« AnteriorContinua »
time; yet of St. Paul's ministry in that city, the history gives no other account than the following: “that he came to Thessalonica, where was a synagogue of the Jews: that, as his manner was, he went in unto them, and three sabbath days reasoned with them out of the Scriptures : that some of them believed, and consorted with Paul and Silas.” The history then proceeds to tell us, that the Jews which believed not, set the city in an uproar, and assaulted the house of Jason, where Paul and his companions lodged ; that the consequence of this outrage was, that " the brethen immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea.” Acts, ch. xtii. ' 1-10. From the mention of his preaching three sabbath days in the Jewish synagogue, and from the want of
farther specification of his ministry, it has usually been taken for granted that Paul did not continue at Thessalonica more than three weeks. This, however, is inferred without necessity. It appears to have been St. Paul's practice, in almost every place that he came to, upon his first arrival to repair to the synagogue. He thought himself bound to propose the Gospel to the Jews first, agreeably to what he declared at Antioch in Pia
sidia; “ it was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you." Acts, ch. xii. 46. If the Jews rejected his ministry, he quitted the synagogue, and betook himself to a Gentile audience. At Corinth, upon his first coming thither, he reas soned in the synagogue every sabbath ; " but when the Jews opposed themselves, and blasphemed, he departed thence," expressly telling them, " From henceforth I will the Gentiles; and he remained in that city a year
and six months.” Acts, ch. xviii. 6-11. At Ephesus, in like manner, for the space of three months he went into the synagogue, but " when divers were hardened and be lieved not, but spake evil of that way, he departed from them and separated the disciples, disputing daily in the school of one Tyrannus; and this continued by the space of two years.” Acts, ch. xix. 9, 10. Upon inspecting the history, I see nothing in it which negatives the supposition, that St, Paul pursued the same plan at Thessalonica which he adopted in other places; and that, though he resorted to the synagogue only three sabbath days, yet he remained in the city, and in the exercise of his ministry amongst the Gentile citizens, much longer : and until the success of his preaching had provoked the Jews to excite the tumult and insurrection by which he was driven away.
Another seeming discrepancy is found in the ninth verse of the first chapter of the epistle : “ For they themselves show of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God." This text contains an assertion, that, by means of St. Paul's ministry at Thessalonica, many idolatrous Gentiles had been brought over to Christianity. Yet the history, in describing the effects of that ministry, only says, that “ some of the Jews believed, and of the devout Greeks a great multitude, and of the chief women not a few," (ch. xvii. 4.) The devout Greeks were those who already worshipped the one true God; and therefore could not be said, by embracing Christianity, “ to be turned to God from idols.”
This is the difficulty. The answer may be assisted by the following observations: The Alexandrian and Cambridge manuscripts read (for των σεβομενων Ελληνων πολυπληθος των σεβομετων και Ελληνων πολυ πληθος" in which reading they are also confirmed by the Vulgate Latin, And this reading is, in my opinion; strongly
supported by the considerations, first, that ór oslojevol alone, i. e. without 'Enajves, is used in this sense in the same chapter--Paul being come to Athens διελεγετο εν τη συναγωγη τους Ιεδαιοις και τους σεβομενοις : secondly, that σεβοpueros and 'Eannves no where come together. The expression is redundant. The ós osbouevo must be 'Emanves. Thirdly, that the ra is much more likely to have been left out incuria manûs than to have been put in. Or, after all, if we be not allowed to change the present reading, which is undoubtedly retained by a great plurality of copies, may not the pas. sage in the history be considered as describing only the effects of St. Paul's discourses during the three sabbath days in which he preached in the synagogue ? and may it not be true, as we have remarked above, that his application to the Gentiles at large, and his success amongst them, was posterior to this ?
:*; THE SECOND EPISTLE TO THE THESSALONIANS.
It may seem odd to allege obscurity itself as an argument, or to draw a proof in favour of a writing from that which is naturally considered as the principal defect in its composition. The present epistle, however, furnishes a passage, hitherto unexplained, and probably inexplicable by us, the existence of which, under the darkness and difficulties that attend it, can be accounted for only upon the supposition of the epistle being genuine; and upon that supposition is accounted' for with great ease. which I allude to is found in the second chapter : “ That day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition, who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped ; so that