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THE FIRST EPISTLE TO THE CORINTHIANS. 41 produce; but there is an earnestness and a personality, if I may so call it, in the manner, which a cold forgery, I apprehend, would neither have conceived nor supported.
THE FIRST EPISTLE TO THE CORINTHIANS.
No. I. BEFORE we proceed to compare this epistle with the history, or with any other epistle, we will employ one number in stating certain remarks applicable to our argument, which arise from a perusal of the epistle itself.
By an expression in the first verse of the seventh chapter, “now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me,” it appears, that this letter to the Corinthians was written by St. Paul in answer to one which he had received from them; and that the seventh and some of the following chapters are taken up in resolving certain doubts, and regulating certain points of order, concerning which the Corinthians had in their letter consulted him. This alone is a circumstance considerably in favour of the authenticity of the epistle: for it must have been a far fetched contrivance in a forgery, first to have feigned the receipt of a letter from the church of Corinth, which letter does not appear; and then to have drawn up a fictitious answer to it, relative to a great variety of doubts and inquiries, purely economical and domestic; and which, though likely enough to have occurred to an infant society, in a situation and under an institution so novel as.
that of a Christian church then was, it must have very much exercised the author's invention, and could have answered no imaginable purpose of forgery, to introduce the mention of at all. Particulars of the kind we refer to are such as the following: The rule of duty and prudence relative to entering into marriage, as applicable to virgins, to widows; the case of husbands married to unconverted wives, of wives having unconverted husbands; that case where the unconverted party chooses to separate, where he chooses to continue the union; the effect which their conversion produced upon their prior state, of circumcision, of slavery; the eating of things offered to idols, as it was in itself, as others were affected by it; the joining in indolatrous sacrifices; the decorum to be observed in their religious assemblies, the order of speaking, the silence of women, the covering or uncovering of the head, as it became men, as it became women. These subjects, with their several subdivisions, are so particular, minute, and numerous, that though they be exactly agreeable to the circumstances of the persons to whom the letter was written, nothing, I believe, but the existence and reality of those circumstances could have suggested to the writer's thoughts.
But this is not the only nor the principal observation upon the correspondence between the church of Corinth and their apostle, which I wish to point out. It appears, I think, in this correspondence, that although the Corinthians had written to St. Paul, requesting his answer and his directions in the several points above enumerated, yet that they had not said one syllable about the enormities and disorders which had crept in amongst them, and in the blame of which
they all shared; but that St. Paul's information concerning the irregularities then prevailing at Corinth had come round to him from other quarters. The quarrels and disputes excited by their contentious adherence to their different teachers, and by their placing of them in competition with one another, were not mentioned in their letter, but communicated to St. Paul by more private intelligence: “It hath been declared unto me, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul, and I of Apollos, and I of Cephas, and I of Christ.” (i. 11, 12.) The incestuous marriage “of a man with his father's wife,” which St. Paul reprehends with so much severity in the fifth chapter of our epistle, and which was not the crime of an individual only, but a crime in which the whole church, by tolerating and conniving at it, had rendered themselves partakers, did not come to St. Paul's knowledge by the letter, but by a rumour which had reached his ears: “ It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father's wife; and ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you.” (v. 1, 2.) Their going to law before the judicature of the country, rather than arbitrate and adjust their disputes among themselves, which St. Paul animadverts upon with his usual plainness, was not intimated to him in the letter, because he tells them his opinion of this conduct before he comes to the contents of the letter. Their litigiousness is censured by St. Paul in the sixth
chapter of his epistle, and it is only at the beginning of the seventh chapter that he proceeds upon the articles which he found in their letter; and he proceeds upon them with this preface: “Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me” (vii. 1); which introduction he would not have used if he had been already discussing any of the subjects concerning which they had written. Their irregularities in celebrating the Lord's Supper, and the utter perversion of the institution which ensued, were not in the letter, as is evident from the terms in which St. Paul mentions the notice he had received of it: “Now in this that I declare unto you, I praise you not, that ye come together not for the better, but for the worse; for first of all, when ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you, and I partly believe it.” Now, that the Corinthians should, in their own letter, exhibit the fair side of their conduct to the apostle, and conceal from him the faults of their behaviour, was extremely natural and extremely probable: but it was a distinction which would not, I think, have easily occurred to the author of a forgery; and much less likely is it, that it should have entered into his thoughts to make the distinction appear in the way in which it does appear, viz. not by the original letter, not by any express observation upon it in the answer, but distantly, by marks perceivable in the manner or in the order in which St. Paul takes notice of their faults.
No. II. Our epistle purports to have been written after St. Paul had already been at Corinth: “I, brethren, when I came unto yoủ, came not with excellency of speech
or of wisdom” (ii. 1); and in many other places to the same effect. It purports also to have been written upon the eve of another visit to that church: “I will come to you shortly, if the Lord will” (iv. 19); and again, I “will come to you when I shall pass through Macedonia” (xvi. 5). Now the history relates that St. Paul did in fact visit Corinth twice: once as recorded at length in the eighteenth, and a second time as mentioned briefly in the twentieth chapter of the Acts. The same history also informs us, Acts xx. 1, that it was from Ephesus St. Paul proceeded upon his second journey into Greece. Therefore, as the epistle purports to have been written a short time preceding that journey; and as St. Paul, the history tells us, had resided more than two years at Ephesus before he set out upon it, it follows that it must have been from Ephesus, to be consistent with the history, that the epistle was written; and every note of place in the epistle agrees with this supposition. “If, after the manner of men, I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, what advantageth it me if the dead rise not?” (xv. 32). I allow that the apostle might say this wherever he was; but it was more natural and more to the purpose to say it if he was at Ephesus at the time, and in the midst of those conflicts to which the expression relates. “The churches of Asia salute you.” (xvi. 10). Asia, throughout the Acts of the Apostles and the epistles of St. Paul, does not mean the whole of Asia Minor or Anatolia, nor even the whole of the proconsular Asia, but a district in the anterior part of that country, called Lydian Asia, divided from the rest much as Portugal is from Spain, and of which district Ephesus was the capital.
Aquila and Pris