Historical Commentary on the First Epistle to Timothy

By W. M Ramsay

XXIX. THE PAULINE PHILOSOPHY OF HISTORY AS EXPRESSED IN THE PASTORAL EPISTLES. THROUGHOUT

Paul's earlier letters there occur frequent expressions which reveal his way of regarding past history. To his mind the soul of history was the will of God. Do we find the same view of the world in the Pastoral Epistles? We may start by quoting one or two examples of the style in which he expresses his philosophical theory of the progress of human history. In Galatians i. 15 he says, "When it was the good pleasure of God, who set me apart even before my birth, and called me through His grace, to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the Gentiles1':in Galatians iv. 4, "When the fulness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, that He might redeem them which were under the Law ": in Colossians i. 26, " to fulfil the Word of God, even the mystery which hath been hid from all ages and generations, but now hath it been manifested to His saints, to whom God was pleased to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory ": in Ephesians i. 11, "in whom also we were made a heritage, having been foreordained according to the purpose of Him, who worketh all things after the counsel of His Will."

The whole philosophy of history is expressed in such sentences as those. To Paul's mind the process of human affairs was the gradual evolution of the Divine will within those conditions of time and space that hedge us in. According to his view, the coming of Christ is presented to us as the culmination of the older period of history and the beginning of the new period; the older time leads up to it and finds its explanation in it; the later stage starts afresh from it. Thus the purpose of God is unfolding itself in all the events that go on around us.

Like the greatest of the Greek philosophers, Paul was profoundly sensitive to the flux and change and transiency of all earthly phenomena: as the old Ephesian said, " All things are in transition," and " You cannot step twice into the same river." Only the Divine, then, is true and real and permanent. The moral side of this idea was specially strong in his mind:" He sighed, as scarcely any other has done, beneath the curse of the transiency of all that is earthly."1 Under this uncertainty and change Paul saw that there lay the one real and cognisable truth: viz., there is a purpose and a law which works itself out amid the flux of things. The change was subject to a law, and this law was the purpose and will of God, present with Him from the beginning.

The form in which this idea is expressed by Paul is profoundly influenced by Greek thought. That the Divine power moulds the affairs and actions of men as the potter moulds the lifeless clay is the Hebrew way of expressing the idea. The Greek philosophers and poets-those of them who were the greatest and most characteristic Greeks-recognised that the will of God acts through the actions of living and thinking men, as a law which they unwittingly obey and work into actuality, though they think they are acting for their own purposes and ends. Hence Homer already regards the whole tangled and confused web of the conflicts around Troy, as the gradual realisation of the predetermined will of Zeus. The last words of the opening paragraph of the Iliad are Διὸς ἐτελείετο βουλή, i.e., the will of the Supreme God was worked out to its consummation, or in more modern and abstract philosophical language, the soul of the story was the will of God. The will is pre-existent: it becomes evident to man only as it is worked into history.

Now, since the Divine will is always true to itself, and neither varies nor changes, but is a uniform law of growth, it follows that, if once we catch even a glimpse of it at any moment in history, that momentary glance is true for all time; and hence we may learn to read the real character of this present time, and we may forecast dimly the possibilities that lie before us in the future, by looking back into the past.

What, then, in Paul's estimation, had been this purpose of God, which had been working always in the world, not understood by men at the moment, but now clearly revealed to those who had been illuminated by the radiant truth of the message that had come ?

In the pagan world, amid which Paul was born, the feeling had gradually grown strong and taken possession of the popular mind, that the world was steadily degenerating into ruin and decay, and that no relief from the universal uncertainty, strife and cruelty could (ever be attained by ordinary human means. The old order could not be improved into a better system: the path of revolution only made greater confusion.

Such appeared, then, the issue to which civilisation had led in its chief centre, Greece and Rome. It had resulted only in misery, crime, bloodshed and deterioration. On that all were agreed. It seemed to turn its back on the Divine life, to move further and further away from God, and to prefer the madness and recklessness of man to the Divine peace. Except in the appearance of some God on earth, there was no help possible.

All men were praying and offering vows for "Salvation." In city after city, and village after village, of the Graeco-Roman world, especially in Asia Minor, the explorer of that world is impressed by the number of dedications and offerings, beseeching for "Salvation" (σωτηρία). This was what Jesus brought, and Paul preached. Those pagans prayed for they knew not what. They asked for salvation; but they did not know in what salvation lay, or what was its nature. What they ignorantly sought for, Paul declared unto them.

Paul was never hampered by the difficulty, the greatest with which the modern missionary has to contend, of learning how to understand the pagan mind and how to touch the pagan heart. He had grown up in familiarity with the pagan mind. He knew from childhood its way of looking at life, what it dreamed of and longed for. He knew how to make his ideas intelligible to the pagans around him. A Tarsian, he knew the thoughts of the Greek East. A Roman, he had caught something of the Roman spirit. Amid Greeks and Romans he moved as one at home in a familiar world; and he played on their hearts as a musician on his instrument. He set before them the Soteria, the Salvation, for which they were praying; and they found the Salvation which he declared more satisfying, more ideal, more perfect, than they had been able ever to imagine.

While most of the poets, the half-prophets of the pagan world, declared that salvation was impossible, because human means had failed, Virgil, the herald of the New Empire, found it in the triumph of the New Age. The New Rome would regenerate the world, because it was the creation of the Divine power present on the earth. Gradually, this idea, first expressed in the fourth Eclogue, crystallised into the doctrine of the divinity of the Emperor; and even in this vulgarised and petrified and lifeless form it was still a power.2

Paul felt deeply this spirit of his age-the conviction that things had gone wrong; that the world had failed and was growing worse; that only through divine aid could progress be made and sin shaken off. He called the evil of the world "sin:", the pagan nations called it by other names. There was this profound difference between him and them, that he regarded the fault and the cause of evil as due to man: the pagans regarded it as due to fate, or to God, or to chance, and recognised no fault in themselves. In the early chapters of Romans, where Paul states his view most fully and clearly, he assumes straight away that the end of man and the aim of man's life is to be righteous, and the reason why he has failed lies in himself.

Paul, too, like the poets of the New Empire and the New Rome, saw the salvation of mankind revealed in the manifestation of Divine nature incarnate in human form. This was the purpose and will of God from the beginning of the world. To bring about this "in the fulness of the time," when the world had become convinced that it was the only way, had been the plan of God throughout the evolution of human history. Towards this all the past had been tending. This was the law which lay underneath the apparently lawless and hopeless welter of bloodshed and misery that constituted the history of preceding time.

The triumph of the Divine purpose, the object which the Divine will was working out, was the Cross of Christ. This Cross recalled to the mind of Paul, the Greek and the Roman, that stump with cross-beam on which the tropaeum and spoils of battle were hung after the victory had been gained. The decree of fate, the unfulfilled and forfeited bond, in which the curse and destruction of man's efforts was expressed, was nailed to the Cross, as the Roman conqueror fastened to the cross-beam and the upright beam the spoils of his defeated enemy (Colossians ii. 14). The victory of the Crucifixion was the declaration of the will of God, the explanation of all past history and the new beginning of all coming history. The erection of the trophy culminates finally in the long train of the triumphal procession, in which the subordinate powers and the captive enemy were led up to the Capitol and offered to the supreme God (Colossians ii. 15).

This doctrine of Paul is as clearly and emphatically expressed in the Pastoral Epistles as in any of his writings. The purpose of God was working from the beginning, and therefore His kindness and grace towards men were always active, but had become patent and intelligible to men only through the Death of Jesus:" The grace which was given 'in Christ Jesus before times eternal, but which has now been manifested " (2 Timothy ill. 9):" Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all, the testimony to be borne in its own times, whereunto I was appointed a teacher among the Gentiles " (I Timothy ii. 6):" The hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised before times eternal, but in His own seasons manifested " (Titus i. 2 f.). This Promise of God, given and published long before, had never been rightly understood, until its true meaning was declared through the Crucifixion.

This Pauline view is fundamental in all, the Pastoral Epistles; but it is not stated there as a truth needing to be emphasised by the writer. It is rather brought in incidentally, as a familiar principle. It is appealed to as something well known to Timothy and Titus, and accepted by them as an axiom from which inferences may be drawn and by which further principles may be tested and proved. That is "the mystery of godliness" (1 Timothy iii. 15), now made plain, formerly obscure.

But it is argued by many modern scholars that the very word "godliness " is not Pauline; it is strange to his vocabulary in the older Epistles; and, since it is common in the Pastorals, it stamps these as the work of some other writer. But this word "godliness" (εὐσέβεια) is one of the most characteristic words of pagan religious thought. Could Paul, who knew the heart of paganism so well, and who through that intimate knowledge was marked out as the one man that was qualified beyond all others to explain the Gospel to them-how could he be ignorant of that word ? and knowing it how could he fail to speak of it to those who eagerly desired to realise it ? In the opinion of the present writer it would be a strange and inexplicable thing, if Paul in placing his Gospel before the pagans of the Graeco-Roman world, had never used a word which lay so close to their hearts. They thought that men should and must be "godly" (εὐσεβεῖς Pii), that "godliness" was a quality essential in a good man. Paul explained to them in what "godliness" (εὐσέβεια) consisted, and how it was to be attained-just as he did with "Salvation."

Why then is it not found. in the earlier Epistles? I doubt not that it was used by Paul often in oral address to the Asian and Galatian and European churches; but in the letters it was not in keeping with the special message which at the moment had to be emphasised to them. The full answer to this question would require an exposition of the topics and treatment of every letter. The Pastorals, here as in so many other cases, intervene to complete the picture of Paul, and to show him as in every respect the Apostle to the Gentiles, who showed them that Faith was the force which produced for them both salvation and godliness.

XXX. THE OFFICE OF TIMOTHY IN EPHESUS AND ASIA.

In 2 Timothy iv. 5 Timothy is said to be a diakonos. Here Paul, after sketching an outline of Timothy's duties" Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching . . . be sober in all things, suffer hardship, do the work of an evangelist "-adds as a climax the brief summary of these instructions, "fulfil thy diakonia," i.e. perform the whole duty of thy office and charge.

Very similar is the thought in 1 Timothy iv. 6, " If thou put the brethren in mind of these things, thou shalt be a good diakonos of Christ Jesus." This also is a summary of the instructions given in the preceding paragraphs. In so far as Timothy performed all his duties, he was a good diakonos.

Accordingly, if Paul applied any special term to Timothy's range of duty and authority. in Asia, he would call him a diakonos. What is the significance of this term ? The answer is not easy, but no one hesitates or can hesitate at least about one thing: here diakonos has not as yet become a strictly technical term, indicating a specific office in a hierarchy.

Paul calls himself "a diakonos of the Gospel" in Ephesians iii. 7 and Colossians i. 23; in Colossians i. 25 and in I Timothy i. I2 he names his sphere of duty diakonia. The use of the two cognate words regarding himself is exactly parallel to the use of them regarding Timothy;3 and it seems beyond doubt that Paul considered his coadjutor Timothy as engaged at Ephesus in the same species and kind of duties as he himself performed in any place where he chanced to reside and to find " an open door." Hence the description of Timothy in I Thessalonians iii. 2 as " our brother and diakonos of God in the Gospel " is quite in keeping with Paul's language elsewhere (though the reading there is uncertain, as the variant " fellow-worker with God" (συνεργός) has good authority to support it). Similarly Tychicus is " the faithful diakonos in the Lord " (Ephesians vi. 2 and Colossians iv. 7). There can, therefore, be no doubt that the whole class of duties performed by Paul himself and by those whom he trained to be his coadjutors was summed up by him as diakonia.

One can hardly doubt that this use of the word diakonos is older than the employment of the same term to denote a definite office in a congregation. Yet, alongside of this more primitive use, we find the term employed in a more sharply defined fashion; there are various passages in Paul's letters where diakonos is really a title and technical term for an office in the congregation, e.g., 1 Timothy iii. 8 and 12, Romans xvi. 1, Philippians i. 1. I cannot feel any hesitation in separating these passages from those quoted above. In the one class the diakonoi seem to be resident and settled officers of the congregation, lower in grade than episkopoi. In the other class Paul and his coadjutors, who represent him in his absence, are diakonoi ; and to this class must be added Colossians i. 7 (Epaphras) and i. 25 (Paul) and iv. 17 (Archippus).4

That the word diakonos in ordinary usage implies service, humbler rank and submission to orders, is quite certain. This was the term which Paul chose as suitable to mark his place and duties among his congregations, and to describe the charge which he gave to his coadjutors over one or more of those congregations.. The thought in his mind was the teaching of Jesus, e.g., "the greatest among you shall be your diakonos " (Matthew xxiii. 11); " whosoever shall humble himself as this little child, the same is the greatest in-the kingdom of Heaven" (Matthew xviii. 4). The same thought lies in the Pope's title, servus servorum Dei.

No one can fail to observe the marked analogy between the passage above quoted, Colossians iv. 17, and the character and spirit of the letters to Timothy. What was needed in the way of message and instruction for the congregation at Coloss was stated in the letter to them and in "the Epistle from Laodiceia" (i.e. Ephesians). But beyond this there was something required in the way of special message to the diakonos who had charge of the congregation of Coloss. This Paul conveys in one brief sentence, " Say to Archippus, Take heed to the diakonia which thou hast received in the Lord, that thou fulfil it." In this short message is implied all that is contained in the Pastoral Epistles and much more. Paul had in mind the kind of message that is suitable for a person charged with the responsibilities of Archippus: such a message might fill a large volume, or it might be compressed into a single short letter (like that addressed to Titus), or into a longer letter (like First Timothy), or it might be expressed in a. brief reminder (like that sent to Archippus).

One cannot, therefore, for a. moment doubt that if Paul had sent a. letter direct to Archippus, it would have been in the style of the " Pastorals," something differing in style and kind from Colossians and Ephesians. The very fact that an extra message is sent implies that those two Epistles did not contain what was needed for Archippus.

In this case, however, Paul did not send a letter: he trusted that Archippus would catch what was needed from this brief message, and from the commission which the latter had originally received. The brief message was intended to strengthen in Archippus's mind the spirit of former teaching. Archippus needed only to recall the charge which he had received, and to give attention and care to it. The duty and the teaching were in his mind; he had only to keep the instruction fresh and strong there. The teaching then was all-important and complete; there was in a sense nothing to add to it. It is simply the " sound doctrine " and the " faithful saying " of the Pastorals. The minister and teacher must hold fast to this: if he does so, the rest will come to him of itself through the Spirit..

There is, of course, much more involved in the ministry as Paul conceived it. In a sense, there was much to add; but it will add itself, if the " sound doctrine " is clearly understood and firmly grasped.

It stands to reason that the diakonos in charge of one or more congregations would require a special and different message from that which was most appropriate for a congregation or for several congregations. Archippus, like Timothy, would doubtless have been reminded, if Paul had written the letter to him, of the general principles that were likely to be serviceable in the practical work of guiding a congregation. Not exceptional oases, but general rules, would be stated. Legislation is for the average and the mass of men. The exceptions have to be considered and treated singly by the good sense of the "minister" (diakonos) and especially through the constant help and guidance of the Spirit, which Timothy is directed repeatedly to listen to and wait upon. For these exceptional cases Paul, therefore, lays down no rules: they will carry with them their own justification and their own standard. The family is the basis of Christian society: that is the safe principle in practically directing a congregation. Paul makes no allusion to the idea which is so much emphasised in 1 Corinthians vii., that in some cases the highest level of life for certain individuals lies in perfect celibacy and devotion to the Divine life. Those are cases of exceptional individuals, about whom the Corinthians in their letter had put a question to Paul. Such oases must be put aside in the letters to Timothy.

This consideration perhaps explains what seems to the present writer to be the most disappointing feature of the Pastoral Epistles. Although the dangers of the free competition in teaching by unauthorised and often badly qualified teachers (the so-called "false teachers") is in Paul's mind throughout the three Epistles as the greatest danger to his Asian Churches, yet he simply denounces these volunteer teachers, without suggesting a remedy. The only permanent remedy lay in the creation of a system of Christian teaching on a sufficiently high level. Such a system would have kept the higher education in Christian hands, whereas the absence of it had the result described by the late Dr. Bigg in The Church's Task in the Roman Empire, viz., that the education of Christian children lay largely in the hands of pagan teachers. I do not think that Paul would have acquiesced in the incapacity of the Church to solve this great problem, His fertile mind and organising ability might have organised the means to this end, if he had lived longer; but at this time he only points out the actual danger and suggests no means whereby it may be overcome. Probably, he had no such object in view for the moment: he was thinking of nothing else except putting Timothy on his guard, urging him to " take heed to the diakonia " which he had received. Only in Second Timothy ii. 2 is there perhaps an obscure reference to the beginning of a remedy for the evil: "the things which thou hast heard from me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also." This does not refer to paradosis, the transmission to successors, but to the actual choosing of suitable teachers under Timothy.5 Probably, however, only "clerical" teaching is implied (see on this subject EXPOSITOR August 1909 p. 185).

Hence in 1 Timothy Paul simply reiterates the sound doctrine and denounces the unsound. If the germ and principle of growth is sound, the rest will come: the Spirit will guide the healthy Church in the constructive programme which lies before it. We may at first feel disappointed that no advice is given regarding the right education which is needed to replace the false education; but Paul did not regard this as the important matter to urge at that moment on Timothy. "Keep the seed sound "is his theme. For the individual the fundamental fact, the sound germ, is " have faith "; for the teacher it is " hold the sound doctrine."

This does not mean that there is not a great deal to be added: faith is only the germ: sound doctrine is the germ: but the germ, if healthy and strong, will grow up into the perfect life and the perfect Church without any help from Paul. The germ brings with it the Spirit of God: it is the Spirit of God. The individual who has faith will work out his own salvation. The Church in which the sound doctrine is taught will grow on the right lines of development. That is after all the fundamental doctrine of Paulinism.

On the other hand Paul also uses the terms d1:akonoa and diakonia in a wider and more general sense to indicate the service or the ministration rendered by one who carries into effect the desire of another or gives help or good to and the person or persons. So in Romans xv. 31, "that my diakonia to Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints": 1 Corinthians xii. 5, " there are diverse kinds of diakoniai": 2 Corinthians ill. 7-9, "the diakonia of death . . . of the Spirit . . . of judgment . . . of righteousness": 2 Corinthians v. 18, "the diakonia of reconciliation.'' In all these and other cases the%diakonos supplies or arranges something at the order and will of another, even although he may appear to be in authority, as was the case with Paul in the diakonia to Jerusalem (Romans xv. 31), or Barnabas and Saul in the older diakonia to Jerusalem (Acts xii. 25), in both of which the object is to carry and distribute charity to the podr.

XXXI. SUPREMACY OF THE FAMILY TIE IN THE PASTORALS: IS THIS A PAULINE DOCTRINE ?

Owing to the compressed character of Paul's writing, and the way in which he trusts to his correspondents to appreciate his point of view and to understand and take for granted much' that he does not explicitly state, it is frequently the case that a quite indispensable preliminary to the proper comprehension of some passage in his writings is to make oneself clear about what he omits to say and assumes as already familiar to his reader or readers. Especially is this the case with such a complex subject as the constitution of society within the Christian congregation, the family relationship and obligation, and the relation of the congregational unity to the family and to the individual. That this vast subject should be exhaustively discussed within the narrow limits of the short first letter to Timothy, even if the letter were specially devoted to it, is obviously impossible. But when the subject is only alluded to on account of its bearing on other things, this indirect treatment must inevitably be incomplete, and must assume that Paul's general attitude towards the whole subject is well known to Timothy.

This consideration must be weighed in discussing whether and how far the treatment of marriage in the Pastoral Epistles implies a different point of view from that which Paul occupied when writing his first letter to the Corinthians. Assuming that the Pastoral Epistles were written by Paul to his coadjutors Timothy and Titus, who were both familiar with the conditions in the Corinthian Church, we may say at once that he could and would count on their 'knowledge of his earlier views about this subject. Both had been engaged actively in the work at Corinth. Timothy had been associated with Paul in the Second letter to the Corinthians. Titus had been sent on a special mission to Corinth during a critical condition of affairs in. that congregation.

Further, surely, it is equally obvious that both Timothy and Titus must have been offended by any serious inconsistency between Paul's former views about marriage and those expressed in the Pastorals. It is, therefore, unquestionable that either there is no real and grave inconsistency between First Corinthians and the Pastorals, nothing beyond a certain enlargement or modification of the outlook, towards which Paul had been moving in the intervening years and for which his readers were prepared. or the authorship is open to suspicion.

Any seeming discrepancy is, as I believe, fully explicable, as perfectly natural in the circumstances, through two considerations: (1) Paul counted on Timothy and Titus to understand much that is not expressly stated in the letters addressed td them: (2) Paul was writing to people in practical charge of congregations, and therefore he confined himself for the most part to the statement of general principles, and left the treatment of exceptional cases to the judgment of the administrator under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

(1) One cannot doubt, as I think, that Paul to the last hour of his life believed and knew with the whole power of his nature that some persons were, like himself, right in avoiding marriage and devoting themselves exclusively to the higher life. One also feels that Timothy and Titus were aware of Paul's views on this matter; and it seems probable that Timothy at least acted on them. He was carried off to the work of a wandering missionary at a very early age, and was probably absorbed wholly in this engrossing kind of occupation. One feels that Paul would have been disappointed, if Timothy had declined from this course of life into love for a woman, or into marriage as a mere family duty. If this full understanding on the part of all three is presupposed, I see no real inconsistency between First Corinthians and the Pastorals; and this presupposition is easy and natural. Timothy and Titus knew perfectly all that Paul said in First Corinthians vii. and had doubtless often repeated on other dccasions.

(2) The family unity is the strongest factor in the: unity of the congregation. Such is the fundamental idea in the Pastorals; and such is the practical fact of social life. This has to be emphasised to the administrators of Asia and Crete. That some cases of celibacy would occur in their congregations needed no notice; they were aware of this. What needed emphasis was that, when the family relationship existed, it entails duties which must be discharged and from which there can hardly be any exemption. Hence the strong language of First Timothy v. 8: " If any provideth not for his own who are most closely connected with him, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an unbeliever." The Authorised and the Revised Versions seem to misrepresent τῶν ἰδίων καὶ μάλιστα οἰκείων. By the renderings " for his own and specially for those of his own house " (or "his own household"), two classes are apparently specified; but the omission of the article before μάλιστα shows that ἰδίων and μάλιστα οἰκείων. both describe one single class, " those who are his own and specially closely connected with him."

This principle should be taken in the universal sense. Parents and grandparents are ἴδιοι and οἰκεῖοι to a child; children are ἴδιοι and οἰκεῖοι to a parent or grandparent. The parent cannot escape his duty to a child, nor the child to a parent or grandparent. So with other family relations in their order of closeness.

Further, what if there is imminent a collision between this rule and the rule of 1 Corinthians vii. 5-8 ? What if the father of a household desires to devote himself to the divine life? Is he free to do so? May he argue that, as family cares take up too much of his time and attention, he may shake them off and give his undivided mind to work for the glory of God and the good of the Church? May he conclude that for him, with his special talents and aspirations and character, marriage was a mistake and the care of a family only a hindrance to a higher range of activity, from which he ought to free himself? So also in the case of a child. Can he free himself from duty to parents?

That was a question which Paul had not answered in First Corinthians, because it was a question that was not consciously present to him then.6 He was guarding the freedom of individual choice against the universal rule of marriage, which the Corinthians were proposing as a wise measure, and which Paul could never allow.7

In the Pastorals, however, it was inevitable that this question should emerge. It is a question which must often be thrust on the notice of one who is charged with the care of a congregation. Ought one to be free to consecrate oneself to the Divine life, and thereby become free from responsibility for his family ? Paul now answers most emphatically "No!" in 1 Timothy v. 8.

I cannot agree with those who take 1 Timothy v. 8 in relation only with 1 Timothy v. 4, and regard it as prescribing a rule only for children in relation to their parents. It prescribes a universal principle, which lies at the basis of Church life and of healthy society.

As to the question alluded to above, whether there had occurred any enlargement or modification of Paul's views during the years that had intervened between the writing of First Corinthians and the Pastoral Epistles, I cordially agree with the opinion stated by Principal Garvie in the EXPOSITOR, February 1911, p. 180 ff., that no development can be traced in the Apostle's teaching during the period in which it is known to us. That a great, a vast development occurred at some time in his thought is, of course, certain. He had to re-think his whole view of life and God during the early years of his career as a Christian. He had to grow from the Hebrew-Pharisaic outlook to the Pauline-Christian outlook. That needed much time and meditation, and required an almost complete remaking of his mind. But the process was practically completed before his mission to the Gentiles began in Acts xiii. 2. There is no essential difference between the Gospel of Paul in Thessalonians and in Ephesians and in Timothy. The differences which undoubtedly do exist between those Epistles are in part due to the varying character and position and power of comprehension among the recipients. The needs and the powers of a set of pagans who had had only a very few weeks of teaching were very different from those of a congregation that had behind it years of experience and thought. Those pagan converts of Paul had to be raised first to the much higher level of Hebrew thought and moral view and thereafter to the level of the Christian mind.

Moreover, while there was no development in the essential character of Paul's Gospel, there was a development in his plans, and in his method and power of presenting his Gospel to the Graeco-Roman world. He learned by experience how to use the opportunities of that world, and how to turn all the instruments of civilisation to serve his purposes. We know that he made tentatives, and abandoned his first plans, in the prosecution of his work. The roads on which he first entered he soon abandoned for new and more important paths; and he finally made the great Central Highway of the Empire through Ephesus and Corinth the theatre of his main effort.

Perhaps also there was some development in his power of expressing his Gospel In a way that should be intelligible and convincing to his converts, morally undeveloped as they were. He knew their hearts and thoughts from his childhood in Tarsus; but even so the task was no easy one. That his presentation of his thought was modified through experience is evident from a comparison between First Thessalonians and Second Timothy. As has been stated in xxviii., he is in both those letters much occupied with the thought of death and the last things; but how differently does he express himself in the second letter! He had learned that the expression used in the earlier was open to misconception and therefore unsuited for his purpose.

Gradually he learned to fulfil his task better, viz., to interpret the wisdom of God, to explain Christ who is the wisdom of God (1 Cor. i. 24, 30), not merely to destroy the false sham wisdom, but to build up the true wisdom, to be the wise master-builder, who lays the foundation on which others may complete the superstructure. Such is the development of Paul, the adequate expression of Christian higher thought for the first time in the Greek tongue, and not in a technical jargon nor in a barbarous Hebraicising kind of Greek, but in the natural familiar language of the Greek-speaking races.

W. M. RAMSAY.

 

 

1) Translated from Steffen in Zeitschr. neutest. Wias., 1901, ii. p. 124, by Dr. Kennedy in St. Paul's Conception of the Last Things, p. 6.

2) See two papers in the EXPOSITOR, June, July, 1907, by the present writer.

3) Compare 1 Corinthians iii. 5: Paul and Apollos are diakonoi: 2 Corinthians vi. 4: " diakonoi of God"; and 2 Corinthians iii. 6:" God made us sufficient as diakonoi of a new covenant " (Paul and Timothy or Paul alone); 2 Corinthians xv. 23, Ephesians iii. 7.

4) On Colossians iv. 17 see the remarks in a subsequent paragraph.

5) The verb is παρατίθεσθαι not παραδιδόναι.

6) It is not explicitly stated or directly answered; but indirectly and implicitly it is answered, 1 Cor. vii. 2, exactly as in the Pastorals.

7) See Histor. Comm. on First Corinthians, EXPOSITOR, 1900. I. p. 380 (improved II. p. 287 ff.). I am not convinced by my friend Professor John Massie's diverse opinion as to the nature of the Corinthians' suggestion.