THE first question which confronts us on entering upon the study of the Pastoral Epistles is that of their authenticity, which of late has been confidently denied. In reading them are we reading the farewell words of the great Apostle to the ministers of Christ? Or are we reading only the well-meant but far less weighty counsels of one who in a later age assumed the name and imitated the style of St. Paul? It seems necessary to devote the first of these expositions to a discussion of this question.
The title "Pastoral Epistles" could hardly be improved, but it might easily be misunderstood as implying more than is actually the case. It calls attention to what is the most conspicuous, but by no means the only characteristic in these Epistles. Although the words which most directly signify the pastor's office, such as "shepherd," "feed," "tend," and "flock," do not occur in these letters and do occur elsewhere in Scripture, yet in no other books in the Bible do we find so many directions respecting the pastoral care of Churches. The title is much less appropriate to 2 Timothy than to the other two Epistles. All three are both pastoral and personal; but while 1 Timothy and Titus are mainly the former, 2 Timothy is mainly the latter. The three taken together stand between the other Epistles of St. Paul and the one to Philemon. Like the latter, they are personal; like the rest, they treat of large questions of Church doctrine, practice, and government, rather than of private and personal matters. Like that to Philemon, they are addressed, not to Churches, but to individuals; yet they are written to them, not as private friends, but as delegates, though not mere delegates, of the Apostle, and as officers of the Church. Moreover, the important Church matters of which they treat are regarded not as in the other Epistles, from the point of view of the congregation or of the Church at large, but rather from that of the overseer or minister. And, as being official rather than private letters, they are evidently intended to be read by other persons besides Timothy and Titus.
Among the Epistles which bear the name of St. Paul none have excited so much controversy as these, especially as regards their genuineness. But the controversy is entirely a modern one. It is little or no exaggeration to say that from the first century to the nineteenth no one ever denied or doubted that they were written by St. Paul. It is true that certain heretics of the second century rejected some or all of them. Marcion, and perhaps Basilides, rejected all three. Tatian, while maintaining the Apostolicity of the Epistle to Titus, repudiated those to Timothy. And Origen tills us that some people doubted about 2 Timothy because it contained the name of Jannes and Jambres, which do not occur in the Old Testament. But it is well known that Marcion, in framing his mutilated and meager canon of the Scriptures, did not profess to do so on critical grounds. He rejected everything except an expurgated edition of St. Luke and certain Epistles of St. Paul, -not because he doubted their authenticity, but because he disliked their contents. They did not fit into his system. And the few others who rejected one or more of these Epistles did so in a similar spirit. They did not profess to find that these documents were not properly authenticated, but they were displeased with passages in them. The evidence, therefore, justifies us in asserting that, with some very slight exception in the second century, these three Epistles were, until quite recent times, universally accepted as written by St. Paul.
This large fact is greatly emphasized by two considerations.
(1) The repudiation of them by Marcion and others directed attention to them. They were evidently not accepted by an oversight, because no one thought anything about them.
(2) The evidence respecting the general acceptance of them as St. Paul's is full and positive, and reaches back to the earliest times. It does not consist merely or mainly in the absence of evidence to the contrary. Tertullian wonders what can have induced Marcion, while accepting the Epistle to Philemon, to reject those to Timothy and Titus: and of course those who repudiated them would have pointed out weak places in their claim to be canonical if such had existed. And even if we do not insist upon the passages in which these Epistles are almost certainly quoted by Clement of Rome (cir. A.D. 95), Ignatius of Antioch (cir. A.D. 112), Polycarp of Smyrna (cir. A.D. 112), and Theophilus of Antioch (cir. A.D. 180), we have direct evidence of a very convincing kind. They are found in the Peshitto, or early Syriac Version, which was made in the second century. They are contained in the Muratorian canon, the date of which may still be placed as not later than A.D. 170. Irenaeus, the disciple of Polycarp, states that "Paul mentions Linus in the Epistle to Timothy," and he quotes Titus 3:10 with the introduction "as Paul also says." Eusebius renders it probable that both Justin Martyr and Hegesippus quoted from 1 Timothy; and he himself places all three Epistles among the universally accepted books, and not among the disputable writings: i.e., he places them with the Gospels, Acts, 1 Peter, 1 John, and the other Epistles of St. Paul, and not with James, 2 Peter 2:1-22 and 3 John, and Jude. In this arrangement he is preceded by Clement of Alexandria, and Tertullian, both of whom quote frequently from all three Epistles, sometimes as the words of Scripture, sometimes as of "the Apostle," sometimes as of Paul, sometimes as of the Spirit. Occasionally it is expressly stated that the words quoted are addressed to Timothy or to Titus.
It would take us too far a field to examine in detail the various considerations which have induced some eminent critics to set aside this strong array of external evidence and reject one or more of these Epistles. They fall in the main under four heads.
(1) The difficulty of finding a place for these letters in the life of St. Paul as given us in the Acts and in his own writings.
(2) The large amount of peculiar phraseology not found in any other Pauline Epistles.
(3) The Church organization indicated in these letters, which is alleged to be of a later date than St. Paul's time.
(4) The erroneous doctrines and practices attacked, which are also said to be those of a later age.
To most of these points we shall have to return on some future occasion: but for the present this much may be asserted with confidence.
(1) In the Acts and in the other Epistles of St. Paul the Apostle's life is left incomplete. There is nothing to forbid us from supposing that the remaining portion amounted to several years, during which these three letters were written. The second Epistle to Timothy in any case has the unique interest of being the last extant utterance of the Apostle St. Paul.
(2) The phraseology which is peculiar to each of these Epistles is not greater in amount than the phraseology which is peculiar to the Epistle to the Galatians, which even Baur admits to be of unquestionable genuineness. The peculiar diction which is common to all three Epistles is well accounted for by the peculiarity of the common subject, and by the fact that these letters are separated by several years from even the latest among the other writings of St. Paul.
(3, 4) There is good reason for believing that during the lifetime of St. Paul the organization of the Church corresponded to that which is sketched in these letters, and that errors were already in existence such as these letters denounce.
Although the controversy is by no means over, two results of it are very generally accepted as practically certain.
I. The three Epistles must stand or fall together. It is impossible to accept two, or one, or any portion of one of them, and reject the rest. They must stand or fall with the hypothesis of St. Paul's second imprisonment. If the Apostle was imprisoned at Rome only once, and was put to death at the end of that imprisonment, then these three letters were not written by him.
(1) The Epistles stand or fall together: they are all three genuine, or all three spurious. We must either with the scholars of the Early Church, of the Middle Ages, and of the Renaissance, whether Roman or Protestant, and with a clear majority of modern critics, accept all three letters; or else with Marcion, Basilides, Eichhorn, Bauer, and their followers, reject all three. As Credner himself had to acknowledge, after having at first advocated the theory, it is impossible to follow Tatian in retaining Titus as apostolic, while repudiating the other two as forgeries. Nor have the two scholars who originated the modern controversy found more than one critic of eminence to accept their conclusion that both Titus and 2 Timothy, are genuine, but 1 Timothy not. Yet another suggestion is made by Reuss, that 2 Timothy is unquestionably genuine, while the other two are doubtful. And lastly we have Pfleiderer admitting that 2 Timothy contains at least two sections which have with good reason been recognized as genuine, 2 Timothy 1:15-18; 2 Timothy 4:9-21 and Renan asking whether the forger of these three Epistles did not possess some authentic letters of St. Paul which he has enshrined in his composition.
It will be seen, therefore, that those who impugn the authenticity of the Pastoral Epistles are by no means agreed among themselves. The evidence in some places is so strong, that many of the objectors are compelled to admit that the Epistles are at least in part the work of St. Paul. That is, certain portions, which admit of being severely tested, are found to stand the test, and are passed as genuine, in spite of surrounding difficulties. The rest, which does not admit of such testing, is repudiated on account of the difficulties. No one can reasonably object to the application of whatever tests are available, nor to the demand for explanations of difficulties. But we must not treat what cannot be satisfactorily tested as if it had been tested and found wanting; nor must we refuse to take account of the support which those parts which can be thoroughly sifted lend to those for which no decisive criterion can be found. Still less must we proceed on the assumption that to reject these Epistles or any portion of them is a proceeding which gets rid of difficulties. It is merely an exchange of one set of difficulties for another. To unbiased minds it will perhaps appear that the difficulties involved in the assumption that the Pastoral Epistles are wholly or partly a forgery, are not less serious than those which have been urged against the well-established tradition of their genuineness. The very strong external evidence in their favor has to be accounted for. It is already full, clear, and decided, as soon as we could at all expect to find it, viz., in Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, and Tertullian. And it must be noticed that these witnesses give us the traditional beliefs of several chief centers in Christendom. Irenaeus speaks with full knowledge of what was accepted in Asia Minor, Rome, and Gaul; Clement witnesses for Egypt, and Tertullian for North America. And although the absence of such support would not have caused serious perplexity, their direct evidence is very materially supported by passages closely parallel to the words of the Pastoral Epistles found in writers still earlier than Irenaeus. Renan admits the relationship between 2 Timothy and the Epistle of Clement of Rome, and suggests that each writer has borrowed from a common source. Pfleiderer admits that the Epistle of Ignatius to Polycarp "displays striking points of contact with 2 Timothy." Bauer's theory, that all three letters are as late as A.D. 150, and are an attack on Marcion, finds little support now. But we are still asked to believe that 2 Timothy was forged in the reign of Trajan (98-117) and the other two Epistles in the reign of Hadrian (117-138). Is it credible that a forgery perpetrated A.D. 120-135 would in less than fifty years be accepted in Asia Minor, Rome, Gaul, Egypt, and North Africa, as a genuine letter of the Apostle St. Paul? And yet this is what must have happened in the case of 1 Timothy, if the hypothesis just stated is correct. Nor is this all: Marcion, as we know, rejected all three of the Pastoral Epistles; and Tertullian cannot think why Marcion should do so. But, when Marcion was framing his canon, about the reign of Hadrian, 2 Timothy, according to these dates, would be scarcely twenty years old, and 1 Timothy would be brand-new. If this had been so, would Marceon, with his intimate knowledge of St. Paul's writings, have been in ignorance of the fact; and if he had known it, would he have failed to denounce the forgery? Or again, if we assume that he merely treated this group of Epistles with silent contempt, would not his rejection of them, which was well known, have directed attention to them, and caused their recent origin to be quickly discovered? From all which it is manifest that the theory of forgery by no means frees us from grave obstacles.
It will be observed that the external evidence is large in amount and overwhelmingly in favor of the Apostolic authorship. The objections are based on internal evidence. But some of the leading opponents admit that even the internal evidence is in favor of certain portions of the Epistles. Let us, then, with Renan, Pfleiderer, and others admit that parts of 2 Timothy were written by St. Paul; then there is strong presumption that the whole letter is by him; for even the suspected portions have the external evidence in their favor, together with the support lent to them by those parts for which the internal evidence is also satisfactory. Add to which the improbability that any one would store up genuine letters of St. Paul for fifty years and then use parts of them to give substance to a fabrication. Or let us with Reuss contend that in 2 Timothy "the whole Epistle is so completely the natural expression of the actual situation of the author, and contains, unsought and for the most part in the form of mere allusions, such a mass of minute and unessential particulars, that, even did the name of the writer not chance to be mentioned at the beginning, it would be easy to discover it." Then there is strong presumption that the other two letters are genuine also; for they have the external evidence on their side, together with the good character reflected upon them by their brother Epistle. This result is of course greatly strengthened, if, quite independently of 2 Timothy, the claims of Titus to be Apostolic are considered to be adequate. With two of the three letters admitted to be genuine, the case for the remaining letter becomes a strong one. It has the powerful external evidence on its side, backed up by the support lent to it by its two more manifestly authentic companions. Thus far, therefore, we may agree with Baur: "The three Epistles are so much alike that none of them can be separated from the others; and from this circumstance the identity of their authorship may be confidently inferred." But when he asserts that whichever of this family of letters be examined will appear as the betrayer of his brethren, he just reverses the truth. Each letter, upon examination, lends support to the other two; "and a threefold cord is not easily broken." The strongest member of the family Isaiah 2 Timothy: the external evidence in its favor is ample, and no Epistle in the New Testament is more characteristic of St. Paul. It would be scarcely less reasonable to dispute 2 Corinthians. And if 2 Timothy be admitted, there is no tenable ground for excluding the other two.
II. But not only do the three Epistles stand or fall together, they stand or fall with the hypothesis of the release and second imprisonment of the Apostle. The contention that no place can be found for the Pastoral Epistles in the narrative of the Acts is valid; but it is no objection to the authenticity of the Epistles. The conclusion of the Acts implies that the end of St. Paul's life is not reached in the narrative. "He abode two whole years in his own hired dwelling," implies that after that time a change took place. If that change was his death, how unnatural not to mention it! The conclusion is closely parallel to that of St. Luke's Gospel; and we might almost as reasonably contend that "they were continually in the temple," proves that they were never "clothed with power from on high," because they were told to "tarry in the city" until they were so clothed, as contend that "abode two whole years in his own hired dwelling," proves that at the end of the two years came the end of St. Paul's life. Let us grant that the conclusion of the Acts is unexpectedly abrupt, and that this abruptness constitutes a difficulty. Then we have our choice of two alternatives. Either the two years of imprisonment were followed by a period of renewed labor, or they were cut short by the Apostle's martyrdom. Is it not more easy to believe that the writer did not consider that this new period of work, which would have filled many Chapter s, fell within the scope of his narrative, than that he omitted so obvious a conclusion as St. Paul's death, for which a single verse would have sufficed? But let us admit that to assert that St. Paul was released at the end of two years is to maintain a mere hypothesis: yet to assert that he was not released is equally to maintain a mere hypothesis. If we exclude the Pastoral Epistles, Scripture gives no means of deciding the question, and whichever alternative we adopt we are making a conjecture. But which hypothesis has most evidence on its side? Certainly the hypothesis of the release.
(1) The Pastoral Epistles, even if not by St. Paul, are by some one who believed that the Apostle did a good deal after the close of the Acts.
(2) The famous passage in Clement of Rome (Corinthians 5.) tells that St. Paul "won the noble renown which was the reward of his faith, having taught righteousness unto the whole world, and having reached the furthest bound of the West (το τερμα της δυσεως)." This probably means Spain; and if St. Paul ever went to Spain as he hoped to do, Romans 15:24; Romans 15:28 it was after the imprisonment narrated in the Acts. Clement gives us the tradition in Rome (cir. A.D. 95).
(3) The Muratorian fragment (cir. A.D. 170) mentions the "departure of Paul from the city to Spain."
(4) Eusebius ("H.E.," II 22:2) says that at the end of the two years of imprisonment, according to tradition, the Apostle went forth again upon the ministry of preaching, and on a second visit to the city ended his career by martyrdom under Nero; and that during this imprisonment he composed the Second Epistle to Timothy. All this does not amount to proof; but it raises the hypothesis of the release to a high degree of probability. Nothing of this kind can be urged in favor of the counter-hypothesis.
To urge the improbability that the labors of these last few years of St. Paul's life would be left unrecorded is no argument.
(1) They are partly recorded in the Pastoral Epistles.
(2) The entire labors of most of the Twelve are left unrecorded. Even of St. Paul's life, whole years are left a blank. How fragmentary the narrative in the Acts must be is proved by the autobiography in 2 Corinthians.
That we have very scanty notice of St. Paul's doings between the two imprisonments does not render the existence of such an interval at all doubtful.
The result of this preliminary discussion seems to show that the objections which have been urged against these Epistles are not such as to compel us to doubt that in studying them we are studying the last writings of the Apostle of the Gentiles. If any doubts still survive, a closer examination of the details will, it is hoped, tend to remove rather than to strengthen them. When we have completed our survey, we may be able to add our testimony to those who through many centuries have found these writings a source of Divine guidance, warning, and encouragement, especially in ministerial work. The experience of countless numbers of pastors attests the wisdom of the Church, or in other words the good Providence of God, in causing these Epistles to be included among the sacred Scriptures.
"It is an established fact," as Bernhard Weiss rightly points out ("Introduction to the New Testament," vol. 1. p. 410), "that the essential, fundamental features of the Pauline doctrine of salvation are even in their specific expression reproduced in our Epistles with a clearness such as we do not find in any Pauline disciple, excepting perhaps Luke or the Roman Clement." Whoever composed them had at his command, not only St. Paul's forms of doctrine and expression, but large funds of Apostolic zeal and discretion, such as have proved capable of warming the hearts and guiding the judgments of a long line of successors. Those who are conscious of these effects upon themselves will probably find it easier to believe that they have derived these benefits from the great Apostle himself, rather than from one who, with however good intentions, assumed his name and disguised himself in his mantle. Henceforward, until we find serious reason for doubt, it will be assumed that in these Epistles we have the farewell counsels of none other than St. Paul.
IN the relation of St. Paul to Timothy we have one of those beautiful friendships between an older and a younger man which are commonly so helpful to both. It is in such cases, rather than where the friends are equals in age, that each can be the real complement of the other. Each by his abundance can supply the other's wants, whereas men of equal age would have common wants and common supplies. In this respect the friendship between St. Paul and Timothy reminds us of that between St. Peter and St. John. In each ease the friend who took the lead was much older than the other; and (what is less in harmony with ordinary experience) in each ease it was the older friend who had the impulse and the enthusiasm, the younger who had the reflectiveness and the reserve. These latter qualities are perhaps less marked in St. Timothy than in St. John, but nevertheless they are there, and they are among the leading traits of his character. St. Paul leans on him while he guides him, and relies upon his thoughtfulness and circumspection in cases requiring firmness, delicacy, and tact. Of the affection with which he regarded Timothy we have evidence in the whole tone of the two letters to him. In the sphere of faith Timothy is his "own true child" (not merely adopted, still less supposititions), and his "beloved child." St. Paul tells the Corinthians that as the best means of making them imitators of himself he has sent unto them "Timothy, who is my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, who shall put you in remembrance of my ways which be in Christ, even as I teach everywhere in every Church." 1 Corinthians 4:17 And a few years later he tells the Philippians that he hopes to send Timothy shortly unto them, that he may know how they fare. For he has no one like him, who will have a genuine anxiety about their welfare. The rest care only for their own interests. "But the proof of him ye know, that, as a child a father, so he slaved with me for the Gospel." 2 Timothy 2:22 Of all whom he ever converted to the faith Timothy seems to have been to St. Paul the disciple who was most beloved and most trusted. Following the example of the fourth Evangelist, Timothy might have called himself "The disciple whom Paul loved." He shared his spiritual father's outward labors and most intimate thoughts. He was with him when the Apostle could not or would not have the companionship of others. He was sent on the most delicate and confidential missions. He had charge of the most important congregations. When the Apostle was in his last and almost lonely imprisonment it was Timothy whom he summoned to console him and receive his last injunctions.
There is another point in which the beloved disciple of the Pastoral Epistles resembles the beloved disciple of the Fourth Gospel. We are apt to think of both of them as always young. Christian art nearly invariably represents St. John as a man of youthful and almost feminine appearance. And, although in Timothy's case, painters and sculptors have not done much to influence our imagination, yet the picture which we form for ourselves of him is very similar to that which we commonly receive of St. John. With strange logic this has actually been made an argument against the authenticity of the Pastoral Epistles. Myth, we are told, has given to this Christian Achilles the attributes of eternal youth. Timothy was a lad of about fifteen when St. Paul converted him at Lystra, in or near A.D. 45; and he was probably not yet thirty-five when St. Paul wrote the first Epistle to him. Even if he had been much older there would be nothing surprising in the tone of St. Paul's letters to him. It is one of the commonest experiences to find elderly parents speaking of their middle-aged children as if they were still boys and girls. This trait, as being so entirely natural, ought to count as a touch beyond the reach of a forger rather than as a circumstance that ought to rouse our suspicions, in the letters of "Paul the aged" to a friend who was thirty years younger than himself.
Once more, the notices of Timothy which have come down to us, like those which we have respecting the beloved disciple are very fragmentary; but they form a beautiful and consistent sketch of one whose full portrait we long to possess.
Timothy was a native, possibly of Derbe, but more probably of the neighboring town of Lystra, where he was piously brought up in a knowledge of the Jewish Scriptures by his grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice. It was probably during St. Paul's first visit to Lystra, on his first missionary journey, that he became the boy's spiritual father, by converting him to the Christian faith. It was at Lystra that the Apostle was stoned by the mob and dragged outside the city as dead: and there is no improbability in the suggestion that, when he recovered consciousness and re-entered the town, it was in the home of Timothy that he found shelter. In any case Lystra was to the Apostle a place of strangely mixed associations; the brutality of the pagan multitude side by side with the tender friendship of the young Timothy. When St. Paul on his next missionary journey again visited Lystra he found Timothy already enjoying a good report among the Christians of that place and of Iconium for his zeal and devotion during the six or seven years which had elapsed since his first visit. Perhaps he had been engaged in missionary work in both places. The voices of the prophets had singled him out as one worthy of bearing office in the Church; and the Apostle, still grieving over the departure of Barnabas with John Mark, recognized in him one who with Silas could fill the double vacancy. The conduct of the Apostle of the Gentiles on this occasion has sometimes excited surprise. Previously to the ordination, Paul, the great proclaimer of the abrogation of the Law by the Gospel, circumcised the young evangelist. The inconsistency is more apparent than real. It was an instance of his becoming "all things to all men" for the salvation of souls, and of his sacrificing his own convictions in matters that were not essential, rather than cause others to offend. Timothy's father had been a Gentile, and the son, though brought up in his mother's faith, had never been circumcised. To St. Paul circumcision was a worthless rite. The question was, whether it was a harmless one. This depended upon circumstances. If, as among the Galatians, it caused people to rely upon the Law and neglect the Gospel, it was a superstitious obstacle with which no compromise could be made. But if it was a passport whereby preachers, who would otherwise be excluded, might gain access to Jewish congregations, then it was not only a harmless, but a useful ceremony. In the synagogue Timothy as an uncircumcised Jew would have been an intolerable abomination, and would never have obtained a hearing. To free him from this crippling disadvantage, St. Paul subjected him to a rite which he himself knew to be obsolete. Then followed the ordination, performed with great solemnity by the laying on of the hands of all the elders of the congregation: and the newly ordained Evangelist forthwith set out to accompany Paul and Silas in their labors for the Gospel. Wherever they went they distributed copies of the decrees of the Apostolic Council at Jerusalem, which declared circumcision to be unnecessary for Gentiles. Their true position with regard to circumcision was thus made abundantly evident. For the sake of others they had abstained from availing themselves of the very liberty which they proclaimed.
In the Troad they met Luke the beloved physician (as indicated by the sudden use of the first person plural in the Acts), and took him on with them to Philippi. Here probably, as certainly afterwards at Beroea, Timothy was left behind by Paul and Silas to consolidate their work. He rejoined the Apostle at Athens, but was thence sent back on a mission to Thessalonica, and on his return found St. Paul at Corinth. The two Epistles written from Corinth to the Thessalonians are in the joint names of Paul and Timothy. At Corinth, as at Lystra, Iconium, and Philippi, Timothy became prominent for his zeal as an evangelist; and then for about five years we lose sight of him. We may think of him as generally at the side of St. Paul, and as always working with him; but of the details of the work we are ignorant. About A.D. 57 he was sent by St. Paul on a delicate mission to Corinth. This was before 1 Corinthians was written; for in that letter St. Paul states that he has sent Timothy to Corinth, but writes as if he expected that the letter would reach Corinth before him. He charges the Corinthians not to aggravate the young evangelist's natural timidity, and not to let his youth prejudice them against him. When St. Paul wrote 2 Corinthians from Macedonia later in the year, Timothy was again with him, for his name is coupled with Paul's: and he is still with him when the Apostle wrote to the Romans from Corinth, for he joins in sending salutations to the Roman Christians. We find him still at St. Paul's side on his way back to Jerusalem through Philippi, the Troad, Tyre, and Caesarea. And here we once more lose trace of him for some years. We do not know what he was doing during St. Paul's two years' imprisonment at Caesarea; but he joined him during the first imprisonment at Rome, for the Epistles to the Philippians, the Colossians, and Philemon are written in the names of Paul and Timothy. From the passage already quoted from Philippians we may conjecture that Timothy went to Philippi and returned again before the Apostle was released. At the close of the Epistle to the Hebrews we read, "Know ye that our brother Timothy hath been set at liberty." It is possible that the imprisonment to which this notice refers was contemporaneous with the first imprisonment of St. Paul, and that it is again referred to in 1 Timothy 1 Timothy 6:12 as "the good confession" which he "confessed in the sight of many witnesses."
The few additional facts respecting Timothy are given us in the two letters to him. Some time after St. Paul's release the two were together in Ephesus; and when the Apostle went on into Macedonia he left his companion behind him to warn and exhort certain holders of erroneous doctrine to desist from teaching it. There were tears, on the younger friend's side at any rate, to which St. Paul alludes at the opening of the Second Epistle; and they were natural enough. The task imposed upon Timothy was no easy one; and after the dangers and sufferings to which the Apostle had been exposed, and which his increasing infirmities continually augmented, it was only too possible that the friends would never meet again. So far as we know, these gloomy apprehensions may have been realized. In his first letter, written from Macedonia, St. Paul expresses a hope of returning very soon to Timothy; but, like some other hopes expressed in St. Paul's Epistles, it was perhaps never fulfilled. The second letter, written from Rome, contains no allusion to any intermediate meeting. In this second letter he twice implores Timothy to do all he can to come to him without delay, for he is left almost alone in his imprisonment. But whether Timothy was able to comply with this wish we have no means of knowing. We like to think of the beloved disciple as comforting the last hours of his master; but, although the conjecture may be a right one, we must remember that it is conjecture and no more. With the Second Epistle to him ends all that we really know of Timothy. Tradition and ingenious guesswork add a little more which can be neither proved nor disproved. More than two hundred years after his death, Eusebius tells us that he is related to have held the office of overseer of the diocese of Ephesus; and five centuries later Nicephorus tells us, that he was beaten to death by the Ephesian mob for protesting against the licentiousness of their worship of Artemis. It has been conjectured that Timothy may be the "Angel" of the Church of Ephesus, who is partly praised and partly blamed in the Apocalypse, and parallels have been drawn between the words of blame in Revelation 2:4-5, and the uneasiness which seems to underlie one or two passages in the Second Epistle to Timothy. But the resemblances are too slight to be relied upon. All we can say is, that even if the later date be taken for the Apocalypse, Timothy may have been overseer of the Church of Ephesus at the time when the book was written.
But of all the scattered memorials that have come down to us respecting this beautiful friendship between the great Apostle and his chief disciple, the two letters of the older friend to the younger are by far the chief. And there is so much in them that fits with exquisite nicety into "the known conditions of the case that it is hard" to imagine how any forger of the second century could so have thrown himself into the situation. Where else in that age have we evidence of any such literary and historical skill? The tenderness and affection, the anxiety and sadness, the tact and discretion, the strength and large-mindedness of St. Paul are all there; and his relation to his younger but much-trusted disciple is quite naturally sustained throughout. Against this it is not much to urge that there are some forty words and phrases in these Epistles which do not occur in the other Epistles of St. Paul. The explanation of that fact is easy. Partly they are words which in his other Epistles he had no need to use; partly they are words which the circumstances of these later letters suggested to him, and which those of the earlier letters did not. The vocabulary of every man of active mind who reads and mixes with other men, especially if he travels much, is perpetually changing. He comes across new metaphors, new figures of speech, remembers them, and uses them. The reading of such a work as Darwin's "Origin of Species" gives a man command of a new sphere of thought and expression. The conversation of such a man as "Luke the beloved physician" would have a similar effect on St. Paul. We shall never know the minds or the circumstances which suggested to him the language which has now become our own possession; and it is unreasonable to suppose that the process of assimilation came to a dead stop in the Apostle's mind when he finished the Epistles of the first imprisonment. The re-suit, therefore, of this brief survey of the life of Timothy is to confirm rather than to shake our belief that the letters which are addressed to him were really written by his friend St. Paul.
The friendship between these two men of different gifts and very different ages is full of interest. It is difficult to estimate which of the two friends gained most from the affection and devotion of the other. No doubt Timothy's debt to St. Paul was immense: and which of us would not think himself amply paid for any amount of service, and sacrifice, in having the privilege of being the chosen friend of such a man as St. Paul? But, on the other hand, few men could have supplied the Apostle's peculiar needs as Timothy did. That intense craving for sympathy which breathes so strongly throughout the writings of St. Paul, found its chief human satisfaction in Timothy. To be alone in a crowd is a trial to most men; and few men have felt the oppressiveness of it more keenly than St. Paul. To have some one, therefore, who loved and reverenced him, who knew his "ways" and could impress them on others, who cared for those for whom Paul cared and was ever willing to minister to them as his friend's missioner and delegate all this and much more was inexpressibly comforting to St. Paul. It gave him strength in his weaknesses, hope in his many disappointments, and solid help in his daily burden of "anxiety for all the Churches." Specially consoling was the clinging affection of his young friend at those times when the Apostle was suffering from the coldness and neglect of others. At the time of his first imprisonment the respect or curiosity of the Roman Christians had moved many of them to come out thirty miles to meet him on his journey from Caesarea to Rome; yet as soon as he was safely lodged in the house of his jailor they almost ceased to minister to him. But the faithful disciple seems to have been ever at his side. And when the Romans treated Paul with similar indifference during his second imprisonment, it was this same disciple that he earnestly besought to come with all speed to comfort him. It was not merely that he loved and trusted Timothy as one upon whose devotion and discretion he could always rely: but Timothy was the one among his many disciples who had sacrificed everything for St. Paul and his Master. He had left a loving mother and a pleasant home in order to share with the Apostle a task which involved ceaseless labor, untold anxiety, not a little shame and obloquy, and at times even danger to life and limb. When he might have continued to live on as the favorite of his family, enjoying the respect of the presbyters and prophets of Lycaonia, he chose to wander abroad with the man to whom, humanly speaking, he owed his salvation, "in journeyings often," in perils of every kind from the powers of nature, and from the violence or treachery of man, and in all those countless afflictions and necessities of which St. Paul gives us such a touching summary in the second letter to the Corinthians. All this St. Paul knew, and he knew the value of it to himself and the Church; and hence the warm affection with which the Apostle always speaks of him and to him.
But what did not Timothy owe to his friend, his father in the faith, old enough to be his father in the flesh? Not merely his conversion and his building up in Christian doctrine, though that was much, and the chief item of his debt. But St. Paul had tenderly watched over him among the difficulties to which a person of his temperament would be specially exposed. Timothy was young, enthusiastic, sensitive, and at times showed signs of timidity. If his enthusiasm were not met with a generous sympathy, there was danger lest the sensitive nature would shrivel up on contact with an unfeeling world, and the enthusiasm driven in upon itself would be soured into a resentful cynicism. St. Paul not only himself gave to his young disciple the sympathy that he needed; he encouraged others also to do the same. "Now if Timothy come," he writes to the Corinthians, "see that he be with you without fear; for he worketh the work of the Lord, as I also do: let no man therefore despise him." He warned these factious and fastidious Greeks against chilling the generous impulses of a youthful evangelist by their sarcastic criticisms. Timothy might be wanting in the brilliant gifts which Corinthians adored: in knowledge of the world, in address, in oratory. But he was real. He was working God's work with a single heart and with genuine fervor. It would be a cruel thing to mar that simplicity or quench that fervor, and thus turn a genuine enthusiast into a cold-blooded man of the world. On their treatment of him might depend whether he raised them to his own zeal for Christ, or they dragged him down to the level of their own paralyzing superciliousness.
The dangers from which St. Paul thus generously endeavored to shield Timothy, are those "which beset many an ardent spirit, especially in England at the present day." Everywhere there is a cynical disbelief in human nature and a cold contempt for all noble impulses, which throw a damp and chilling atmosphere over society. At school and at the university, in family life and in domestic service, young men and young women are encouraged to believe that there is no such thing as unselfishness or holiness, and that enthusiasm is always either silly or hypocritical. By sarcastic jests and contemptuous smiles they are taught the fatal lesson of speaking slightingly, and at last of thinking slightingly, of their own best feelings. To be dutiful and affectionate is supposed to be childish, while reverence and trust are regarded as mere ignorance of the world. The mischief is a grave one, for it poisons life at its very springs. Every young man and woman at times has aspirations which at first are only romantic and sentimental, and as such are neither right nor wrong. But they are nature's material for higher and better things. They are capable of being developed into a zeal for God and for man such as will ennoble the characters of all who come under its influence. The sentimentalist may become an enthusiast, and the enthusiast a hero or a saint. Woe to him who gives to such precious material a wrong turn, and by offering cynicism instead of sympathy turns all its freshness sour. The loss does not end with the blight of an exuberant and earnest character. There are huge masses of evil in the world, which seem to defy the good influences that from time to time are brought to bear upon them. Humanly speaking, there seems to be only one hope of overcoming these strongholds of Satan, -and that is by the combined efforts of many enthusiasts. "This is the victory which overcometh the world, even our faith." It will be a grievous prospect for mankind, if faith in God, in ourselves, and in our fellowmen becomes so unfashionable as to be impossible. And this is the faith which makes enthusiasts. If we have not this faith ourselves, we can at least respect it in others. If we cannot play the part of Timothy, and go forth with glowing hearts to whatever difficult and distasteful work may be placed before us, we can at least avoid chilling and disheartening others; and sometimes at least we may so far follow in the footsteps of St. Paul as to protect from the world's cynicism those who, with hearts more warm perhaps than wise, are laboring manfully to leave the world purer and happier than they found it.
THE DOCTRINE CONDEMNED IN THE PASTORAL EPISTLES A JEWISH FORM OF GNOSTICISM-THE GNOSTIC'S PROBLEM. - 1 Timothy 1:2-3
THIS Epistle falls into two main divisions, of which the first continues down to the 13th verse of 1 Timothy 3:1-16. It treats of three different subjects: Christian doctrine; Christian worship; and the Christian ministry. The first of these three subjects is introduced in the words of the text, which in the original form an incomplete sentence. The last four words, "so do I now," are not expressed in the Greek. But something must be supplied to complete the sense; and it is more natural to understand with the Revisers "So do I now exhort thee," than with the A.V "So do thou tarry at Ephesus." But the question is not of great moment and cannot be decided with absolute certainty. It is of more importance to enquire what was the nature of the different doctrine which Timothy was to endeavor to counteract. And on this point we are not left in serious doubt. There are various expressions used respecting it in these two letters to Timothy which seem to point to two factors in the heterodoxy about which St. Paul is anxious. It is clear that the error is Jewish in origin; and it is almost equally clear that it is Gnostic as well. The evidence of the letter to Titus tends materially to confirm these conclusions.
(1) The heresy is Jewish in character. Its promoters "desire to be teachers of the law" (1 Timothy 1:7). Some of them are "they of the circumcision". Titus 1:10 It consists in "Jewish fables". Titus 1:14 The questions which it raises are "fightings about the Law". Titus 3:9
(2) Its Gnostic character is also indicated. We are told both in the text and in the Epistle to Titus Titus 1:14; Titus 3:9 that it deals in "fables and genealogies." It is "empty talking" (1 Timothy 1:6), "disputes of words," 1 Timothy 6:4 and "profane babblings". 1 Timothy 6:20 It teaches an unscriptural and unnatural ascetism. 1 Timothy 4:3; 1 Timothy 4:8 It is "Gnosis falsely so called". 1 Timothy 6:20
A heresy containing these two elements, Judaism and Gnosticism, meets us both before and after the period covered by the Pastoral Epistles: before in the Epistle to the Colossians; afterwards in the Epistle of Ignatius. The evidence gathered from these three sources is entirely in harmony with what we learn elsewhere-that the earliest forms of Christian Gnosticism were Jewish in character. It will be observed that this is indirect confirmation of the genuineness of the Pastoral Epistles. The Gnosticism condemned in them is Jewish; and any form of Gnosticism that was in existence in St. Paul's time would almost certainly be Jewish.
Professor Godet has pointed out how entirely the relation of Judaism to Christianity which is implied in these Epistles, fits in with their being the last group of Epistles written by St. Paul. At first, Judaism was entirely outside the Church, opposing and blaspheming. Then it entered the Church and tried to make the Church Jewish, by foisting the Mosaic Law upon it. Lastly, it becomes a fantastic heresy inside the Church, and sinks into profane frivolity. "Pretended revelations are given as to the names and genealogies of angels; absurd ascetic rules are laid down as counsels of perfection, while daring immorality defaces the actual life." This is the phase which is confronted in the Pastoral Epistles: and St. Paul meets it with a simple appeal to faith and morality.
It is quite possible that the "fables," or "myths," and "genealogies" ought to be transferred from the Gnostic to the Jewish side of the account. And thus Chrysostom interprets the passage. "By fables he does not mean the Law; far from it; but inventions and forgeries, and counterfeit doctrines. For, it seems, the Jews wasted their whole discourse on these unprofitable points. They numbered up their fathers and grandfathers, that they might have the reputation of historical knowledge and research." The "fables" then, may be understood to be those numerous legends which the Jews added to the Old Testament, specimens of which abound in the Talmud. But similar myths abound in Gnostic systems, and therefore "fables" may represent both elements of the heterodox teaching. So also with the "endless genealogies." These cannot well refer to the genealogies in Genesis, for they are not endless, each of them being arranged in tens. But it is quite possible that Jewish speculations about the genealogies of angels may be meant. Such things, being purely imaginary, would be endless. Or the Gnostic doctrine of emanations, in its earlier and cruder forms, may be intended. By genealogies in this sense early thinkers, especially in the East, tried to bridge the chasm between the Infinite and the Finite, between God and creation. In various systems it is assumed that matter is inherently evil. The material universe has been from the beginning not "very good" but very bad. How then can it be believed that the Supreme Being, infinite in goodness, would create such a thing? This is incredible: the world must be the creature of some inferior and perhaps evil being. But when this was conceded, the distance between this inferior power and the supreme God still remained to be bridged. This, it was supposed, might be done by an indefinite number of generations, each lower in dignity than the preceding one, until at last a being capable of creating the universe was found. From the Supreme God emanated an inferior deity, and from this lower power a third still more inferior; and so on, until the Creator of the world was reached. These ideas are found in the Jewish philosopher Philo; and it is to these that St. Paul probably alludes in the "endless genealogies which minister questionings rather than a dispensation of God." The idea that matter is evil dominates the whole philosophy of Philo. He endeavored to reconcile this with the Old Testament, by supposing that matter is eternal; and that it was out of pre-existing material that God, acting through His creative powers, made the world which He pronounced to be "very good." These powers are sometimes regarded as the angels, sometimes as existences scarcely personal. But they have no existence apart from their source, any more than a ray apart from the sun. They are now the instruments of God's Providence, as formerly of His creative power.
St. Paul condemns such speculations on four grounds.
(1) They are fables, myths, mere imaginings of the human intellect in its attempt to account for the origin of the world and the origin of evil.
(2) They are endless and interminable. From the nature of things there is no limit to mere guesswork of this kind. Every new speculator may invent a fresh genealogy of emanations in his theory of creation, and may make it any length that he pleases. If hypotheses need never be verified, -need not even be capable of verification, -one may go on constructing them ad infinitum.
(3) As a natural consequence of this (αιτινες) they minister questionings and nothing better. It is all barren speculation and fruitless controversy. Where any one may assert without proof, any one else may contradict without proof; and nothing comes of this see-saw of affirmation and negation.
(4) Lastly, these vain imaginings are a different doctrine. They are not only empty, but untrue, and are a hindrance to the truth. They occupy the ground which ought to be filled with the dispensation of God which is in faith. Human minds are limited in their capacity, and, even if these empty hypotheses were innocent, minds that were filled with them would have little room left for the truth. But they are not innocent: and those who are attracted by them become disaffected towards the truth. It is impossible to love both, for the two are opposed to one another. These fables are baseless; they have no foundation either in revelation or in human life. Moreover they are vague, shifting, and incoherent. They ramble on without end. But the Gospel is based on a Divine Revelation, tested by human experience. It is an economy, a system, an organic whole, a dispensation of means to ends. Its sphere is not unbridled imagination or audacious curiosity, but faith.
The history of the next hundred and fifty years amply justifies the anxiety and severity of St. Paul. The germs of Gnostic error, which were in the air when Christianity was first preached, fructified with amazing rapidity. It would be hard to find a parallel in the history of philosophy to the speed with which Gnostic views spread in and around Christendom between A.D. 70 and 220. Eusebius tells us that, as soon as the Apostles and those who had listened "with their own ears to their inspired wisdom had passed away, then the conspiracy of godless error took its rise through the deceit of false teachers, who (now that none of the Apostles was any longer left) henceforth endeavored with brazen face to preach their knowledge falsely so called in opposition to the preaching of the truth." Throughout the Christian world, and especially in intellectual centers such as Ephesus, Alexandria, and Rome, there was perhaps not a single educated congregation which did not contain persons who were infected with some form of Gnosticism. Jerome's famous hyperbole respecting Arianism might be transferred to this earlier form of error, perhaps the most perilous that the Church has ever known: "The whole world groaned and was amazed to find itself Gnostic."
However severely we may condemn these speculations, we cannot but sympathize with the perplexities which produced them. The origin of the universe, and still more the origin of evil, still remain unsolved problems. No one in this life is ever likely to reach a complete solution of either. What is the origin of the material universe? To assume that it is not a creature, but that matter is eternal, is to make two first principles, one spiritual and one material; and this is perilously near making two Gods. But the belief that God made the world is by no means free from difficulty. What was His motive in making the world? Was His perfection increased by it? Then God was once not fully perfect. Was His perfection diminished by the act of creation? Then God is now not fully perfect; and how can we suppose that He would voluntarily surrender anything of His absolute perfection? Was God neither the better nor the worse for the creation of the universe? Then the original question returns with its full force: What induced Him to create it? We cannot suppose that creation was an act of caprice. No complete answer to this enigma is possible for us. One thing we know-that God is light and that God is love. And we may be sure that in exercising His creative power He was manifesting His perfect wisdom and His exhaustless affection.
But will the knowledge that God is light and that God is love help us to even a partial solution of that problem which has wrung the souls of countless saints and thinkers with anguish-the problem of the origin of evil? How could a God who is perfectly wise and perfectly good, make it possible for evil to arise, and allow it to continue after it had arisen? Once more the suggestion that there are two First Principles presents itself, but in a more terrible form. Before, it was the thought that there are two co-eternal Existences, God and Matter. Now, it is the suggestion that there are two co-eternal, and perhaps co-equal Powers, Good and Evil. This hypothesis, impossible for a Christian and rejected by John Stuart Mill, creates more difficulties than it solves. But, if this is the wrong answer, what is the right one? Cardinal Newman, in one of the most striking passages even in his Works, has told us how the problem presents itself to him.
Starting then with the being of God (which, as I have said, is as certain to me as the certainty of my own existence, though when I try to put the grounds of that certainty into logical shape, I find difficulty in doing so in mood and figure to my satisfaction), I look out of myself into the world of men, and there I see a sight which fills me with unspeakable distress. The world seems simply to give the lie to that great truth, of which my whole being is so full; and the effect upon me is, in consequence, as a matter of necessity, as confusing as if it denied that I am in existence myself. If I looked into a mirror, and did not see my face, I should have the sort of feeling which actually comes upon me, when I look into this living busy world and see no reflection of its Creator. This is, to me, one of the great difficulties of this absolute primary truth, to which I referred just now. Were it not for this voice, speaking so clearly in my conscience and my heart, I should be an atheist, or a pantheist, or a polytheist, when I looked into the world. I am speaking for myself only; and I am far from denying the real force of the arguments in proof of a God, drawn from the general facts of human society, but these do not warn me or enlighten me; they do not take away the winter of my desolation, or make the buds unfold and the leaves grow within me, and my moral being rejoice. The sight of the world is nothing else than the prophet's scroll full of ‘lamentations, and mourning, and woe' What shall be said to this heart piercing, reason-bewildering fact? I can only answer, that either there is no Creator, or this living society of men is in a true sense discarded from His presence. Did I see a boy of good make and mind, with the tokens on him of a refined nature, cast upon the world without provision, unable to say whence he came, his birthplace or his family connections, I should conclude that there was some mystery connected with his history, and that he was one, of whom, from one cause or other, his parents were ashamed. Thus only should I be able to account for the contrast between the promise and condition of his being. And so I argue about the world; - if there be a God, since there is a God, the human race is implicated in some terrible aboriginal calamity. It is out of joint with the purposes of its Creator. This is a fact, a fact as true as the fact of its existence; and thus the doctrine of what is theologically called original sin becomes to me almost as certain as that the world exists, and as the existence of God.
But this only carries us a short way towards a solution. Why did God allow the "aboriginal calamity" of sin to be possible? This was the Gnostic's difficulty, and it is our difficulty still. Can we say more than this by way of an answer? God willed that angels and men should honor Him with a voluntary, and not a mechanical service. If they obeyed Him, it should be of their own free will, and not of necessity. It should be possible to them to refuse service and obedience. In short, God willed to be reverenced and worshipped, and not merely served and obeyed. A machine can render service; and a person under the influence of mesmerism may be forced to obey. But do we not all feel that the voluntary service of a conscious and willing agent, who prefers to render rather than to withhold his service, is a nobler thing, both for him who gives, and him who receives it? Compulsory labor is apt to turn the servant into a slave and the master into a tyrant. We see, therefore, a reason why the Creator in creating conscious beings made them also moral; made them capable of obeying Him of their own free will, and therefore also capable of disobeying Him. In other words, He made sin, with all its consequences, possible. Then it became merely a question of historical fact whether any angelic or human being would ever abuse his freedom by choosing to disobey. That "aboriginal calamity," we know, has taken place; and all the moral and physical evil which now exists in the world is the natural consequence of it.
This is, perhaps, the best solution that the human mind is likely to discover, respecting this primeval and terrible mystery. But it is only a partial solution; and the knowledge that we have still not attained to a complete answer to the question which perplexed the early Gnostics, ought to banish from our minds anything like arrogance or contempt, when we condemn their answer as unchristian and inadequate. "The end of the charge" which has been given to us is not the condemnation of others, but "love out of a pure heart and a good conscience and faith unfeigned."
THE MORAL TEACHING OF THE GNOSTICS-ITS MODERN COUNTERPART. - 1 Timothy 1:8-11
THE speculations of the Gnostics in their attempts to explain the origin of the universe and the origin of evil, were wild and unprofitable enough; and in some respects involved a fundamental contradiction of the plain statements of Scripture. But it was not so much their metaphysical as their moral teaching which seemed so perilous to St. Paul. Their "endless genealogies" might have been left to fall with their own dead weight, so dull and uninteresting were they. Specimens of them still survive, in what is known to us of the systems of Basilides and Valentinus; and which of us, after having laboriously worked through them, ever wished to read them a second time? But it is impossible to keep one's philosophy in one compartment in one's mind, and one's religion and morality quite separate from it in another. However unpractical metaphysical speculations may appear, it is beyond question that the views which we hold respecting such things may have momentous influence upon our life. It was so with the early Gnostics, whom St. Paul urges Timothy to keep in check. Their doctrine respecting the nature of the material world and its relation to God, led to two opposite forms of ethical teaching, each of them radically opposed to Christianity.
This fact fits in very well with the character of the Pastoral Epistles, all of which deal with this early form of error. They insist upon discipline and morality, more than upon doctrine. These last solemn charges of the great Apostle aim rather at making Christian ministers, and their congregations, lead pure and holy lives, than at constructing any system of theology. Erroneous teaching must be resisted; the plain truths of the Gospel must be upheld; but the main thing is holiness of life. By prayer and thanksgiving, by quiet and grave conduct, by modesty and temperance, by self-denial and benevolence, by reverence for the sanctity of home life, Christians will furnish the best antidote to the intellectual and moral poison which the false teachers are propagating. "The sound doctrine" has its fruit in a healthy, moral life, as surely as the "different doctrine" leads to spiritual pride and lawless sensuality.
The belief that Matter and everything material is inherently evil, involved necessarily a contempt for the human body. This body was a vile thing; and it was a dire calamity for the human mind to be joined to such a mass of evil. From this premise various conclusions, some doctrinal and some ethical, were drawn.
On the doctrinal side it was urged that the resurrection of the body was incredible. It was disastrous enough to the soul that it should be burdened with a body in this world. That this degrading alliance would be continued in the world to come was a monstrous belief. Equally incredible was the doctrine of the Incarnation. How could the Divine Word consent to be united to so evil a thing as a material frame? Either the Son of Mary was a mere man, or the body which the Christ assumed was not real. It is with these errors that St. John deals, some twelve or fifteen years later, in his Gospel and Epistles. On the ethical side the tenet that the human body is utterly evil produced two opposite errors, asceticism and antinomian sensuality. And both of these are aimed at in these Epistles. If the enlightenment of the soul is everything, and the body is utterly worthless, then this vile clog to the movement of the soul must be beaten under and crushed, in order that the higher nature may rise to higher things. The body must be denied all indulgence, in order that it may be starved into submission. 1 Timothy 4:3 On the other hand, if enlightenment is everything and the body is worthless, then every kind of experience, no matter how shameless, is of value, in order to enlarge knowledge. Nothing that a man can do can make his body more vile than it is by nature, and the soul of the enlightened is incapable of pollution. Gold still remains gold, however often it is plunged in the mire. The words of the three verses taken as a text, look as if St. Paul was aiming at evil of this kind. These Judaising Gnostics "desired to be teachers of the Law." They wished to enforce the Mosaic Law, or rather their fantastic interpretations of it, upon Christians. They insisted upon its excellence, and would not allow that it has been in many respects superseded. "We know quite well," says the Apostle, "and readily admit, that the Mosaic Law is an excellent thing; provided that those who undertake to expound it make a legitimate use of it. They must remember that, just as law in general is not made for those whose own good principles keep them in the right, so also the restrictions of the Mosaic Law are not meant for Christians who obey the Divine will in the free spirit of the Gospel." Legal restrictions are intended to control those who will not control themselves; in short, for the very men who by their strange doctrines are endeavoring to curtail the liberties of others. What they preach as "the Law" is really a code of their own, "commandments of men who turn away from the truth. They profess that they know God; but by their works they deny Him, being abominable and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate". Titus 1:14; Titus 1:16 In rehearsing the various kinds of sinners for whom law exists, and who are to be found (he hints) among these false teachers, he goes roughly through the Decalogue. The four commandments of the First Table are indicated in general and comprehensive terms; the first five commandments of the Second Table are taken one by one, flagrant violators being specified in each case. Thus the stealing of a human being in order to make him a slave is mentioned as the most outrageous breach of the eighth commandment. The tenth commandment is not distinctly indicated, possibly because the breaches of it are not so easily detected. The overt acts of these men were quite sufficient to convict them of gross immorality, without enquiring as to their secret wishes and desires. In a word, the very persons who in their teaching were endeavoring to burden men with the ceremonial ordinances, which had been done away in Christ, were in their own lives violating the moral laws, to which Christ had given a new sanction. They tried to keep alive, in new and strange forms, what had been provisional and was now obsolete, while they trampled under foot what was eternal and Divine.
"If there be any other thing contrary to the sound doctrine." In these words St. Paul sums up all the forms of transgression not specified in his catalogue. The sound, healthy teaching of the Gospel is opposed to the morbid and corrupt teaching of the Gnostics, who are sickly in their speculations, 1 Timothy 6:4 and whose word is like an eating sore. 2 Timothy 2:17 Of course healthy teaching is also health-giving, and corrupt teaching is corrupting; but it is the primary and not the derived quality that is stated here. It is the healthiness of the doctrine in itself, and its freedom from what is diseased or distorted, that is insisted upon. Its wholesome character is a consequence of this.
This word "sound" or "healthy" as applied to doctrine, is one of a group of expressions which are peculiar to the Pastoral Epistles, and which have been condemned as not belonging to St. Paul's style of language. He never uses "healthy" in his other Epistles; therefore these three Epistles, in which the phrase occurs eight or nine times, are not by him.
This kind of argument has been discussed already, in the first of these expositions. It assumes the manifest untruth, that as life goes on men make little or no change in the stock of words and phrases which they habitually use. With regard to this particular phrase, the source of it has been conjectured with a fair amount of probability. It may come from "the beloved physician," who, at the time when St. Paul wrote the second Epistle to Timothy, was the Apostle's sole companion. It is worth remarking that the word here used for "sound" (with the exception of one passage in the Third Epistle of St. John) occurs nowhere in the New Testament in the literal sense of being in sound bodily health, except in the Gospel of St. Luke. And it occurs nowhere in a figurative sense, except in the Pastoral Epistles. It is obviously a medical metaphor; a metaphor which anyone who had never had anything to do with medicine might easily use, but which is specially likely to be used by a man who had lived much ‘in the society of a physician. Before we call such a phrase un-Pauline we must ask:
(1) Is there any passage in the earlier Epistles of St. Paul where he would certainly have used this word "sound," had he been familiar with it?
(2) Is there any word in the earlier Epistles which would have expressed his meaning here equally well? If either of these questions is answered in the negative, then we are going beyond our knowledge in pronouncing the phrase "sound doctrine" to be un-Pauline.
"Contrary to the sound doctrine." It sums up in a comprehensive phrase the doctrinal and moral teaching of the Gnostics. What they taught was unsound and morbid, and as a consequence poisonous and pestilential. While professing to accept and expound the Gospel, they really disintegrated it and explained it away. They destroyed the very basis of the Gospel message; for they denied the reality of sin. And they equally destroyed the contents of the message; for they denied the reality of the Incarnation. Nor were they less revolutionary on the moral side than on the doctrinal. The foundations of morality are sapped when intellectual enlightenment is accounted as the one thing needful, while conduct is treated as a thing of no value. Principles of morality are turned upside down when it is maintained that any act which adds to one's knowledge is not only allowable, but a duty. It is necessary to remember these fatal characteristics of this early form of error, in order to appreciate the stern language used by St. Paul and St. John respecting it, as also by St. Jude and the author of the Second Epistle of St. Peter.
St. John in his Epistles deals mainly with the doctrinal side of the heresy, -the denial of the reality of sin and the reality of the Incarnation: although the moral results of doctrinal error are also indicated and condemned. In the Apocalypse, as in St. Paul and in the Catholic Epistles, it is mainly the moral side of the false teaching that is denounced, and that in both its opposite phases. The Epistle to the Colossians deals with the ascetic tendencies of early gnosticism. The Apocalypse and the Catholic Epistles deal with its licentious tendencies. The Pastoral Epistles treat of both asceticism and licentiousness, but chiefly of the latter, as is seen from the passage before us and from the first part of chapter 3 in the Second Epistle. As we might expect, St. Paul uses stronger language in the Pastoral Epistles than he does in writing to the Colossians; and in St. John and the Catholic Epistles we find stronger language still. Antinomian licentiousness is a far worse: evil than misguided asceticism, and in the interval between St. Paul and the other writers the profligacy of the Antinomian Gnostics had increased. St. Paul warns the Colossians against delusive "persuasiveness of speech," against "vain deceit," "the rudiments of the world," "the precepts and doctrines of men." He cautions Timothy and Titus respecting "seducing spirits and doctrines of devils profane and old wives' fables," "profane babblings" anti teachings that "will eat as doth a gangrene," "vain talkers and deceivers whose mind and conscience is deceived," and the like. St. John denounces these false teachers as "liars," "seducers," "false prophets," "deceivers," and "antichrists"; and in Jude and the Second Epistle of Peter we have the profligate lives of these false teachers condemned in equally severe terms.
It should be observed that here again everything falls into its proper place if we assume that the Pastoral Epistles were written some years later than the Epistle to the Colossians and some years earlier than those of St. Jude and St. John. The ascetic tendencies of Gnosticism developed first. And though they still continued in teachers like Tatian and Marcion, yet from the close of the first century the licentious conclusions drawn from the premises that the human body is worthless and that all knowledge is Divine, became more and more prevalent; as is seen in the teaching of Carpocrates and Epiphanes, and in the monstrous sect of the Cainites. It was quite natural, therefore, that St. Paul should attack Gnostic asceticism first in writing to the Colossians, and afterwards both it and Gnostic licentiousness in writing to Timothy and Titus. It was equally natural that his language should grow stronger as he saw the second evil developing, and that those who saw this second evil at a more advanced stage should use sterner language still.
The extravagant theories of the Gnostics to account for the origin of the universe and the origin of evil are gone and are past recall. It would be impossible to induce people to believe them, and only a comparatively small number of students ever even read them. But the heresy that knowledge is more important than conduct, that brilliant intellectual gifts render a man superior to the moral law, and that much of the moral law itself is the tyrannical bondage of an obsolete tradition, is as dangerous as ever it was. It is openly preached and frequently acted upon. The great Florentine artist, Benvenuto Cellini, tells us in his autobiography that when Pope Paul III expressed his willingness to forgive him an outrageous murder committed in the streets of Rome, one of the gentlemen at the Papal Court ventured to remonstrate with the Pope for condoning so heinous a crime. "You do not understand the matter as well as I do," replied Paul III: "I would have you to know that men like Benvenuto, unique in their profession, are not bound by the laws." Cellini is a braggart, and it is possible that in this particular he is romancing. But, even if the story is his invention, he merely attributes to the Pope the sentiments which he cherished himself, and upon which (as experience taught him) other people acted. Over and over again his murderous violence was overlooked by those in authority, because they admired and wished to make use of his genius as an artist. "Ability before honesty" was a common creed in the sixteenth century, and it is abundantly prevalent in our own. The most notorious scandals in a man's private life are condoned if only he is recognized as having talent. It is the old Gnostic error in a modern and sometimes agnostic form. It is becoming daily more clear that the one thing needful for the regeneration of society, whether upper, middle, or lower, is the creation of a "sound" public opinion. And so long as this is so, God's ministers and all who have the duty of instructing others will need to lay to heart the warnings which St. Paul gives to his followers Timothy and Titus.
THE PROPHECIES ON TIMOTHY-THE PROPHETS OF THE NEW TESTAMENT, AN EXCEPTIONAL INSTRUMENT OF EDIFICATION.- 1 Timothy 1:18-20
IN this section St. Paul returns from the subject of the false teachers against whom Timothy has to contend (1 Timothy 1:3-11), and the contrast to their teaching exhibited by the Gospel in the Apostle's own case (1 Timothy 1:12-17), to the main purpose of the letter, viz., the instructions to be given to Timothy for the due performance of his difficult duties as overseer of the Church of Ephesus. The section contains two subjects of special interest, each of which requires consideration; -the prophecies respecting Timothy and the punishment of Hymenaeus and Alexander.
I. "This charge I commit unto thee, my child Timothy, according to the prophecies which went before on thee." As the margin of the R.V. points out, this last phrase might also be read "according to the prophecies which led the way to thee," for the Greek may mean either. The question is, whether St. Paul is referring to certain prophecies which "led the way to" Timothy, i.e., which designated him as specially suited for the ministry, and led to his ordination by St. Paul and the presbyters; or whether he is referring to certain prophecies which were uttered over Timothy (επι σε) either at the time of his conversion or of his admission to the ministry. Both the A.V. and the R.V. give the preference to the latter rendering, which (without excluding such a view) does not commit us to the opinion that St. Paul was in any sense led to Timothy by these prophecies, a thought which is not clearly intimated in the original. All that we are certain of is, that long before the writing of this letter prophecies of which Timothy was the object were uttered over him, and that they were of such a nature as to be an incentive and support to him in his ministry.
But if we look on to the fourteenth verse of the fourth chapter in this Epistle (1 Timothy 4:14) and to the sixth of the first chapter in the Second (2 Timothy 1:6), we shall not have much doubt when these prophecies were uttered. There we read, "Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery!" and "For which cause I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in, thee through the laying on of my hands." Must we not believe that these two passages and the passage before us all refer to the same occasion-the same crisis in Timothy's life? In all three of them St. Paul appeals to the spiritual gift that was bestowed upon his disciple "by means of prophecy" and "by means of the laying on of hands." The same preposition and case (δια with the genitive) is used in each case. Clearly, then, we are to understand that the prophesying and the laying on of hands accompanied one another. Here only the prophesying is mentioned. In chapter 4 the prophesying, accompanied by the imposition of the presbyters' hands, is the means by which the grace is conferred. In the Second Epistle only the laying on of the Apostle's hands is mentioned, and it is spoken of as the means by which the grace is conferred. Therefore, although the present passage by itself leaves the question open, yet when we take the other two into consideration along with it, we may safely neglect the possibility of prophecies which led the way to the ordination of Timothy, and understand the Apostle as referring to those sacred utterances which were a marked element in his disciple's ordination and formed a prelude and earnest of his ministry. These sacred utterances indicated a Divine commission and Divine approbation publicly expressed respecting the choice of Timothy for this special work. They were also a means of grace; for by means of them a spiritual blessing was bestowed upon the young minister. In alluding to them here, therefore, St. Paul reminds him who it was by whom he was really chosen and ordained. It is as if he said, "We laid our hands upon you; but it was no ordinary election made by human votes. It was God who elected you; God who gave you your commission, and with it the power to fulfill it. Beware, therefore, of disgracing His appointment and of neglecting or abusing His gift."
The voice of prophecy, therefore, either pointed out Timothy as a chosen vessel for the ministry, or publicly ratified the choice which had already been made by St. Paul and others. But by whom was this voice of prophecy uttered? By a special order of prophets? Or by St. Paul and the presbyters specially inspired to act as such? The answer to this question involves some consideration of the office, or rather function, of a prophet, especially in the New Testament.
The word "prophet" is frequently understood in far too limited a sense. It is commonly restricted to the one function of predicting the future. But, if we may venture to coin words in order to bring out points of differences, there are three main ideas involved in the title "prophet."
(1) A foreteller; one who speaks for or instead of another, especially one who speaks for or in the name of God; a Divine messenger, ambassador, interpreter, or spokesman.
(2) A forth-teller; one who has a special message to deliver forth to the world; a proclaimer, harbinger, or herald.
(3) A fore-teller; one who tells beforehand what is coming; a predictor of future events.
To be the bearer or interpreter of a Divine message is the fundamental conception of the prophet in classical Greek; and to a large extent this conception prevails in both the Old and the New Testament. To be in immediate intercourse with Jehovah, and to be His spokesman to Israel, was what the Hebrews understood by the gift of prophecy. It was by no means necessary that the Divine communication which the prophet had to make known to the people should relate to the future. It might be a denunciation of past sins, or an exhortation respecting present conduct, quite as naturally as a prediction of what was coming. And in the Acts and Pauline Epistles the idea of a prophet remains much the same. He is one to whom has been granted special insight into God's counsels, and who communicates these mysteries to others. Both in the Jewish and primitive Christian dispensations, the prophets are the means of communication between God and His Church. Eight persons are mentioned by name in the Acts of the Apostles as exercising this gift of prophecy: Agabus, Barnabas, Symeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen the foster-brother of Herod the tetrarch, Judas, Silas, and St. Paul himself. On certain occasions the Divine communication made to them by the Spirit included a knowledge of the future; as when Agabus foretold the great famine Acts 11:28 and the imprisonment of St. Paul, Acts 21:11 and. when St. Paul told that the Holy Spirit testified to him in every city, that bonds and afflictions awaited him at Jerusalem. Acts 20:23 But this is the exception rather than the rule. It is in their character of prophets that Judas and Silas exhort and confirm the brethren. And, what is of special interest in reference to the prophecies uttered over Timothy, we find a group of prophets having special influence in the selection and ordination of Apostolic evangelists. "And as they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate Me Barnabas and Saul, for the work whereunto I have called them. Then when they had fasted and prayed and laid their hands on them, they sent them away". Acts 13:2-3
We see, therefore, that these New Testament prophets were not a regularly constituted order, like apostles, with whom they are joined both in the First Epistle to the Corinthians, 1 Corinthians 12:28 and in that to the Ephesians. Ephesians 4:11 Yet they have this in common with apostles, that the work of both lies rather in founding Churches than in governing them. They have to convert and edify rather than to rule. They might or might not be apostles or presbyters as well as prophets; but as prophets they were men or women (such as the daughters of Philip) on whom a special gift of the Holy Spirit had been conferred: and this gift enabled them to understand and expound Divine mysteries with inspired authority, and at times also to foretell the future.
So long as we bear these characteristics in mind, it matters little how we answer the question as to who it was that uttered the prophecies over Timothy at the time of his ordination. It may have been St. Paul and the presbyters who laid their hands upon him, and who on this occasion, at any rate, were endowed with the spirit of prophecy. Or it may have been that besides the presbyters there were prophets also present, who, at this solemn ceremony, exercised their gift of inspiration. The former seems more probable. It is clear from 1 Timothy 4:14, that prophecy and imposition of hands were two concomitant acts by means of which spiritual grace was bestowed upon Timothy; and it is more reasonable to suppose that these two instrumental acts were performed by the same group of persons, than that one group prophesied, while another laid their hands on the young minister's head.
This gift of prophecy, St. Paul tells the Corinthians, 1 Corinthians 14:1-40 was one specially to be desired; and evidently it was by no means a rare one in the primitive Church. As we might expect, it was most frequently exercised in the public services of the congregation. "When ye come together, each one hath a psalm, hath a teaching, hath a revelation, hath a tongue, hath an interpretation. Let the prophets speak by two or three and let the others discern. But if a revelation be made to another sitting by, let the first keep silence. For ye all can prophesy one by one, that all may learn and all may be comforted; and the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets." The chief object of the gift, therefore, was instruction and consolation for the conversion of unbelievers (1 Corinthians 14:24-25), and for the building up of the faithful. But we shall probably be right in making a distinction between the prophesying which frequently took place in the first Christian congregations, and those special interventions of the Holy Spirit of which we read occasionally. In these latter cases it is not so much spiritual instruction in an inspired form that is communicated, as a revelation of God's will with regard to some particular course of action. Such was the case when Paul and Silas were "forbidden of the Holy Ghost to speak the word in Asia," and when "they assayed to go into Bithynia, and the Spirit of Jesus suffered them not": or when on his voyage to Rome Paul was assured that he would stand before Caesar, and that God had given him the lives of all those who sailed with him (Acts 16:6-7; Acts 27:24; comp. Acts 18:9; Acts 20:23; Acts 21:4; Acts 21:11; Acts 22:17-21.). Some have supposed that the Revelation of St. John was intended to mark the close of New Testament prophecy and to protect the Church against unwarrantable attempts at prophecy until the return of Christ to judge the world. This view would be more probable if the later date for the Apocalypse could be established. But if, as is far more probable, the Revelation was written cir. A.D. 68, it is hardly likely that St. John, during the lifetime of Apostles, would think of taking any such decisive step. In his First Epistle, written probably fifteen or twenty years after the Revelation, he gives a test for distinguishing true from false prophets; 1 John 4:1-4 and this he would not have done, if he had believed that all true prophecy had ceased.
In the newly discovered "Doctrine of the Twelve Apostles" we find prophets among the ministers of the Church, just as in the Epistles to the Corinthians, Ephesians, and Philippians. The date of this interesting treatise has yet to be ascertained; but it seems to belong to the period between the Epistles of St. Paul and those of Ignatius. We may safely place it between the writings of St. Paul and those of Justin Martyr. In the Epistles to the Corinthians 1 Corinthians 12:28 we have "First apostles, secondly prophets, thirdly teachers, then" those who had special gifts, such as healing or speaking with tongues. In Ephesians 4:2 we are told that Christ "gave some to be apostles; and some evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers." The Epistle to the Philippians is addressed "to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons," where the plural shows that "bishop" cannot be used in the later diocesan sense; otherwise there would be only one bishop at Philippi. Prophets, therefore, in St. Paul's time are a common and important branch of the ministry. They rank next to apostles, and a single congregation may possess several of them. In Ignatius and later writers the ministers who are so conspicuous in the Acts and in St. Paul's Epistles disappear, and their place is taken by other ministers whose offices, at any rate in their later forms, are scarcely found in the New Testament at all. These are the bishops, presbyters, and deacons; to whom were soon added a number of subordinate officials, such as readers, exorcists, and the like. The ministry, as we find it in the "Doctrine of the Twelve Apostles," is in a state of transition from the Apostolic to the latter stage. As in the time of St. Paul we have both itinerant and local ministers; the itinerant ministers being chiefly apostles and prophets, whose functions do not seem to be marked off from one another very distinctly; and the local ministry consisting of two orders only, bishops and deacons, as in the address to the Church of Philippi. When we reach the Epistles of Ignatius and other documents of a date later than A.D. 110, we lose distinct traces of these itinerant apostles and prophets. The title "Apostle" is becoming confined to St. Paul and the Twelve, and the title of "Prophet" to the Old Testament prophets.
The gradual cessation or discredit of the function of the Christian prophet is thoroughly intelligible. Possibly the spiritual gift which rendered it possible was withdrawn from the Church. In any case the extravagances of enthusiasts who deluded themselves into the belief that they possessed the gift, or of impostors who deliberately assumed it, would bring the office into suspicion and disrepute. Such things were possible even in Apostolic times, for both St. Paul and St. John give cautions about it, and directions for dealing with the abuse and the false assumption of prophecy. In the next century the eccentric delusions of Montanus and his followers, and their vehement attempts to force their supposed revelations upon the whole Church, completed the discredit of all profession to prophetical power. This discredit has been intensified from time to time whenever such professions have been renewed; as, for example, by the extravagances of the Zwickau Prophets or Abecedarians in Luther's time, or of the Irvingites in our own day.
Since the death of St. John and the close of the Canon, Christians have sought for illumination in the written word of Scripture rather than in the utterances of prophets. It is there that each one of us may find "the prophecies that went before on" us, exhorting us and enabling us to "war the good warfare, holding faith and a good conscience." There will always be those who crave for something more definite and personal; who long for, and perhaps create for themselves and believe in, some living authority to whom they can perpetually appeal. Scripture seems to them unsatisfying, and they erect for themselves an infallible pope, or a spiritual director, whose word is to be to them as the inspired utterances of a prophet. But we have to fall back on our own consciences at last: and whether we take Scripture or some other authority as our infallible guide, the responsibility of the choice still rests with ourselves. If a man will not hear Christ and His Apostles, neither will he be persuaded though a prophet was granted to him. If we believe not their writings, how shall we believe his words?
THE PUNISHMENT OF HYMENAEUS AND ALEXANDER.-DELIVERING TO SATAN AN EXCEPTIONAL INSTRUMENT OF PURIFICATION.-THE PERSONALITY OF SATAN.- 1 Timothy 1:19-20
IN the preceding discourse one of the special charismata which distinguish the Church of the Apostolic age was considered, -the gift of prophecy. It seems to have been an exceptional boon to enable the first Christians to perform very exceptional work. On the present occasion we have to consider a very different subject-the heavy penalty inflicted on two grievous offenders. This again would seem to be something exceptional. And the special gift and the special punishment have this much in common, that both of them were extraordinary means for promoting and preserving the holiness of the Church. The one existed for the edification, the other for the purification, of the members of the Christian community.
The necessity of strict discipline both for the individual and for the community had been declared by Christ from the outset. The eye that caused offence was to be plucked out, the hand and the foot that caused offence were to be cut off, and the hardened offender who refused to listen to the solemn remonstrances of the congregation was to be treated as a heathen and an outcast. The experience of the primitive Church had proved the wisdom of this. The fall of Judas had shown that the Apostolic band itself was not secure from evil of the very worst kind. The parent Church of Jerusalem was no sooner founded than a dark stain was brought upon it by the conduct of two of its members. In the very first glow of its youthful enthusiasm Ananias and Sapphira conspired together to pervert the general unselfishness to their own selfish end, by attempting to gain the credit for equal generosity with the rest, while keeping back something for themselves. The Church of Corinth was scarcely five years old, and the Apostle had been absent from it only about three years, when he learnt that in this Christian community, the firstfruits of the heathen world, a sin which even the heathen regarded as a monstrous pollution, had been committed, and that the congregation were glorying in it. Christians were boasting that the incestuous union of a man with his father's wife during his father's lifetime was a splendid illustration of Christian liberty. No stronger proof of the dangers of lax discipline could have been given. In the verses before us we have instances of similar peril on the doctrinal side. And in the insolent opposition which Diotrephes offered to St. John we have an illustration of the dangers of insubordination. If the Christian Church was to be saved from speedy collapse, strict discipline in morals, in doctrine, and in government, was plainly necessary.
The punishment of the incestuous person at Corinth should be placed side by side with the punishment of Hymenaeus and Alexander, as recorded here. The two cases mutually explain one another. In each of them there occurs the remarkable formula of delivering or handing over to Satan. The meaning of it is not indisputable, and in the main two views are held respecting it. Some interpret it as being merely a synonym for excommunication. Others maintain that it indicates a much more exceptional penalty, which might or might not accompany excommunication.
1. On the one hand it is argued that the expression "deliver unto Satan" is a very intelligible periphrasis for "excommunicate." Excommunication involved "exclusion from all Christian fellowship, and consequently banishment to the society of those among whom Satan dwelt, and from which the offender had publicly severed himself." It is admitted that "handing over to Satan" is strong language to use in order to express ejection from the congregation and exclusion from all acts of worship, but it is thought that the acuteness of the crisis makes the strength of language intelligible.
2. But the strength of language needs no apology, if the "delivering unto Satan" means something extraordinary, over and above excommunication. This, therefore, is an advantage which the second mode of interpreting the expression has at the outset. Excommunication was a punishment which the congregation itself could inflict; but this handing over to Satan was an Apostolic act, to accomplish which the community without the Apostle had no power. It was a supernatural infliction of bodily infirmity, or disease, or death, as a penalty for grievous sin. We know this in the cases of Ananias and Sapphira and of Elymas. The incestuous person at Corinth is probably another instance: for "the destruction of the flesh" seems to mean some painful malady inflicted on that part of his nature which had been the instrument of his fall, in order that by its chastisement the higher part of his nature might be saved. And, if this be correct, then we seem to be justified in assuming the same respecting Hymenaeus and Alexander. For although nothing is said in their case respecting "the destruction of the flesh," yet the expression "that they may be taught not to blaspheme," implies something of a similar kind. The word for "taught" (παιδευθωσι) implies discipline and chastisement, sometimes in Classical Greek, frequently in the New Testament, a meaning which the word "teach" also not infrequently has in English. Judges 8:16 In illustration of this it is sufficient to point to the passage in Hebrews 12:1-29, in which the writer insists that "whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth." Throughout the section this very word (παιδευειν) and its cognate (παιδεια) are used. It is, therefore, scarcely doubtful that St. Paul delivered Hymenaeus and Alexander to Satan, in order that Satan might have power to afflict their bodies (just as he was allowed power over the body of Job), with a view to their spiritual amelioration. This personal suffering, following close upon their sin and declared by the Apostle to be a punishment for it, would teach them to abandon it. St. Paul himself, as he has just told us, had been a blasphemer and by a supernatural visitation had been converted: why should not these two follow in both respects in his steps? Satan's willingness to co-operate in such measures need not surprise us. He is always ready to inflict suffering; and the fact that suffering sometimes draws the sufferer away from him and nearer to God, does not deter him from inflicting it. He knows well that suffering not un-frequently has the very opposite effect. It hardens and exasperates some men, while it humbles and purifies others. It makes one man say "I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes." It makes another will to "renounce God and die." Satan hoped in Job's case to be able to provoke him to "renounce God to His face." In the case of these two blasphemers he would hope to induce them to blaspheme all the more.
We may pass by the question, "In what way did Hymenaeus and Alexander blaspheme?" We can only conjecture that it was by publicly opposing some article of the Christian faith. But conjectures without evidence are not very profitable. If we were certain that the Hymenaeus here mentioned with Alexander is identical with the one who is condemned with Philetus in 2 Timothy 2:18 for virtually denying the resurrection, we should have some evidence. But this identification, although probable, is not certain. Still less certain is the identification of the Alexander condemned here with "Alexander the coppersmith," who in 2 Timothy 4:14 is said to have done the Apostle much evil. But none of these questions is of great moment. What is of importance to notice is the Apostolic sentence upon the two blasphemers. And in it we have to notice four points.
(1) It is almost certainly not identical with excommunication by the congregation, although it very probably was accompanied by this other penalty.
(2) It is of a very extraordinary character, being a handing over into the power of the Evil One.
(3) Its object is the reformation of the offenders, while at the same time
(4) it serves as a warning to others, lest they by similar offences should suffer so awful a punishment. To all alike it brought home the serious nature of such sins. Even at the cost of cutting off the right hand, or plucking out the right eye, the Christian community must be kept pure in doctrine as in life.
These two passages, - the one before us, and the one respecting the case of incest at Corinth, - are conclusive as to St. Paul's teaching respecting the existence and personality of the devil. They are supported and illustrated by a number of other passages in his writings; as when he tell the Thessalonians that "Satan hindered" his work, or warns the Corinthians that "even Satan fashioneth himself into an angel of light," and tells them that his own sore trouble in the flesh was like Job's, "a messenger of Satan to buffet" him. Not less clear is the teaching of St. Peter and St. John in Epistles which, with those of St. Paul to the Corinthians, are among the best authenticated works in ancient literature. "Your adversary the devil as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour," says the one: "He that doeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning," says the other. And, if we need higher authority, there is the declaration of Christ to the malignant and unbelieving Jews. "Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father it is your will to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and stood not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father thereof." With regard to this last passage, those who deny the personal existence of Satan must maintain either
(1) that the Evangelist here attributes to Christ words which He never used; or
(2) that Christ was willing to make use of a monstrous superstition in order to denounce his opponents with emphasis; or
(3) that He Himself erroneously believed in the existence of a being who was a mere figment of an unenlightened imagination: in other words, that
"the Son of God was manifested that He might destroy the works of the devil," when all the while there was no devil and no works of his to be destroyed.
The first of these views cuts at the root of all trust in the Gospels as historical documents. Words which imply that Satan is a person are attributed to Christ by the Synoptists no less than by St. John; and if the Evangelists are not to be believed in their report of Christ's sayings on this topic, what security have we that they are to be believed as to their reports of the rest of His teaching; or indeed as to anything which they narrate? Again, how are we to account for the very strong statements made by the Apostles themselves respecting the evil one, if they had never heard anything of the kind from Christ.
The second view has been adopted by Sehleier-reacher, who thinks that Christ accommodated His teaching to the ideas then prevalent among the Jews respecting Satan without sharing them Himself. He knew that Satan was a mere personification of the moral evil which every man finds in his own nature and in that of his fellow-men: but the Jews believed in the personality of this evil principle, and He acquiesced in the belief, not as being true, but as offering no fundamental opposition to His teaching. But is this consistent with the truthfulness of Christ? If a personal devil is an empty superstition, He went out of His way to confirm men in their belief in it. Why teach that the enemy who sowed the tares is the devil? Why interpret the birds that snatch away the freshly sown seed as Satan? It would have been so easy in each case to have spoken of impersonal temptations. Again, what motive can Christ have had for telling His Apostles (not the ignorant and superstitious multitude), that He Himself had endured the repeated solicitations of a personal tempter, who had conversed and argued with Him?
Those who, like Strauss and Renan, believe Jesus of Nazareth to have been a mere man, would naturally adopt the third view. In believing in the personality of Satan Jesus merely shared the superstitions of His age. To all those who wish to discuss with him whether we are still Christians, Strauss declares that "the belief in a devil is one of the most hideous sides of the ancient Christian faith," and that "the extent to which this dangerous delusion still controls men's ideas or has been banished from them is the very thing to regard as a measure of culture." But at the same time he admits that "to remove so fundamental a stone is dangerous for the whole edifice of the Christian faith. It was the young Goethe who remarked against Bahrdt that if ever an idea was biblical, this one [of the existence of a personal Satan] was such." And elsewhere Strauss declares that the conception of the Messiah and His kingdom without the antithesis of an infernal kingdom with a personal chief is as impossible as that of a North pole without a South pole.
To refuse to believe in an evil power external to ourselves is to believe that human nature itself is diabolical. Whence come the devilish thoughts that vex us even at the most sacred and solemn moments? If they do not come from the evil one and his myrmidons, they come from ourselves:-they are our own offspring. Such a belief might well drive us to despair. So far from being a "hideous" element in the Christian faith, the belief in a power "not ourselves, that makes for" wickedness, is a most consoling one. It has been said that, if there were no God, we should have to invent one: and with almost equal truth we might say that, if there were no devil, we should have to invent one. Without a belief in God bad men would have little to induce them to conquer their evil passions. Without a belief in a devil good men would have little hope of ever being able to do so.
The passage before us supplies us with another consoling thought with regard to this terrible adversary, who is always invisibly plotting against us. It is often for our own good that God allows him to have an advantage over us. He is permitted to inflict loss upon us through our persons and our property, as in the case of Job, and the woman whom he bowed down for eighteen years, in order to chasten us and teach us that "we have not here an abiding city." And he is permitted even to lead us into sin, in order to save us from spiritual pride, and to convince us that apart from Christ and in our own strength we can do nothing. These are not Satan's motives, but they are God's motives in allowing him to be "the ruler of this world," and to have much power over human affairs. Satan inflicts suffering from love of inflicting it, and leads into sin from love of sin: but God knows how to bring good out of evil by making the Evil One frustrate his own wiles. The devil malignantly afflicts souls that come within his power; but the affliction leads to those souls being "saved in the day of the Lord." It had that blessed effect in the case of the incestuous person at Corinth. Whether the same is true of Hymenaeus and Alexander, there is nothing in Scripture to tell us. It is for us to take care that in our case the chastisements which inevitably follow upon sin do not drive us further and further into it, but teach us to sin no more.