« ForrigeFortsæt »
and character of each. The chronological order thus becomes for us inevitable. The missionary journey last preceding: the character of the Apostle's visit among the people addressed, and its incidents, will be most important for us: and if we had to notice these, taking the Epistles in their present existing order, we should have continually to be going back and going forward, and breaking up the continuity of the apostolic progress.
Giving, therefore, the first place to St. Paul, we shall proceed regularly through his Epistles. The first which will thus come before us in order will be the Letters written to the Church of the Thessalonians.
That portion of each article which takes note of erroneous and inadequate renderings in our Authorised English Version, will, in the treatment of the Epistles, assume much more importance than before. In fact, it will be very difficult to prevent it from extending beyond reasonable limits. In some of the Epistles, especially in their argumentative portions, the inferential connection is so disguised in our version, that nothing less than a recast of the whole sentence will at all represent the true meaning.
So that, while the reader's pardon will sometimes have to be asked for, and his patience will be somewhat largely taxed, we must make up our minds to incur, as we have done before, grave reprehension at the hands of those who are for keeping the Authorised Version at all hazards; who think it safer to abide by the gloss of man, than to search into the mind of God.
THE FIRST EPISTLE TO THE
IRST, who were the Thessalonians?
how came St. Paul among them? If you turn to Acts xvi., you will find the account of his 'shameful treatment' and honourable dismissal 'at Philippi.' Then, in chap. xvii. 1, we read that, having passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they (Paul and Silas and Timothy) came to Thessalonica.' The former of these two, Amphipolis, is a mass of ruins: even the site of the latter is not known. But Thessalonica was then, ever has been, and is now, under the slightly abridged name of Saloniki, a great and flourishing city. The Apostle and his companions travelled to it through a beautiful country of lakes, streams, and mountains. The outlet of a ravine which
they had been climbing gave to their sight wide plains and the blue Ægean; and over the edge of the slope which was between them and the sea, were visible the walls and towers of Thessalonica, itself built on the descent right down to the water's edge.
In the last town in which the Apostle had preached, the Jews were content with a mere place of prayer by the river side. But here there was a (or rather the) synagogue of the Jews. They dwelt at Thessalonica in great numbers, and have continued to do so all through the ages which have since passed. We are told that their number is *now 35,000, half the entire population: that they have 36 synagogues: that the greater part of the trade of the place is in their hands.* I may remark to the reader, by the way, that this permanence and prosperity of the Thessalonian Jews may teach him a lesson, not to be too hasty in pronouncing the opposite features in a people's history to be a judgment from God. No Jews treated St. Paul worse than these: none have been more uniformly populous and prosperous.
* See Conybeare and Howson's 'Life of St. Paul,' to which work [ owe many of the details of which my descriptions are made up.
But the Apostle and his companions enter the city. Whether they were at once lodged in the house of Jason, where we afterwards find them, does not appear certain. Whether there were believers in Thessalonica before the Apostle's arrival, we are not informed. We know that, while he was in the city, he laboured night and day for his own subsistence. (1 Thess. ii. 9.) Possibly he may have joined some company of workmen in the Cilician hair-cloth, the making of which was his trade. His exceeding unwillingness to be chargeable to any of them looks rather as if he were not at first any one's guest, but lodging somewhere on his own account. At once (he appears to have come late in the week) he sought the synagogue of the Jews. At once he opened his message regarding Christ. Three Sabbath-days his preaching was continued. And, doubtless, he was not idle during the week; for in his description (1 Thess. i. 9) of his preaching and its results, he reminds the Thessalonians how they 'turned from idols to serve the living God,' which could only be said of Gentiles, who would not be likely to be present in the synagogue. We have a very full description of the way in which the Gospel