And in like manner, as we follow the Apostle in the different stages of his varied and adventurous career, we must strive continually to bring out in their true brightness the half-effaced forms and coloring of the scene in which he acts; and while he "becomes all things to all men, that he might by all means save some," we must form to ourselves a living likeness of the things and of the men among which he moved, if we would rightly estimate his work.
Thus we must study Christianity rising in the midst of Judaism; we must realize the position of its early churches with their mixed society, to which Jews, Proselytes, and Heathens had each contributed a characteristic element; we must qualify ourselves to be umpires (if we may so speak) in their violent internal divisions; we must listen to the strife of their schismatic parties, when one said, "I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos;" we must study the true character of those early heresies which even denied the resurrection, and advocated impurity and lawlessness, claiming the right "to sin that grace might abound," (Romans 6:1) "defiling the mind and conscience" (Titus 1:15) of their followers, and making them "abominable and disobedient, and to every good work reprobate;" (Titus 1:16) we must trace the extent to which Greek philosophy, Judaizing formalism, and Eastern superstition, blended their tainting influence with the pure fermentation of that new leaven which was at last to leaven the whole mass of civilized society.
Again: to understand Apostle Paul’s personal history as a missionary to the Heathen, we must know the state of the different populations which he visited; the character of the Greek and Roman civilization at the epoch; the points of intersection between the political history of the world and the scriptural narrative; the social organization and gradation of ranks, for which he enjoins respect; the position of women, to which he specially refers in many of his letters; the relations between parents and children, slaves and masters, which he not vainly sought to imbue with the loving spirit of the gospel; the quality and influence, under the early Empire, of the Greek and Roman religions, whose effete corruptness he denounces with such indignant scorn; the public amusements of the people, whence he draws topics of warning or illustration; the operation of the Roman law, under which he was so frequently arraigned; the courts in which he was tried, and the magistrates by whose sentence he suffered; the legionary soldiers who acted as his guards; the roads by which he traveled, whether through the mountains of Lycaonia or the marshes of Latium; the course of commerce by which his journeys were so often regulated; and the character of that imperfect navigation by which his life was so many times (f1) endangered.
While thus trying to live in the life of a bygone age, and to call up the figure of the past from its tomb, duly robed in all its former raiment, every help is welcome which enables us to fill up the dim outline in any part of its reality. Especially we delight to look upon the only one of the manifold features of that past existence which still is living. We remember with pleasure that the earth, the sea, and the sky still combine for us in the same landscapes which passed before the eyes of the wayfaring Apostle. The plain of Cilicia; the snowy distances of Taurus; the cold and rapid stream of the Cydnus; the broad Orontes under the shadow of its steep banks, with their thickets of jasmine and coriander; the hills which "stand about Jerusalem," (f2) the "arched fountains cold" in the ravines below, and those "flowery brooks beneath that wash their hallowed feet;" the capes and islands of the Grecian Sea; the craggy summit of Areopagus; the land-locked harbor of Syracuse; the towering cone of AEtna; the voluptuous loveliness of the Campanian shore, — all these remain to us, the imperishable handiwork of Nature. We can still look upon the same trees and flowers which he saw clothing the mountains, giving color to the plains, or reflected in the rivers; we may think of him among the palms of Syria, the cedars of Lebanon, the olives of Attica, the green Isthmian pines of Corinth, whose leaves wove those "fading garlands" which he contrasts (1Corinthians 9:25) with the "incorruptible crown," the prize for which he fought. Nay, we can even still look upon some of the works of man which filled him with wonder, or moved him to indignation. The "temples made with hands" (Acts 17:24) which rose before him — the very apotheosis of idolatry — on the Acropolis, still stand in almost undiminished majesty and beauty.
The mole on which he landed at Puteoli still stretches its ruins into the blue waters of the bay. The remains of the Baian villas, whose marble porticoes he then beheld glittering in the sunset, — his first specimen of Italian luxury, — still are seen along the shore. We may still enter Rome as he did by the same Appian Road, through the same Capenian Gate, and wander among the ruins of "Caesar’s palace" (Philippians 1:13) on the Palatine, while our eye rests upon the same aqueducts radiating over the Campagna to the unchanging hills. Those who have visited these spots must often have felt a thrill of recollection as they trod in the footsteps of the Apostle; they must have been conscious how much the identity of the outward scene brought them into communion with him, while they tried to image to themselves the feelings with which he must have looked upon the objects before them. They who have experienced this will feel how imperfect a biography of Apostle Paul must be without faithful representations of the places which he visited. It is hoped that the views (f3) which are contained in the present work (which have been diligently collected from various sources) will supply this desideratum.
And it is evident, that, for the purposes of such a biography, nothing but true and faithful representations of the real scenes will be valuable; these are what is wanted, and not ideal representations, even though copied from the works of the greatest masters:for as it has been well said, "Nature and reality painted at the time, and on the spot, a nobler cartoon of Apostle Paul’s preaching at Athens than the immortal Rafaelle afterwards has done." (f4)
For a similar reason, maps have been given (in addition to careful geographical descriptions), exhibiting with as much accuracy as can at present be attained the physical features of the countries visited, and some of the ancient routes through them, together with plans of the most important cities, and maritime charts of the coasts and harbors where they were required.
While thus endeavoring to represent faithfully the natural objects and architectural remains connected with the narrative, it has likewise been attempted to give such illustrations as were needful of the minor productions of human art as they existed in the first century. For this purpose, engravings of coins have been given in all cases where they seemed to throw light on the circumstances mentioned in the history; and recourse has been had to the stores of Pompeii and Herculaneum, to the columns of Trajan and Antoninus, and to the collections of the Vatican, the Louvre, and especially of the British Museum.
But, after all this is done, — after we have endeavored, with every help we can command, to reproduce the picture of Apostle Paul’s deeds and times, — how small would our knowledge of himself remain if we had no other record of him left us but the story of his adventures! If his letters had never come down to us, we should have known indeed what he did and suffered; but we should have had very little idea of what he was. (f5) Even if we could perfectly succeed in restoring the image of the scenes and circumstances in which he moved; even if we could, as in a magic mirror, behold him speaking in the school of Tyrannus, with his Ephesian hearers in their national costume around him, — we should still see very little of Paul of Tarsus. We must listen to his words, if we would learn to know him. If Fancy did her utmost, she could give us only his outward, not his inward life. "His bodily presence" (so his enemies declared) "was weak and contemptible;" but "his letters" (even they allowed) "were weighty and powerful." (f6) Moreover, an effort of imagination and memory is needed to recall the past; but, in his Epistles, Apostle Paul is present with us. "His words are not dead words; they are living creatures with hands and feet," touching in a thousand hearts at this very hour the same chord of feeling which vibrated to their first utterance.
We, the Christians of the nineteenth (twenty-first) century, can bear witness now, as fully as could a Byzantine audience fourteen hundred years ago, to the saying of Chrysostom, that "Paul by his letters still lives in the mouths of men throughout the whole world:by them not only his own converts, but all the faithful even unto this day, yea, and all the saints who are yet to be born until Christ’s coming again, both have been and shall be blessed." His Epistles are to his inward life what the mountains and rivers of Asia and Greece and Italy are to his outward life, — the imperishable part which still remains to us when all that time can ruin has passed away.
It is in these letters, then, that we must study the true life of Apostle Paul, from its inmost depths and springs of action, which were "hidden with Christ in God," down to its most minute developments and peculiar individual manifestations. In them we learn (to use the language of Gregory Nazianzene) "what is told of Paul by Paul himself." Their most sacred contents, indeed, rise above all that is peculiar to the individual writer; for they are the communications of God to man concerning the faith and life of Christians, which Apostle Paul declared (as he often asserts) by the immediate revelation of Christ himself. But his manner of teaching these eternal truths is colored by his human character, and peculiar to himself. And such individual features are naturally impressed much more upon epistles than upon any other kind of composition:for here we have not treatises or sermons, which may dwell in the general and abstract, but genuine letters, written to meet the actual wants of living men; giving immediate answers to real questions, and warnings against pressing dangers; full of the interests of the passing hour. And this, which must be more or less the case with all epistles addressed to particular churches, is especially so with those of Apostle Paul. In his case, it is not too much to say that his letters are himself, — a portrait painted by his own hand, of which every feature may be "known and read of all men."
It is not merely that in them we see the proof of his powerful intellect, his insight into the foundations of natural theology (Romans 1:20) and of moral philosophy; (Romans 2:14, 15) for in such points, though the philosophical expression might belong to himself, the truths expressed were taught him of God. It is not only that we there find models of the sublimest eloquence when he is kindled by the vision of the glories to come, the perfect triumph of good over evil, the manifestation of the sons of God, and their transformation into God’s likeness, when they shall see him no longer (1Corinthians 13:12) "in a glass darkly, but face to face," — for in such strains as these it was not so much he that spake as the Spirit of God speaking in him, (Matthew 10:20) — but in his letters, besides all this which is divine, we trace every shade, even to the faintest, of his human character also.
Here we see that fearless independence with which he "withstood Peter to the face;" (Galatians 2:11) that impetuosity which breaks out in his apostrophe to the "foolish Galatians;" (Galatians 3:1) that earnest indignation which bids his converts "beware of dogs, beware of the concision," (Philippians 3:2) and pours itself forth in the emphatic "God forbid" (f7) which meets every Antinomian suggestion; that fervid patriotism which makes him "wish that he were himself accursed from Christ for his brethren, his kinsmen according to the flesh, who are Israelites;" (Romans 9:3) that generosity which looked for no other reward than "to preach the Glad-Tidings of Christ without charge," (1Corinthians 9:15 and 18) and made him feel that he would rather "die than that any man should make this glorying void;" that dread of officious interference which led him to shrink from "building on another man’s foundation;" (Romans 15:20) that delicacy which shows itself in his appeal to Philemon, whom he might have commanded, "yet for love’s sake rather beseeching him, being such an one as Paul the aged, and now also a prisoner of Jesus Christ," (Philemon 1:9) and which is even more striking in some of his farewell greetings, as (for instance) when he bids the Romans "salute Rufus, and his mother, who is also mine; " (Romans 16:13).
Here we also see that scrupulous fear of evil appearance which "would not eat any man’s bread for nought, but wrought with labor and travail night and day, that he might not be chargeable to any of them;" (1Thessalonians 2:9) that refined courtesy which cannot bring itself to blame till it has first praised, (f8) and which makes him deem it needful almost to apologize for the freedom of giving advice to those who were not personally known to him; (Romans 15:14, 15) that self-denying love which "will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest he make his brother to offend;" (1Corinthians 8:13) that impatience of exclusive formalism with which he overwhelms the Judaizers of Galatia, joined with a forbearance so gentle for the innocent weakness of scrupulous consciences; (1Corinthians 8:12, and Romans 14:21) that grief for the sins of others, which moved him to tears when he spoke of the enemies of the cross of Christ, "of whom I tell you even weeping;" (Philippians 3:18) that noble freedom from jealousy with which he speaks of those, who, out of rivalry to himself, preach Christ even of envy and strife, supposing to add affliction to his bonds, —
"What then? notwithstanding every way, whether in pretence or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice;" (Philippians 1:15)
that tender friendship which watches over the health of Timothy even with a mother’s care; (1Timothy 5:23) that intense sympathy in the joys and sorrows of his converts which could say even to the rebellious Corinthians, "Ye are in our hearts, to die and live with you;" (2Corinthians 7:3) that longing desire for the intercourse of affection, and that sense of loneliness when it was withheld, which perhaps is the most touching feature of all, because it approaches most nearly to a weakness, —
"When I had come to Troas to preach the Glad-Tidings of Christ, and a door was opened to me in the Lord, I had no rest in my spirit because I found not Titus my brother; but I parted from them, and came from thence into Macedonia."
"when I was come into Macedonia, my flesh had no rest, but I was troubled on every side: without were fightings, within were fears. But God, who comforts them that are cast down, comforted me by the coming of Titus." (2Corinthians 2:13, and 7:5)
"Do thy utmost to come to me speedily: for Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed to Thessalonica; Crescens to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia; only Luke is with me." (2Timothy 4:9)
Nor is it only in the substance, but even in the style, of these writings, that we recognize the man Paul of Tarsus. In the parenthetical constructions and broken sentences, we see the rapidity with which the thoughts crowded upon him, almost too fast for utterance; we see him animated rather than weighed down by "the crowd that presses on him daily, and the care of all the churches," (2Corinthians 11:28) as he pours forth his warnings or his arguments in a stream of eager and impetuous dictation, with which the pen of the faithful Tertius can hardly keep pace. (f9) And, above all, we trace his presence in the postscript to every letter, which he adds as an authentication, in his own characteristic handwriting, (f10) "which is a token in every epistle:thus I write." (2Thessalonians 3:17) Sometimes, as he takes up the pen, he is moved with indignation when he thinks of the false brethren among those whom he addresses:"The salutation of me Paul with my own hand:if any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be accursed." (1Corinthians 16:22) Sometimes, as he raises his hand to write, he feels it cramped by the fetters which bind him to the soldier who guards him:(Colossians 4:18) "I Paul salute you with my own hand:remember my chains." Yet he always ends with the same blessing,
"The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you;" to which he sometimes adds still further a few last words of affectionate remembrance, — "My love be with you all in Christ Jesus." (1Corinthians 16:24)
But, although the letters of Apostle Paul are so essential a part of his personal biography, it is a difficult question to decide upon the form in which they should be given in a work like this. The object to be sought is, that they may really represent in English what they were to their Greek readers when first written. Now, this object would not be attained if the Authorized Version were adhered to; and yet a departure from that whereof so much is interwoven with the memory and deepest feelings of every religious mind should be grounded on strong and sufficient cause. It is hoped that the following reasons may be held such:—
The Authorized Version was meant to be a standard of authority and ultimate appeal in controversy:hence it could not venture to depart, as an ordinary translation would do, from the exact words of the original, even where some amplification was absolutely required to complete the sense. It was to be the version unanimously accepted by all parties, and therefore must simply represent the Greek text word for word. This it does most faithfully, so far as the critical knowledge of the sixteenth (f11) century permitted. But the result of this method is sometimes to produce a translation unintelligible to the English reader. (f12) Also, if the text admit of two interpretations, our version endeavors, if possible, to preserve the same ambiguity, and effects this often with admirable skill; but such indecision, although a merit in an authoritative version, would be a fault in a translation which had a different object.
The imperfect knowledge existing at the time when our Bible was translated made it inevitable that the translators should occasionally render the original incorrectly; and the same cause has made their version of many of the argumentative portions of the Epistles perplexed and obscure.
Such passages as are affected by the above-mentioned objections, might, it is true, have been recast, and the authorized translation retained in all cases where it is correct and clear; but, if this had been done, a patchwork effect would have been produced like that of new cloth upon old garments:moreover, the devotional associations of the reader would have been offended; and it would have been a rash experiment to provoke such a contrast between the matchless style of the Authorized Version and that of the modern translator, thus placed side by side.
The style adopted for the present purpose should not be antiquated; for Apostle Paul was writing in the language used by his Hellenistic readers in every-day life.
In order to give the true meaning of the original, something more than a mere verbal rendering is often absolutely required. Apostle Paul’s style is extremely elliptical, and the gaps must be filled up. And, moreover, the great difficulty in understanding his argument is to trace clearly the transitions (f13) by which he passes from one step to another. For this purpose, something must occasionally be supplied beyond the mere literal rendering of the words.
In fact, the meaning of an ancient writer may be rendered into a modern language in three ways:either, first, by a literal version; or, secondly, by a free translation; or, thirdly, by a paraphrase. A recent specimen of the first method may be found in the corrected edition of the Authorized Version of the Corinthians, by Prof. Stanley; of the Galatians and Ephesians, by Prof. Ellicott; and of the Thessalonians, Galatians, and Romans, by Prof. Jowett; all of which have appeared since the first edition of the present work The experiment of these translations (ably executed as they are) has confirmed the view above expressed of the unsatisfactory nature of such a literal rendering; for it cannot be doubted, that though they correct the mistakes of the Authorized Version, yet they leave an English reader in more hopeless bewilderment as to Apostle Paul’s meaning than that version itself. Of the third course (that of paraphrase), an excellent specimen is to be found in Prof. Stanley’s paraphrases of the Corinthian Epistles. There is, perhaps, no better way than this of conveying the general meaning of the Epistles to an English reader; but it would not be suitable for the biography of Apostle Paul, in which not only his general meaning, but his every sentence and every clause, should, so far as possible, be given There remains the intermediate course of a free translation, which is that adopted in the present work: nor does there seem any reason why a translation of Apostle Paul should be rendered inaccurate by a method which would generally be adopted in a translation of Thucydides.
It has not been thought necessary to interrupt the reader by a note (f14) in every instance where the translation varies from the Authorized Version. It has been assumed that the readers of the notes will have sufficient knowledge to understand the reason of such variations in the more obvious cases. But it is hoped that no variation which presents any real difficulty has been passed over without explanation.
It should further be observed, that the translation given in this work does not adhere to the Textus Receptus, but follows the text authorized by the best MSS. Yet, though the Textus Receptus has no authority in itself, it seems undesirable to depart from it without necessity, because it is the text familiar to English readers. Hence the translator has adhered to it in passages where the MSS. of highest authority are equally divided between its reading and some other, and also in some cases where the difference between it and the true text is merely verbal.
The authorities consulted upon the chronology of Apostle Paul’s life, the reasons for the views taken of disputed points in it, and for the dates of the Epistles, are stated (so far as seems needful) in the body of the work or in the Appendices, and need not be further referred to here.
In conclusion, the authors would express their hope that this biography may, in its measure, be useful in strengthening the hearts of some against the peculiar form of unbelief most current at the present day. The more faithfully we can represent to ourselves the life, outward and inward, of Apostle Paul, in all its fulness, the more unreasonable must appear the theory, that Christianity had a mythical origin; and the stronger must be our ground for believing his testimony to the divine nature and miraculous history of our Redeemer. No reasonable man can learn to know and love the Apostle of the Gentiles without asking himself the question, "What was the principle by which, through such a life, he was animated? What was the strength in which he labored with such immense results?" Nor can the most sceptical inquirer doubt for one moment the full sincerity of Apostle Paul’s belief, that
"the life which he lived in the flesh, he lived by the faith of the Son of God, who died and gave himself for him." (Galatians 2:20)
To believe in Christ crucified and risen, to serve him on earth, to be with him hereafter, — these, if we may trust the account of his own motives by any human writer whatever, were the chief if not the only thoughts which sustained Paul of Tarsus through all the troubles and sorrows of his twenty-years’ conflict. His sagacity, his cheerfulness, his forethought, his impartial and clear-judging reason, all the natural elements of his strong character, are not, indeed, to be overlooked: but the more highly we exalt these in our estimate of his work, the larger share we attribute to them in the performance of his mission, the more are we compelled to believe that he spoke the words of truth and soberness when he told the Corinthians, that, ‘last of all, Christ was seen of him also;’ (1Corinthians 15:8) that ‘by the grace of God' he was what he was; that, ‘whilst he labored more abundantly than all, it was not he, but the grace of God that was in him.’ (f15)