch School):

Reference, however, must be made to the ultra-radical attack which has gathered some adherents, especially among Dutch scholars, during the last 25 years. As early as 1792 Evanson, a retired English clergyman, rejected Rome on the ground that, according to Acts, no church existed in Rome in Paul's day. Bruno Bauer (1850-51-52) made a more sweeping attack, relegating the whole of the four principal epistles to the close of the 2nd century. His views received little attention, until, in 1886 onward, they were taken up and extended by a series of writers in Holland, Pierson and Naber, and Loman, followed rapidly by Steck of Bern, Volter of Amsterdam, and above all by Van Manen of Leyden. According to these writers, with slight modifications of view among themselves, it is very doubtful if Paul or Christ ever really existed; if they did, legend has long since made itself master of their personalities, and in every case what borders on the supernatural is to be taken as the criterion of the legendary. The epistles were written in the 1st quarter of the 2nd century, and as Paul, so far as he was known, was believed to be a reformer of anti-Judaic sympathies, he was chosen as the patron of the movement, and the writings were published in his name. The aim of the whole series was to further the interests of a supposed circle of clever and elevated men, who, partly imbued with Hebrew ideals, and partly with the speculations of Greek and Alexandrian philosophy, desired the spread of a universalistic Christianity and true Gnosis. For this end they perceived it necessary that Jewish legalism should be neutralized, and that the narrow national element should be expelled from the Messianic idea. Hence, the epistles The principles on which the main contentions of the critics are based may be reduced to two:

(1) that there are relations in the epistles so difficult to understand that, since we cannot properly understand them, the epistles are not trustworthy; and

(2) that the religious and ecclesiastical development is so great that not merely 20 or 30 years, but 70 or 80 more, are required, if we are to be able rationally to conceive it: to accept the situation at an earlier date is simply to accept what cannot possibly have been.

It is manifest that on such principles it is possible to establish what one will, and that any historical literature might be proved untrustworthy, and reshaped according to the subjective idiosyncrasies of the critic. The underlying theory of intellectual development is too rigid, and is quite oblivious of the shocks it receives from actual facts, by the advent in history from time to time of powerful, compelling, and creative personalities, who rather mould their age than are moulded by it. None have poured greater ridicule on this "pseudo-Kritik" than the representatives of the advanced school in Germany whom it rather expected to carry with it, and against whom it complains bitterly that they do not take it seriously. On the whole the vagaries of the Dutch school have rather confirmed than shaken belief in these epistles; and one may freely accept Ramsay's view (HDB, I, 484) as expressing the modern mind regarding them, namely, that they are "the unimpeached and unassailable nucleus of admitted Pauline writings." (Reference to the following will give a sufficiently adequate idea of the Dutch criticism and the replies that have been made to it: Van Manen, EB, article "Paul," and Expository Times, IX, 205, 257, 314; Knowling, Witness of the Epistles; Clemen, Einheitlichkeit der p. B.; Sanday and Headlam, Romans, ICC; Godet, Julicher and Zahn, in their Introductions; Schmiedel and Lipsius in the Hand-Commentar.)

II. Text of 1 and 2 Corinthians:

Integrity of 1 Corinthians:

The text of both epistles comes to us in the most ancient VSS, the Syriac (Peshito), the Old Latin, and the Egyptian all of which were in very early use, undoubtedly by the 3rd century. It is complete in the great Greek uncials: Codex Sinaiticus (original scribe) and a later scribe, 4th century, Codex Vaticanus (B, 4th century), Codex Alexandrinus (A, 5th century, minus two verses, 2 Corinthians 4:13; 2 Corinthians 12:7), and very nearly complete in Codex Ephraemi (C, 5th century), and in the Greek-Latin Claromontanus (D, 6th century); as well as in numerous cursives. In both cases the original has been well preserved, and no exegetical difficulties of high importance are presented. (Reference should be made to the Introduction in Sanday and Headlam's Romans, ICC (1896), where section 7 gives valuable information concerning the text, not only of Roman, but of the Pauline epistles generally; also to the recent edition (Oxford, 1910), New Testament Graecae, by Souter, where the various readings of the text used in the Revised Version (British and American) (1881) are conveniently exhibited.) On the whole the text of 1 Corinthians flows on consistently, only at times, in a characteristic fashion, winding back upon itself, and few serious criticisms are made on its unity, although the case is different in this respect with its companion epistle Some writers, on insufficient grounds, believe that 1 Corinthians contains relics of a previous epistle (compare 1 Corinthians 5:9), e.g. in 1 Corinthians 7:17-24; 1 Corinthians 9:1-10:22; 15:1-55.

III. Paul's Previous Relations with Corinth.

1. Corinth in 55 A.D.:

When, in the course of his 2nd missionary journey, Paul left Athens (Acts 18:1), he sailed westward to Cenchrea, and entered Corinth "in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling" (1 Corinthians 2:3). He was doubtless alone, although Silas and Timothy afterward joined him (Acts 18:5 2 Corinthians 1:19). The ancient city of Corinth had been utterly laid in ruins when Rome subjugated Greece in the middle of the 2nd century B.C. But in the year 46 B.C. Caesar had caused it to be rebuilt and colonized in the Roman manner, and during the century that had elapsed it had prospered and grown enormously. Its population at this time has been estimated at between 600,000 and 700,000, by far the larger portion of whom were slaves. Its magnificent harbors, Cenchrea and Lechaeum, opening to the commerce of East and West, were crowded with ships, and its streets with travelers and merchants from almost every country under heaven. Even in that old pagan world the reputation of the city was bad; it has been compared (Baring-Gould, Study of Paul, 241) to an amalgam of new-market, Chicago and Paris, and probably it contained the worst features of each. At night it was made hideous by the brawls and lewd songs of drunken revelry. In the daytime its markets and squares swarmed with Jewish peddlers, foreign traders, sailors, soldiers, athletes in training, boxers, wrestlers, charioteers, racing-men, betting-men, courtesans, slaves, idlers and parasites of every description. The corrupting worship of Aphrodite, with its hordes of hierodouloi, was dominant, and all over the Greek-Roman world, "to behave as a Corinthian" was a proverbial synonym for leading a low, shameless and immoral life. Very naturally such a polluted and idolatrous environment accounts for much that has to be recorded of the semi-pagan and imperfect life of many of the early converts.

2. Founding of the Church:

Paul was himself the founder of the church in Corinth (1 Corinthians 3:6, 10). Entering the city with anxiety, and yet with almost audacious hopefulness, he determined to know nothing among its people save Jesus Christ and Him crucified (1 Corinthians 2:2). Undoubtedly he was conscious that the mission of the Cross here approached its crisis. If it could abide here, it could abide anywhere. At first he confined himself to working quietly at his trade, and cultivating the friendship of Aquila and Priscilla (Acts 18:2 f); then he opened his campaign in the synagogue where he persuaded both Jews and Greeks, and ultimately, when opposition became violent, carried it on in the house of Titus Justus, a proselyte. He made deep impressions, and gradually gathered round him a number who were received into the faith (Acts 18:7, 8 1 Corinthians 1:14-16). The converts were drawn largely but not entirely from the lower or servile classes (1 Corinthians 1:26; 1 Corinthians 7:21); they included Crispus and Sosthenes, rulers of the synagogue, Gaius, and Stephanas with his household, "the firstfruits of Achaia" (1 Corinthians 16:15). He regarded himself joyfully as the father of this community (1 Corinthians 4:14, 15), every member of which seemed to him like his own child.

IV. Date of the Epistle.

After a sojourn of eighteen months (Acts 18:11) in this fruitful field, Paul departed, most probably in the year 52 (compare Turner, article "Chron. New Testament," HDB, I, 422), and, having visited Jerusalem and returned to Asia Minor (third journey), established himself for a period of between two and three years (trietia, Acts 20:31) in Ephesus (Acts 18:18 onward). It was during his stay there that his epistle was written, either in the spring (pre-Pentecost, 1 Corinthians 16:8) of the year in which he left, 55; or, if that does not give sufficient interval for a visit and a letter to Corinth, which there is considerable ground for believing intervened between 1 Corinthians and the departure from Ephesus, then in the spring of the preceding year, 54. This would give ample time for the conjectured events, and there is no insuperable reason against it. Pauline chronology is a subject by itself, but the suggested dates for the departure from Ephesus, and for the writing of 1 Corinthians, really fluctuate between the years 53 and 57. Harnack (Gesch. der altchrist. Litt., II; Die Chron., I) and McGiffert (Apos Age) adopt the earlier date; Ramsay (St. Paul the Traveler), 56; Lightfoot (Bib. Essays) and Zahn (Einl.), 57; Turner (ut supra), 55. Many regard 57 as too late, but Robertson (HDB, I, 485-86) still adheres to it.

V. Occasion of the Epistle.

1. A Previous Letter:

After Paul's departure from Corinth, events moved rapidly, and far from satisfactorily. He was quite cognizant of them. The distance from Ephesus was not great-about eight days' journey by sea-and in the constant coming and going between the cities news of what was transpiring must frequently have come to his ears. Members of the household of Chloe are distinctly mentioned (1 Corinthians 1:11) as having brought tidings of the contentions that prevailed, and there were no doubt other informants. Paul was so concerned by what he heard that he sent Timothy on a conciliatory mission with many commendations (1 Corinthians 4:17; 1 Corinthians 16:10 f), although the present epistle probably reached Corinth first. He had also felt impelled, in a letter (1 Corinthians 5:9) which is now lost, to send earnest warning against companying with the immoral. Moreover, Apollos, after excellent work in Corinth, had come to Ephesus, and was received as a brother by the apostle (1 Corinthians 3:5, 6; 1 Corinthians 16:12). Equally welcome was a deputation consisting of Stephanas, Fortunatus and Achaicus (1 Corinthians 16:17), from whom the fullest information could be gained, and who were the probable bearers of a letter from the church of Corinth itself (1 Corinthians 7:1), appealing for advice and direction on a number of points.

2. Letter from Corinth:

This letter has not been preserved, but it was evidently the immediate occasion of our epistle, and its tenor is clearly indicated by the nature of the apostle's reply. (The letter, professing to be this letter to Paul, and its companion, professing to be Paul's own lost letter just referred to, which deal with Gnostic heresies, and were for long accepted by the Syrian and Armenian churches, are manifestly apocryphal. (Compare Stanley's Corinthians, Appendix; Harnack's Gesch. der altchrist. Litt., I, 37-39, and II, 506-8; Zahn, Einleitung., I, 183-249; Sanday, Encyclopedia Biblica, I, 906-7.) If there be any relic in existence of Paul's previous letter, it is possibly to be found in the passage 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1; at all events that passage may be regarded as reminiscent of its style and message.) So that 1 Corinthians is no bow drawn at a venture. It treats of a fully understood, and, on the whole, of a most unhappy situation. The church had broken into factions, and was distracted by party cries. Some of its members were living openly immoral lives, and discipline was practically in abeyance. Others had quarrels over which they dragged one another into the heathen courts. Great differences of opinion had also arisen with regard to marriage and the social relations generally; with regard to banquets and the eating of food offered to idols; with regard to the behavior of women in the assemblies, to the Lord's Supper and the love-feasts, to the use and value of spiritual gifts, and with regard to the hope of the resurrection. The apostle was filled with grief and indignation, which the too complacent tone of the Corinthians only intensified. They discussed questions in a lofty, intellectual way, without seeming to perceive their real drift, or the life and spirit which lay imperiled at their heart. Resisting the impulse to visit them "with a rod" (2 Corinthians 4:21), the apostle wrote the present epistle, and dispatched it, if not by the hands of Stephanas and his comrades, most probably by the hands of Titus.

VI. Contents.

1. General Character:

In its general character the epistle is a strenuous writing, masterly in its restraint in dealing with opposition, firm in its grasp of ethical and spiritual principles, and wise and faithful in their application. It is calm, full of reasoning, clear and balanced in judgment; very varied in its lights and shadows, in its kindness, its gravity, its irony. It moves with firm tread among the commonest themes, but also rises easily into the loftiest spheres of thought and vision, breaking again and again into passages of glowing and rhythmical eloquence. It rebukes error, exposes and condemns sin, solves doubts, upholds and encourages faith, and all in a spirit of the utmost tenderness and love, full of grace and truth. It is broad in its outlook, penetrating in its insight, unending in its interest and application.

2. Order and Division:

It is also very orderly in its arrangement, so that it is not difficult to follow the writer as he advances from point to point. Weizsacker (Apos Age, I, 324-25) suggestively distinguishes the matter into

(1) subjects introduced by the letter from Corinth, and

(2) those on which Paul had obtained information otherwise.

He includes three main topics in the first class: marriage, meat offered to idols and spiritual gifts (there is a fourth-the logia or collection, 1 Corinthians 16:1); six in the second class: the factions, the case of incest, the lawsuits, the free customs of the women, the abuse connected with the Supper and the denial of the resurrection. It is useful, however, to adhere to the sequence of the epistle In broadly outlining the subject-matter we may make a threefold division:

(1) chapters 1-6;

(2) chapters 7-10; and

(3) chapter 11 through end.

3. Outline:

(1) 1 Corinthians 1-6:

After salutation, in which he associates Sosthenes with himself, and thanksgiving for the grace given to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 1:1-9), Paul immediately begins (1 Corinthians 1:10-13) to refer to the internal divisions among them, and to the unworthy and misguided party cries that had arisen. (Many theories have been formed as to the exact significance of the so-called "Christus-party," a party whose danger becomes more obvious in 2 Cor. Compare Meyer-Heinrici, Comm., 8th edition; Godet, Intro, 250; Stanley, Cor, 29-30; Farrar, Paul, chapter xxxi; Pfleiderer, Paulinism, II, 28-31; Weiss, Intro, I, 259-65; Weizsacker, Apos Age, I, 325-33, and 354. Weizsacker holds that the name indicates exclusive relation to an authority, while Baur and Pfleiderer argue that it was a party watchword (virtually Petrine) taken to bring out the apostolic inferiority of Paul. On the other hand a few scholars maintain that the name does not, strictly speaking, indicate a party at all but rather designates those who were disgusted at the display of all party spirit, and with whom Paul was in hearty sympathy. SeeMcGiffert, Apos Age, 295-97.) After denouncing this petty partisanship, Paul offers an elaborate defense of his own ministry, declaring the power and wisdom of God in the gospel of the Cross (1:14-2:16), returning in chapter 3 to the spirit of faction, showing its absurdity and narrowness in face of the fullness of the Christian heritage in "all things" that belong to them as belonging to Christ; and once more defending his ministry in chapter 4, making a touching appeal to his readers as his "beloved children," whom he had begotten through the gospel. In chapter 5 he deals with the case of a notorious offender, guilty of incest, whom they unworthily harbor in their midst, and in the name of Christ demands that they should expel him from the church, pointing out at the same time that it is against the countenancing of immorality within the church membership that he specially warns, and had previously warned in his former epistle Ch 6 deals with the shamefulness of Christian brethren haling one another to the heathen courts, and not rather seeking the settlement of their differences within themselves; reverting once more in the closing verses to the subject of unchastity, which irrepressibly haunts him as he thinks of them.

(2) 1 Corinthians 7-10:

In 1 Corinthians 7 he begins to reply to two of the matters on which the church had expressly consulted him in its ep., and which he usually induces by the phrase peri de, "now concerning." The first of these bears (chapter 7) upon celibacy and marriage, including the case of "mixed" marriage. These questions he treats quite frankly, yet with delicacy and circumspection, always careful to distinguish between what he has received as the direct word of the Lord, and what he only delivers as his own opinion, the utterance of his own sanctified common-sense, yet to which the good spirit within him gives weight. The second matter on which advice was solicited, questions regarding eidolothuta, meats offered to idols, he discusses in chapter 8, recurring to it again in chapter 10 to end. The scruples and casuistries involved he handles with excellent wisdom, and lays down a rule for the Christian conscience of a far-reaching kind, happily expressed: "All things are lawful; but not all things are expedient. All things are lawful; but not all things edify. Let no man seek his own, but each his neighbor's good" (10:23, 14). By lifting their differences into the purer atmosphere of love and duty, he causes them to dissolve away. Chapter 9 contains another notable defense of his apostleship, in which he asserts the principle that the Christian ministry has a claim for its support on those to whom it ministers, although in his own case he deliberately waived his right, that no challenge on such a matter should be possible among them. The earlier portion of chapter 10 contains a reference to Jewish idolatry and sacramental abuse, in order that the evils that resulted might point a moral, and act as a solemn warning to Christians in relation to their own rites.

(3) 1 Corinthians 11-16:

The third section deals with certain errors and defects that had crept into the inner life and observances of the church, also with further matters on which the Corinthians sought guidance, namely, spiritual gifts and the collection for the saints. 1 Corinthians 11:1-16 has regard to the deportment of women and their veiling in church, a matter which seems to have occasioned some difficulty, and which Paul deals with in a manner quite his own; passing thereafter to treat of graver and more disorderly affairs, gross abuses in the form of gluttony and drunkenness at the Lord's Supper, which leads him, after severe censure, to make his classic reference to that sacred ordinance (verse 20 to end). Chapter 12 sets forth the diversity, yet true unity, of spiritual gifts, and the confusion and jealousy to which a false conception of them inevitably leads, obscuring that "most excellent way," the love which transcends them all, which never faileth, the greatest of the Christian graces, whose praise he chants in language of surpassing beauty (chapter 13). He strives also, in the following chapter, to correct the disorder arising from the abuse of the gift of tongues, many desiring to speak at once, and many speaking only a vain babble which no one could understand, thinking themselves thereby highly gifted. It is not edifying: "I had rather," he declares, "speak five words with my understanding, that I might instruct others also, than ten thousand words in a tongue" (1 Corinthians 14:19). Thereafter follows the immortal chapter on the resurrection, which he had learned that some denied (1 Corinthians 15:12). He anchors the faith to the resurrection of Christ as historic fact, abundantly attested (verses 3-8), shows how all-essential it is to the Christian hope (verses 13-19), and then proceeds by reasoning and analogy to brush aside certain naturalistic objections to the great doctrine, "then they that are Christ's, at his coming" (verse 23), when this mortal shall have put on immortality, and death be swallowed up in victory (verse 54). The closing chapter gives directions as to the collection for the saints in Jerusalem, on which his heart was deeply set, and in which he hoped the Corinthians would bear a worthy share. He promises to visit them, and even to tarry the winter with them. He then makes a series of tender personal references, and so brings the great epistle to a close.

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1. Internal Evidence

2. External Evidence

3. Date



1. The Offender

2. The False Teachers

3. The Painful Visit

4. The Severe Letter



1. 2 Corintians 6:14-7:1

2. 2 Corintians 10:1-13:10


1. 2 Corintians 1-7

2. 2 Corintians 8-9

3. 2 Corintians 10-13


I. Text, Authenticity and Date.

1. Internal Evidence:

Compare what has already been said in the preceding article. In the two important 5th-century uncials, Codex Alexandrinus (A) and Codex Ephraemi (C), portions of the text are lacking. As to the genuineness internal evidence very vividly attests it. The distinctive elements of Pauline theology and eschatology, expressed in familiar Pauline terms, are manifest throughout. Yet the epistle is not doctrinal or didactic, but an intensely personal document. Its absorbing interest is in events which were profoundly agitating Paul and the Corinthians at the time, straining their relations to the point of rupture, and demanding strong action on Paul's part. Our imperfect knowledge of the circumstances necessarily hinders a complete comprehension, but the references to these events and to others in the personal history of the apostle are so natural, and so manifestly made in good faith, that no doubt rises in the reader's mind but that he is in the sphere of reality, and that the voice he hears is the voice of the man whose heart and nerves were being torn by the experiences through which he was passing. However scholars may differ as to the continuity and integrity of the text, there is no serious divergence among them in the opinion that all parts of the epistle are genuine writings of the apostle.

2. External Evidence:

Externally, the testimony of the sub-apostolic age, though not so frequent or precise as in the case of 1 Corinthians, is still sufficiently clear to establish the existence and use of the epistle in the 2nd century Clement of Rome is silent when he might rather have been expected to use the epistle (compare Kennedy, Second and Third Corinthians, 142); but it is quoted by Polycarp (Ad Phil., ii.4 and vi.1), and in the Epistle to Diognetus 5 12, while it is amply attested to by Irenaeus, Athenagoras, Theophilus, Tertullian and Clement of Alexandria.

3. Date:

It was written from Macedonia (probably from Philippi) either in the autumn of the same year as that in which 1 Corinthians was written, 54 or 55 A.D., or in the autumn of the succeeding year.

II. Resume of Events.

Great difficulty exists as to the circumstances in which the epistle was written, and as to the whole situation between 1 and 2 Corinthians. In 1 Corinthians Paul had intimated his intention of visiting the Corinthians and wintering with them, coming to them through Macedonia (1 Corinthians 16:5-7; compare also Acts 19:21). In 2 Corinthians 1:15, 16 he refers to a somewhat different plan, Corinth-Macedonia-Corinth-Judaea; and describes this return from Macedonia to Corinth as a second or double benefit. But if this plan, on which he and his friends had counted, had not been entirely carried out, it had been for good reason (2 Corinthians 1:17), and not due to mere fickleness or light-hearted change to suit his own convenience. It was because he would "spare" them (2 Corinthians 1:23), and not come to them "again with sorrow" (2 Corinthians 2:1). That is, he had been with them, but there had been such a profound disturbance in their relations that he dared not risk a return meantime; instead, he had written a letter to probe and test them, "out of much affliction and anguish of heart. with many tears" (2 Corinthians 2:4) Thank God, this severe letter had accomplished its mission. It had produced sorrow among them (2 Corinthians 2:2; 2 Corinthians 7:8, 9)but it had brought their hearts back to him with the old allegiance, with great clearing of themselves, and fear and longing and zeal (2 Corinthians 7:11). There was a period, however, of waiting for knowledge of this issue, which was to him a period of intense anxiety; he had even nervously regretted that he had written as he did (2 Corinthians 7:5-8). Titus, who had gone as his representative to Corinth, was to return with a report of how this severe letter had been received, and when Titus failed to meet him at Troas 2 Corinthians 2:13, he had "no relief for his spirit," but pushed on eagerly to Macedonia to encounter him the sooner. Then came the answer, and the lifting of the intolerable burden from his mind. "He that comforteth the lowly, even God, comforted" him (2 Corinthians 7:6). The Corinthians had been swayed by a godly sorrow and repentance (2 Corinthians 7:8), and the sky had cleared again with almost unhoped-for brightness. One who had offended (2 Corinthians 2:5 and 2 Corinthians 7:12)-but whose offense is not distinctly specified-had been disciplined by the church; indeed, in the revulsion of feeling against him, and in sympathy for the apostle, he had been punished so heavily that there was a danger of passing to an extreme, and plunging him into despair (2 Corinthians 2:7). Paul accordingly pleads for leniency and forgiveness, lest further resentment should lead only to a further and sadder wrong (2:6-11). But in addition to this offender there were others, probably following in his train, who had carried on a relentless attack against the apostle both in his person and in his doctrine. He earnestly defends himself against their contemptuous charges of fleshliness and cowardice (chapter 10), and crafty venality (2 Corinthians 12:16, 17). Another Jesus is preached, a different spirit, a different gospel (2 Corinthians 11:4). They "commend themselves" (2 Corinthians 10:12), but are false apostles, deceitful workers, ministers of Satan, fashioning themselves into ministers of Christ (2 Corinthians 11:13, 14). Their attacks are vehemently repelled in an eloquent apologia (chapters 11 and 12), and he declares that when he comes the third time they will not be spared (2 Corinthians 13:2). Titus, accompanied by other well-known brethren, is again to be the representative of the apostle 2 Corinthians 8:6, 17. At no great interval Paul himself followed, thus making his third visit (2 Corinthians 12:14; 2 Corinthians 13:1), and so far fulfilled his original purpose that he spent the winter peacefully in Corinth (compare Acts 20:2, 3 Romans 15:25-27 and 1 Corinthians 16:23).

III. The New Situation.

It is manifest that we are in the presence of a new and unexpected situation, whose development is not clearly defined, and concerning which we have elsewhere no source of information. To elucidate it, the chief points requiring attention are:

(1) The references to the offender in 2 Corinthians 2 and 7, and to the false teachers, particularly in the later chapters of the ep.;

(2) the painful visit implicitly referred to in 2:1; and

(3) the letter described as written in tears and for a time regretted (2:4; 7:8).

1. The Offender:

The offender in 1 Corinthians 5:1-5 had been guilty of incest, and Paul was grieved that the church of Corinth did not regard with horror a crime which even the pagan world would not have tolerated. His judgment on the case was uncompromising and the severest possible-that, in solemn assembly, in the name and with the power of the Lord Jesus, the church should deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh. On the other hand, the offender in 2 Corinthians 2:5 is one who obviously has transgressed less heinously, and in a way more personal to the apostle. The church, roused by the apostle to show whether they indeed cared for him and stood by him (2 Corinthians 2:9; 2 Corinthians 13:7), had, by a majority, brought censure to bear on this man, and Paul now urged that matters should go no farther, lest an excess of discipline should really end in a triumph of Satan. It is not possible to regard such references as applying to the crime dealt with in 1 Corinthians. Purposely veiled as the statements are, it would yet appear that a personal attack had been made on the apostle; and the "many" in Corinth (2 Corinthians 2:6), having at length espoused his cause, Paul then deals with the matter in the generous spirit he might have been expected to display. Even if the offender were the same person, which is most improbable, for he can scarcely have been retained in the membership, the language is not language that could have been applied to the earlier case. There has been a new offense in new circumstances. The apostle had been grievously wronged in the presence of the church, and the Corinthians had not spontaneously resented the wrong. That is what wounded the apostle most deeply, and it is to secure their change in this respect that is his gravest concern.

2. The False Teachers:

Esp. in the later chapters of 2 Corinthians there are, as we have seen, descriptions of an opposition by false teachers that is far beyond anything met with in 1 Corinthians. There indeed we have a spirit of faction, associated with unworthy partiality toward individual preachers, but nothing to lead us to suspect the presence of deep and radical differences undermining the gospel. The general consensus of opinion is that this opposition was of a Judaizing type, organized and fostered by implacable anti-Pauline emissaries from Palestine, who now followed the track of the apostle in Achaia as they did in Galatia. As they arrogated to themselves a peculiar relation to Christ Himself ("Christ's men" and "ministers of Christ," 2 Corinthians 10:7; 2 Corinthians 11:13), it is possible that the Christus-party of 1 Corinthians (and possibly the Cephas-party) may have persisted and formed the nucleus round which these newcomers built up their formidable opposition. One man seems to have been conspicuous as their ring-leader (2 Corinthians 10:7, 11), and to have made himself specially obnoxious to the apostle. In all probability we may take it that he was the offender of 2 Corinthians 2 and 7. Under his influence the opposition audaciously endeavored to destroy the gospel of grace by personal attacks upon its most distinguished exponent. Paul was denounced as an upstart and self-seeker, destitute of any apostolic authority, and derided for the contemptible appearance he made in person, in contrast with the swelling words and presumptuous claims of his epistles It is clear, therefore, that a profound religious crisis had arisen among the Corinthians, and that there was a danger of their attachment to Paul and his doctrine being destroyed.

3. The Painful Visit:

2 Corinthians 12:14 and 2 Corinthians 13:1, 2 speak of a third visit in immediate prospect, and the latter passage also refers to a second visit that had been already accomplished; while 2:1 distinctly implies that a visit had taken place of a character so painful that the apostle would never venture to endure a similar one. As this cannot possibly refer to the first visit when the church was founded, and cannot easily be regarded as indicating anything previous to 1 Corinthians which never alludes to such an experience, we must conclude that the reference points to the interval between 1 and 2 Corinthians. It was then beyond doubt that the visit "with sorrow," which humbled him (2 Corinthians 12:21) and left such deep wounds, had actually taken place. "Any exegesis," says Weizsacker justly, "that would avoid the conclusion that Paul had already been twice in Corinth is capricious and artificial" (Apostolic Age, I, 343). Sabatier (Apostle Paul, 172 note) records his revised opinion: "The reference here (2 Corinthians 2:1) is to a second and quite recent visit, of which he retained a very sorrowful recollection, including it among the most bitter trials of his apostolical career."

4. The Severe Letter:

Paul not only speaks of a visit which had ended grievously, but also of a letter which he had written to deal with the painful circumstances, and as a kind of ultimatum to bring the whole matter to an issue (2 Corinthians 2:4; 2 Corinthians 7:8). This letter was written because he could not trust himself meantime to another visit. He was so distressed and agitated that he wrote it "with many tears"; after it was written he repented of it; and until he knew its effect he endured torture so keen that he hastened to Macedonia to meet his messenger, Titus, halfway. It is impossible by any stretch of interpretation to refer this language to 1 Corinthians, which on the whole is dominated by a spirit of didactic calm, and by a consciousness of friendly rapport with its recipients. Even though there be in it occasional indications of strong feeling, there is certainly nothing that we can conceive the apostle might have wished to recall. The alternative has generally been to regard this as another case of a lost epistle Just as the writer of Acts appears to have been willing that the deplorable visit itself should drop into oblivion, so doubtless neither Paul nor the Corinthians would be very anxious to preserve an epistle which echoed with the gusts and storms of such a visit. On the other hand a strong tendency has set in to regard this intermediate epistle as at least in part preserved in 2 Corinthians 10-13, whose tone, it is universally admitted, differs from that of the preceding chapters in a remarkable way, not easily accounted for. The majority of recent writers seem inclined to favor this view, which will naturally fall to be considered under the head of "Integrity."

IV. Historical Reconstruction.

In view of such an interpretation, we may with considerable probability trace the course of events in the interval between 1 and 2 Corinthians as follows: After the dispatch of 1 Corinthians, news reached the apostle of a disquieting character; probably both Titus and Timothy, on returning from Corinth, reported the growing menace of the opposition fostered by the Judaizing party. Paul felt impelled to pay an immediate visit, and found only too sadly that matters had not been overstated. The opposition was strong and full of effrontery, and the whole trend of things was against him. In face of the congregation he was baffled and flouted. He returned to Ephesus, and poured out his indignation in a severe epistle, which he sent on by the hands of Titus. Before Titus could return, events took a disastrous form in Ephesus, and Paul was forced to leave that city in peril of his life. He went to Troas, but, unable to wait patiently there for tidings of the issue in Corinth, he crossed to Macedonia, and met Titus, possibly in Philippi. The report was happily reassuring; the majority of the congregation returned to their old attachment, and the heavy cloud of doubt and anxiety was dispelled from the apostle's mind. He then wrote again-the present epistle-and forwarded it by Titus and other brethren, he himself following a little later, and finally wintering in Corinth as he had originally planned. If it be felt that the interval between spring and autumn of the same year is too brief for these events, the two epistles must be separated by a period of nearly 18 months, 1 Corinthians being referred to the spring of 54 or 55, and 2 Corinthians to the autumn of 55 or 56 A.D. (Reference on the reconstruction should especially be made to Weizsacker's Apostolic Age, English translation, I; to Sabatier's Note to the English edition (1893) of his Apostle Paul; and to Robertson's article in Hastings, Dictionary of the Bible (five volumes).)

V. Integrity of the Epistle.

Although the genuineness of the various parts of the epistle is scarcely disputed, the homogeneity is much debated. Semler and some later writers, including Clemen (Einheitlichkeit), have thought that 2 Corinthians 9 should be eliminated as logically inconsistent with chapter 8, and as evidently forming part of a letter to the converts of Achaia. But the connection with chapter 8 is too close to permit of severance, and the logical objection, founded on the phraseology of 9:1, is generally regarded as hypercritical. There are two sections, however, whose right to remain integral parts of 2 Corinthians has been more forcibly challenged.

1. 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1:

The passage 2 Corinthians 6:14 to 2 Corinthians 7:1 deals with the inconsistency and peril of intimate relations with the heathen, and is felt to be incongruous with the context. No doubt it comes strangely after an appeal to the Corinthians to show the apostle the same frankness and kindness that he is showing them; whereas 7:2 follows naturally and links itself closely to such an appeal. When we remember that the particular theme of the lost letter referred to in 1 Corinthians 5:9 was the relation of the converts to the immoral, it is by no means unlikely that we have here preserved a stray fragment of that epistle

2. 2 Corinthians 10:1-13:10:

It is universally acknowledged that there is a remarkable change in the tone of the section 2 Corinthians 10:1-13:10, as Compared with that of the previous chapters In the earlier chapters there is relief at the change which Titus has reported as having taken place in Corinth, and the spirit is one of gladness and content; but from chapter 10 onward the hostility to the apostle is unexpectedly represented as still raging, and as demanding the most strenuous treatment. The opening phrase, "Now I Paul" (2 Corinthians 10:1), is regarded as indicating a distinctive break from the previous section with which Timothy is associated (2 Corinthians 1:1), while the concluding verse, 2 Corinthians 13:11 to end, seem fittingly to close that section, but to be abruptly out of harmony with the polemic that ends at 2 Corinthians 13:10. Accordingly it is suggested that 13:11 should immediately follow 9:15, and that 2 Corinthians 10:1-13:10 be regarded as a lengthy insertion from some other epistle. Those who, while acknowledging the change of tone, yet maintain the integrity of the epistle, do so on the ground that the apostle was a man of many moods, and that it is characteristic of him to make unexpected and even violent transitions; that new reports of a merely scotched antagonism may come in to ruffle and disturb his comparative contentment; and that in any case he might well deem it advisable finally to deliver his whole soul on a matter over which he had brooded and suffered deeply, so that there might be no mistake about the ground being cleared when he arrived in person. The question is still a subject of keen discussion, and is not one on which it is easy to pronounce dogmatically. On the whole, however, it must be acknowledged that the preponderance of recent opinion is in favor of theory of interpolation. Hausrath (Der Vier-Capitel-Brief des Paulus an die Korinther, 1870) gave an immense impetus to the view that this later section really represents the painful letter referred to in 2 Corinthians 2 and 7. As that earlier letter, however, must have contained references to the personal offender, the present section, which omits all such references, can be regarded as at most only a part of it. This theory is ably and minutely expounded by Schmiedel (Hand-Kommentar); and Pfleiderer, Lipsius, Clemen, Krenkel, von Soden, McGiffert, Cone, Plummer, Rendall, Moffatt, Adeney, Peake, and Massie are prominent among its adherents. J. H. Kennedy (Second and Third Cor) presents perhaps the ablest and fullest argument for it that has yet appeared in English. On the other hand Sanday (Encyclopaedia Biblica) declares against it, and Robertson (Hastings, Dictionary of the Bible (five volumes)) regards it as decidedly not proven; while critics of such weight as Holtzmann, Beyschlag, Klopper, Weizsacker, Sabatier, Godet, Bernard, Denney, Weiss, and Zahn are all to be reckoned as advocates of the integrity of the epistle.

VI. Contents of the Epistle.

The order of matter in 2 Corintians is quite clearly defined. There are three main divisions:

(1) chapters 1-7;

(2) chapters 8-9; and

(3) chapters 10-13.

1. 2 Corinthians 1-7:

The first seven chapters in 2 Corinthians as a whole are taken up with a retrospect of the events that have recently transpired, joyful references to the fact that the clouds of grief in connection with them have been dispelled, and that the evangelical ministry as a Divine trust and power is clearly manifested. After a cordial salutation, in which Timothy is associated, Paul starts at once to express his profound gratitude to God for the great comfort that had come to him by the good news from Corinth, rejoicing in it as a spiritual enrichment that will make his ministry still more fruitful to the church (2 Corinthians 1:3-11). He professes his sincerity in all his relations with the Corinthians, and particularly vindicates it in connection with a change in the plan which had originally promised a return ("a second benefit") to Corinth; his sole reason for refraining, and for writing a painful letter instead, being his desire to spare them and to prove them (2 Corinthians 1:12; 2 Corinthians 2:4, 9). Far from harboring any resentment against the man who had caused so much trouble, he sincerely pleads that his punishment by the majority should go no farther, but that forgiveness should now reign, lest the Adversary should gain an advantage over them (2 Corinthians 2:5-11). It was indeed an agonizing experience until the moment he met Titus, but the relief was all the sweeter and more triumphant when God at length gave it, as he might have been sure He would give it to a faithful and soul-winning servant of Christ (2 Corinthians 2:12-17). He does not indeed wish to enter upon any further apologies or self-commendation. Some believe greatly in letters of commendation, but his living testimonial is in his converts. This he has, not of himself, but entirely through God, who alone has made him an efficient minister of the new and abiding covenant of the Spirit, whose glory naturally excels that of the old dispensation which fadeth because it really cannot bring life. Regarding this glorious ministry he must be bold and frank. It needs no veil as if to conceal its evanescence. Christ presents it unveiled to all who turn to Him, and they themselves, reflecting His glory, are spiritually transformed (2 Corinthians 3:1-18). As for those who by God's mercy have received such a gospel ministry, it is impossible for them to be faint-hearted in its exercise, although the eyes of some may be blinded to it, because the god of this world enslaves them (2 Corinthians 4:4). It is indeed wonderful that ministers of this grace should be creatures so frail, so subject to pressure and affliction, but it is not inexplicable. So much the more obvious is it that all the power and glory of salvation are from God alone (2 Corinthians 4:7, 15). Yea, even if one be called to die in this ministry, that is but another light and momentary affliction. It is but passing from a frail earthly tent to abide forever in a heavenly home (2 Corinthians 5:1). Who would not long for it, that this mortal may be swallowed up in immortality? Courage, therefore, is ours to the end, for that end only means the cessation of our separation from Christ, whom it is a joy to serve absent or present. And present we shall all ultimately be before Him on the judgment throne (2 Corinthians 5:10). That itself unspeakably deepens the earnestness with which preachers of the gospel seek to persuade men. It is the love of Christ constraining them (2 Corinthians 5:14) in the ministry of reconciliation, that they should entreat men as ambassadors on Christ's behalf (2 Corinthians 5:20). So sacred and responsible a trust has subdued the apostle's own life, and is indeed the key to its manifold endurance, and to the earnestness with which he has striven to cultivate every grace, and to submit himself to every discipline (2 Corinthians 6:1-10). Would God the Corinthians might open their hearts to him as he does to them! (Let them have no fellowship with iniquity, but perfect holiness in the fear of God, 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1.) He has never wronged them; they are enshrined in his heart, living or dying; he glories in them, and is filled with comfort in all his affliction (2 Corinthians 6:11-13; 2 Corinthians 7:2-4). For what blessed comfort that was that Titus brought him in Macedonia to dispel his fears, and to show that the things he regretted and grieved to have written had done no harm after all, but had rather wrought in them the joyful change for which he longed! Now both they and he knew how dear he was to them. Titus, too, was overjoyed by the magnanimity of their reception of him. The apostle's cup is full, and "in everything he is of good courage concerning them" (2 Corinthians 7:16).

2. 2 Corinthians 8-9:

In the second section, 2 Corinthians 8-9, the apostle, now abundantly confident of their good-will, exhorts the Corinthians on the subject of the collection for the poor saints at Jerusalem. He tells them of the extraordinary liberality of the Macedonian churches, and invites them to emulate it, and by the display of this additional grace to make full proof of their love (2 Corinthians 8:1-8). Nay, they have a higher incentive than the liberality of Macedonia, even the self-sacrifice of Christ Himself (2 Corinthians 8:9). Wherefore let them go on with the good work they were so ready to initiate a year ago, giving out of a willing mind, as God hath enabled them (2 Corinthians 8:10-15). Further to encourage them he sends on Titus and other well-known and accredited brethren, whose interest in them is as great as his own, and he is hopeful that by their aid the matter will be completed, and all will rejoice when he comes, bringing with him probably some of those of Macedonia, to whom he has already been boasting of their zeal (2 Corinthians 8:16-9:5). Above all, let them remember that important issues are bound up with this grace of Christian liberality. It is impossible to reap bountifully, if we sow sparingly. Grudging and compulsory benevolence is a contradiction, but God loveth and rewardeth a cheerful giver. This grace blesseth him that gives and him that takes. Many great ends are served by it. The wants of the needy are supplied, men's hearts are drawn affectionately to one another, thanksgivings abound, and God himself is glorified (2 Corinthians 9:6-15).

3. 2 Corinthians 10-13:

The third section, 2 Corinthians 10-13, as has been pointed out, is a spirited and even passionate polemic, in the course of which the Judaizing party in Corinth is vigorously assailed. The enemies of the apostle have charged him with being very bold and courageous when he is absent, but humble enough when he is present. He hopes the Corinthians will not compel him to show his courage (2 Corinthians 10:2). It is true, being human, he walks in the flesh, but not in the selfish and cowardly way his opponents suggest. The weapons of his warfare are not carnal, yet are they mighty before God to cast down such strongholds as theirs, such vain imaginations and disobedience. Some boast of being "Christ's," but that is no monopoly; he also is Christ's. They think his letters are mere "sound and fury, signifying nothing"; by and by they will discover their mistake. If he should glory in his authority, he is justified, for Corinth was verily part of his God-appointed province, and he at least did not there enter on other men's labors. But it would be well if men who gloried confined themselves to glorying "in the Lord." For after all it is His commendation alone that is of any permanent value (2 Corinthians 10:3-18). Will the adepts - Corinthians bear with him in a little of this foolish boasting? Truly he ventures on it out of concern for them (2 Corinthians 11:2).

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1. External Evidence 2. Internal Evidence



1. Title 2. The Inscription 3. The Evidence of the Letter Itself 4. Conclusion


1. Peter 2. Johannine Writings 3. Colossians






I. Authenticity.

1. External Evidence:

None of the epistles which are ascribed to Paul have a stronger chain of evidence to their early and continued use than that which we know as the Epistle to the Ephesians. Leaving for the moment the question of the relation of Eph to other New Testament writings, we find that it not only colors the phraseology of the Apostolic Fathers, but is actually quoted. In Clement of Rome (circa 95 A.D.) the connection with Ephesians might be due to some common liturgical form in xlvi.6 (compare Ephesians 4:6); though the resemblance is so close that we must feel that our epistle was known to Clement both here and in lxiv (compare Ephesians 1:3-4); xxxviii (compare Ephesians 5:21); xxxvi (compare Ephesians 4:18); lix (compare Ephesians 1:18; Ephesians 4:18). Ignatius (died 115) shows numerous points of contact with Ephesians, especially in his Epistle to the Ephesians. In chap. xii we read: "Ye are associates and fellow students of the mysteries with Paul, who in every letter makes mention of you in Christ Jesus." It is difficult to decide the exact meaning of the phrase "every letter," but in spite of the opinion of many scholars that it must be rendered "in all his epistle," i.e. in every part of his epistle, it is safer to take it as an exaggeration, "in all his epistles," justified to some extent in the fact that besides Ephesians, Paul does mention the Ephesian Christians in Roman (16:5); 1 Corinthians (15:32; 16:8, 19); 2 Corinthians (1:8); 1 Timothy (1:3) and 2 Timothy (1:18). In the opening address the connection with Ephesians 1:3-6 is too close to be accidental. There are echoes of our epistle in chap. i (Ephesians 6:1); ix (Ephesians 2:20-22); xviii (oikonomia, Ephesians 1:10); xx (Ephesians 2:18; Ephesians 4:24); and in Ignat. ad Polyc. v we have close identity with Ephesians 5:25 and less certain connection with Ephesians 4:2, and in vi with Ephesians 6:13-17.

The Epistle of Polycarp in two passages shows verbal agreement with Eph: in chap. i with Ephesians 1:8, and in xii with Ephesians 4:26, where we have (the Greek is missing here) ut his scripturis dictum est. Hermas speaks of the grief of the Holy Spirit in such a way as to suggest Ephesians (Mand. X, ii; compare Ephesians 4:30). Sim. IX, xiii, shows a knowledge of Ephesians 4:3-6, and possibly of 5:26 and 1:13. In the Didache (4) we find a parallel to Ephesians 6:5: "Servants submit yourselves to your masters." In Barnabas there are two or three turns of phrase that are possibly due to Ephesians. There is a slightly stronger connection between II Clement and Ephesians, especially in chap. xiv, where we have the Ephesian figure of the church as the body of Christ, and the relation between them referred to in terms of husband and wife. This early evidence, slight though it is, is strengthened by the part Ephesians played in the 2nd century where, as we learn from Hippolytus, it was used by the Ophites and Basilides and Valentinus. The latter (according to Hip., Phil., VI, 29) quoted Ephesians 3:16-18, saying, "This is what has been written in Scripture," while his disciple Ptolemais is said by Irenaeus (Adv. Haer., i.8, 5) to have attributed Ephesians 5:13 to Paul by name. According to the addenda to the eighth book of the Stromateis of Clement of Alexandria, Theodotus, a contemporary of Valentinus, quoted Ephesians 4:10 and 30 with the words: "The apostle says," and attributes Ephesians 4:24 to Paul. Marcion knew Ephesians as Tertullian tells us, identifying it with the epistle referred to in Colossians 4:16 as ad Laodicenos. We find it in the Muratorian Fragment (10b, l. 20) as the second of the epistles which "Paul wrote following the example of his predecessor John." It is used in the letter from the church of Lyons and Vienne and by Irenaeus, Tertullian, Clement of Alexandria, Origen and later writers. We can well accept the dictum of Dr. Hort that it "is all but certain on this evidence that the Epistle was in existence by 95 A.D.; quite certain that it was in existence by about fifteen years later or conceivably a little more" (Hort, Judaistic Christianity, 118).

2. Internal Evidence:

To this very strong chain of external evidence, reaching back to the very beginning of the 2nd century, if not into the end of the 1st, showing Ephesians as part of the original Pauline collection which no doubt Ignatius and Polycarp used, we must add the evidence of the epistle itself, testing it to see if there be any reason why the letter thus early attested should not be accredited to the apostle.

(1) That it claims to be written by Paul is seen not only in the greeting, "Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus through the will of God, to the saints that are at Ephesus," but also in Ephesians 3:1, where we read: "For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus in behalf of you Gentiles," a phrase which is continued in 4:1: "I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord." This claim is substantiated by the general character of the epistle which is written after the Pauline norm, with greeting and thanksgiving, leading on to and serving as the introduction of the special doctrinal teaching of the epistle. This is the first great division of the Pauline epistles and is regularly followed by an application of the teaching to practical matters, which in turn yields to personal greetings, or salutations, and the final benediction, commonly written by the apostle's own hand. In only one particular does Ephesians fail to answer completely to this outline. The absence of the personal greetings has always been marked as a striking peculiarity of our letter. The explanation of this peculiarity will meet us when we consider the destination of the epistle (see III below).

(2) Further evidence for the Pauline authorship is found in the general style and language of the letter. We may agree with von Soden (Early Christ. Lit., 294) that "every sentence contains verbal echoes of Pauline epistles, indeed except when ideas peculiar to the Epistle come to expression it is simply a mosaic of Pauline phraseology," without accepting his conclusion that Paul did not write it. We feel, as we read, that we have in our hands the work of one with whom the other epistles have made us familiar. Yet we are conscious none the less of certain subtle differences which give occasion for the various arguments that critics have brought against the claim that Paul is the actual author. This is not questioned until the beginning of the last century, but has been since Schleiermacher and his disciple Usteri, though the latter published his doubts before his master did his. The Tubingen scholars attacked the epistle mainly on the ground of supposed traces of Gnostic or Montanist influences, akin to those ascribed to the Colossians. Later writers have given over this claim to put forward others based on differences of style (De Wette, followed by Holtzmann, von Soden and others); dependence on Colossians (Hitzig, Holtzmann); the attitude to the Apostles (von Soden); doctrinal differences, especially those that concern Christology and the Parousia, the conception of the church (Klopper, Wrede and others). The tendency, however, seems to be backward toward a saner view of the questions involved; and most of those who do not accept the Pauline authorship would probably agree with Julicher (Encyclopedia Biblica), who ascribes it to a "Pauline Christian intimately familiar with the Pauline epistles, especially with Colossians, writing about 90," who sought in Ephesians "to put in a plea for the true catholicism in the meaning of Paul and in his name."

(3) Certain of these positions require that we should examine the doctrinal objections. (a) First of these is the claim that Ephesians has a different conception of the person and work of Christ from the acknowledged epistles of Paul. Not only have we the exaltation of Christ which we find in Colossians 1:16, but the still further statement that it was God's purpose from the beginning to "sum up all things in Christ, the things in the heavens, and the things upon the earth" (Ephesians 1:10). This is no more than the natural expansion of the term, "all things," which are attributed to Christ in 1 Corinthians 8:6, and is an idea which has at least its foreshadowing in Romans 8:19, 20 and 2 Corinthians 5:18, 19. The relation between Christ and the church as given in Ephesians 1:22 and 5:23 is in entire agreement with Paul's teaching in Romans 12, and 1 Corinthians 12. It is still the Pauline figure of the church as the body of Christ, in spite of the fact that Christ is not thought of as the head of that body. The argument in the epistle does not deal with the doctrine of the cross from the standpoint of the earlier epistles, but the teaching is exactly the same. There is redemption (Ephesians 1:7, 14; Ephesians 4:30); reconciliation (Ephesians 2:14-16); forgiveness (Ephesians 1:7; Ephesians 4:32). The blood of Christ shed on the cross redeems us from our sin and restores us to God. In like manner it is said that the Parousia is treated (Ephesians 2:7) as something far off. But Paul has long since given up the idea that it is immediately; even in 2 Thessalonians 2 he shows that an indeterminate interval must intervene, and in Romans 11:25 he sees a period of time yet unfulfilled before the end. (b) The doctrine of the church is the most striking contrast to the earlier epistles. We have already dealt with the relation of Christ to the church. The conception of the church universal is in advance of the earlier epistles, but it is the natural climax of the development of the apostle's conception of the church as shown in the earlier epistles. Writing from Rome with the idea of the empire set before him, it was natural that Paul should see the church as a great whole, and should use the word ekklesia absolutely as signifying the oneness of the Christian brotherhood. As a matter of fact the word is used in this absolute sense in 1 Corinthians 12:28 before the Captivity Epistles (compare 1 Corinthians 1:2; 1 Corinthians 10:32). The emphasis here on the unity of Jew and Gentile in the church finds its counterpart in the argument of the Epistle to the Romans, though in Ephesians this is "urged on the basis of God's purpose and Christian faith, rather than on the Law and the Promises."

Neither is it true that in Ephesians the Law is spoken of slightingly, as some say, by the reference to circumcision (2:11). In no case is the doctrinal portion of the epistle counter to that of the acknowledged Pauline epistles, though in the matter of the church, and of Christ's relationship to it and to the universe, there is evidence of progress in the apostle's conception of the underlying truths, which none the less find echoes in the earlier writings. "New doctrinal ideas, or a new proportion of these ideas, is no evidence of different authorship." (c) In the matter of organization the position of Ephesians is not in any essential different from what we have in 1 Cor.

(4) The linguistic argument is a technical matter of the use of Greek words that cannot well be discussed here. The general differences of style, the longer "turgid" sentences, the repetitions on the one hand; the lack of argument, the full, swelling periods on the other, find their counterpart in portions of Romans. The minute differences which show themselves in new or strange words will be much reduced in number when we take from the list those that are due to subjects which the author does not discuss elsewhere (e.g. those in the list of armor in Ephesians 6:13). Holtzmann (Einl, 25) gives us a list of these hapax legomena (76 in all). But there are none of these which, as Lock says, Paul could not have used, though there are certain which he does not use elsewhere and others which are only found in his accepted writings and here. The following stand out as affording special ground for objection. The phrase "heavenly places" (ta epourania, Ephesians 1:3, 10; Ephesians 2:6; Ephesians 3:10; Ephesians 6:12) is peculiar to this epistle. The phrase finds a partial parallel it in 1 Corinthians 15:49 and the thought is found in Philippians 3:20. The devil (ho diabolos, Ephesians 4:27; Ephesians 6:11) is used in place of the more usual Satan (satanas).

But in Acts Paul is quoted as using diabolos in 13:10 and satanas in 26:18. It is at least natural that he would have used the Greek term when writing from Rome to a Greek-speaking community. The objection to the expression "holy" (hagiois) apostles (Ephesians 3:5) falls to the ground when we remember that the expression "holy" (hagios) is Paul's common word for Christian and that he uses it of himself in this very epistle (Ephesians 3:8). In like manner "mystery" (musterion), "dispensation" (oikonomia) are found in other epistles in the same sense that we find them in here. The attack on the epistle fails, whether it is made from the point of teaching or language; and there is no ground whatever for questioning the truth of Christian tradition that Paul wrote the letter which we know as the Epistle to the Ephesians.

II. Place and Date of Writing.

The time and place of his writing Ephesians turn on the larger question of the chronology of Paul's life (see PAUL) and the relation of the Captivity Epistles to each other; and the second question whether they were written from Caesarea or Rome (for this see PHILEMON, EPISTLE TO). Suffice it here to say that the place was undoubtedly Rome, and that they were written during the latter part of the two years' captivity which we find recorded in Acts 28:30. The date will then be, following the later chronology, 63 or 64 A.D.; following the earlier, which is, in many ways, to be preferred, about 58 A.D.

III. Destination.

To whom was this letter written?

1. Title:

The title says to the Ephesians. With this the witness of the early church almost universally agrees. It is distinctly stated in the Muratorian Fragment (10b, 1. 20); and the epistle is quoted as to the Ephesians by Irenaeus (Adv. Haer., v.14, 3; 24, 3); Tertullian (Adv. Marc., v.11, 17; De Praesc., 36; De Monag., v); Clement of Alexandria (Strom., iv0.65; Paed., i.18) and Origen (Contra Celsum, iii.20). To these must be added the evidence of the extant manuscripts and VSS, which unite in ascribing the epistle to the Ephesians. The only exception to the universal evidence is Tertullian's account of Marcion (circa 150 A.D.) who reads Ad Laodicenos (Adv. Marc., v.11: "I say nothing here about another epistle which we have with the heading `to the Ephesians,' but the heretics `to the Laodiceans'. (v.17): According to the true belief of the church we hold this epistle to have been dispatched to the Ephesians, not to the Laodiceans; but Marcion had to falsify its title, wishing to make himself out a very diligent investigator").

2. The Inscription:

This almost universal evidence for Ephesus as the destination of our epistle is shattered when we turn to the reading of the first verse. Here according to Textus Receptus of the New Testament we read "Paul unto the saints which are at Ephesus (en Epheso) and to the faithful in Christ Jesus." When we look at the evidence for this reading we find that the two words en Epheso are lacking in Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus, and that the corrector of the cursive known as 67 has struck them out of his copy. Besides these a recently described MS, Cod. Laura 184, giving us a text which is so closely akin to that used by Origen that the scribe suggests that it was compiled from Origen's writings, omits these words (Robinson, Ephesians, 293). To this strong manuscript evidence against the inclusion of these two words in the inscription we must add the evidence of Origen and Basil. Origen, as quoted in Cramer's Catena at the place, writes: "In the Ephesians alone we found the expression `to the saints which are,' and we ask, unless the phrase `which are' is redundant, what it can mean. May it not be that as in Exodus He who speaks to Moses declares His name to be the Absolute One, so also those who are partakers of the Absolute become existent when they are called, as it were, from non-being into being?" Origen evidently knows nothing here of any reading en Epheso, but takes the words "which are" in an absolute, metaphysical sense. Basil, a century and a half later, probably refers to this comment of Origen (Contra Eun., ii.19) saying: "But moreover, when writing to the Ephesians, as to men who are truly united with the Absolute One through clear knowledge, he names them as existent ones in a peculiar phrase, saying `to the saints which are and faithful in Christ Jesus.' For so those who were before us have handed it down, and we also have found (this reading) in old copies." In Jerome's note on this verse there is perhaps a reference to this comment on Origen, but the passage is too indefinitely expressed for us to be sure what its bearing on the reading really is. The later writers quoted by Lightfoot (Biblical Essays, 384) cannot, as Robinson shows (Eph, 293), be used as witnesses against the Textus Receptus. We may therefore conclude that the reading en Epheso was wanting in many early manuscripts, and that there is good ground for questioning its place in the original autograph. But the explanations suggested for the passage, as it stands without the words, offend Pauline usage so completely that we cannot accept them. To take "which are" in the phrase "the saints which are" (tois ousin) as absolute, as Origen did; or as meaning "truly," is impossible. It is possible to take the words with what follows, "and faithful" (kai pistois), and interpret this latter expression (pistois) either in the New Testament sense of "believers" or in the classical sense of "steadfast." The clause would then read either "to the saints who are also believers," or "to the saints who are also faithful," i.e. steadfast. Neither of these is wholly in accord with Paul's normal usage, but they are at least possible.

3. The Evidence of the Letter Itself:

The determining factor in the question of the destination of the epistle lies in the epistle itself. We must not forget that, save perhaps Corinth, there was no church with which Paul was so closely associated as that in Ephesus. His long residence there, of which we read in Acts (chapters 19; 20), finds no echo in our epistle. There is no greeting to anyone of the Christian community, many of whom were probably intimate friends. The close personal ties, that the scene of Acts 20:17-38 shows us existed between him and his converts in Ephesus, are not even hinted at. The epistle is a calm discussion, untouched with the warmth of personal allusion beyond the bare statement that the writer is a prisoner (Ephesians 3:1; Ephesians 4:1), and his commendation of Tychicus (Ephesians 6:21, 22), who was to tell them about Paul's condition in Rome. This lack of personal touch is intensified by the assumption underlying Ephesians 3 and 4 that the readers do not know his knowledge of the mysteries of Christ. In 3:2 and 4:21, 22 there is a particle (eige, "if indeed") which suggests at least some question as to how far Paul himself was the missionary through whom they believed. All through the epistle there is a lack of those elements which are so constant in the other epistles, which mark the close personal fellowship and acquaintance between the apostle and those to whom he is writing.

4. Conclusion:

This element in the epistle, coupled with the strange fact of Marcion's attributing it to the Laodiceans, and the expression in Colossians 4:16 that points to a letter coming from Laodicea to Colosse, has led most writers of the present day to accept Ussher's suggestion that the epistle is really a circular letter to the churches either in Asia, or, perhaps better, in that part of Phrygia which lies near Colosse. The readers were evidently Gentiles (Ephesians 2:1; Ephesians 3:1, 2) and from the mission of Tychicus doubtless of a definite locality, though for the reasons given above this could not well be Ephesus alone. It is barely possible that the cities to whom John was bidden to write the Revelation (Revelation 1-3) are the same as those to whom Paul wrote this epistle, or it may be that they were the churches of the Lycus valley and its immediate neighborhood. The exact location cannot be determined. But from the fact that Marcion attributed the epistle to Laodicea, possibly because it was so written in the first verse, and from the connection with Colossians, it is at least probable that two of these churches were at Colosse and Laodicea. On this theory the letter would seem to have been written from Rome to churches in the neighborhood of, or accessible to, Colosse, dealing with the problem of Christian unity and fellowship and the relations between Christ and the church and sent to them by the hands of Tychicus. The inscription was to be filled in by the bearer, or copies were to be made with the name of the local church written in, and then sent to or left with the different churches. It was from Ephesus, as the chief city of Asia in all probability, that copies of this circular letter reached the church in the world, and from this fact the letter came to be known in the church at large as that from Ephesus, and the title was written "to the Ephesians," and the first verse was made to read to the "saints which are in Ephesus."

IV. Relation to Other New Testament Writings.

Ephesians raises a still further question by the close resemblances that can be traced between it and various other New Testament writings.

1. Peter:

The connection between Ephesians and 1 Peter is not beyond question. In spite of the disclaimer of as careful a writer as Dr. Bigg (ICC) it is impossible to follow up the references given by Holtzmann and others and not feel that Peter either knew Ephesians or at the very least had discussed these subjects with its author. For, as Dr. Hort tells us, the similarity is one of thought and structure rather than of phrase. The following are the more striking passages with their parallels in 1 Peter: Ephesians 1:3 (1 Peter 1:3); 1:18-20 (1 Peter 1:3-5); 2:18-22 (1 Peter 2:4-6); 1:20-22 (1 Peter 3:22); 3:9 (1 Peter 1:20); 3:20 (1 Peter 1:12); 4:19 (1 Peter 1:14). The explanations that 1 Peter and Ephesians are both from the pen of the same writer, or that Ephesians is based on 1 Pet, are overthrown, among other reasons, by the close relation between Ephesians and Colossians.

2. Johannine Writings:

The connection with the Apocalypse is based on Ephesians 2:20 as compared with Revelation 21:14 Ephesians 3:5 and Revelation 10:7 Ephesians 5:11 and Revelation 18:4, and the figure of the bride of the Lamb (Revelation 19:7; compare Ephesians 5:25). Holtzmann adds various minor similarities, but none of these are sufficient to prove any real knowledge of, let alone dependence on Ephesians. The contact with the Fourth Gospel is more positive. Love (agape) and knowledge (gnosis) are used in the same sense in both Ephesians and the Gospel. The application of the Messianic title, the Beloved (Ephesians 1:6), to Christ does not appear in the Gospel (it is found in Matthew 3:17), but the statement of the Father's love for Him constantly recurs. The reference to the going up and coming down of Christ (Ephesians 4:9) is closely akin to John 3:13 ("No man hath ascended into heaven, but he," etc.). So, too, Ephesians 5:11, 13 finds echo in John 3:19, 20 Ephesians 4:4, 7 in John 3:34 Ephesians 5:6 in John 3:36. Ephesians 5:8 is akin to 1 John 1:6 and Ephesians 2:3 to 1 John 3:10.

3. Colossians:

When we turn to Colossians we find a situation that is without parallel in the New Testament. Out of 155 verses in Ephesians, 78 are found in Colossians in varying degrees of identity. Among them are these: Ephesians 1:6 parallel Colossians 1:13 Ephesians 1:16 parallel Colossians 1:9 Ephesians 1:21 parallel Colossians 1:16; Ephesians 2:16 parallel Colossians 2:20 Ephesians 4:2 parallel Colossians 3:12 Ephesians 4:15 parallel Colossians 2:19 Ephesians 4:22 parallel Colossians 3:9 Ephesians 4:32 parallel Colossians 3:12; Ephesians 5:5 parallel Colossians 3:5 Ephesians 5:19 parallel Colossians 3:16; Ephesians 6:4 parallel Colossians 3:21 Ephesians 6:5-9 parallel Colossians 3:22-4:1. For a fuller list see Abbott (ICC, xxiii). Not only is this so, but there is an identity of treatment, a similarity in argument so great that Bishop Barry (NT Commentary for English Readers, Ellicott) can make a parallel analysis showing the divergence and similarity by the simple device of different type. To this we must add that there are at least a dozen Greek words common to these two epistles not found elsewhere. Over against this similarity is to be set the dissimilarity. The general subject of the epistles is not approached from the same standpoint.

In one it is Christ as the head of all creation, and our duty in consequence. In the other it is the church as the fullness of Christ and our duty-put constantly in the same words-in consequence thereof. In Ephesians we have a number of Old Testament references, in Colossians only one. In Ephesians we have unique phrases, of which "the heavenly spheres" (ta epourania) is most striking, and the whole treatment of the relation of Jew and Gentile in the church, and the marriage tie as exemplified in the relation between Christ and the church. In Colossians we have in like manner distinct passages which have no parallel in Ephesians, especially the controversial section in chapter 2, and the salutations. In truth, as Davies (Ephesians, Paul to Ephesians, Colossians, and Philippians.) well says: "It is difficult indeed to say, concerning the patent coincidences of expression in the two epistles, whether the points of likeness or of unlikeness between them are the more remarkable." This situation has given rise to various theories.

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e-pis'-'-l (epistole, "a letter," "epistle"; from epistello, "to send to"):


1. New Testament Epistles 2. Distinctive Characteristics 3. Letter-Writing in Antiquity 4. Letters in the Old Testament 5. Letters in the Apocrypha 6. Epistolary Writings in the New Testament 7. Epistles as Distinguished from Letters 8. Patristic Epistles 9. Apocryphal Epistles


1. New Testament Epistles:

A written communication; a term inclusive of all forms of written correspondence, personal and official, in vogue from an early antiquity. As applied to the twenty-one letters, which constitute well-nigh one-half of the New Testament, the word "epistle" has come to have chiefly a technical and exclusive meaning. It refers, in common usage, to the communications addressed by five (possibly six) New Testament writers to individual or collective churches, or to single persons or groups of Christian disciples. Thirteen of these letters were written by Paul; three by John; two by Peter; one each by James and Jude; one-the epistle to the Hebrews-by an unknown writer.

2. Distinctive Characteristics:

As a whole the Epistles are classified as Pauline, and Catholic, i.e. general; the Pauline being divided into two classes: those written to churches and to individuals, the latter being known as Pastoral (1 and 2 Timothy, and Titus; some also including Philemon; see Lange on Romans, American edition, 16). The fact that the New Testament is so largely composed of letters distinguishes it, most uniquely, from all the sacred writings of the world. The Scriptures of other oriental religions-the Vedas, the Zend Avesta, the Tripitaka, the Koran, the writings of Confucius-lack the direct and personal address altogether. The Epistles of the New Testament are specifically the product of a new spiritual life and era. They deal, not with truth in the abstract, but in the concrete. They have to do with the soul's inner experiences and processes. They are the burning and heart-throbbing messages of the apostles and their confreres to the fellow-Christians of their own day. The chosen disciples who witnessed the events following the resurrection of Jesus and received the power (Acts 1:8) bestowed by the Holy Spirit on, and subsequent to, the Day of Pentecost, were spiritually a new order of men. The only approach to them in the spiritual history of mankind is the ancient Hebrew prophets. Consequently the Epistles, penned by men who had experienced a great redemption and the marvelous intellectual emancipation and quickening that came with it, were an altogether new type of literature. Their object is personal. They relate the vital truths of the resurrection era, and the fundamental principles of the new teaching, to the individual and collective life of all believers. This specific aim accounts for the form in which the apostolic letters were written. The logic of this practical aim appears conspicuously in the orderly Epistles of Paul who, after the opening salutation in each letter, lays down with marvelous clearness the doctrinal basis on which he builds the practical duties of daily Christian life. Following these, as each case may require, are the personal messages and affectionate greetings and directions, suited to this familiar form of address.

The Epistles consequently have a charm, a directness, a vitality and power unknown to the other sacred writings of the world. Nowhere are they equaled or surpassed except in the personal instructions that fell from the lips of Jesus. Devoted exclusively to experimental and practical religion they have, with the teachings of Christ, become the textbook of the spiritual life for the Christian church in all subsequent time. For this reason "they are of more real value to the church than all the systems of theology, from Origen to Schleiermacher" (Schaff on St. Paul's Epistles, History of the Christian Church, 741). No writings in history so unfold the nature and processes of the redemptive experience. In Paul and John, especially, the pastoral instinct is ever supreme. Their letters are too human, too personal, too vital to be formal treatises or arguments. They throb with passion for truth and love for souls. Their directness and affectionate intensity convert their authors into prophets of truth, preachers of grace, lovers of men and missionaries of the cross. Hence, their value as spiritual biographies of the writers is immeasurable. As letters are the most spontaneous and the freest form of writing, the New Testament Epistles are the very life-blood of Christianity. They present theology, doctrine, truth, appeal, in terms of life, and pulsate with a vitality that will be fresh and re-creative till the end of time. (For detailed study of their chronology, contents and distinguishing characteristics, see articles on the separate epistles.)

3. Letter-Writing in Antiquity:

While the New Testament Epistles, in style and quality, are distinct from and superior to all other literature of this class, they nevertheless belong to a form of personal and written address common to all ages. The earliest known writings were epistolary, unless we except some of the chronologies and inscriptions of the ancient Babylonian and Assyrian kings. Some of these royal inscriptions carry the art of writing back to 3800 B.C., possibly to a period still earlier (see Goodspeed, Kent's Historical Series, 42-43, secs. 40-41), and excavations have brought to light "an immense mass of letters from officials to the court-correspondence between royal personages or between minor officials," as early as the reign of Khammurabi of Babylon, about 2275 B.C. (ibid., 33). The civilized world was astonished at the extent of this international correspondence as revealed in the Tell el-Amarna Letters (1480 B.C.), discovered in Egypt in 1887, among the ruins of the palace of Amenophis IV. This mass of political correspondence is thus approximately synchronous with the Hebrew exodus and the invasion of Canaan under Joshua.

4. Letters in the Old Testament:

As might be expected, then, the Old Testament abounds with evidences of extensive epistolary correspondence in and between the oriental nations. That a postal service was in existence in the time of Job (Job 9:25) is evident from the Hebrew term ratsim, signifying "runners," and used of the mounted couriers of the Persians who carried the royal edicts to the provinces. The most striking illustration of this courier service in the Old Testament occurs in Esther 3:13, 15; Esther 8:10, 14 where King Ahasuerus, in the days of Queen Esther, twice sends royal letters to the Jews and satraps of his entire realm from India to Ethiopia, on the swiftest horses. According to Herodotus, these were usually stationed, for the sake of the greatest speed, four parasangs apart. Hezekiah's letters to Ephraim and Manasseh were sent in the same way (2 Chronicles 30:1, 6, 10). Other instances of epistolary messages or communications in the Old Testament are David's letter to Joab concerning Uriah and sent by him (2 Samuel 11:14, 15); Jezebel's, to the elders and nobles of Jezreel, sent in Ahab's name, regarding Naboth (1 Kings 21:8, 9); the letter of Ben-hadad, king of Syria, to Jehoram, king of Israel, by the hand of Naaman (2 Kings 5:5-7); Jehu's letters to the rulers of Jezreel, in Samaria (2 Kings 10:1, 2, 6, 7); Sennacherib's letter to Hezekiah (2 Kings 19:14 Isaiah 37:14 2 Chronicles 32:17), and also that of Merodach-baladan, accompanied with a gift (2 Kings 20:12 Isaiah 39:1). Approximating the New Testament epistle in purpose and spirit is the letter of earnest and loving counsel sent by Jeremiah to the exiles in Babylon. It is both apostolic and pastoral in its prophetic fervor, and is recorded in full (Jeremiah 29:1, 4-32) with its reference to the bitterly hostile and jealous letter of Shemaiah, the false prophet, in reply.

As many writers have well indicated, the Babylonian captivity must have been a great stimulus to letter-writing on the part of the separated Hebrews, and between the far East and Palestine. Evidences of this appear in the histories of Ezra and Nehemiah, e.g. the correspondence, back and forth, between the enemies of the Jews at Jerusalem and Artaxerxes, king of Persia, written in the Syrian language (Ezra 4:7-23); also the letter of Tattenai (the King James Version "Tatnai") the governor to King Darius (Ezra 5:6-17); that of Artaxerxes to Ezra (Ezra 7:11), and to Asaph, keeper of the royal forest (Nehemiah 2:8); finally the interchange of letters between the nobles of Judah and Tobiah; and those of the latter to Nehemiah (Nehemiah 6:17, 19; so Sanballat verse 5).

5. Letters in the Apocrypha:

The Old Testament Apocrypha contains choice specimens of personal and official letters, approximating in literary form the epistles of the New Testament. In each case they begin, like the latter, in true epistolary form with a salutation: "greeting" or "sendeth greeting" (APC 1Macc 11:30, 32; 12:6, 20; 15:2, 16), and in two instances closing with the customary "Fare ye well" or "Farewell" (2 Maccabees 11:27-33, 34-38; compare 2 Corinthians 13:11), so universally characteristic of letter-writing in the Hellenistic era.

6. Epistolary Writings in the New Testament:

The most felicitous and perfect example official correspondence in the New Testament is Claudius Lysias' letter to Felix regarding Paul (Acts 23:25-30). Equally complete in form is the letter, sent, evidently in duplicate, by the apostles and elders to their Gentilebrethren in the provinces of Asia (Acts 15:23-29). In these two letters we have the first, and with James 1:1, the only, instance of the Greek form of salutation in the New Testament (chairein). The latter is by many scholars regarded as probably the oldest letter in epistolary form in the New Testament, being in purport and substance a Pastoral Letter issued by the Apostolic Council of Jerusalem to the churches of Antioch, Syria and Cilicia. It contained instructions as to the basis of Christian fellowship, similar to those of the great apostle to the churches under his care.

The letters of the high priest at Jerusalem commending Saul of Tarsus to the synagogues of Damascus are samples of the customary letters of introduction (Acts 9:2; Acts 22:5; compare Acts 28:21; also Acts 18:27). As a Christian apostle Paul refers to this common use of "epistles of commendation" (2 Corinthians 3:1 1 Corinthians 16:3) and himself made happy use of the same (Romans 16:1); he also mentions receiving letters, in turn, from the churches (1 Corinthians 7:1). Worthy of classification as veritable epistles are the letters, under the special guidance of the Holy Spirit, to the seven churches of Asia (Revelation 2:1-3:22). In fact, the entire Book of Re is markedly epistolary in form, beginning with the benedictory salutation of personal and apostolic address, and closing with the benediction common to the Pauline epistles. This again distinguishes the New Testament literature in spirit and form from all other sacred writings, being almost exclusively direct and personal, whether in vocal or written address. In this respect the gospels, histories and epistles are alike the product and exponent of a new spiritual era in the life of mankind.

7. Epistles as Distinguished from Letters:

This survey of epistolary writing in the far East, and especially in the Old Testament and New Testament periods, is not intended to obscure the distinction between the letter and the epistle. A clear line of demarcation separates them, owing not merely to differences in form and substance, but to the exalted spiritual mission and character of the apostolic letters. The characterization of a letter as more distinctly personal, confidential and spontaneous, and the epistle as more general in aim and more suited to or intended for publication, accounts only in part for the classification. Even when addressed to churches Paul's epistles were as spontaneous and intimately and affectionately personal as the ordinary correspondence. While intended for general circulation it is doubtful if any of the epistolary writers of the New Testament ever anticipated such extensive and permanent use of their letters as is made possible in the modern world of printing. The epistles of the New Testament are lifted into a distinct category by their spiritual eminence and power, and have given the word epistle a meaning and quality that will forever distinguish it from letter. In this distinction appears that Divine element usually defined as inspiration: a vitality and spiritual endowment which keeps the writings of the apostles permanently "living and powerful," where those of their successors pass into disuse and obscurity.

8. Patristic Epistles:

Such was the influence of the New Testament Epistles on the literature of early Christianity that the patristic and pseudepigraphic writings of the next century assumed chiefly the epistolary form. In letters to churches and individuals the apostolic Fathers, as far as possible, reproduced their spirit, quality and style.


9. Apocryphal Epistles:

Pseudo-epistles extensively appeared after the patristic era, many of them written and circulated in the name of the apostles and apostolic Fathers. SeeAPOCRYPHAL EPISTLES. This early tendency to hide ambitious or possibly heretical writings under apostolic authority and Scriptural guise may have accounted for the anathema pronounced by John against all who should attempt to add to or detract from the inspired revelation (Revelation 22:18, 19). It is hardly to be supposed that all the apostolic letters and writings have escaped destruction. Paul in his epistles refers a number of times to letters of his that do not now exist and that evidently were written quite frequently to the churches under his care (1 Corinthians 5:9 2 Corinthians 10:9, 10 Ephesians 3:3); "in every epistle" (2 Thessalonians 3:17) indicates not merely the apostle's uniform method of subscription but an extensive correspondence. Colossians 4:16 speaks of an "epistle from Laodicea," now lost, doubtless written by Paul himself to the church at Laodicea, and to be returned by it in exchange for his epistle to the church at Colosse.

Dwight M. Pratt



1. Position of the Dutch School

2. Early Testimony


A) Summary of Contents

1. Outline

2. Personal History (Galatians 1:11-2:21; 4:12-20; 6:17)

Paul's Independent Apostleship

3. The Doctrinal Polemic (Galatians 3:1-5:12)

(1) Thesis

(2) Main Argument

(3) Appeal and Warning

4. The Ethical Application (Galatians 5:12-6:10)

Law of the Spirit of Life

5. The Epilogue (Galatians 6:11-18)

B) Salient Points

1. The Principles at Stake

2. Present Stage of the Controversy

3. Paul's Depreciation of the Law

4. The Personal Question

C) Characteristics

1. Idiosyncrasy of the Epistle

2. Jewish Coloring


1. Galatians and Romans

2. Links with 1 and 2 Corinthians

3. With the Corinthians-Romans Group

4. With Other Groups of Epistles

5. General Comparison


1. Place and Time Interdependent

2. Internal Evidence

3. External Data

(1) Galatia and the Galatians

(2) Prima facie Sense of Acts 16:6

(3) The Grammar of Acts 16:6

(4) Notes of Time in the Epistle

(5) Paul's Renewed Struggle with Legalism (6) Ephesus or Corinth?

(7) Paul's First Coming to Galatia

(8) Barnabas and the Galatians

(9) The Two Antiochs

(10) Wider Bearings of the Problem


When and to whom, precisely, this letter was written, it is difficult to say; its authorship and purpose are unmistakable. One might conceive it addressed by the apostle Paul, in its main tenor, to almost any church of his Gentilemission attracted to Judaism, at any point within the years circa 45-60 A.D. Some plausibly argue that it was the earliest, others place it among the later, of the Pauline Epistles. This consideration dictates the order of our inquiry, which proceeds from the plainer to the more involved and disputable parts of the subject.

I. The Authorship.

1. Position of the Dutch School:

The Tubingen criticism of the last century recognized the four major epistles of Paul as fully authentic, and made them the corner-stone of its construction of New Testament history. Only Bruno Bauer (Kritik. d. paulin. Briefe, 1850-52) attacked them in this sense, while several other critics accused them of serious interpolations; but these attempts made little impression. Subsequently, a group of Dutch scholars, beginning with Loman in his Quaestiones Paulinae (1882) and represented by Van Manen in the Encyclopedia Biblica (art. "Paul"), have denied all the canonical epistles to the genuine Paul. They postulate a gradual development in New Testament ideas covering the first century and a half after Christ, and treat the existing letters as "catholic adaptations" of fragmentary pieces from the apostle's hand, produced by a school of "Paulinists" who carried their master's principles far beyond his own intentions. On this theory, Galatians, with its advanced polemic against the law, approaching the position of Marcion (140 A.D.), was work of the early 2nd century. Edwin Johnson in England (Antiqua Mater, 1887), and Steck in Germany (Galaterbrief, 1888), are the only considerable scholars outside of Holland who have adopted this hypothesis; it is rejected by critics so radical as Scholten and Schmiedel (see the article of the latter on "Galatians" in EB). Knowling has searchingly examined the position of the Dutch school in his Witness of the Epistles (1892)-it is altogether too arbitrary and uncontrolled by historical fact to be entertained; see Julicher's or Zahn's Introduction to New Testament (English translation), to the same effect. Attempts to dismember this writing, and to appropriate it for other hands and later times than those of the apostle Paul, are idle in view of its vital coherence and the passionate force with which the author's personality has stamped itself upon his work; the Paulinum pectus speaks in every line. The two contentions on which the letter turns-concerning Paul's apostleship, and the circumcision of GentileChristians-belonged to the apostle's lifetime: in the fifth and sixth decades these were burning questions; by the 2nd century the church had left them far behind.

2. Early Testimony:

Early Christianity gives clear and ample testimony to this document. Marcion placed it at the head of his Apostolikon (140 A.D.); Justin Martyr, Athenagoras, Melito, quoted it about the same time. It is echoed by Ignatius (Philad., i) and Polycarp (Philip., iii and v) a generation earlier, and seems to have been used by contemporary Gnostic teachers. It stands in line with the other epistles of Paul in the oldest Latin, Syriac and Egyptian translations, and in the Muratorian (Roman) Canon of the 2nd century. It comes full into view as an integral part of the new Scripture in Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria and Tertullian at the close of this period. No breath of suspicion as to the authorship, integrity or apostolic authority of the Ep. to the Galatians has reached us from ancient times.

II. Matter of the Epistle.

A) Summary of Contents:

1. Outline:

A double note of war sounds in the address and greeting (Galatians 1:1, 4). Astonishment replaces the customary thanksgiving (Galatians 1:6-10): The Galatians are listening to preachers of "another gospel" (1:6, 7) and traducers of the apostle (1:8, 10), whom he declares "anathema." Paul has therefore two objects in writing-to vindicate himself, and to clear and reinforce his doctrine. The first he pursues from 1:11 to 2:21; the second from 3:1 to 5:12. Appropriate: moral exhortations follow in 5:13-6:10. The closing paragraph (6:11-17) resumes incisively the purport of the letter. Personal, argumentative, and hortatory matter interchange with the freedom natural in a letter to old friends.

2. Personal History (Galatians 1:11-2:21 (4:12-20; 6:17)):

Paul's Independent Apostleship.

Paul asserts himself for his gospel's sake, by showing that his commission was God-given and complete (Galatians 1:11, 12). On four decisive moments in his course he dwells for this purpose-as regards the second manifestly (Galatians 1:20), as to others probably, in correction of misstatements:

(1) A thorough-paced Judaist and persecutor (Galatians 1:13, 14), Paul was supernaturally converted to Christ (Galatians 1:15), and received at conversion his charge for the Gentiles, about which he consulted no one (Galatians 1:16, 17).

(2) Three years later he "made acquaintance with Cephas" in Jerusalem and saw James besides, but no "other of the apostles" (Galatians 1:18, 19). For long he was known only by report to "the churches of Judea" (Galatians 1:21-24).

(3) At the end of "fourteen years" he "went up to Jerusalem," with Barnabas, to confer about the "liberty" of Gentilebelievers, which was endangered by "false brethren" (Galatians 2:1-5). Instead of supporting the demand for the circumcision of the "Greek" Titus (Galatians 2:3), the "pillars" there recognized the sufficiency and completeness of Paul's "gospel of the uncircumcision" and the validity of his apostleship (Galatians 2:6-8). They gave "right hands of fellowship" to himself and Barnabas on this understanding (Galatians 2:9, 10). The freedom of GentileChristianity was secured, and Paul had not "run in vain."

(4) At Antioch, however, Paul and Cephas differed (Galatians 2:11). Cephas was induced to withdraw from the common church-table, and carried "the rest of the Jews," including Barnabas, with him (Galatians 2:12, 13). "The truth of the gospel," with Cephas' own sincerity, was compromised by this "separation," which in effect "compelled the Gentiles to Judaize" (Galatians 2:13, 14). Paul therefore reproved Cephas publicly in the speech reproduced by Galatians 2:14-21, the report of which clearly states the evangelical position and the ruinous consequences (2:18, 21) of reestablishing "the law."

3. Doctrinal Polemic (Galatians 3:1-5:12):

(1) Thesis.

The doctrinal polemic was rehearsed in the autobiography (Galatians 2:3-5, 11-12). In Galatians 2:16 is laid down thesis of the epistle: "A man is not justified by the works of law but through faith in Jesus Christ." This proposition is (a) demonstrated from experience and history in 3:1-4:7; then (b) enforced by 4:8-5:12.

(2) Main Argument.

(a1) From his own experience (Galatians 2:19-21) Paul passes to that of the readers, who are "bewitched" to forget "Christ crucified" (Galatians 3:1)! Had their life in "the Spirit" come through "works of the law" or the "hearing of faith"? Will the flesh consummate what the Spirit began (Galatians 3:2-5)?

(a2) Abraham, they are told, is the father of God's people; but `the men of faith' are Abraham's true heirs (Galatians 3:6-9). "The law" curses every transgressor; Scripture promised righteousness through faith for the very reason that justification by legal "doing" is impossible (Galatians 3:10, 12). "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law" in dying the death it declared "accursed" (Galatians 3:13). Thus He conveyed to the nations "the promise of the Spirit," pledged to them through believing Abraham (Galatians 3:7, 14).

(a3) The "testament" God gave to "Abraham and his seed" (a single "seed," observe) is unalterable. The Mosaic law, enacted 430 years later, could not nullify this instrument (Galatians 3:15-17 the King James Version). Nullified it wound have been, had its fulfillment turned on legal performance instead of Divine "grace" (Galatians 3:18).

(a4) "Why then the law?" Sin required it, pending the accomplishment of "the promise." Its promulgation through intermediaries marks its inferiority (Galatians 3:19, 20). With no power `to give life,' it served the part of a jailer guarding us till "faith came," of "the paedagogus" training us `for Christ' (Galatians 3:21-25).

(a5) But now "in Christ," Jew and Greek alike, "ye are all sons of God through faith"; being such, "you are Abraham's seed" and `heirs in terms of the promise' (Galatians 3:26-29). The `infant' heirs, in tutelage, were `subject to the elements of the world,' until "God sent forth his Son," placed in the like condition, to "redeem" them (Galatians 4:1-5). Today the "cry" of "the Spirit of his Son" in your "hearts" proves this redemption accomplished (Galatians 4:6, 7).

The demonstration is complete; Galatians 3:1-4:7 forms the core of the epistle. The growth of the Christian consciousness has been traced from its germ in Abraham to its flower in the church of all nations. The Mosaic law formed a disciplinary interlude in the process, which has been all along a life of faith. Paul concludes where he began (3:2), by claiming the Spirit as witness to the full salvation of the Gentiles; compare Romans 8:1-27 2 Corinthians 3:4-18; Ephesians 1:13, 14. From Galatians 4:8 onward to 5:12, the argument is pressed home by appeal, illustration and warning.

(3) Appeal and Warning.

(b1) After "knowing God," would the Galatians return to the bondage in which ignorantly they served as gods "the elements" of Nature? (4:8, 9). Their adoption of Jewish "seasons" points to this backsliding (4:10, 11).

(b2) Paul's anxiety prompts the entreaty of 4:12-20, in which he recalls his fervent reception by his readers, deplores their present alienation, and confesses his perplexity.

(b3) Observe that Abraham had two sons-"after the flesh" and "through promise" (4:21-23); those who want to be under law are choosing the part of Ishmael: "Hagar" stands for `the present Jerusalem' in her bondage; `the Jerusalem above is free-she is our mother!' (4:24-28, 31). The fate of Hagar and Ishmael pictures the issue of legal subjection (4:29, 30): "Stand fast therefore" (5:1). (b4) The crucial moment comes at 5:2: the Galatians are half-persuaded (5:7, 8); they will fatally commit themselves, if they consent to `be circumcised.' This will sever them from Christ, and bind them to complete observance of Moses' law: law or grace-by one or the other they must stand (5:3-5). "Circumcision, uncircumcision"-these "count for nothing in Christ Jesus" (5:6). Paul will not believe in the defection of those who `ran' so "well"; "judgment" will fall on their `disturber' (5:7-10, 12). Persecution marks himself as no circumcisionist (5:11)!

4. The Ethical Application (Galatians 5:13-6:10):

Law of the Spirit of Life

The ethical application is contained in the phrase of Romans 8:2, "the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus."

(1) Love guards Christian liberty from license; it `fulfills the whole law in a single word' (Galatians 5:13-15).

(2) The Spirit, who imparts freedom, guides the free man's "walk." Flesh and spirit are, opposing principles: deliverance from "the flesh" and its "works" is found in possession by "the Spirit," who bears in those He rules His proper "fruit." `Crucified with Christ' and `living in the Spirit,' the Christian man keeps God's law without bondage under it (Galatians 5:16-26).

(3) In cases of unwary fall, `men of the Spirit' will know how to "restore" the lapsed, `fulfilling Christ's law' and mindful of their own weakness (Galatians 6:1-5).

(4) Teachers have a peculiar claim on the taught; to ignore this is to `mock God.' Men will "reap corruption" or "eternal life," as in such matters they `sow to the flesh' or `to the Spirit.' Be patient till the harvest! (Galatians 6:6-10).

5. The Epilogue (Galatians 6:11-18):

The autograph conclusion (Galatians 6:11) exposes the sinister motive of the circumcisionists, who are ashamed of the cross, the Christian's only boast (Galatians 6:12-15). Such men are none of "the Israel of God!" (Galatians 6:16). "The brand of Jesus" is now on Paul's body; at their peril "henceforth" will men trouble him! (Galatians 6:17). The benediction follows (Galatians 6:18).

B) Salient Points:

1. The Principles at Stake:

The postscript reveals the inwardness of the legalists' agitation. They advocated circumcision from policy more than from conviction, hoping to conciliate Judaism and atone for accepting the Nazarene-to hide the shame of the cross-by capturing for the Law the Gentilechurches. They attack Paul because he stands in the way of this attempt. Their policy is treason; it surrenders to the world that cross of Christ, to which the world for its salvation must unconditionally submit. The grace of God the one source of salvation Galatians (1:3; 2:21; 5:4), the cross of Christ its sole ground (1:4; 2:19-21; 3:13; 6:14), faith in the Good News its all-sufficient means (2:16, 20; 3:2, 5-9, 23-26; 5:5), the Spirit its effectuating power (3:2-5; 4:6, 7; 5:5, 16-25; 6:8)-hence, emancipation from the Jewish law, and the full status of sons of God open to the Gentiles (2:4, 5, 15-19; 3:10-14; 3:28-4:9, 26-31; 5:18; 6:15): these connected principles are at stake in the contention; they make up the doctrine of the epistle.

2. Present Stage of the Controversy:

Circumcision is now proposed by the Judaists as a supplement to faith in Christ, as the qualification for sonship to Abraham and communion with the apostolic church (Galatians 3:7, 29). After the Council at Jerusalem, they no longer say outright, "Except ye be circumcised after the custom of Moses, ye cannot be saved" (Acts 15:1). Paul's Galatian converts, they admit, "have begun in the Spirit"; they bid them "be perfected" and attain the full Christian status by conforming to Moses-"Christ will profit" them much more, if they add to their faith circumcision (Galatians 3:3; Galatians 5:2; compare Romans 3:1). This insidious proposal might seem to be in keeping with the findings of the Council; Peter's action at Antioch lent color to it. Such a grading of the Circumcision and Uncircumcision within the church offered a tempting solution of the legalist controversy; for it appeared to reconcile the universal destination of the gospel with the inalienable prerogatives of the sons of Abraham. Paul's reply is, that believing Gentiles are already Abraham's "seed"-nay, sons and heirs of God; instead of adding anything, circumcision would rob them of everything they have won in Christ; instead of going on to perfection by its aid, they would draw back unto perdition.

3. Paul's Depreciation of the Law:

Paul carries the war into the enemies' camp, when he argues,

(a) that the law of Moses brought condemnation, not blessing, on its subjects (Galatians 3:10-24); and

(b) that instead of completing the work of faith, its part in the Divine economy was subordinate (Galatians 3:19-25).

It was a temporary provision, due to man's sinful unripeness for the original covenant (Galatians 3:19, 24; Galatians 4:4). The Spirit of sonship, now manifested in the Gentiles, is the infallible sign that the promise made to mankind in Abraham has been fulfilled. The whole position of the legalists is undermined by the use the apostle makes of the Abrahamic covenant.

4. The Personal Question:

The religious and the personal questions of the epistle are bound up together; this Galatians 5:2 clearly indicates. The latter naturally emerges first (1:1, 11). Paul's authority must be overthrown, if his disciples are to be Judaized. Hence, the campaign of detraction against him (compare 2 Corinthians 10-12). The line of defense indicates the nature of the attack. Paul was said to be a second-hand, second-rate apostle, whose knowledge of Christ and title to preach Him came from Cephas and the mother church. In proof of this, an account was given of his career, which he corrects in Galatians 1:13-2:21. "Cephas" was held up (compare 1 Corinthians 1:12) as the chief of the apostles, whose primacy Paul had repeatedly acknowledged; and "the pillars" at Jerusalem were quoted as maintainers of Mosaic rule and authorities for the additions to be made to Paul's imperfect gospel. Paul himself, it was insinuated, "preaches circumcision" where it suits him; he is a plausible time-server (Galatians 1:10; Galatians 5:11; compare Acts 16:3 1 Corinthians 9:19-21). The apostle's object in his self-defense is not to sketch his own life, nor in particular to recount his visits to Jerusalem, but to prove his independent apostleship and his consistent maintenance of Gentilerights. He states, therefore, what really happened on the critical occasions of his contact with Peter and the Jerusalem church. To begin with, he received his gospel and apostolic office from Jesus Christ directly, and apart from Peter (Galatians 1:13-20); he was subsequently recognized by "the pillars" as apostle, on equality with Peter (Galatians 2:6-9); he had finally vindicated his doctrine when it was assailed, in spite of Peter (Galatians 2:11-12). The adjustment of Paul's recollections with Luke's narrative is a matter of dispute, in regard both to the conference of Galatians 2:1-10 and the encounter of 2:11-21; to these points we shall return, iv.3 (4), (5).

C) Characteristics:

1. Idiosyncrasy of the Epistle:

This is a letter of expostulation. Passion and argument are blended in it. Hot indignation and righteous scorn (Galatians 1:7-9; Galatians 4:17; Galatians 5:10, 12; 6:12, 13), tender, wounded affection (Galatians 4:11-20), deep sincerity and manly integrity united with the loftiest consciousness of spiritual authority (Galatians 1:10-12, 20; Galatians 2:4-6, 14; 5:02; 6:17), above all a consuming devotion to the person and cross of the Redeemer, fill these few pages with an incomparable wealth and glow of Christian emotion. The power of mind the epistle exhibits matches its largeness of heart. Roman indeed carries out the argument with greater breadth and theoretic completeness; but Galatians excels in pungency, incisiveness, and debating force. The style is that of Paul at the summit of his powers. Its spiritual elevation, its vigor and resource, its subtlety and irony, poignancy and pathos, the vis vivida that animates the whole, have made this letter a classic of religious controversy. The blemishes of Paul's composition, which contribute to his mastery of effect, are conspicuous here-his abrupt turns and apostrophes, and sometimes difficult ellipses (Galatians 2:4-10, 20; Galatians 4:16-20; 5:13), awkward parentheses and entangled periods (Galatians 2:1-10, 18; Galatians 3:16, 20; 4:25), and outburst of excessive vehemence (Galatians 1:8, 9; Galatians 5:12).

2. Jewish Coloring:

The anti-legalist polemic gives a special Old Testament coloring to the epistle; the apostle meets his adversaries on their own ground. In Galatians 3:16, 19-20; Galatians 4:21-31, we have examples of the rabbinical exegesis Paul had learned from his Jewish masters. These texts should be read in part as argumenta ad hominem; however peculiar in form such Pauline passages may be, they always contain sound reasoning.

III. Relations to Other Epistles.

(1) The connection of Galatians with Romans is patent; it is not sufficiently understood how pervasive that connection is and into what manifold detail it extends. The similarity of doctrine and doctrinal vocabulary manifest in Galatians 2:13-6:16 and Romans 1:16-8:39 is accounted for by the Judaistic controversy on which Paul was engaged for so long, and by the fact that this discussion touched the heart of his gospel and raised questions in regard to which his mind was made up from the beginning (1:15, 16), on which he would therefore always express himself in much the same way. Broadly speaking, the difference is that Romans is didactic and abstract, where Galatians is personal and polemical; that the former presents, a measured and rounded development of conceptions projected rapidly in the latter under the stress of controversy. The emphasis lies in Romans on justification by faith; in Galatians on the freedom of the Christian man. The contrast of tone is symptomatic of a calmer mood in the writer-the lull which follows the storm; it suits the different address of the two epistles.

1. Galatians and Romans:

Besides the correspondence of purport, there is a verbal resemblance to Romans pervading the tissue of Galatians, and traceable in its mannerisms and incidental expressions. Outside of the identical quotations, we find more than 40 Greek locutions, some of them rare in the language, common to these two and occurring in these only of Paul's epistles-including the words rendered "bear" (Romans 11:18 and Galatians 5:10, etc.); "blessing" or "gratulation" (makarismos), "divisions" (Romans 16:17 Galatians 5:20); "fail" or "fall from" (ekpipto); "labor on" or "upon" (of persons), "passions" (pathemata, in this sense); "set free" or "deliver" (eleutheroo); "shut up" or "conclude," and "shut out" or "exclude"; "travail (together)," and such phrases as "die to" (with dative), "hearing of faith," "if possible," "put on (the Lord Jesus) Christ," "those who do such things," "what saith the Scripture?" "where then?" (rhetorical), "why any longer?" The list would be greatly extended by adding expressions distinctive of this pair of letters that occur sporadically elsewhere in Paul. The kinship of Galatians-Romans in vocabulary and vein of expression resembles that existing between Colossians-Ephesians or 1 and 2 Thessalonians; it is twice as strong proportionately as that of 1 and 2 Corinthians. Not only the same current of thought, but with it, much the same stream of language was running through Paul's mind in writing these two epistles.

The association of Galatians with the two Corinthian letters, though less intimate than that of Galatians-Romans, is unmistakable.

2. Links with 1 and 2 Corinthians:

We count 23 distinct locations shared by 2 Corinthians alone (in its 13 chapters) with Galatians, and 20 such shared with 1 Corinthians (16 chapters)-a larger proportion for the former. Among the Galatians-1 Corinthians peculiarities are the sayings, "A little leaven," etc., "circumcision is nothing," etc., and the phrases, "be not deceived," "it is manifest" (delon as predicate to a sentence), "known by God," "profit nothing" and "to be something," "scandal of the cross," "the spiritual" (of persons), "they that are Christ's (of Christ Jesus)." Peculiar to Galatians through 2 Corinthians are "another gospel" and "false brethren," "brings into bondage," "devour" and "zealously seek" or "am jealous over" (of persons); "a new creation," "confirm" or "ratify" (kuroo); "I am perplexed," the antithesis of "sowing" and "reaping" (figuratively); the phrase "on the contrary" or "contrariwise" (t'ounantion), etc. The conception of the "two covenants" (or "testaments") is conspicuous in both epistles (Galatians 3:17-21; Galatians 4:21-31 2 Corinthians 3:8-18), and does not recur in Paul; in each case the ideas of "law" (or "letter"), "bondage," "death," are associated with the one, diatheke, of "spirit," "freedom," "life," with the other. Galatians 3:13 ("Christ. made a curse for us") is matched by 2 Corinthians 5:21 ("made sin for us"); in Galatians 2:19 and 6:14 we find Paul "crucified to the world" in the cross of his Master and "Christ" alone "living in" him; in 2 Corinthians 5:14, 15 this experience becomes a universal law for Christians; and where in Galatians 6:17 the apostle appears as `from hence-forth. bearing in' his `body the brand of Jesus,' in 2 Corinthians 4:10 he is "always bearing about in" his "body the dying of Jesus."

These identical or closely congruous trains of thought and turns of phrase, varied and dominant as they are, speak for some near connection between the two writings. By its list of vices in Galatians 5:19, 20 Galatians curiously, and somewhat intricately, links itself at once with 2 Corinthians and Roman (see 2 Corinthians 12:20 Romans 13:13; Romans 16:17). Galatians is allied by argument and doctrine with Romans, and by temper and sentiment with 2 Corinthians. The storm of feeling agitating our epistle blows from the same quarter, reaches the same height, and engages the same emotions with those which animate 2 Corinthians 10-13.

3. With the Corinthians-Romans Group:

If we add to the 43 locutions confined in the Pauline Epistles to Galatians-Romans the 23 such of Galatians-2 Corinthians, the 20 of Galatians-1 Corinthians, the 14 that range over Galatians-Romans-2 Corinthians, the 15 of Galatians-Romans-1 Corinthians, the 7 of Galatians-1-2 Corinthians, and the 11 running through all four, we get a total of 133 words or phrases (apart from Old Testament quotations) specific to Galatians in common with one or more of the Corinthians-Romans group-an average, that is, of close upon 3 for each chapter of those other epistles.

With the other groups of Pauline letters Galatians is associated by ties less numerous and strong, yet marked enough to suggest, in conjunction with the general style, a common authorship.

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1. The Author's Culture and Style

2. Letter, Epistle or Treatise?

3. A Unity or a Composite Work?


1. Tradition

(1) Alexandrian: Paul

(2) African: Barnabas

(3) Rome and the West: Anonymous

2. The Witness of the Epistle Itself

(1) Paul not the Author

(2) Other Theories

(a) Luke and Clement

(b) Barnabas; Priscilla and Aquila; Philip; Aristion; Apollos


1. General Character of the Readers

2. Jews or Gentiles?

3. The Locality of the Readers


1. Terminal Dates

2. Conversion and History of the Readers

3. Doctrinal Development

4. The Fall of Jerusalem

5. Timothy

6. Two Persecutions


1. Summary of Contents

2. The Main Theme

3. Alexandrian Influences

4. The Christian Factor


I. Title.

In the King James Version and the English Revised Version the title of this book describes it as "the Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Hebrews." Modern scholarship has disputed the applicability of every word of this title. Neither does it appear in the oldest manuscripts, where we find simply "to Hebrews" (pros Hebraious). This, too, seems to have been prefixed to the original writing by a collector or copyist. It is too vague and general for the author to have used it. And there is nothing in the body of the book which affirms any part of either title. Even the shorter title was an inference from the general character of the writing. Nowhere is criticism less hampered by problems of authenticity and inspiration. No question arises, at least directly, of pseudonymity either of author or of readers, for both are anonymous. For the purpose of tracing the history and interpreting the meaning of the book, the absence of a title, or of any definite historical data, is a disadvantage. We are left to infer its historical context from a few fragments of uncertain tradition, and from such general references to historical conditions as the document itself contains. Where no date, name or well-known event is fixed, it becomes impossible to decide, among many possibilities, what known historical conditions, if any, are pre-supposed. Yet this very fact, of the book's detachment from personal and historical incidents, renders it more self-contained, and its exegesis less dependent upon understanding the exact historical situation. But its general relation to the thought of its time must be taken into account if we are to understand it at all.

II. Literary Form.

1. The Author's Culture and Style:

The writer was evidently a man of culture, who had a masterly command of the Greek language. The theory of Clement of Alexandria, that the work was a translation from Hebrew, was merely an inference from the supposition that it was first addressed to Hebrew-speaking Christians. It bears none of the marks of a translation. It is written in pure idiomatic Greek. The writer had an intimate knowledge of the Septuagint, and was familiar with Jewish life. He was well-read in Hellenic literally (e.g. Wisdom), and had probably made a careful study of Philo (see VI below). His argument proceeds continuously and methodically, in general, though not strict, accord with the rules of Greek rhetoric, and without the interruptions and digressions which render Paul's arguments so hard to follow. "Where the literary skill of the author comes out is in the deft adjustment of the argumentative to the hortatory sections" (Moffatt, Introduction, 424). He has been classed with Luke as the most "cultured" of the early Christian writers.

2. Letter, Epistle or Treatise?:

It has been questioned whether Hebrews is rightly called a letter at all. Unlike all Paul's letters, it opens without any personal note of address or salutation; and at the outset it sets forth, in rounded periods and in philosophical language, the central theme which is developed throughout. In this respect it resembles the Johannine writings alone in the New Testament. But as the argument proceeds, the personal note of application, exhortation and expostulation emerges more clearly (Hebrews 2:1; Hebrews 3:1-12; 4:1, 14; 5:11; 6:09; 10:09; 13:7); and it ends with greetings and salutations (Hebrews 13:18). The writer calls it "a word of exhortation." The verb epesteila (the Revised Version (British and American) "I have written") is the usual expression for writing a letter (Hebrews 13:22). Hebrews begins like an essay, proceeds like a sermon, and ends as a letter.

Deissmann, who distinguishes between a "true letter," the genuine personal message of one man to another, and an "epistle," or a treatise written in imitation of the form of a letter, but with an eye on the reading public, puts Hebrews in the latter class; nor would he "consider it anything but a literary oration-hence, not as an epistle at all-if the epesteila, and the greetings at the close, did not permit of the supposition that it had at one time opened with something of the nature of an address as well" (Bible Studies, 49-50). There is no textual or historical evidence of any opening address having ever stood as part of the text; nor does the opening section bear any mark or suggestion of fragmentariness, as if it had once followed such an address.

Yet the supposition that a greeting once stood at the beginning of our document is not so impossible as Zahn thinks (Introduction to the New Testament, II, 313), as a comparison with James or 1 Peter will show.

So unusual is the phenomenon of a letter without a greeting, that among the ancients, Pantaenus had offered the explanation that Paul, out of modesty, had refrained from putting his name to a letter addressed to the Hebrews, because the Lord Himself had been apostle to them.

In recent times, Julicher and Harnack have conjectured that the author intentionally suppressed the greeting, either from motives of prudence at a time of persecution, or because it was unnecessary, since the bearer of the letter would communicate the name of the sender to the recipients.

Overbeck advanced the more revolutionary hypothesis that the letter once opened with a greeting, but from someone other than Paul; that in order to satisfy the general conditions of canonization, the non-apostolic greeting was struck out by the Alexandrians, and the personal references in Hebrews 13:22-25 added, in order to represent it as Pauline.

3. A Unity or a Composite Work?:

W. Wrede, starting from this theory, rejects the first part of it and adopts the second. He does not base his hypothesis on the conditions of canonization, but on an examination of the writing itself. He adopts Deissmann's rejected alternative, and argues that the main part of the book was originally not an epistle at all, but a general doctrinal treatise. Then Hebrews 13, and especially 13:18, were added by a later hand, in order to represent the whole as a Pauline letter, and the book in its final form was made, after all, pseudonymous. The latter supposition is based upon an assumed reference to imprisonment in 13:19 (compare Philemon 1:22) and upon the reference to Timothy in Hebrews 13:23 (compare Philippians 2:19); and the proof that these professed Pauline phrases are not really Pauline is found in a supposed contradiction between Hebrews 13:19 and 13:23. But 13:19 does not necessarily refer to imprisonment exclusively or even at all, and therefore it stands in no contradiction with 13:23 (compare Romans 1:9-13). And Timothy must have associated with many Christian leaders besides Paul. But why should anybody who wanted to represent the letter as Pauline and who scrupled not to add to it for that purpose, refrain from the obvious device of prefixing a Pauline greeting? Moreover, it is only by the most forced special pleading that it can be maintained that Hebrews 1-12 are a mere doctrinal treatise, devoid of all evidences of a personal relation to a circumscribed circle of readers. The period and manner of the readers' conversion are defined (2:3). Their present spiritual condition is described in terms of such anxiety and hope as betoken a very intimate personal relation (5:11; 6:9-11). Their past conflicts, temptations, endurance and triumph are recalled for their encouragement under present trials, and both past and present are defined in particular terms that point to concrete situations well known to writer and readers (10:32-36). There is, it is true, not in Hebrews the same intense and all-pervading personal note as appears in the earlier Pauline letters; the writer often loses sight of his particular audience and develops his argument in detached and abstract form. But it cannot be assumed that nothing is a letter which does not conform to the Pauline model. And the presence of long, abstract arguments does not justify the excision or explaining away of undoubted personal passages. Neither the language nor the logic of the book either demands or permits the separation of doctrinal and personal passages from one another, so as to leave for residuum a mere doctrinal treatise. Doctrinal statements lead up to personal exhortations, and personal exhortations form the transition to new arguments; they are indissolubly involved in one another; and chapter 13 presents no such exceptional. features as to justify its separation from the whole work. There is really no reason, but the unwarrantable assumption that an ancient writer must have conformed with a certain convention of letter-writing, to forbid the acceptance of Hebrews for what it appears to be-a defense of Christianity written for the benefit of definite readers, growing more intimate and personal as the writer gathers his argument into a practical appeal to the hearts and consciences of his readers,

III. The Author.

Certain coincidences of language and thought between this epistle and that of Clement of Rome to the Corinthians justify the inference that Hebrews was known in Rome toward the end of the 1st century A.D. (compare Hebrews 11:7, 31 and 1:3 with Clement ad Cor 9, 12, 36). Clement makes no explicit reference to the book or its author: the quotations are unacknowledged. But they show that Hebrews already had some authority in Rome. The same inference is supported by similarities of expression found also in the Shepherd of Hermas. The possible marks of its influence in Polycarp and Justin Martyr are too uncertain and indefinite to justify any inference. Its name does not appear in the list of New Testament writings compiled and acknowledged by Marcion, nor in that of the Muratorian Fragment. The latter definitely assigns letters by Paul to only seven churches, and so inferentially excludes Hebrews.

When the book emerges into the clear light of history toward the end of the 2nd century, the tradition as to its authorship is seen to divide into three different streams.

(1) Alexandrian: Paul

In Alexandria, it was regarded as in some sense the work of Paul. Clement tells how his teacher, apparently Pantaenus, explained why Paul does not in this letter, as in others, address his readers under his name. Out of reverence for the Lord (II, 2, above) and to avoid suspicion and prejudice, he as apostle of the Gentiles refrains from addressing himself to the Hebrews as their apostle. Clement accepts this explanation, and adds to it that the original Hebrew of Paul's epistle had been translated into Greek by Luke. That Paul wrote in Hebrew was assumed from the tradition or inference that the letter was addressed to Aramaic-speaking Hebrews. Clement also had noticed the dissimilarity of its Greek from that of Paul's epistles, and thought he found a resemblance to that of Acts.

Origen starts with the same tradition, but he knew, moreover, that other churches did not accept the Alexandrian view, and that they even criticized Alexandria for admitting Hebrews into the Canon. And he feels, more than Clement, that not only the language, but the forms of thought are different from those of Paul's epistles. This he tries to explain by the hypothesis that while the ideas were Paul's, they had been formulated and written down by some other disciple. He found traditions that named Luke and Clement of Rome, but who the actual writer was, Origen declares that "God alone knows."

The Pauline tradition persisted in Alexandria, and by the 4th century it was accepted without any of the qualifications made by Clement and Origen. It had also in the same period spread over the other eastern churches, both Greek and Syrian. But the Pauline tradition, where it is nearest the fountain-head of history, in Clement and Origen, only ascribes Hebrews to Paul in a secondary sense.

(2) African: Barnabas

In the West, the Pauline tradition failed to assert itself till the 4th century, and was not generally accepted till the 5th century. In Africa, another tradition prevailed, namely, that Barnabas was the author. This was the only other definite tradition of authorship that prevailed in antiquity. Tertullian, introducing a quotation of Hebrews 6:1, 4-6, writes: "There is also an Epistle to the Hebrews under the name of Barnabas. and the Epistle of Barnabas is more generally received among the churches than that apocryphal `Shepherd' of adulterers" (De Pudicitia, 20). Tertullian is not expressing his mere personal opinion, but quoting a tradition which had so far established itself as to appear in the title of the epistle in the MS, and he betrays no consciousness of the existence of any other tradition. Zahn infers that this view prevailed in Montanist churches and may have originated in Asia. Moffatt thinks that it had also behind it "some Roman tradition" (Introduction, 437). If it was originally, or at any time, the tradition of the African churches, it gave way there to the Alexandrian view in the course of the 4th century. A Council of Hippo in 393 reckons "thirteen epistles of the apostle Paul, and one by the same to the Hebrews." A council of Carthage in 419 reckons "fourteen epistles of the apostle Paul." By such gradual stages did the Pauline tradition establish itself.

(3) Rome and the West: Anonymous

All the evidence tends to show that in Rome and the remaining churches of the West, the epistle was originally anonymous. No tradition of authorship appears before the 4th century. And Stephen Gobarus, writing in 600, says that both Irenaeus and Hippolytus denied the Pauline authorship. Photius repeats this statement as regards Hippolytus. Neither he nor Gobarus mentions any alternative view (Zahn, Intro, II, 310). The epistle was known in Rome (to Clement) toward the end of the 1st century, and if Paul's name, or any other, had been associated with it from the beginning, it is impossible that it could have been forgotten by the time of Hippolytus. The western churches had no reason for refusing to admit Hebrews into the Pauline and canonical list of books, except only that they did not believe it to be the work of Paul, or of any other apostle.

It seems therefore certain that the epistle first became generally known as an anonymous writing. Even the Alexandrian tradition implies as much, for it appears first as an explanation by Pantaenus why Paul concealed his name. The idea that Paul was the author was therefore an Alexandrian inference. The religious value of the epistle was naturally first recognized in Alexandria, and the name of Paul, the chief letter-writer of the church, at once occurred to those in search for its author. Two facts account for the ultimate acceptance of that view by the whole church. The spiritual value and authority of the book were seen to be too great to relegate it into the same class as the Shepherd or the Epistle of Barnabas. And the conception of the Canon developed into the hard-and-fast rule of apostolicity. No writing could be admitted into the Canon unless it had an apostle for its author; and when Hebrews could no longer be excluded, it followed that its apostolic authorship must be affirmed. The tradition already existing in Alexandria supplied the demand, and who but Paul, among the apostles, could have written it?

The Pauline theory prevailed together with the scheme of thought that made it necessary, from the 5th to the 16th century. The Humanists and the Reformers rejected it. But it was again revived in the 17th and 18th centuries, along with the recrudescence of scholastic ideas. It is clear, however, that tradition and history shed no light upon the question of the authorship of Hebrews. They neither prove nor disprove the Pauline, or any other theory.

2. The Witness of the Epistle Itself:

We are therefore thrown back, in our search for the author, on such evidence as the epistle itself affords, and that is wholly inferential. It seems probable that the author was a Hellenist, a Greek-speaking Jew. He was familiar with the Scriptures of the Old Testament and with the religious ideas and worship of the Jews. He claims the inheritance of their sacred history, traditions and institutions (Hebrews 1:1), and dwells on them with an intimate knowledge and enthusiasm that would be improbable, though not impossible, in a proselyte, and still more in a Christian convert from heathenism. But he knew the Old Testament only in the Septuagint translation, which he follows even where it deviates from the Hebrew. He writes Greek with a purity of style and vocabulary to which the writings of Luke alone in the New Testament can be compared. His mind is imbued with that combination of Hebrew and Greek thought which is best known in the writings of Philo. His general typological mode of thinking, his use of the allegorical method, as well as the adoption of many terms that are most familiar in Alexandrian thought, all reveal the Hellenistic mind. Yet his fundamental conceptions are in full accord with the teaching of Paul and of the Johannine writings.

The central position assigned to Christ, the high estimate of His person, the saving significance of His death, the general trend of the ethical teaching, the writer's opposition to asceticism and his esteem for the rulers and teachers of the church, all bear out the inference that he belonged to a Christian circle dominated by Pauline ideas. The author and his readers alike were not personal disciples of Jesus, but had received the gospel from those who had heard the Lord (Hebrews 2:3) and who were no longer living (Hebrews 13:7). He had lived among his readers, and had probably been their teacher and leader; he is now separated from them but he hopes soon to return to them again (Hebrews 13:18 f).

Is it possible to give a name to this person?

(1) Paul not the Author

Although the Pauline tradition itself proves nothing, the internal evidence is conclusive against it. We know enough about Paul to be certain that he could not have written Hebrews, and that is all that can be said with confidence on the question of authorship. The style and language, the categories of thought and the method of argument, all differ widely from those of any writings ascribed to Paul. The latter quotes the Old Testament from the Hebrew and Septuagint, but He only from Septuagint. Paul's formula of quotation is, "It is written" or "The scripture saith"; that of Hebrews, "God," or "The Holy Spirit," or "One somewhere saith." For Paul the Old Testament is law, and stands in antithesis to the New Testament, but in Hebrews the Old Testament is covenant, and is the "shadow" of the New Covenant. Paul's characteristic terms, "Christ Jesus," and "Our Lord Jesus Christ," are never found in Hebrews; and "Jesus Christ" only 3 times (10:10; 13:8), and "the Lord" (for Christ) only twice (2:3; 7:14)-phrases used by Paul over 600 times (Zahn). Paul's Christology turns around the death, resurrection and living presence of Christ in the church, that of Hebrews around His high-priestly function in heaven. Their conceptions of God differ accordingly. In Hebrews it is Judaistic-Platonistic, or (in later terminology) Deistic. The revelation of the Divine Fatherhood and the consequent immanence of God in history and in the world had not possessed the author s mind as it had Paul's. Since the present world is conceived in Hebrews as a world of "shadows," God could only intervene in it by mediators.

The experience and conception of salvation are also different in these two writers. There is no evidence in Hebrews of inward conflict and conversion and of constant personal relation with Christ, which constituted the entire spiritual life of Paul. The apostle's central doctrine, that of justification by faith, does not appear in Hebrews. Faith is less the personal, mystical relation with Christ, that it is for Paul, than a general hope which lays hold of the future to overcome the present; and salvation is accomplished by cleansing, sanctification and perfection, not by justification. While Paul's mind was not uninfluenced by Hellenistic thought, as we find it in Alexandria (as, e.g. in Col and Eph), it nowhere appears in his epistles so clearly and prominently as it does in Hebrews. Moreover, the author of Hebrews was probably a member of the community to which he writes (Hebrews 13:18 f), but Paul never stood in quite the relation supposed here to any church. Finally, Paul could not have written Hebrews 2:3, for he emphatically declares that he did not receive his gospel from the older disciples (Galatians 1:12; Galatians 2:6).

The general Christian ideas on which He was in agreement with Paul were part of the heritage which the apostle had left to all the churches. The few more particular affinities of Hebrews with certain Pauline writings (e.g. Hebrews 2:2 parallel Galatians 3:19 Hebrews 12:22; Hebrews 3:14 parallel Galatians 4:25 Hebrews 2:10 parallel Romans 11:36; also with Ephesians; see yon Soden, Hand-Commentar, 3) are easily explicable either as due to the author's reading of Paul's Epistles or as reminiscences of Pauline phrases that were current in the churches. But they are too few and slender to rest upon them any presumption against the arguments which disprove the Pauline tradition.

(2) Other Theories

The passage that is most conclusive against the Pauline authorship (Hebrews 2:3) is equally conclusive against any other apostle being the author. But almost every prominent name among the Christians of the second generation has been suggested. The epistle itself excludes Timothy (Hebrews 13:23), and Titus awaits his turn. Otherwise Luke, Clement of Rome, Barnabas, Silas, Apollos, Priscilla and Aquila, Philip the Deacon, and Aristion have all had their champions.

(a) Luke and Clement

The first two, Luke and Clement, were brought in through their connection with Paul. Where it was recognized that a direct Pauline authorship could not be maintained, the Pauline tradition might still be retained, if the epistle could be assigned to one of the apostle's disciples. These two were fixed upon as being well-known writers. But this very fact reveals the improbability of theory. Similar arguments from language and thought to those derived from the comparison of Hebrews with the Pauline writings avail also in the comparison of Hebrews with the writings of Luke and Clement. Both these disciples of the apostle adhere much closer to his system of thought than Hebrews does, and they reveal none of the influences of Alexandrian thought, which is predominant in Hebrews.

(b) Barnabas; Priscilla and Aquila; Philip; Aristion; Apollos

Of all the other persons suggested, so little is known that it is impossible to establish, with any convincing force, an argument for or against their authorship.

(i) Barnabas was a Levite of Cyprus (Acts 4:36), and once a companion of Paul (Acts 13:2). Another ancient writing is called "the Epistle of Barnabas," but it has no affinity with Hebrews. The coincidence of the occurrence of the word "consolation" in Barnabas' name (Acts 4:36) and in the writer's description of Hebrews (13:22) is quite irrelevant. Tertullian's tradition is the only positive argument in favor of the Barnabas theory. It has been argued against it that Barnabas, being a Levite, could not have shown the opposition to the Levitical system, and the unfamiliarity with it (Hebrews 7:27; Hebrews 9:4), which is supposed to mark our epistle. But the author's Levitical system was derived, not from the Hebrew Old Testament, nor from the Jerusalem temple, but from Jewish tradition; and the supposed inaccuracies as to the daily sin offering (7:27), and the position of the golden altar of incense (9:4) have been traced to Jewish tradition (see Moffatt, Introduction, 438). And the writer's hostility to the Levitical system is not nearly as intense as that of Paul to Pharisaism. There is nothing that renders it intrinsically impossible that Barnabas was the author, nor is anything known of him that makes it probable; and if he was, it is a mystery why the tradition was confined to Africa.

(ii) Harnack has argued the probability of a joint authorship by Priscilla and Aquila. The interchange of "I" and "we" he explains as due to a dual authorship by persons intimately related, but such an interchange of the personal "I" and the epistolary "we" can be paralleled in the Epistles of Paul (e.g. Romans) where no question of joint authorship arises. The probable relation of the author to a church in Rome may suit Priscilla arid Aquila (compare Romans 16:5 with Hebrews 13:22-24), but even if this interpretation of the aforementioned passages were correct, it is possible and probable that Luke, Barnabas, Apollos, and certainly Clement, stood in a similar relation to a Roman church. Harnack, on this theory, explains the disappearance of the author's name as due to prejudice against women teachers. This is the only novel point in favor of this theory as compared with several others; and it does not explain why Aquila's name should not have been retained with the address. The evidences adduced of a feminine mind behind the epistle are highly disputable. On the other hand, a female disciple of Paul's circle would scarcely assume such authority in the church as the author of Hebrews does (13:17; compare 1 Corinthians 14:34). And nothing that is known of Priscilla and Aquila would suggest the culture and the familiarity with Alexandrian thought possessed by this writer. Acts 18:26 does not prove that they were expert and cultured teachers, but only that they knew and could repeat the salient points of Paul's early preaching. So unusual a phenomenon as this theory supposes demands more evidence to make it even probable. (But see Rendel Harris, Sidelights on New Testament Research, 148-76.)

(iii) Philip the Deacon and Aristion, "a disciple of the Lord" mentioned by Papias, are little more than names to us. No positive knowledge of either survives on which any theory can be built. It is probable that both were personal disciples of the Lord, and they could not therefore have written Hebrews 2:3.

(iv) Apollos has found favor with many scholars from Luther downward. No ancient tradition supports this theory, a fact which tells heavily against it, but not conclusively, for someone must have written the letter, and his name was actually lost to early tradition, unless it were Barnabas, and that tradition too was Unknown to the vast majority of the early churches. All that is known of Apollos suits the author of Hebrews. He may have learned the gospel from "them that heard" (2:3); he was a Jew, "an Alexandrian by race, a learned (or eloquent) man," "mighty in the Scriptures," "he powerfully confuted the Jews" (Acts 18:24), and he belonged to the same Pauline circle as Timothy and Titus (1 Corinthians 16:10-12 Titus 3:13; compare Hebrews 13:23). The Alexandrian type of thought, the affinities with Philo, the arguments from Jewish tradition and ceremonial, the fluent style, may all have issued from "an eloquent Jew of Alexandria." But it does not follow that Apollos was the only person of this type. The author may have been a Gentile, as the purity of his Greek language and style suggests; and the combination of Greek and Hebrew thought, which the epistle reflects, and even Philo's terms, may have had a wide currency outside Alexandria, as for instance in the great cosmopolitan cities of Asia. All that can be said is that the author of Hebrews was someone generally like what is known of Apollos, but who he actually was, we must confess with Origen, "God alone knows."

IV. Destination.

The identity of the first readers of Hebrews is, if possible, more obscure than that of the author. It was written to Christians, and to a specific body or group of Christians (see I above). The title "to Hebrews" might mean properly Palestinian Jews who spoke the Hebrew language, but the fact that the epistle was written in Greek excludes that supposition. It therefore meant Christians of Jewish origin, and gives no indication of their place of residence. The title represents an early inference drawn from the contents of the document, and the tradition it embodies was unanimously accepted from the 2nd century down to the early part of the last century. Now, however, a considerable body of critics hold that the original readers were Gentiles. The question is entirely one of inference from the contents of the epistle itself.

1. General Character of the Readers:

The readers, like the writer, received the gospel first from "them that heard" (Hebrews 2:3), from the personal disciples of the Lord, but they were not of their number. They had witnessed "signs and wonders" and "manifold powers" and "gifts of the Holy Spirit" (Hebrews 2:4). Their conversion had been thorough, and their faith and Christian life had been of a high order. They had a sound knowledge of the first principles of Christ (Hebrews 6:1).

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1. Jewish

2. Authoritative

3. Practical



1. Plainness

2. Good Greek

3. Vividness

4. Duadiplosis

5. Figures of Speech

6. Unlikeness to Paul

7. Likeness to Jesus




1. To the Pietist

2. To the Sociologist

3. To the Student of the Life and Character of Jesus


I. Characteristics of the Epistle.

1. Jewish:

The Epistle of James is the most Jewish writing in the New Testament. The Gospel according to Matthew was written for the Jews. The Epistle to the Hebrews is addressed explicitly to them. The Apocalypse is full of the spirit of the Old Testament. The Epistle of Jude is Jewish too. Yet all of these books have more of the distinctively Christian element in them than we can find in the Epistle of James. If we eliminate two or three passages containing references to Christ, the whole epistle might find its place iust as properly in the Canon of the Old Testament as in that of the New Testament, as far as its substance of doctrine and contents is concerned. That could not be said Of any other book in the New Testament. There is no mention of the incarnation or of the resurrection., the two fundamental facts of the Christian faith. The word "gospel" does not occur in the epistle There is no suggestion that the Messiah has appeared and no presentation of the possibility of redemption through Him. The teaching throughout is that of a lofty morality which aims at the fulfillment of the requirements of the Mosaic law. It is not strange therefore that Spitta and others have thought that we have in the Epistle of James a treatise written by an unconverted Jew which has been adapted to Christian use by the interpolation of the two phrases containing the name of Christ in 1:1 and 2:1. Spitta thinks that this can be the only explanation of the fact that we have here an epistle practically ignoring the life and work of Jesus and every distinctively Christian doctrine, and without a trace of any of the great controversies in the early Christian church or any of the specific features of its propaganda. This judgment is a superficial one, and rests upon superficial indications rather than any appreciation of the underlying spirit and principles of the book. The spirit of Christ is here, and there is no need to label it. The principles of this epistle are the principles of the Sermon on the Mount. There are more parallels to that Sermon in this epistle than can be found anywhere else in the New Testament in the same space. The epistle represents the idealization of Jewish legalism under the transforming influence of the Christian motive and life. It is not a theological discussion. It is an ethical appeal. It has to do with the outward life for the most part, and the life it pictures is that of a Jew informed with the spirit of Christ. The spirit is invisible in the epistle as in the individual man. It is the body which appears and the outward life with which that body has to do. The body of the epistle is Jewish, and the outward life to which it exhorts is that of a profoundly pious Jew. The Jews familiar with the Old Testament would read this epistle and find its language and tone that to which they were accustomed in their sacred books. James is evidently written by a Jew for Jews. It is Jewish in character throughout. This is apparent in the following particulars:

(1) The epistle is addressed to the 12 tribes which are of the Dispersion (11). The Jews were scattered abroad through the ancient world. From Babylon to Rome, wherever any community of them might be gathered for commercial or social purposes, these exhortations could be carried and read. Probably the epistle was circulated most widely in Syria and Asia Minor, but it may have gone out to the ends of the earth. Here and there in the ghettos of the Roman Empire, groups of the Jewish exiles would gather and listen while one of their number read this letter from home. All of its terms and its allusions would recall familiar home scenes.

(2) Their meeting-place is called "your synagogue" (2:2).

(3) Abraham is mentioned as "our father" (2:21).

(4) God is given the Old Testament name, "the Lord of Sabaoth" (5:4).

(5) The law is not to be spoken against nor judged, but reverently and loyally obeyed. It is a royal law to which every loyal Jew will be subject. It is a law of liberty, to be freely obeyed (2:8-12; 4:11).

(6) The sins of the flesh are not inveighed against in the epistle, but those sins to which the Jews were more conspicuously liable, such as the love of money and the distinction which money may bring (2:2-4), worldliness and pride (4:4-6), impatience and murmuring (5:7-11), and other sins of the temper and tongue (3:1-12; 4:11, 12).

(7) The illustrations of faithfulness and patience and prayer are found in Old Testament characters, in Abraham (2:21), Rahab (2:25), Job (James 5:11),and Elijah (James 5:17, 18). The whole atmosphere of the epistle is Jewish.

2. Authoritative:

The writer of this epistle speaks as one having authority. He is not on his defense, as Paul so often is. There is no trace of apology in his presentation of the truth. His official position must have been recognized and unquestioned. He is as sure of his standing with his readers as he is of the absoluteness of his message.

No Old Testament lawgiver or prophet was more certain that he spoke the word of the Lord. He has the vehemence of Elijah and the assured meekness of Moses. He has been called "the Amos of the New Testament," and there are paragraphs which recall the very expressions used by Amos and which are full of the same fiery eloquence and prophetic fervor. Both fill their writings with metaphors drawn from the sky and the sea, from natural objects and domestic experiences. Both seem to be countrybred and to be in sympathy with simplicity and poverty. Both inveigh against the luxury and the cruelty of the idle rich, and both abhor the ceremonial and the ritual which are substituted for individual righteousness. Malachi was not the last of the prophets. John the Baptist was not the last prophet of the Old Dispensation. The writer of this epistle stands at the end of that prophetic line, and he is greater than John the Baptist or any who have preceded him because he stands within the borders of the kingdom of Christ. He speaks with authority, as a messenger of God. He belongs to the goodly fellowship of the prophets and of the apostles. He has the authority of both. There are 54 imperatives in the 108 verses of this epistle.

3. Practical:

The epistle is interested in conduct more than in creed. It has very little formulated theology, less than any other epistle in the New Testament; but it insists upon practical morality throughout. It begins and it closes with an exhortation to patience and prayer. It preaches a gospel of good works, based upon love to God and love to man. It demands liberty, equality, fraternity for all. It enjoins humility and justice and peace. It prescribes singleness of purpose and stedfastness of soul. It requires obedience to the law, control of the passions, and control of the tongue. Its ideal is to be found in a good life, characterized by the meekness of wisdom. The writer of the epistle has caught the spirit of the ancient prophets, but the lessons that he teaches are taken, for the most part, from the Wisdom literature of the Old Testament and the Apocrypha. His direct quotations are from the Pentateuch and the Book of Proverbs; but it has been estimated that there are 10 allusions to the Book of Proverbs, 6 to the Book of Job, 5 to the Book of Wisdom, and 15 to the Book of Ecclesiasticus. This Wisdom literature furnishes the staple of his meditation and the substance of his teaching. He has little or nothing to say about the great doctrines of the Christian church.

He has much to say about the wisdom that cometh down from above and is pure, peaceable, gentle, easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, without hypocrisy (James 3:15-17). The whole epistle shows that the author had stored his mind with the rich treasure of the ancient wisdom, and his material, while offered as his own, is both old and new. The form is largely that of the Wisdom literature of the Jews. It has more parallels with Jesus the son of Sirach than with any writer of the sacred books.

The substance of its exhortation, however, is to be found in the Synoptics and more particularly in the Sermon on the Mount. Its wisdom is the wisdom of Jesus the son of Joseph, who is the Christ.

These are the three outstanding characteristics of this epistle In form and on the surface it is the most Jewish and least Christian of the writings in the New Testament. Its Christianity is latent and not apparent. Yet it is the most authoritative in its tone of any of the epistles in the New Testament, unless it be those of the apostle John. John must have occupied a position of undisputed primacy in the Christian church after the death of all the other apostles, when he wrote his epistles. It is noteworthy that the writer of this epistle assumes a tone of like authority with that of John. John was the apostle of love, Paul of faith, and Peter of hope. This writer is the apostle of good works, the apostle of the wisdom which manifests itself in peace and purity, mercy and morality, and in obedience to the royal law, the law of liberty. In its union of Jewish form, authoritative tone, and insistence upon practical morality, the epistle is unique among the New Testament books.

II. Author of the Epistle.

The address of the epistle states that the writer is "James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ" (James 1:1). The tradition of the church has identified this James with the brother of our Lord. Clement of Alexandria says that Peter and James and John, who were the three apostles most honored of the Lord, chose James, the Lord's brother, to be the bishop of Jerusalem after the Lord's ascension (Euscb., HE, II, 1). This tradition agrees well with all the notices of James in the New Testament books. After the death of James the brother of John, Peter was thrown into prison, and having been miraculously released, he asked that the news be sent to James and to the brethren (Acts 12:17). This James is evidently in authority in the church at this time. In the apostolical conference held at Jerusalem, after Peter and Paul and Barnabas had spoken, this same James sums up the whole discussion, and his decision is adopted by the assembly and formulated in a letter which has some very striking parallels in its phraseology to this epistle (Acts 15:6-29). When Paul came to Jerusalem for the last time he reported his work to James and all the elders present with him (Acts 21:18). In the Epistle to the Galatians Paul says that at the time of one of his visits to Jerusalem he saw none of the apostles save Peter and James the Lord's brother (Galatians 1:18, 19). At another visit he received the right hand of fellowship from James and Cephas and John (Galatians 2:9). At a later time certain who came from James to Antioch led Peter into backsliding from his former position of tolerance of the Gentiles as equals in the Christian church (Galatians 2:12).

All of these references would lead us to suppose that James stood in a position of supreme authority in the mother-church at Jerusalem, the oldest church of Christendom. He presides in the assemblies of the church. He speaks the final and authoritative word. Peter and Paul defer to him. Paul mentions his name before that of Peter and John. When he was exalted to this leadership we do not know, but all indications seem to point to the fact that at a very early period James was the recognized executive authority in the church at Jerusalem, which was the church of Pentecost and the church of the apostles. All Jews looked to Jerusalem as the chief seat of their worship and the central authority of their religion. All Christian Jews would look to Jerusalem as the primitive source of their organization and faith, and the head of the church at Jerusalem would be recognized by them as their chief authority. The authoritative tone of this epistle comports well with this position of primacy ascribed to James.

All tradition agrees in describing James as a Hebrew of the Hebrews, a man of the most rigid and ascetic morality, faithful in his observance of all the ritual regulations of the Jewish faith. Hegesippus tells us that he was holy from his mother's womb. He drank no wine nor strong drink. He ate no flesh. He alone was permitted to enter with the priests into the holy place, and he was found there frequently upon his knees begging forgiveness for the people, and his knees became hard like those of a camel in consequence of his constantly bending them in his worship of God and asking forgiveness for the people (Euseb., HE, II, 23). He was called James the Just. All had confidence in his sincerity and integrity, and many were persuaded by him to believe on the Christ. This Jew, faithful in the observance of all that the Jews held sacred, and more devoted to the temple-worship than the most pious among them, was a good choice for the head of the Christian church. The blood of David flowed in his veins. He had all the Jew's pride in the special privileges of the chosen race. The Jews respected him and the Christians revered him. No man among them commanded the esteem of the entire population as much as he.

Josephus (Ant., XX, ix) tells us that Ananus the high priest had James stoned to death, and that the most equitable of the citizens immediately rose in revolt against such a lawless procedure, and Ananus was deposed after only three months' rule. This testimony of Josephus simply substantiates all that we know from other sources concerning the high standing of James in the whole community. Hegesippus says that James was first thrown from a pinnacle of the temple, and then they stoned him because he was not killed by the fall, and he was finally beaten over the head with a fuller's club; and then he adds significantly, "Immediately Vespasian besieged them" (Euscb., HE, II, 23). There would seem to have been quite a widespread conviction among both the Christians and the Jews that the afflictions which fell upon the holy city and the chosen people in the following years were in part a visitation because of the great crime of the murder of this just man. We can understand how a man with this reputation and character would write an epistle so Jewish in form and substance and so insistent in its demands for a practical morality as is the Epistle of James. All the characteristics of the epistle seem explicable on the supposition of authorship by James the brother of the Lord. We accept the church tradition without hesitation.

III. The Style of the Epistle.

1. Plainness:

The sentence construction is simple and straightforward. It reminds us of the English of Bunyan and DeFoe. There is usually no good reason for misunderstanding anything James says. He puts his truth plainly, and the words he uses have no hidden or mystical meanings. His thought is transparent as his life.

2. Good Greek:

It is somewhat surprising to find that the Greek of the Epistle of James is better than that of the other New Testament writers, with the single exception of the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews. Of course this may be due to the fact that James had the services of an amanuensis who was a Greek scholar, or that his own manuscript was revised by such a man; but, although unexpected, it is not impossible that James himself may have been capable of writing such Greek as this.

It is not the good Greek of the classics, and it is not the poor and provincial Greek of Paul. There is more care for literary form than in the uncouth periods Of the Gentile apostle, and the vocabulary would seem to indicate an acquaintance with the literary as well as the commercial and the conversational Greek "Galilee was studded with Greek towns, and it was certainly in the power of any Galilean to gain a knowledge of Greek. We may reasonably suppose that our author would not have scrupled to avail himself of the opportunities within his reach, so as to master the Greek language, and learn something of Greek philosophy. This would be natural, even if we think of James as impelled only by a desire to gain wisdom and knowledge for himself; but if we think of him also as the principal teacher of the Jewish believers, many of whom were Hellenists, instructed in the wisdom of Alexandria, then the natural bent would take the shape of duty: he would be a student of Greek in order that he might be a more effective instructor to his own people" (Mayor, The Epistle of James, ccxxxvi). The Greek of the epistle is the studied Greek of one who was not a native to it, but who had familiarized himself with its literature. James could have done so and the epistle may be proof that he did.

3. Vividness:

James is never content to talk in abstractions. He always sets a picture before his own eyes and those of his readers. He has the dramatic instinct. He has the secret of sustained interest. He is not discussing things in general but things in particular. He is an artist and believes in concrete realities. At the same time he has a touch of poetry in him, and a fine sense of the analogies running through all Nature and all life. The doubting man is like the sea spume (1:6). The rich man fades away in his goings, even as the beauty of the flower falls and perishes (1:11). The synagogue scene with its distinction between the rich and the poor is set before us with the clear-cut impressiveness of a cameo (2:1-4). The Pecksniffian philanthropist, who seems to think that men can be fed not by bread alone but by the words that proceed magnificently from his mouth, is pilloried here for all time (2:15, 16). The untamable tongue that is set on fire of hell is put in the full blaze of its world of iniquity, and the damage it does is shown to be like that of a forest fire (3:1-12). The picture of the wisdom that comes from above with its sevenfold excellences of purity, peaceableness, gentleness, mercy, fruitfulness, impartiality, sincerity, is worthy to hang in the gallery of the world's masterpieces (3:17). The vaunting tradesmen, whose lives are like vanishing vapor, stand there before the eyes of all in Jerusalem (4:13-16). The rich, whose luxuries he describes even while he denounces their cruelties and prophesies their coming day of slaughter, are the rich who walk the streets of his own city (5:1-6). His short sentences go like shots straight to the mark. We feel the impact and the impress of them. There is an energy behind them and a reality in them that makes them live in our thought. His abrupt questions are like the quick interrogations of a cross-examining lawyer (2:4-7, 14, 16; 3:11, 12; 4:1, 4, 5, 12, 14). His proverbs have the intensity of the accumulated and compressed wisdom of the ages. They are irreducible minimums. They are memorable sayings, treasured in the speech of the world ever since his day.

4. Duadiplosis:

Sometimes James adds sentence to sentence with the repetition of some leading word or phrase (1:1-6, 19-24; 3:2-8). It is the painful style of one who is not altogether at home with the language which he has chosen as the vehicle of his thought. It is the method by which a discussion could be continued indefinitely. Nothing but the vividness of the imagery and the intensity of the thought saves James from fatal monotony in the use of this device.

5. Figures of Speech:

James has a keen eye for illustrations. He is not blind to the beauties and wonders of Nature. He sees what is happening on every hand, and he is quick to catch any homiletical suggestion it may hold. Does he stand by the seashore? The surge that is driven by the wind and tossed reminds him of the man who is unstable in all his ways, because he has no anchorage of faith, and his convictions are like driftwood on a sea of doubt (1:6). Then he notices that the great ships are turned about by a small rudder, and he thinks how the tongue is a small member, but it accomplishes great things (3:4, 5). Does he walk under the sunlight and rejoice in it as the source of so many good and perfect gifts? He sees in it an image of the goodness of God that is never eclipsed and never exhausted, unvarying for evermore (1:17). He uses the natural phenomena of the land in which he lives to make his meaning plain at every turn: the flower of the field that passes away (1:10, 11), the forest fire that sweeps the mountain side and like a living torch lights up the whole land (3:5), the sweet and salt springs (3:11), the fig trees and the olive trees and the vines (3:12), the seed-sowing and the fruit-bearing (3:18), the morning mist immediately lost to view (4:14), the early and the latter rain for which the husbandman waiteth patiently (5:7).

There is more of the appreciation of Nature in this one short epistle of Jas than in all the epistles of Paul put together. Human life was more interesting to Paul than natural scenery. However, James is interested in human life just as profoundly as Paul. He is constantly endowing inanimate things with living qualities. He represents sin as a harlot, conceiving and bringing forth death (1:15). The word of truth has a like power and conceives and brings forth those who live to God's praise (1:18). Pleasures are like joyful hosts of enemies in a tournament, who deck themselves bravely and ride forth with singing and laughter, but whose mission is to wage war and to kill (4:1, 2). The laborers may be dumb in the presence of the rich because of their dependence and their fear, but their wages, fraudulently withheld, have a tongue, and cry out to high heaven for vengeance (5:4). What is friendship with the world? It is adultery, James says (4:4). The rust of unjust riches testifies against those who have accumulated them, and then turns upon them and eats their flesh like fire (5:3). James observed the man who glanced at himself in the mirror in the morning, and saw that his face was not clean, and who went away and thought no more about it for that whole day, and he found in him an illustration of the one who heard the word and did not do it (1:23, 14). The epistle is full of these rhetorical figures, and they prove that James was something of a poet at heart, even as Jesus was. He writes in prose, but there is a marked rhythm in all of his speech. He has an ear for harmony as he has an eye for beauty everywhere.

6. Unlikeness to Paul:

The Pauline epistles begin with salutations and close with benedictions. They are filled with autobiographical touches and personal messages. None of these things appear here. The epistle begins and ends with all abruptness. It has an address, but no thanksgiving. There are no personal messages and no indications of any intimate personal relationship between the author and his readers. They are his "beloved brethren." He knows their needs and their sins, but he may never have seen their faces or visited their homes. The epistle is more like a prophet's appeal to a nation than a personal letter.

7. Likeness to Jesus:

Both the substance of the teaching and the method of its presentation remind us of the discourses of Jesus. James says less about the Master than any other writer in the New Testament, but his speech is more like that of the Master than the speech of any one of them. There are at least ten parallels to the Sermon on the Mount in this short epistle, and for almost everything that James has to say we can recall some statement of Jesus which might have suggested it. When the parallels fail at any point, we are inclined to suspect that James may be repeating some unrecorded utterance of our Lord. He seems absolutely faithful to his memory of his brother's teaching. He is the servant of Jesus in all his exhortation and persuasion.

Did the Master shock His disciples' faith by the loftiness of the Christian ideal He set before them in His great sermon, "Ye therefore shall be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Matthew 5:48)? James sets the same high standard in the very forefront of his ep.: "Let patience have its perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, lacking in nothing" (1:4). Did the Master say, "Ask, and it shall be given you" (Matthew 7:7)? James says, "If any of you lacketh wisdom, let him ask of God.; and it shall be given him" (1:5). Did the Master add a condition to His sweeping promise to prayer and say, "Whosoever. shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that what he faith cometh to pass; he shall have it" (Mark 11:23)? James hastens to add the same condition, "Let him ask in faith, nothing doubting: for he that doubteth is like the surge of the sea driven by the wind and tossed" (1:6). Did the Master close the great sermon with His parable of the Wise Man and the Foolish Man, saying, "Every one that heareth these words of mine, and doeth them, shall be likened unto a wise man. And every one that heareth these words of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man" (Matthew 7:24, 26)? James is much concerned about wisdom, and therefore he exhorts his readers, "Be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deluding your own selves" (1:22). Had the Master declared, "If ye know these things, blessed are ye if ye do them" (John 13:17)? James echoes the thought when he says, "A doer that worketh, this man shall be blessed in his doing" (1:25). Did the Master say to the disciples, "Blessed are ye poor: for yours is the kingdom of God" (Luke 6:20)? James has the same sympathy with the poor, and he says, "Hearken, my beloved brethren; did not God choose them that are poor as to the world to be rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he promised to them that love him?" (2:5). Did the Master inveigh against the rich, and say, "Woe unto you that are rich! for ye have received your consolation. Woe unto you, ye that are full now! for ye shall hunger. Woe unto you, ye that laugh now! for ye shall mourn and weep" (Luke 6:24, 25)? James bursts forth into the same invective and prophesies the same sad reversal of fortune, "Come now, ye rich, weep and howl for your miseries that are coming upon you" (5:1). "Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye doubleminded. Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness" (4:8, 9). Had Jesus said, "Judge not, that ye be not judged" (Matthew 7:1)? James repeats the exhortation, "Speak not one against another, brethren. He that. judgeth his brother. judgeth the law:. but who art thou that judgest thy neighbor?" (4:11, 12). Had Jesus said, "Whosoever shall humble himself shall be exalted" (Matthew 23:12)? We find the very words in James, "Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall exalt you" (4:10). Had Jesus said, "I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by the heaven, for it is the throne of God; nor by the earth, for it is the footstool of his feet.. But let your speech be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: and whatsoever is more than these is of the evil one" (Matthew 5:34-37)? Here in James we come upon the exact parallel: "But above all things, my brethren, swear not, neither by the heaven, nor by the earth, nor by any other oath; but let your yea be yea, and your nay, nay; that ye fall not under judgment" (5:12). We remember how the Master began the Sermon on the Mount with the declaration that even those who mourned and were persecuted and reviled and reproached were blessed, in spite of all their suffering and trial. Then we notice that James begins his epistle with the same paradoxical putting of the Christian faith, "Count it all joy, my brethren, when ye fall into manifold trials" (1:12, the American Revised Version margin). We remember how Jesus proceeded in His sermon to set forth the spiritual significance and the assured permanence of the law; and we notice that James treats the law with the same respect and puts upon it the same high value. He calls it "the perfect law" (1:25), "the royal law" (2:8), the "law of liberty" (2:12). We remember what Jesus said about forgiving others in order that we ourselves may be forgiven; and we know where James got his authority for saying, "Judgment is without mercy to him that hath showed no mercy" (2:13). We remember all that the Master said about good trees and corrupt trees being known by their fruits, "Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?" (Matthew 7:16-20). Then in the Epistle of James we find a like question, "Can a fig tree, my brethren, yield olives, or a vine figs?" (3:12). We remember that the Master said, "Know ye that he is nigh, even at the doors" (Matthew 24:33). We are not surprised to find the statement here in James, "Behold, the judge standeth before the doors" (5:9). These reminiscences of the sayings of the Master meet us on every page. It may be that there are many more of them than we are able to identify. Their number is sufficiently large, however, to show us that James is steeped in the truths taught by Jesus, and not only their substance but their phraseology constantly reminds us of Him.

IV. Date of the Epistle.

There are those who think that the Epistle of James is the oldest epistle in the New Testament. Among those who favor an early date are Mayor, Plumptre, Alford, Stanley, Renan, Weiss, Zahn, Beyschlag, Neander, Schneckenburger, Thiersch, and Dods.

The reasons assigned for this conclusion are: (1) the general Judaic tone of the ep., which seems to antedate admission of the Gentiles in any alarming numbers into the church; but since the epistle is addressed only to Jews, why should the Gentiles be mentioned in it, whatever its date? and (2) the fact that Paul and Peter are supposed to have quoted from James in their writing; but this matter of quotation is always an uncertain one, and it has been ably argued that the quotation has been the other way about.

Others think that the epistle was written toward the close of James's life. Among these are Kern, Wiesinger, Schmidt, Bruckner, Wordsworth, and Farrar.

These argue

(1) that the epistle gives evidence of a considerable lapse of time in the history of the church, sufficient to allow of a declension from the spiritual fervor of Pentecost and the establishment of distinctions among the brethren; but any of the sins mentioned in the epistle in all probability could have been found in the church in any decade of its history.

(2) James has a position of established authority, and those to whom he writes are not recent converts but members in long standing; but the position of James may have been established from a very early date, and in an encyclical of this sort we could not expect any indication of shorter or longer membership in the church.

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jer'-e-mi, (Epistole Ieremiou):

1. Name

2. Canonicity and Position

3. Contents

4. Original Language

5. Authorship, Date and Aim

6. Text and Versions


1. Name:

In manuscripts Vaticanus and Alexandrinus the title is simply "An Epistle of Jeremiah." But in Codex Vaticanus, etc., there is a superscription introducing the letter: "Copy of a letter which Jeremiah sent to the captives about to be led to Babylon by (Peshitta adds Nebuchadnezzar) the king of the Babylonians, to make known to them what had been commanded him by God." What follows is a satirical exposure of the folly of idolatry, and not a letter. The idea of introducing this as a letter from Jeremiah was probably suggested by Jeremiah 29:1;.

2. Canonicity and Position:

The early Greek Fathers were on the whole favorably disposed toward this tract, reckoning it to be a part of the Canon. It is therefore included in the lists of Canonical writings of Origen, Epiphanius, Cyril of Jerusalem and Athanasius, and it was so authoritatively recognized by the Council of Laodicea (360 A.D.).

In most Greek manuscripts of the Septuagint (Codices Alexandrinus and Vaticanus. March, Chisl, in the Syriac Hexateuch), it follows Lamentations as an independent piece, closing the supposed writings of Jeremiah. In the bestknown printed of the Septuagint (Tischendorf, Swete, etc.), the order is Jeremiah, Baruch, Lain, Epistle of Jeremy. In Fritzsche, Lib. Apocrypha VT Graece, Epistle Jeremiah stands between Baruch and Tobit. But in Latin manuscripts, including those of the Vulgate, it is appended to Baruch, of which it forms chapter 6, though it really has nothing to do with that book. This last is the case with Protestant editions (English versions of the Bible, etc.) of the Apocrypha, a more intelligible arrangement, since Jeremiah and Lamentations do not occur in the Apocrypha, and the Biblical Baruch was Jeremiah's amanuensis.

3. Contents:

In the so-called letter (see 1, above) the author shows the absurdity and wickedness of heathen worship. The Jews, for their sins, will be removed to Babylon, where they will remain 7 generations. In that land they will be tempted to worship the gods of the people. The writer's aim is ostensibly to warn them beforehand by showing how helpless and useless the idols worshipped are, and how immoral as well as silly the rites of the Bah religion are. For similar polemics against idolatry, see Isaiah 44:9-19 (which in its earnestness resembles the Epistle Jeremiah closely); Jeremiah 10:3-9 Psalm 115:4-8; Psalm 135:15-18; The Wisdom of Solomon 13:10-19; 15:13-17.

4. Original Language:

That the Epistle Jeremiah was composed in Greek is the opinion of practically all scholars. There are no marks of translation; the Greek is on the whole good, and abounds in such rhetorical terms as characterized the Greek of Northern Egypt about the be ginning of our era. There is no trace of a Hebrew original, though Origen has been mistakenly understood to say there was one in his day (see Schurer, GJV4, III, 467). Romanist writers defend a Hebrew original, and point to some Hebraisms (verse 44 and the use of the fut. for the past), but these can be matched in admittedly Hellenistic Greek writings.

5. Authorship, Date and Aim:

The writer was almost certainly a resident in Alexandria toward the close of the last century B.C. The Greek of the book, the references to Egyptian religion (verse 19, where the Feast of Lights at Sais-Herod. ii.62-is referred to), and the allusion to the Epistle Jeremiah in 2 Maccabees 2:2, denied by Schurer, etc., make the above conclusion very probable. The author had in mind the dangers to the religion of his fellow-countrymen presented by the fascinating forms of idolatry existing at Alexandria. Certainly Jeremiah is not the author, for the book was written in Greek and never formed part of the Hebrew Canon. Besides, the treatment is far below the level of the genuine writings of that prophet.

6. Text and Versions:

(1) The Greek.

This epistle occurs in the principal manuscripts of the Septuagint uncials (Codices Vaticanus, Alexandrinus, Q, Gamma, contain 7b-24a, etc.) and cursives (except 70, 96, 229).

(2) The Syriac.

P follows the Greek, but very freely. The Syriac H follows the text of Codex Vaticanus closely, often at the expense of Syriac idioms.

(3) The Latin.

The Vulgate (Jerome's Latin Bible, 390-405 A.D.) is made direct from the Greek. There is a different Latin version published by Sabatier in his Biblical Sacr. Latin Versiones Antiquas, II, 734;. It is freer than the Vulgate (Jerome's Latin Bible, 390-405 A.D.)

(4) The Arabic.

There are also Arabic (following A), Coptic (ed Quatremere, 1810), and Ethiopic (ed Dillmann, 1894)versions.


See under APOCRYPHA for commentary and various editions. But note in addition to the literature mentioned the article the following: Reusch, Erklar. des B. Baruch, 1853; Daubanton, "Het Apok boek Epistole Ieremiou," Theol. Studien, 1888, 126-38.

T. Witton Davies


The Writer





1. Resemblances

2. Differences

3. Further Contrasts

4. Summary

5. Evidence of Priority of Peter

6. Corroborative References




The Writer:

The writer of this short epistle calls himself Jude or Judas (Ioudas. His name was a common one among the Jews: there were few others of more frequent use. Two among the apostles bore it, namely, Judas, mentioned in John 14:22 (compare Luke 6:16), and Judas Iscariot. Jude describes himself as "a servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James" (Jude 1:1). The James here mentioned is no doubt the person who is called "the Lord's brother" (Galatians 1:19), the writer of the epistle that bears his name. Neither of the two was an apostle. The opening sentence of Jude simply affirms that the writer is a "servant of Jesus Christ." This, if anywhere, should be the appropriate place for the mention of his apostleship, if he were an apostle. The appellation "servant of Jesus Christ" "is never thus barely used in an address of an epistle to designate an apostle" (Alford). Philippians 1:1 has a similar expression, "Paul and Timothy, servants of Jesus Christ," but "the designation common to two persons necessarily sinks to the rank of the inferior one." In other instances "servant" is associated with "apostle" (Romans 1:1 Titus 1:1). Jude 1:17, 18 speaks of the "apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ; that they said to you"-language which an apostle would hardly use of his fellow-apostles.

In Mark 6:3 are found the names of those of whom Jesus is said to be the brother, namely, James and Joses, and Judas and Simon. It is quite generally held by writers that the James and Judas here mentioned are the two whose epistles are found in the New Testament. It is noteworthy, however, that neither of them hints at his relationship with Jesus; their unaffected humility kept them silent. Jude mentions that he is the "brother of James," perhaps to give authority and weight to his words, for James was far more distinguished and influential than he. The inference seems legitimate that Jude addresses Christians among whom James was highly esteemed, or, if no longer living, among whom his memory was sacredly revered, and accordingly it is altogether probable that Jude writes to the same class of readers as James-Jewish Christians. James writes to the "Twelve Tribes of the Dispersion." Jude likewise addresses a wide circle of believers, namely, the "called, beloved in God the Father, and kept for Jesus Christ" (1:1). While he does not designate a special and distinct class, yet as James's "brother," as belonging to the family of Joseph, and as in some true sense related to the Lord Jesus Himself, it seems probable, if not certain, that his Epistle was intended for Christian Hebrews who stood in urgent need of such testimony and appeal as Jude offers.

I. Jude's Position in the Canon.

It is now and for a long while has been an assured one. Its rank, though not altogether that of 1 Peter and 1 John, is high, for centuries indeed undoubted. Almost from the beginning of the Christian era men every way qualified to speak with authority on the question of genuineness and authenticity endorsed it as entitled to a place in the New Testament Scriptures. Origen repeatedly quotes it, in one place describing it as an "ep. of but few lines, but full of powerful words of heavenly grace" (Matt., tom. X, 17). But Origen knew that it was not universally received. Clement of Alexandria "gave concise expositions of all the canonical Scriptures, not omitting the disputed books-the Epistle of Jude and the other Catholic epp." (quoted by Westcott, Canaanite, 322-23 and Salmon, Intro, 493). Tertullian (Cult. Fem. i.3) in striving to establish the authority of the Book of Enoch urges as a crowning argument that it is quoted by "the apostle Jude." "We may infer that, Jude's Ep,; was an unquestioned part of Tertullian's Canon. Athanasius inserted it in his list of New Testament books, but Eusebius placed it among the disputed books in his classification. The Canon of Muratori includes Jude among the books of Scripture, though it omits the Epistles of James, Peter and Hebrews. This is one of the earliest documents containing a list of the New Testament books now known. By the great majority of writers the date of the fragment is given as circa 170 A.D., as it claims to have been written not long after Pius was bishop of Rome, and the latest date of Pius is 142-57 A.D. The words of the document are, "The Shepherd was written very recently in our own time by Hermas, while his brother Pius sat in the chair of the Church of Rome." Twenty or twenty-five years would probably satisfy the period indicated by the words, "written very recently in our own time," which would fix the date of the fragment at circa 170 A.D. Salmon, however, strongly inclines to a later date, namely, circa 200-210 A.D., as does Zahn.

Zahn (Introduction to the New Testament, II, 259, English Translation), and Professor Chase (H D B) are of the decided opinion that the Didache, ii. 7: "Thou shalt not hate anyone, but some thou shalt rebuke, and for some thou shalt pray, and some thou shalt love above thine own soul (or life)," is rounded on Jude 1:22. Dr. Philip Schaff dates the Didache between 90-100 A.D. L'Abbe E. Jacquier (La doctrine des Douze Apotres, 1891) is persuaded that the famous document was written not later than 80 A.D. It appears, therefore, more than probable that the Epistle of Jude was known and referred to as Scripture some time before the end of the 1st century. From the survey we have thus rapidly taken of the field in which the Epistle circulated, we may conclude that in Palestine, at Alexandria, in North Africa, and at Rome, it was received as the veritable letter of Jude, "the servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James."

The chief reason why it was rejected by some and regarded with suspicion by others in primitive times is its quotation from the apocryphal Book of Enoch, so Jerome informs us (Vir. Ill., 4). It is possible that Jude had in mind another spurious writing, namely, the Assumption of Moses, when he spoke of the contention of Michael the archangel with the devil about the body of Moses (1:9). This, however, is not quite certain, for the date assigned to that writing is circa 44 A.D., and although Jude might have seen and read it, yet its composition is so near his own day that it could hardly have exerted much influence on his mind. Besides, the brevity of the Epistle and its dealing with a special class of errorists would limit to a certain extent its circulation among Christians. All this serves to explain its refusal by some and the absence of reference to it by others.

II. The Occasion of Its Composition.

Jude, after his brief introduction (1:1, 2), explains very definitely why he writes as he does. He indicates distinctly his anxiety on behalf of the saints (1:3): "Beloved, while I was giving all diligence to write unto you of our common salvation, I was constrained to write unto you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered unto the saints." He had received very distressing knowledge of the serious state into which the Christian brotherhood was rapidly drifting, and he must as a faithful servant of Jesus Christ exhort them to steadfastness and warn them of their danger. He had in mind to write them a doctrinal work on the salvation common to all Christians. Perhaps he contemplated the composition of a book or treatise that would have discussed the great subject in an exhaustive manner. But in face of the perils that threatened, of the evils already present in the community, his purpose was indefinitely postponed. We are not told how he became acquainted with the dangers which beset his fellow-believers, but the conjecture is probably correct that it was by means of his journeys as an evangelist. At any rate, he was thoroughly conversant with the evils in the churches, and he deals with them as befitted the enormities that were practiced and the ruin that impended.

The address of the Epistle is remarkable for the affection Jude expresses for these saints. Obviously they are distinct from the libertines of whom he speaks with such solemn condemnation. They were the faithful who kept aloof from the ungodly that surrounded them, and who held fast to the truth they had been taught. Jude describes them as those "that are called, beloved in God the Father, and kept for Jesus Christ: Mercy unto you and peace and love be multiplied." At the close of the Epistle he commends them "unto him that is able to guard you from stumbling, and to set you before the presence of his glory without blemish in exceeding joy." A separated and devoted band they certainly were, a noble and trustworthy company of believers for whose well-being Jude was supremely anxious.

III. Description of the Libertines and Apostates.

It is needful to gaze with steady vision on the portrait Jude furnishes of these depraved foes, if we are to appreciate in any measure the force of his language and the corruption already wrought in the brotherhood. Some of their foul teachings and their vicious practices, not all, are here set down.

1. Surreptitious Foes.

"For there are certain men crept in privily.... ungodly men" (Jude 1:4). They are enemies who feign to be friends, and hence, in reality are spies and traitors; like a stealthy beast of prey they creep into the company of the godly, actuated by evil intent.

2. Perverters of Grace and Deniers of Christ.

"Turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ" (Jude 1:4). They are those who by a vile perverseness turn the grace and the liberty of the Gospel into a means for gratifying their unholy passions, and who in doctrine and life repudiate their Master and Lord.

3. Censorious and Arrogant Detractors.

"In their dreamings defile the flesh, and set at nought dominion, and rail at dignities" (Jude 1:8). Destitute of true reverence, they rail at the holiest and best things, and sit in judgment on all rule and all authority. They have the proud tongue of the lawless: "Our lips are our own: who Is lord over us?" (Psalm 12:4).

4. Ignorant Calumniators and Brutish Sensualists.

"These rail at whatsoever things they know not: and what they understand naturally, like the creatures without reason, in these things are they destroyed" (Jude 1:10). What they do not know, as something lofty and noble, they deride and denounce; what they know is that which ministers to their disordered appetites and their debased tastes.

5. Hypocrites and Deceivers.

"These are they who are hidden rocks in your love-feasts when they feast with you, shepherds that without fear feed themselves; clouds without water.... autumn trees without fruit.... wild waves of the sea.... wandering stars, for whom the blackness of darkness hath been reserved forever" (Jude 1:12, 13). A most graphic picture of the insincerity, the depravity, and the doom of these insolents! And yet they are found in the bosom of the Christian body, even sitting with the saints at their love-feasts!

6. Grumblers, Fault-finders, Pleasure-seekers, Boasters, Parasites.

"These are murmurers, complainers, walking after their own lusts.... showing respect of persons for the sake of advantage" (Jude 1:16). They impeach Divine wisdom, are the foes of peace and quietness, boast of their capacities to manage things, and yet they can be servile, even sycophants, when thereby advantage is secured.

7. Schismatics and Sensualists.

"These are they who make separations, sensual, having not the Spirit" (Jude 1:19). It was characteristic of the false teachers and mockers who had invaded the Christian church that they drew lines of demarcation between themselves and others, or between different classes of believers, which the Holy Spirit did not warrant, but which was the product of their own crafty and wicked wills. There seems to be a hint in these words of incipient Gnosticism, that fatal heresy that boasted of a recondite knowledge, a deep mystery which only the initiated possessed, of which the great mass of Christians were ignorant. Jude brands the pretension as the offspring of their own sensuality, not at all of God's Spirit.

Such is the forbidding portrait drawn of the libertines in the Epistle. But Jude adds other and even darker features. He furnishes a number of examples of apostates and of apostasy which disclose even more strikingly the spirit and the doom of them that pervert the truth, that deny the Lord Jesus Christ, and that mock at the things of God. These all mark a fatal degeneracy, a "falling away," which bodes nothing but evil and judgment. Against the corrupters and skeptics Jude writes with a vehemence that in the New Testament is without a parallel. Matters must have come to a dreadful pass when the Spirit of God is compelled to use such stern and awful language.

IV. Relation of Jude to the Second Epistle of Peter.

1. Resemblances:

The relation is confined to 2 Peter 2-3:4. A large portion of Peter's Epistle, namely, 2 Peter 1 and 3:5-18, bears no resemblance to Jude, at least no more than does Jas or 1 Pet. Between the sections of 2Pe indicated above and Jude the parallelism is close, both as to the subjects treated and the historical illustrations introduced, and the language itself to some considerable extent is common to both. All readers must be impressed with the similarity. Accordingly, it is very generally held by interpreters that one of the writers copied from the other. There is not entire agreement as to which of the two epistles is the older, that is, whether Peter copied from Jude, or Jude from Peter. Perhaps a majority favor the former of the two alternatives, though some of the very latest and most learned of those who write on Introductions to the New Testament hold strongly to the view that Jude copied from 2 Pet. Reference is made particularly to Deuteronomy. Theodore v. Zahn, whose magnificent work on Introduction has been but recently translated into English, and who argues convincingly that Jude copied from 2 Pet.

2. Differences:

However, it must be admitted that there are in the two epistles as pronounced differences and divergences as there are resemblances. If one of the two did actually copy from the other, he was careful to add, subtract, and change what he found in his "source" as best suited his purpose. A servile copyist he certainly was not. He maintained his independence throughout, as an exact comparison of the one with the other will demonstrate.

If we bring them into close proximity, following the example of Professor Lumby in the "Bible Comm." (Intro to 2 Pet), we shall discover a marked difference between the two pictures drawn by the writers. We cannot fail to perceive how much darker and more sinister is that of Jude. The evil, alarming certainly in Peter, becomes appalling in Jude. Subjoined are proofs of the fact above stated:

2 Peter 2:1

But there arose false prophets also among the people, as among you also there shall be false teachers....

Jude 1:4 For there are certain men crept in privily....

2 Peter 2:1

who shall privily bring in destructive heresies, denying even the Master that bought them....

Jude 1:4

.... ungodly men, turning the grace of God into lasciviousness, and denying our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.

2 Peter 2:3

And in covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you....

Jude 1:16

.... murmerers, complainers, walking after their own lusts (and their mouth speaketh great swelling words), showing respect of persons for the sake of advantage.

These contrasts and comparisons between the two epistles prove

(1) that in Jude the false teachers are worse, more virulent than in Peter, and

(2) that in Peter the whole description is predictive, whereas in Jude the deplorable condition is actually present.

If 2Pe is dependent on Jude, if the apostle cited from Jude, how explain the strong predictive element in his opening verses (2 Peter 2:1-3)? If as Peter-wrote he had lying before him Jude's letter, which represents the corrupters as already within the Christian community and doing their deadly work, his repeated use of the future tense is absolutely inexplicable. Assuming, however, that he wrote prior to Jude, his predictions become perfectly intelligible. No doubt the virus was working when he wrote, but it was latent, undeveloped; far worse would appear; but when Jude wrote the poison was widely diffused, as 1:12, 19 clearly show. The very life of the churches was endangered.

2 Peter 2:4, 5

For if God spared not the angels when they sinned.... and spared not the ancient world, but preserved Noah with seven others....

Jude 1:5, 6

.... The Lord, having saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed them.... and angels that.... left their proper habitation....

3. Further Contrasts:

Peter speaks of the angels that sinned, Jude of their apostasy. Peter makes prominent the salvation of Noah and his family when the flood overwhelmed the world of the ungodly, while Jude tells of those who, delivered from bondage, afterward were destroyed because of their unbelief. He speaks of no rescue; we know of but two who survived the judgments of the wilderness and who entered the Land of Promise, Caleb and Joshua. Peter mentions the fate of the guilty cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, but he is careful to remind us of the deliverance of righteous Lot, while Jude makes prominent their nameless crimes and consigns them to "the punishment of eternal fire," but he is silent on the rescue of Lot. Manifestly Jude's illustrations are darker and more hopeless than Peter's.

Peter instances Balsam as an example of one who loved the hire of wrongdoing and who was rebuked for his transgression. But Jude cites three notable instances in the Old Testament to indicate how far in apostasy and rebellion the libertines had gone. Three words mark their course, rising into a climax, "way" "error" "gainsay." They went in the way of Cain, i.e. in the way of self-will, of hate, and the spirit of murder. Moreover, they "ran riotously in the error of Balsam for hire." The words denote an activity of viciousness that enlisted all their eagerness and all their might. Balaam's error was one that led into error, one that seduced others into the commission of the like sins. The reference seems to be to the whole career of this heathen prophet, and includes his betrayal of the Israelites through the women of Moab (Numbers 31:16). Balsam is the prototype of Jude's libertines, both in his covetousness and his seductive counsel. Furthermore, they "perished in the gainsaying of Korah." This man with 250 followers rebelled against the Divinely appointed leaders and rulers of Israel, Moses and Aaron, and sought to share their authority in Israel, if not to displace them altogether. Comparable with these rebels in ancient Israel are the treacherous and malignant foes whom Jude so vigorously denounces.

Peter speaks of them as "daring, self-willed, they tremble not to rail at dignities: whereas angels, though greater in might and power, bring not a railing judgment against them before the Lord" (Jude 1:10, 11). Jude is more specific: These dreamers "defile the flesh, and set at nought dominion, and rail at dignities." They repudiate all authority, despise every form of lordship, and revile those in positions of power. He cites the contention of Michael the archangel with the devil about the body of Moses, and yet this loftiest of the heavenly spirits brought no railing judgment against the adversary. Jude's description is more vivid and definite: he describes an advanced stage of apostasy.

Very noteworthy is Jude 1:22, 23. He here turns again to the loyal and stedfast believers whom he addresses at the beginning of his letter, and he gives them directions how they are to deal with those who were ensnared by the wily foes. (The text in 1:22 is somewhat uncertain, but the revision is followed.) There were some who were "in doubt." They were those who had been fascinated by the new teaching, and although not captured by it, they were engaged in its study, were drawn toward it and almost ready to yield. On these the faithful were to have mercy, were to convince them of their danger, show them the enormities to which the false system inevitably leads, and so win them back to Christ's allegiance. As if Jude said, Deal with the wavering in love and fidelity; but rescue them if possible.

There were others whose peril was greater: "And some save, snatching them out of the fire." These were identified with the wicked, were scorched by the fires of destruction and hence, almost beyond reach of rescue; but if possible they are to be saved, however seethed and blackened. Others still there were who were in worse state than the preceding, who were polluted and smirched by the foul contamination of the guilty seducers, and such were to be saved, and the rescuers were to fear lest they should be soiled by contact with the horrible defilement. This is Jude's tremendous summary of the shameful work and frightful evils wrought in the bosom of the church by the libertines. He discloses in these trenchant verses how deeply sunk in sin the false teachers were, and how awful the ruin they had wrought. The description is quite unparalleled in 2 Pet. The shadings in Jude are darker and deeper than those in 2 Pet.

4. Summary:

The comparison between the two writings warrants, we believe, the following conclusions:

(1) that Peter and Jude have in view the same corrupt parties;

(2) that Peter paints them as godless and extremely dangerous, though not yet at their worst; while Jude sets them forth as depraved and as lawless as they can well be;

(3) that Peter's is the older writing and that Jude was acquainted with what the apostle had written.

Stronger evidence than any yet produced of Peter's priority is now to be submitted, and here we avail ourselves in part of Zahn's array of evidence.

5. Evidence of Priority of Peter:

Jude asserts with great positiveness that (1:4) certain men had crept in privily into the Christian fold, "even they who were of old written of beforehand unto this condemnation, ungodly men." Obviously Jude is here speaking of the enemies whom he afterward goes on to describe and denounce in his Epistle. He distinctly affirms that these foes had been of old written of and beforehand designated unto "this condemnation." He clearly has in mind an authoritative writing that spoke of the identical parties Jude himself deals with. He does not tell us whose writing it is that contains the "condemnation" of the errorists; he only declares that there is such a Scripture existing and that he is acquainted with it. Now, to what writing does he refer? Not to any Old Testament prophecy, for none can be found that answers to the words. Nor yet to the prediction of Enoch (1:14, 15), for it speaks of the advent of the Lord in judgment at the last day, whereas Jude applies his reference to the ungodly who were then present in the Christian assemblies, corrupting the churches with their wicked teaching and practices. "In 2 Peter 2-3:4, we have a prophecy which exactly suits, namely, the announcement that false teachers whose theory and practice exactly correspond to those godless bearers of the Christian name in Jude will appear among a certain group of Jewish Christian churches" (Zahn). Peter's account of them is so particular that Jude would encounter no difficulty in identifying them. He is furnished by the apostle with such characteristics of them, with such illustrations and even words and phrases that he has only to place the description alongside of the reality to see how completely they match.

It may be objected that the words, "were of old written of beforehand," denote a long period, longer than that which elapsed between the two epistles. But the objection is groundless. The original term for "of old" (palai) sometimes indicates but a brief space of time, e.g. Mark 15:44 (according to the text of Weymouth and Nestle, and the Revised Version (British and American)) relates that Pilate asked the centurion if Jesus had been "any while" (palai) dead, which limits the term to a few hours. In 2 Corinthians 12:19 the word occurs, and there it must be restricted to Paul's self-defense which occupies the part of the Epistle preceding, and hence, does not extend beyond a day or two. Probably some years lie between the composition of these two epp., ample time to justify Jude's use of the word if he is referring to 2 Peter 2-3:4, as we certainly believe he is.

6. Corroborative References:

This interpretation of Jude 1:4 is confirmed by Jude 1:17, 18. These verses are intimately connected with 2 Peter 3:2-4. Jude's readers are told to keep in remembrance the words spoken by the apostles of Christ, namely, "In the last time there shall be mockers, walking after their own ungodly lusts." Peter writes, "that in the last days mockers shall come with mockery, walking after their own lusts." The resemblance of the one passage to the other is very close, indeed, they are almost identical. Both urge their readers to remember what had been said by the apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ, and both speak of the immoral scoffers who would invade or had invaded the Christian brotherhood. But Peter distinctly asserts that these mockers shall appear in the last days. His words are, "Knowing this first, that in the last days mockers shall come with mockery, walking after their own lusts." Jude writes that "in the last time there shall be mockers, walking after their own ungodly lusts." The phrases, "the last days," and "the last time," denote our age, the dispensation in which we live, as Hebrews 1:2 proves. Peter puts the appearance of the scoffers in the future, whereas Jude, after quoting the words, significantly adds, "These are they who make separations, sensual, having not the Spirit." He means, of course the mockers just mentioned, and he affirms they are now present. With Peter they are yet to come when he wrote, but with Jude the prediction is already fulfilled, so far as the scoffers are concerned. Therefore Jude's writing is subsequent to Peter's, and if there be copying on the part of either, it is Jude who copies.

Peter mentions "your apostles," including himself in the phrase, but Jude does not employ the plural pronoun, for he was not of the apostolic body. But why the plural, "apostles"? Because at least one other apostle had spoken of the perilous times which were coming on the church of God. Paul unites his testimony with that of Peter, and writes, "But know this, that in the last days grievous times shall come" (2 Timothy 3:1-5). His prediction is near akin to that of Peter; it belongs apparently to the same historic time and to the same perilous class of evil-doers and corrupters. In 2 Peter 3:15 the apostle lovingly and tenderly speaks of his "brother Paul," and says suggestively that in his Epistle he speaks of these things-no doubt about the scoffers of the last days among the rest. He certainly seems to have Paul in mind when he penned the words. "Knowing this first, that in the last days mockers shall come."

Here, then, is positive ground for the reference in Jude 1:4 to a writing concerning those who had crept into the fold and who were of old doomed to this condemnation, with which writing his readers were acquainted; they had it in the writing of the apostles Peter and Paul both, and so were forewarned as to the impending danger. Jude's Epistle is subsequent to Peter's.

V. Date of the Epistle.

There is little or no agreement as to the year, yet the majority of writers hold that it belongs to the latter half of the 1st century. Zahn assigns it to 70-75 A.D.; Lumby, circa 80 A.D.; Salmon, before the reign of Domitian (81 A.D.); Sieffert, shortly. prior to Domitian; Chase, not later than 80 A.D., probably within a year or two of the Pastoral Epistles. Zahn strongly insists on 64 A.D. as the date of Peter's death. If the 2nd Epistle bearing his name is authentic, the apostle could not possibly have copied from Jude, for Jude's letter was not in existence when he died. Even on the supposition that he suffered death 65-66 A.D., there could have been no copying done save by Jude, for it is almost demonstrable that Jude was written after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. If 2 Peter is pseudonymous and written about the middle of the 2nd century, as some confidently affirm, it has no right to a place in the Canon nor any legitimate relation to Jude. If genuine, it antedates Jude.

VI. The Libertines of Jude's Epistle.

Their character is very forcibly exhibited, but no information is given us of their origin or to what particular region they belonged. They bore the Christian name, were of the loosest morals, and were guilty of shameful excesses. Their influence seems to have been widespread and powerful, else Jude would not denounce them in such severe language. Their guilty departure from the truth must not be confounded with the Gnosticism of the 2nd century, though it tended strongly in that direction; it was a 1st-century defection. Were they newly risen sensualists, without predecessors? To some extent their forerunners had already appeared. Sensuality in some of its greaser forms disgraced the church at Corinth (1 Corinthians 5:1-13; 1 Corinthians 6:13-20). In the common meals of this congregation which ended in the celebration of the Lord's Supper, they indulged in revelry and gluttony, some of them even being intoxicated (1 Corinthians 11:17-22).

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la-od-i-se'-anz, (en te Laodikeon ekklesia.... ten ek Laodikias, "in the church of the Laodiceans.... the epistle from Laodicea," Colossians 4:16):


1. Written by the Laodiceans?

2. Written by Paul from Laodicea?

3. An Epistle Addressed to the Laodiceans


1. Marcion's Opinion

2. References in Ephesians and Other Epistles

3. Ephesian Church Jewish in Origin

4. Ephesians and Colossians, Sister Epistles

5. Recapitulation


1. A Circular Epistle

2. Proof from Biblical Prologues


Paul here writes to the Colossians, "And when this epistle hath been read among you, cause that it be read also in the church of the Laodiceans; and that ye also read the epistle from Laodicea." What was or what is this epistle?

I. Explanations of Paul's Statement.

The words used by the apostle may mean:

(1) a letter written by the Laodiceans;

(2) an epistle written by Paul from Laodicea;

(3) an epistle written to the Laodiceans, and to be procured from them by the Colossians.

1. Written by the Laodiceans?:

The words may mean a letter written by the Laodiceans. But here it is sufficient to refer to the fact that Paul enjoins the Colossians to procure and to read "the epistle from Laodicea." How could a command of this kind be given in reference to an epistle written by third parties? How could Paul know that a copy of it had been made by the Laodiceans before sending it off? How could he tell that the Laodiceans would be willing to give away a copy of it? The suppositions involved by this hypothesis are incredible. Besides, the context regards the Epistle to the Colossians, and "that from Laodicea," as companion epistles, of which the two churches are to make an interchange, so that each church is directed to read both.

2. Written by Paul from Laodicea?:

Or, the words may refer to an epistle written by Paul from Laodicea. And it has been suggested that the epistle of which we are in search may be 1 Timothy, 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians, or Galatians. But in the case of these epistles, the probability is that every one of them was written elsewhere than from Laodicea. At the time when Paul wrote to Colosse, he was a prisoner in Rome, and for this reason alone, it was impossible that he could, at any recent date, have written any epistle from Laodicea. But his own statement (Colossians 2:1) is that those in Laodicea had not seen his face in the flesh. As he had never been in Laodicea, he could, not have written any epistle from that city.

3. An Epistle Addressed to the Laodiceans:

A third possibility is a letter written:

(1) not by Paul, but by some other person. But the whole tone of the passage does not favor this suggestion in the least;

(2) by Paul, but that the epistle is lost; this is the ordinary interpretation;

(3) the apocryphal Latin epistle. "To the Laodiceans."

This spurious epistle is a mere compilation clumsily put together; it has no marks of authenticity. Lightfoot (Colossians, 282) gives its general character thus: it "is a cento of Pauline phrases strung together without any definite connection or any clear object. They are taken chiefly from the Epistle to the Philippians, but here and there one is borrowed elsewhere, e.g. from the Epistle to the Galatians. Of course, it closes with an injunction to the Laodiceans to exchange epistles with the Colossians. The apostle's injunction in Colossians 4:16 suggested the forgery, and such currency as it ever attained was due to the support which that passage was supposed to give to it. Unlike most forgeries, it had no ulterior aim. It has no doctrinal peculiarities. It is quite harmless, so far as falsity and stupidity combined can ever be regarded as harmless" (Lightfoot, in the work quoted 282).


(4) The only other alternative is that "the epistle from Laodicea" is an epistle to the Laodiceans from Paul himself, which he directs the Colossians to procure from Laodicea. There seems to be not only a high degree of probability, but proof, that the epistle from Laodicea is the epistle known as the Epistle to the Ephesians. Paul therefore had written an epistle to Laodicea, a city which he had twice already mentioned in the Epistle to the Colossians, "For I would have you know how greatly I strive for you, and for them at Laodicea" (Colossians 2:1): "Salute the brethren that are in Laodicea, and Nymphas, and the church that is in their house" (Colossians 4:15). Accepting Colossians 4:16 to mean that he wrote to Laodicea at the same time as he wrote to Colosse, what has become of the former ep.? Do we know nothing more of it now than is contained in this reference to it in Colossians? The fact that it was, by Paul's express command, to be communicated to at least the two churches in Colosse and Laodicea, would make its disappearance and loss very strange.

II. Evidence Favoring Epistle to Ephesians.

But is there any warrant for concluding that it is lost at all? A statement of the facts of the case seems to show that the epistle which Paul wrote to the Laodiceans is extant, but only under another title. The lines of evidence which seem to show that the so-called Epistle to the Ephesians is in reality the epistle written by Paul to the Laodiceans are these:

It is well known that the words "at Ephesus" (Ephesians 1:1) in the inscription of the epistle are very doubtful. The Revised Version (British and American) reads in the margin, "Some very ancient authorites omit `at Ephesus.' " Among the authorities which omit "at Ephesus" are the Vatican and Sinaitic manuscripts, the best and most ancient authorities existing.

1. Marcion's Opinion:

Tertullian asserts that the heretics, i.e. Marcion, had altered the title, "the Epistle to the Ephesians," to "the Epistle to the Laodiceans." But this accusation does not carry with it any doctrinal or heretical charge against Marcion in this respect. "It is not likely," says Moule (Eph, 25), "that Marcion was guilty here, where the change would have served no dogmatic purpose." And the fact that at that very early period, the first half of the 2nd century, it was openly suggested that the destination of the epistle was Laodicea, is certainly entitled to weight, especially in view of the other fact already mentioned, which is of no less importance, that "at Ephesus" is omitted in the two great manuscripts, the Vatican and the Sinaitic.

2. References in Ephesians and Other Epistles:

The "Epistle to the Ephesians" could not be, primarily at least, addressed to Ephesus, because Paul speaks of his readers as persons in regard to whose conversion from heathenism to the faith of Christ he had just recently heard: "For this cause I also, having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus which is among you, and the love which ye show toward all the saints, cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers" (Ephesians 1:15 f). These words could not well be used in regard to the church at Ephesus, which Paul himself had founded, and in reference to persons among whom he had lived for three years, and where he even knew personally "every one" of the Christians (Acts 20:31).

And in Ephesians 3:1 the King James Version, he writes: "For this cause I, Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, if ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward." But how could he ever doubt that the elders of the church in Ephesus (Acts 20:17), as well as the members of that important church, were ignorant of the fact that a dispensation of the grace of God had been given to him? The inquiry, whether his readers had heard of the one great fact on which his ministry was based, could not apply in any degree to the Christians in Ephesus. The apostle and the Ephesians had a clear and intimate mutual knowledge. They knew him and valued him and loved him well. When he bade the elders of the church farewell, they all fell on his neck and kissed him (Acts 20:37).

Clearly therefore the statement that he had just recently heard of their conversion, and his inquiry whether they had heard that a dispensation of the grace of God had been entrusted to him, do not and cannot describe the members of the church in Ephesus. "It is plain," writes Moule (Eph, 26), "that the epistle does not bear an Ephesian destination on the face of it."

In the Epistle to the Corinthians there are many local references, as well as allusions to the apostle's work in Corinth. In the Epistle to the Galatians there are also many references to his work among the people of the churches in Galatia. The same is the case in the Epistle to the Philippians, several names being mentioned of persons known to the apostle. In the two Epistles to the Thessalonians, references also occur to his work among them.

Turning to the Epistle to the Colossians, and to that to the Romans-Colossae and Rome being cities which he had not visited previous to his writing to the churches there-he knows several persons in Colosse; and in the case of the Epistle to the Romans, he mentions by name no fewer than twenty-six persons in that city.

How is it then that in "the Epistle to the Ephesians" there are no references at all to the three years which he spent in Ephesus? And how also is there no mention of any one of the members of the church or of the elders whom he knew so intimately and so affectionately? "Ephesians" is inexplicable on the ordinary assumption that Ephesus was the city to which the epistle was addressed. The other theory, that the epistle was a circular one, sent in the first instance to Laodicea, involves no such difficulty.

3. Ephesian Church Jewish in Origin:

Another indication in regard to the primary destination of the epistle is in the words, "ye, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called Circumcision, in the flesh, made by hands; that ye were at that time separate from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of the promise, having no hope and without God in the world" (Ephesians 2:11, 12). Do these words describe the church in Ephesus? Was the church there Gentilein its origin? Very far from this, for as a matter of fact it began by Paul preaching the gospel to the Jews, as is narrated at length by Luke in Acts 18. Then in Acts 19, Paul comes again to Ephesus, where he went into the synagogue and spake boldly for the space of three months, but when divers were hardened and believed not, but spake evil of the Way before the multitude, he separated the disciples, disputing daily in the school of one Tyrannus.

Here, therefore, is definite proof that the church in Ephesus was not Gentilein its origin. It was distinctly Jewish, but a Gentileelement had also been received into it. Now the church to which Paul writes "the Epistle to the Ephesians" was not Jewish at all. He does not speak to his readers in any other way than "you Gentiles."

4. Ephesians and Colossians Sister Epistles:

But an important consideration is that the "Epistle to the Ephesians" was written by Paul at the same sitting almost as that to the Colossians. These two are sister epistles, and these along with the Epistle to Philemon were written and sent off at the same time, Onesimus and Tychicus carrying the Epistle to the Colossians (Colossians 4:7, 8, 9), Onesimus being the bearer of that to Philem, while Tychicus in addition to carrying the Colossian epistle was also the messenger who carried "the Epistle to the Ephesians" (Ephesians 6:21).

A close scrutiny of Colossians and "Ephesians" shows, to an extent without a parallel elsewhere in the epistles of the New Testament, a remarkable similarity of phraseology. There are only two verses in the whole of Colossians to which there is no parallel in "Ephesians." The same words are used, while the thought is so varied and so rich, that the one epistle is in no sense a copy or repetition of the other (see list of parallelisms, etc., in Paul's Epistles to Colosse and Laodicea, T. and T. Clark, Edinburgh). Both epistles come warm and instinct with life from the full heart of the great apostle who had not, up to that time, visited either city, but on whom, none the less, there came daily the care of all the churches.

5. Recapitulation:

To recapitulate:

(1) The words "at Ephesus" in the inscription of the epistle are wanting in the two oldest and best manuscripts.

(2) Paul speaks of his readers as persons of whose conversion to Christ he knew only by report. Similarly he speaks of them as knowing only by hearsay of his commission as an apostle of Christ. Also, though he had lived in Ephesus for three years, this epistle does not contain a single salutation.

(3) He speaks of his readers as forming a church exclusively of the Gentiles. But the church in Ephesus, so far from being exclusively gentile, was actually Jewish in origin.

(4) "Ephesians" was written at the same sitting as Colossians, and the same messenger, Tychicus, carried them both.

Therefore as the epistle was not, and could not be, addressed to Ephesus, the conclusion is that it was addressed to some church, and that it was not a treatise sent to the Christian church generally. The words of the first verse of the ep., "to the saints that are," proves that the name of the place to which it was addressed is all that is lost from the manuscripts, but that the name of the city was there originally, as the epistle came from Paul's hand.

Now Paul wrote an epistle to Laodicea at the same time as he wrote to Colosse. He dispatched both epistles by Tychicus. The thought and feeling and even the diction of the two epistles are such that no other explanation is possible but that they came warm from the heart of the same writer at the same time. On all these grounds the conclusion seems inevitable that the Epistle to Laodicea is not lost at all, but that it is identical with the so-called "Epistle to the Ephesians."

III. Laodicea Displaced by Ephesus.

1. A Circular Epistle:

How then did Ephesus displace Laodicea? It is explained at once if theory is adopted that the epistle was a "circular" one addressed not to Laodicea only, but to other cities. We know e.g. that the apostle orders it to be taken to the church in Colosse and read there. So also it might have been sent to other cities, such as Hierapolis (Colossians 4:13) and Ephesus. Hence, if the church in Laodicea were not careful to see that the epistle was returned to them, by those churches to whom they had sent it, it can easily be understood how a copyist in any of those cities might leave out the words "in Laodicea," as not agreeing with the name of the city where the manuscript actually was at the time. As copies were multiplied, the words "in Ephesus" would be suggested, as the name of the chief city of Asia, from which province the epistle had come to the knowledge of the whole Christian church, and to which, in point of fact, Paul had sent it. The feeling would be natural, that it was in keeping with the fitness of things, that Paul, who had rounded the church in Ephesus, should have written an epistle to the church there.

2. Proof from Biblical Prologues:

In an article upon "Marcion and the Canon" by Professor J. Rendel Harris, LL.D., in the The Expository Times, June, 1907, there is reference to the Revue Benedictine for January of that year, which contained a remarkable article by de Bruyne, entitled "Biblical Prologues of Marcionite Origin," in which the writer succeeded in showing that a very widely spread series of prefaces to the Pauline Epistles, which occur in certain Latin Bibles, must have been taken from a Marcionite Bible. Professor Rendel Harris adds that the prefaces in question may go back to Marcion himself, for in any case the Marcionite hand, from which they come, antedates the Latin tradition in which the prologues are imbedded. "It is clear from Tertullian's polemic against Marcion, that the Pauline Epistles stood in the following order in the Marcionite Canon: Galatians, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Romans, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, then Ephesians (which Marcion calls by the name of the Epistle to the Laodiceans), Colossians, Philippians, and Philemon..... Let us turn to the prologues that are current in Vulgate (Jerome's Latin Bible, 390-405 A.D.) and other manuscripts for Ephesians and Colossains: the Ephesian prologue runs as follows: `Ephesii sunt Asiani. Hi accepto verbo veritatis perstiterunt in fide. Ho conlaudat apostolus, scribens eis a Roma de carcere!' When, however, we turn to the Colossian prologue, we find that it opens as follows: `Colossenses et hi sicut Laodicenses sunt Asiani. Et ipsi praeventi erant a pseudapostolis, nec ad hos accessit apostolus sed et hos per epistolam recorrigit,' etc.

"From this it is clear that originally the prologue to the Laodiceans preceded the prologue to Colossians, and that the

Ephesian prologue is a substitute for the Laodicean prologue, which can be partly reconstructed from the references to it in the Colossian prologue. We can see that it had a statement that the Laodiceans belonged to Asia Minor, that they had been under the influence of false apostles, and had never been visited by Paul, who corrects their error by an epistle....

"We have now shown that the original Canon had `Laodiceans, Colossians.' It is interesting to observe how some Latin manuscripts naively admit this: `You must know that the epistle which we have as that written to the Ephesians, the heretics, and especially the Marcionites, entitle the Epistle to the Laodiceans.' "

IV. Reason for Such an Epistle.

Assuming therefore that the "Epistle to the Ephesians" is the epistle which Paul wrote to the Laodiceans, various questions arise, such as, Why did he write to the church there? What was there in the state of the church in Laodicea to call for an epistle from him? Was there any heresy there, like the false teaching which existed in the neighboring church in Colosse?

The answer to such questions is that though we do not possess much information, yet these churches in the province of Asia had many things in common. They had originated at the same time, during the two whole years of Paul's residence in Ephesus. They were composed of men of the same races, and speaking the same languages. They were subject to the same influences of doctrinal error. The errors into which any one church fell could not fail to affect the others also. These churches were permeated to a large extent by the same ideas, derived both from the current philosophy and from their ancestral heathen religions. They would, therefore, one and all, require the same apostolic instruction and exhortation. This epistle, accordingly, bears a close resemblance to the Epistle to the Colossians, just for the reason that the circumstances of the church in Laodicea were similar to those of the church in Colosse; and also, that the thoughts which filled Paul's heart as he wrote to Colosse were adapted, in the first place, to counteract the false teaching in Colosse, but they are also the foundation of all Christian experience, and the very life of all Christian truth and doctrine. These are the great thoughts of Christ the Creator of all things, Christ the Upholder of all things, Christ the Reconciler of all things. Such thoughts filling Paul's heart would naturally find expression in language bearing a close resemblance to that in which he had just written to Colosse.

It is no more astonishing that Paul should have written to Laodicea, than that he also wrote to Colosse, which was probably the least important of all the cities and churches mentioned in the apostle's work and career. Neither is it any more to be wondered at that he should have written so profound an epistle as that to "the Ephesians," than that he should also have given directions that it be sent on to Colosse and read there; for this reason, that the exposition of Christ's great love to the church and of His giving Himself for it-the doctrine of the grace of God-is the very corrective required by the errors of the false teachers at Colosse, and is also the groundwork of Christian truth and experience for all ages.

NOTE: A very remarkable circumstance in regard to the apocryphal Epistle to the Laodiceans is mentioned by Nestle in the preface to his edition of the Latin New Testament, published in Stuttgart in 1906. He writes that "the Epistle to the Laodiceans was for a thousand years part of very many Latin Bibles, and obtained a place in pre-Lutheran German Bibles, together with Jerome's Epistle to Damasus."

John Rutherfurd

1992. epistole -- an epistle, a letter
... an epistle, a letter. Part of Speech: Noun, Feminine Transliteration: epistole Phonetic
Spelling: (ep-is-tol-ay') Short Definition: a letter, dispatch, epistle ...
//strongsnumbers.com/greek2/1992.htm - 6k

1121. gramma -- that which is drawn or written, ie a letter
... letter, writings, learning Definition: a letter of the alphabet; collectively: written
(revelation); (a) a written document, a letter, an epistle, (b) writings ...
//strongsnumbers.com/greek2/1121.htm - 6k

5060. Tertios -- "third," Tertius, a Christian to whom Paul ...
... Speech: Noun, Masculine Transliteration: Tertios Phonetic Spelling: (ter'-tee-os)
Short Definition: Tertius Definition: Tertius, who wrote the Epistle to the ...
//strongsnumbers.com/greek2/5060.htm - 6k

4899. suneklektos -- chosen together with
... 4899 ("chosen together") refers to believers as divinely- () -- a theme elaborated
on earlier in the epistle (1 Pet 1:1,2). 1 Pet 5:13: "She who is in Babylon ...
//strongsnumbers.com/greek2/4899.htm - 7k

Strong's Hebrew
107. iggereth -- a letter
... 4), letters (6). letter. Feminine of 'iggra'; an epistle -- letter. see HEBREW
'iggra'. 106, 107. iggereth. 108 . Strong's Numbers.
/hebrew/107.htm - 6k

104. iggerah -- a letter
... letter. (Aramaic) of Persian origin; an epistle (as carried by a state courier or
postman) -- letter. 103, 104. iggerah. 105 . Strong's Numbers.
/hebrew/104.htm - 6k

5406. nishtevan -- a letter
... decree (1), letter (1). letter. Probably of Persian origin; an epistle --
letter. 5405, 5406. nishtevan. 5407 . Strong's Numbers.
/hebrew/5406.htm - 5k


The Epistle of Barnabas
The Epistle of Barnabas. <. The Epistle of Barnabas Barnabas. Table of Contents.
Title Page. Introductory Note to the Epistle of Barnabas. ...
//christianbookshelf.org/barnabas/the epistle of barnabas /

The First Epistle of John, Practically Explained
The First Epistle of John, Practically Explained. <. The First Epistle of
John, Practically Explained Augustus Neander. Table of Contents. ...
//christianbookshelf.org/neander/the first epistle of john/

The First Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians
The First Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians. <. The First Epistle of Clement
to the Corinthians Clement of Rome. Table of Contents. Title Page. ...
/.../christianbookshelf.org/clement/the first epistle of clement to the corinthians/

The Epistle of James, Practically Explained
The Epistle of James, Practically Explained. <. The Epistle of James, Practically
Explained Augustus Neander. Table of Contents. Title Page. ...
//christianbookshelf.org/neander/the epistle of james practically explained/

Epistle of Peter to James
Epistle of Peter to James. <. Epistle of Peter to James Pseudo-Clementine
Literature. Table of Contents. Title Page. Introductory ...
//christianbookshelf.org/unknown/epistle of peter to james/

The Second Epistle of Clement
The Second Epistle of Clement. <. The Second Epistle of Clement
Unknown. Table of Contents. Title Page. AN ANCIENT HOMILY ...
//christianbookshelf.org/unknown/the second epistle of clement/

Epistle Sermons, Vol. II
Epistle Sermons, Vol. II. <. Epistle Sermons, Vol. II Martin
Luther. Produced by Ron Swanson (This file was produced ...
//christianbookshelf.org/luther/epistle sermons vol ii/

Epistle Sermons, Vol. III
Epistle Sermons, Vol. III. <. Epistle Sermons, Vol. III Martin
Luther. Produced by Ron Swanson (This file was produced ...
//christianbookshelf.org/luther/epistle sermons vol iii/

The Epistle of Ignatius to the Ephesians
The Epistle of Ignatius to the Ephesians. <. The Epistle of Ignatius
to the Ephesians Ignatius. Table of Contents. Title Page. ...
//christianbookshelf.org/ignatius/the epistle of ignatius to the ephesians/

The Epistle of Ignatius to Polycarp and the Ephesians
The Epistle of Ignatius to Polycarp and the Ephesians. <. The Epistle of Ignatius
to Polycarp and the Ephesians Ignatius. Table of Contents. ...
/.../ignatius/the epistle of ignatius to polycarp and the ephesians/

Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary
1. (n.) A writing directed or sent to a person or persons; a written communication; a letter; -- applied usually to formal, didactic, or elegant letters.

2. (n.) One of the letters in the New Testament which were addressed to their Christian brethren by Apostles.

3. (v. t.) To write; to communicate in a letter or by writing.

Epistle (13 Occurrences)
... COLOSSIANS, EPISTLE TO THE. ... The first definite witness is Marcion, who included this
epistle in his collection of those written by Paul (Tert., Adv. ...
/e/epistle.htm - 101k

Apollos (11 Occurrences)
... He was with Paul at Ephesus when he wrote the First Epistle to the Corinthians;
and Paul makes kindly reference to him in his letter to Titus (3:13). ...
/a/apollos.htm - 16k

Jeremy (2 Occurrences)
... JEREMY, THE EPISTLE OF. ... In the bestknown printed of the Septuagint (Tischendorf,
Swete, etc.), the order is Jeremiah, Baruch, Lain, Epistle of Jeremy. ...
/j/jeremy.htm - 12k

Colossians (1 Occurrence)
... Colossians, Epistle to the: Was written by Paul at Rome during his first imprisonment
there (Acts 28:16, 30), probably in the spring of AD 57, or, as some think ...
/c/colossians.htm - 23k

Nymphas (1 Occurrence)
... Easton's Bible Dictionary Nymph, saluted by Paul in his Epistle to the Colossians
as a member of the church of Laodicea (Colossians 4:15). Int. ...
/n/nymphas.htm - 9k

Philemon (2 Occurrences)
... instrumentality of Paul (19), and held a prominent place in the Christian community
for his piety and beneficence (4-7). He is called in the epistle a "fellow ...
/p/philemon.htm - 17k

Praetorian (2 Occurrences)
... The meaning, therefore, of the words, "My bonds in Christ are manifest in the whole
praetorium," will be that when Paul wrote the Epistle to the Philippians ...
/p/praetorian.htm - 15k

Onesimus (2 Occurrences)
... his master Philemon (qv) at Colosse, fled to Rome, where he was converted by the
apostle Paul, who sent him back to his master with the epistle which bears his ...
/o/onesimus.htm - 12k

Gaius (5 Occurrences)
... Easton's Bible Dictionary. (1.) A Macedonian, Paul's fellow-traveller, and his
host at Corinth when he wrote his Epistle to the Romans (16:23). ...
/g/gaius.htm - 10k

Tertius (1 Occurrence)
... Easton's Bible Dictionary The third, a Roman Christian whom Paul employed as his
amanuensis in writing his epistle to the Romans (16:22). Int. ...
/t/tertius.htm - 8k

Bible Concordance
Epistle (13 Occurrences)

Acts 15:30 So when they were dismissed, they came to Antioch: and when they had gathered the multitude together, they delivered the epistle:

Acts 23:33 Who, when they came to Caesarea and delivered the epistle to the governor, presented Paul also before him.

Romans 16:22 I Tertius, who wrote this epistle, salute you in the Lord.

1 Corinthians 5:9 I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators:

2 Corinthians 3:2 Ye are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men:

2 Corinthians 7:8 For though I made you sorry with a letter, I do not repent, though I did repent: for I perceive that the same epistle hath made you sorry, though it were but for a season.

Colossians 4:16 And when this epistle is read among you, cause that it be read also in the church of the Laodiceans; and that ye likewise read the epistle from Laodicea.

1 Thessalonians 5:27 I charge you by the Lord that this epistle be read unto all the holy brethren.

2 Thessalonians 2:2 to the end that ye be not quickly shaken from your mind, nor yet be troubled, either by spirit, or by word, or by epistle as from us, as that the day of the Lord is just at hand;

2 Thessalonians 2:15 Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle.

2 Thessalonians 3:14 And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed.

2 Thessalonians 3:17 The salutation of Paul with mine own hand, which is the token in every epistle: so I write.

2 Peter 3:1 This second epistle, beloved, I now write unto you; in both which I stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance:



Epistle Of Jude

Epistle To the 1 and 2 Thessalonians

Epistle To The Colossians

Epistle To The Ephesians

Epistle To The Hebrews

Epistle To The Philippians

Epistle To The Romans

Epistle To Titus

Related Terms

Apollos (11 Occurrences)

Jeremy (2 Occurrences)

Colossians (1 Occurrence)

Nymphas (1 Occurrence)

Philemon (2 Occurrences)

Praetorian (2 Occurrences)

Onesimus (2 Occurrences)

Gaius (5 Occurrences)

Tertius (1 Occurrence)

Laodiceans (2 Occurrences)


Titus (15 Occurrences)

Lady (37 Occurrences)

Tychicus (5 Occurrences)

Elect (32 Occurrences)


Clement (1 Occurrence)

Timothy (28 Occurrences)

Melchizedek (12 Occurrences)

Guard (185 Occurrences)

Letter (112 Occurrences)

Ephesians (4 Occurrences)

Middle (169 Occurrences)

Partition (4 Occurrences)

Barnabas (33 Occurrences)

Wall (227 Occurrences)

Galatians (2 Occurrences)

Philippians (2 Occurrences)



Jude (4 Occurrences)

Romans (8 Occurrences)

Thessalonians (6 Occurrences)

Separate (115 Occurrences)


Priesthood (30 Occurrences)

Kindness (295 Occurrences)

Laodicea (6 Occurrences)

Aristarchus (6 Occurrences)

Persecution (22 Occurrences)

Stephanas (3 Occurrences)

Silas (22 Occurrences)

Brotherly (8 Occurrences)




Law (670 Occurrences)

Adam (29 Occurrences)

Text (5 Occurrences)

Love (703 Occurrences)

Melchisedec (10 Occurrences)


Pontus (3 Occurrences)

Person (807 Occurrences)

Corinth (13 Occurrences)

Hebrews (24 Occurrences)

James (40 Occurrences)

Simon (75 Occurrences)

Unchangeableness (1 Occurrence)

Unchangeable (4 Occurrences)

Ascension (1 Occurrence)

Corinthians (3 Occurrences)

Ishmael (44 Occurrences)

Sacrifice (300 Occurrences)

Latin (2 Occurrences)

Likewise (149 Occurrences)

Luke (4 Occurrences)

Philippi (8 Occurrences)

Malefactor (2 Occurrences)

Paul (207 Occurrences)


Thessalonica (8 Occurrences)


Borrowing (1 Occurrence)

Justification (6 Occurrences)

Supper (17 Occurrences)

Consist (7 Occurrences)

Literature (2 Occurrences)

Epistles (2 Occurrences)

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