Page images
PDF
EPUB

Jalian Pe transactions and teaching of our Lord; but as the persecution The pro-, riad, 4717. was not confined to Judea, but extended

to Gentile cities, the vince

of Juvulgar&ra, converts who had taken refuge in them would be naturally dea, &c.

anxious to have the Gospel in that language which was most
generally understood, that the glorious works of redemption
and salvation might be made known unto them, as well as unto
us. It is probable, tberefore, that the Hebrew Gospel was first
used, while the converts remained in Judea, or at least during
the continuance of the Pauline persecution; and that it might
have been given about six years after the ascension, when the
persecution was beginning; in the year 34 or 35, the date
which is bere assigned to it. The Greek Gospel might have
been given about two or three years later, when the converts
returned to Jerusalem, and required inspired histories of our
Lord to be sent to their brethren to those cities in which their
safety had been secured.

This hypothesis will reconcile some few of the discrepancies
which have embarrassed many inquirers in their research into
the early bistory of the Church. It accounts for the early dis-
use, and non-appearance of the Hebrew Gospel-it agrees with
the early date assigned by Dr. Townson, Bishop Tomline, and
Dr. Owen, who refer the writing of St. Matthew's Gospel to
the year 37, or 38, it corresponds with the internal testimony
in favour of a very early date, and is supported by the rea-
soning of Bishop Tomline and Dr. Owen.

(a) Elem. of Christ. Theol. vol. i. p. 391. (b) See this proved at length in Dr. Owen's Observations on thé Four Gospels, pp. 1. 21. 8vo. 1764. (c) Ant. Jud. lib. xviii. c. iv. sect. 2. (d) Dr. Townson's Discourses on the Gospels, Works, vol. i. pp. 107–115. (e) Works, 8vo. vol. vi. pp. 57, 58; 4to. vol. iü. pp. 163, 164. (f) Key to the New Test. p. 55, 3d edit. (9) Thus Zacbarias, the father of the Baptist, speaks of Christ as coming " to give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,” (Luke i, 79.) which description includes the Gentiles; and Simeon expressly calls bim "a light to lighten the Gentiles, (Luke ii. 32.) (h) Bisbop Tomline's Elements of Christ. Theol. vol. I, p. 302. (ö) Dr. Townson's Discourses, disc. iv. sect. 4. Works, vol. i. pp. 116, 117. (k) Wetstenii Nov. Test. tom. i. p. 224, note. (1) Ματθαίος μεν ούν εβραϊδι διάλεκτω τα λόγια συνεγράψατο. ήρμενεύσε δ' αύτα ώς ήδύνατο έκασος. Eusebii. Ηist. Eccl. lib. 3. c. 39. tom. i, p. 138. edit. Reading. (m) % Mèv od Marθαίος έν τοις έβραίοις, έν τη ίδια αυτών διάλεκτο, και γραφήν έξ. jveywer evayyéilov. Ibid. lib. v. c. 8. tom. i. p.219. (x) Ibid. lib. vi. c. 25. tom. i. p. 290. (0) See Jortin's Remarks on Eccl. Hist. vol. i. pp. 309, 310. 2d edit. (p) This conjectare, Dr. Hales remarks, derives additional weight from the incorrect reports of Eutychias and Theophylact, that Matthew wrote bis Hebrew Gospel at Jerusalem, wbich John the Evangelist translated into Greek. Analysis of Chronology, vol. ii. book ü. p. 665. (9) Origen de Oratione, c. 161. p. 150. edit. Reading. (r) See bis Works, Op. tom. ii. p. 671. edit. De la Rue, or in Bishop Marsh's Michaelis, vol. iii. part ii. pp. 114, 115, where they are cited and explained. .. () Dr. Lardner has given the passage at length, Works, 8vo. vol. ii. p. 505; 4to. vol. i. p. 553. (1) Mr. Hewlet's note on Matt. i. 1. Dr. Hales's Analysis, vol. ii. pp. 664667. Lardner's Supp: to Credibility, chap. 5. (Works, 8vo. vol. vi. pp. 45–65; 4to. vol. i. pp. 157–167.) Pritii, Introd. ad Nov. Test. pp. 298–311. Moldenhawer, Introd. ad Libros Canonicos, pp. 247– 254. Michaelis, vol. i. pp. 112-201. Rumpæi, Comm. Crit. in Nov. Test. pp. 81–84. Viser, Herm. Sacr. Nov. Test. pars ji. pp.

344-352, Ds. Campbell's Preface to Matthew, vol. ii. pp. 1–20. (*) Preface to St. Matthew's Gospel, vol. i. p. l. (y) Eusebius, Eccl. Hist. lib. ii. c. 4. (2) Lib. i. pref. sect. 1, 2. (aa) Dr. Hey's Norrisian Leotares, vol. i. pp. 28, 29. Bishop Gleig's edit. of Stackhouse, vol. iii. p. 112 Dr. Townson's Works, vol. i. pp. 30---32. (bb) Horno, Crit. Introd. vol. ii. pp. 238243.

riod,

mascus.

Julian Pe-
SECTION XXXI.

Near Da4748. Saul, on

his Vulgar Æra,

way

to Damascus, is converted to the Religion 35.

he was opposing on hearing the Bath Col, and seeing
the Shechinah 57

ACTS ix. 1-9.
1 And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaugh-
ter s against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high-
priest,
And desired of him letters 59 to Damascus to the

syna

So St. Luke not having specified the time of St. Paul's conversion and the apostle himself not having done it in bis epistles, the opinions upon it vary much. Some place his conversion in the year of the crucifixon, or at the beginning of the following year; others seven or eight years after, in the second year of Claudius. I have preferred the opinion which steers between tbesc two extremes, and place the conversion of St. Paul at tbe year

35, about the time that war was declared between Herod the Tetrarch of Galilee, and Aretas King of the Arabs (a).

This epoch does not seem attended with any difficulty. It agrees very well with “ the fourteen years” that the apostle rockons between his conversion and the third voyage that he afterwards made to Jerusalem. It furnishes moreover some very natural reasons, why being at Damascus he was immediately in safety there, and why he afterwards retired into Arabia, rather than into any other place, and why upon bis return from Arabia he no longer found protection at Damascus, and is the date which is generally adopted.

Herod and Aretas quarrelled, for the reasons mentioned by Josephus, Antiq. lib. 18. cap. 7. and they came to an open war in the year 36. Herod's army was defeated. The Romans took his part; but the death of Tiberius, which happened in the month of March, in the year 37, stopped the Romans, who were marching against the Arabs. Vitellius, who was commander of the Roman army, had the news of his death at Jerusalem, during the feast of the passover.

(a) Spanheim. De conv. Paul. p. 197. Pearson, Lardner, Hales, Horve, &c. &c.

58 Eu tvéwv åtellñs kai povov-Wetstein, Kuinoel, Clarke, &c. have quoted among otber passages from the classical writers to illustrate this sentence.-Theocret idyl. 22. 82. Eurip. Bacch. 620. Aristoph. Equitt. 435. Oppian venat, 4. 190. Homer Il. v. 8. Aristænet i. Ep. 5. Achill. Tatius 2. p. 65, &c. &c. The use of the expression in these authors may be adduced as one among many other proofs, that St. Luke, the writer of the Acts, was a learned man, and one therefore who was more likely to examine into the truth, origin, and nature of the religion he had embraced, than many of the more ignorant converts.

59 The authority of the Sanhedrim of Jerusalem was very great, so that not only the Jews, who inhabited the land of Israel, but the Babylonian and Alexandrian Jews, received its decrees, and obeyed them with reverence. They acknowledged the Sanhedrim as the bulwark of the oral law. They more especially submitted to its authority in accusations of heresy, and trial of false prophets, which the Sanhedrim alone was supposed competent to consider. The Romans, to whose power the whole of Arabia at this time submitted, granted to the Jewish council the power of imprisonment and scourging, not only over the Jews of Palestine, but over other synagogues, which

Julian Pe- gogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they Near Darind, 4748. Valgar Æra,"

were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Je- mascus. rusalem.

3 And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus; and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven: i

willingly, in religious matters, yielded to the controul of the
Saphedrim.-See on this subject the note at the end of Chap.
ix. sect. xxxv.

60 This expression was common among the ancient Jews.
We read in Ps. i. the pbrase 10 777-and among the later
Jews, O'78737 1775 secundum morem Christianorum.-Schoet.
gen, vol. i. p. 4.

61 If St. Paul had been asked before he left Jerusalem for Da. mascus by one of those despised Christians whom he was now on his way to persecute, “ What proof do you require to convince you that Jesus is the Messiah ?" it is not improbable that he would have replied, “I demand that evidence which was given to my fathers, the evidence of the manifested Shecbinah, the presence of the angel Jehovah, and tbe audible voice from beaven.” From education, reason or prejudice, we all generally adopt some criterion of truth, to which every proposition is brought. This was his criterion : and what must have been the feelings of this relentless persecutor, when the very evidence he required was vouchsafed to him—when He, the despised, the insulted, the crucified Jesus, in the glory of the Shecbinab- from heaven itself-reproved the blindness of his zeal, and convinced him that the same holy Being who had suffered on the cross, was the angel Jehovah, the long expected Messiah of the Jews. The simple words “ I am Jesus, whom thou persecutest,” how severely must they have penetrated and wounded the heart of this zealous offender. In a moment, he was overwhelmed, and convicted of the excessive guilt of his conduct, and the majosty of the God of bis fathers. The blindness that was inflicted upon him was typical of that spiritual darkness which was the cause and origin of his crime; it was a trial of his faith and repentance; and his recovery from it was intended to prove to him and to the world, that a man is in darkness and the shadow of death, till be bas received that true light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. The scales which had concealed from his view the glorious light of the Gospel of Christ, fell from his eyes-be saw and believed, and the Holy Ghost gave him power to discern spiritual things.

How fearfully will the song of Israel mourn and lament, when this holy Being shall again reveal himself from heaven in the glory of the Shecbinah, and reprove them for their want of faith and hardness of heart. The history of St. Paul offers them the highest hopes and consolations ; it shadows out to them the darkness of their spiritual state, the necessity of a baptism of repentance, and the forsaking of their former sins and errors, and the restoration of their sight. At his second coming the glory of Israel shall be made known unto them their hearts sball be changed, and they shall look on Him whom they have pierced

Dr. Barrington and Whitby are of opinion that St. Paul did not now see our Lord. The former derives his argument from the expression (ver. 5.) “ Who art thou, Lord?” Whitby observes, that in the Old Testament men are often said to bave seen the Lord, when they only saw the glory, the symbol of his

Jalian Pe- 4 And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying Near Dariod, 4748. unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?

mascus. Vulgar Æra, 35.

presence, (Exod. xxiv. 10-12. Deut. iv. 12. 15.) and that in the
parallel accounts of his conversion in other parts of the Acts,
St. Paul mentions only having seen the glory that shone round
him, and not the person of our Lord. He adds, that if the words
imply that the person of our Lord was seen, it must have rather
bcen in the way than in the heavens. It would however be easy
to shew that the ancient Jews used the word 17330, which is bero
rendered gūs, to express not only the glory which surrounded
the Divine personage, which appeared to the Patriarchs, but
also the great Being himself; and it seems most probable that
his countryman would understand the expression in that sepse.
The general opinion, however, appears to be most correct,
which affirms, that at this time the visible manifestation of the
person of Christ was made to the apostle. Witsius (a) defends
ihe general opinion with much skill and energy : Doddridge
does the same. Macknight espouses the same side of the ques-
tion: Saul, he observes, arose from the earth, and with his
bodily eyes beheld Jesus standing in the way. We are abso-
lutely certain, that on this or some other occasion, Saul saw
Jesus with the eyes of his body, for he bath twice affirmed that
he saw Jesus in that manner (1 Cor. xi. 1.) Am I not an apos-
tle? have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord ? (chap. xv. 8)
Last of all (upon poi) he was seen of me also, as of an abor.
tive apostle.

Now it is to be observed, that this appearance of Jesus, Paul
places among his other appearances to the rest of the apostles,
which, without all doubt, were personal appearances. Besides,
if Saul had not seen Jesus in the body, after bis resurrection, he
could not have been an apostle, whose chief business was, as an
eye-witness, to bear testimony to the resurrection of Jesus from
the dead. I acknowledge, that if we were to form our opinion
of this matter solely upon the account which Luke hath given
of it, (Acts ix. 3~6.) we could not be sare that Saul now saw
Jesus. Yet if we attend to the words of Ananias, both as re-
corded in this chap. ver. 17. “ The Lord Jesus who appeared to
thee (d OPSELS OOl, who was seen of thee,) in the way, and as
recorded Acts xxii. 14. “ The God of our fathers bath chosen
thee, that thou shouldest see that Just One, and shouldest
hear the voice of his mouth ;” also, if we consider the words of
Christ, “ I have appeared unto thee for this very purpose, to
make thee a minister, and a witness of those things which thou
hast seen :” and that Barnabas declared to the apostles, how he
had seen the Lord in the way (Acts ix. 27.) I say, when all these
expressions are duly attended to, we shall bave little doubt that
Saul saw Jesus standing before him in the way, (ver. 17.) when
in obedience to his command he arose from the ground.

But not being able to endure the splendour of his appearance, or perhaps the better to express his reverence, he fell to the earth anew, and remained before him in that posture, till Christ ordered him to arise a second time, and go into the city, where it should be told him what he was to do, (Acts is. 6.) Then it was that on opening his eyes be found himself absolutely blind. This I suppose is a better account of Saul's seeing Jesus, after bis resurrection, than with some to affirm, that he saw him in his trance in the temple, or in bis rapture into the third heaven, for on neither of these occasions did Saul see Jesus witb his bodily eyes; the impression at these times having been made opon his mind by the power of Christ, and not by means of his

[ocr errors]

Jalian Pe- 5 And he said, Who art thou, Lord ? And the Lord Near Damad, 4718. said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for mascus.

thee to kick against the pricks 03.
external senses, so that he would not bave been qualified by
such a vision to attest Christ's resurrection from the dead. Í
know that Paul had another corporeal sight of Jesus, namely,
after he had made his defence before the council, (Acts xxiii.
11.) But as the first epistle to the Corinthians, in which Paul
affirmed that he had seen the Lord, was written before he was
favoured with that second corporeal sight of Jesus, he cannot
be thought in that epistle to have spoken of an event which
had not then taken place.

It cannot be necessary to discuss here the absurd hypothesis
of Kuinoel, who endeavours to shew that there was nothing mi-
raculous in the conversion of St. Paul, wbom he would repre-
sent as journeying to Damascus, thinking of the lesson of mo-
deration taught him by Gamaliel, and of the arguments he might
accidentally have heard in favour of the Messiahship of Christ,
when sudden thunder in a clear day alarmed him, and be ima.
gined that be heard a voice : the whole of the three several nar-
ratives in the New Testament of St. Paul's conversion, over-
throw this absurd theory. His sudden loss and recovery of sight,
and the consequent communication of the Holy Spirit, by a
person divinely appointed, were indisputable evidences as to
the reality of the appearance that had befallen him on his way.

That St. Paul was neither a hypocrite, an enthusiast, nor a dupe, has been too admirably proved by Lord Lyttelton to require further illustration.

(a) Sed quo modo visus est Jesus? An per abgelam, vices ejus sus. tinentem? Nequaquam. Neque enim angeli est ea sibi verba sumere quæ propria sant Jesu. An in symbolo, quo modo Israelitæ Deum viderunt ad montem Sinai ? Non sufficit. Au in visione at Jesaias ? Nec hoc satis facit. An oculis corporis ? Sic arbitror. Debuit enim Paulns hoc quoque apostolatus sui argumentum habere, quod Christum, in persona, quod aiunt, oculis suis conspexerit. Ceteram ubi unc Christus ? An in cælo? an in ære viciniore? Equidem nescio. Nam quod Act iii. 21. dicitur, quem oportet cæli capiant usque ad tempora restitutionis omnium, intelligi potest de ordinaria Jesu in cælis mansione : qua non impeditur tamen quo minus per extraordinariam aliqnam economiam, in nerem terræ viciniorem ad exiguum tempas descenderit. Sed et in cælis manens videri Paulo potuit, per miraculosam facultates elevationem, remotisqae Dei virtute omnibus impedimentis, quo modo Stephanus naper in terra positus, cælis apertis, vidit Jesum stantem ad dexteram Patris, Act vii. 55. Qua luce significabatur gloria apparentis Cbristi, qui est stella illa matatina, oriens ex alto, sol justitiæ, lux ad illaminationem gentium, et gloriam popoli Israelitici; et qui se luce veluti amictu operit. In ea luce, ipse se conspiciendum præbebat Jesus. Sic enim Paulo Ananias, Act ix. 17. rursus xxii. 14. et Jesus ipse Act xxvi, 13. els roūTo úpony col.-Witsii Meletem, Leidens. de Vit. Pauli, p. 17.-Macknight on the Epistles, vol. vi. p. 416...Kuinoel in lib. Hist. N. T. vol. iv. p. 323.-Doddridge's Family Expositor.--Dr. A. Clarke, and Whitby in loc.

62 The expression here used is supposed by some to be proverbial, signifying the injury and hurt they are likely to receive who resist superior power, more especially as relating to God. To confirm this opinion, many classical authors are referred to. Euripides in Bacch. 5. 794, Columella de re rustica 2,2. 26, &c. and Pindar Pyth, 2. 173. who asserts we must not contend against God, but bear the yoke he puts on our neck mildly, and not kick against the goads; that is, remarks the Scboliast, not to fight against God, being only men. The great Bochart rejects the idea tbat the expression is derived from any other au

« PreviousContinue »