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I should have thought myself bound to have preferred the epistle. Now, every epistle which St. Paul wrote to churches which he himself had founded, or which he had visited, abounds with references, and appeals to what had passed during the time that he was present amongst them; whereas there is not a text in the Epistle to the Ephesians from which we can collect that he had ever been at Ephesus at all. The two Epistles to the Corinthians, the Epistle to the Galatians, the Epistle to the Philippians, and the two Epistles to the Thessalonians are of this class; and they are full of allusions to the apostle's history, his reception, and his conduct whilst amongst them; the total want of which, in the epistle before us,
very difficult to account for, if it was in truth written to the church of Ephesus, in which city he had resided for so long a time. This is the first and strongest objection. But farther, the Epistle to the Colossians was addressed to a church in which St. Paul had never been. This we infer from the first verse of the second chapter: “For I would that ye knew what great conflict I have for you and for them at Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh.” There could be no propriety in thus joining the Colossians and Laodiceans with those who had not seen his face in the flesh,” if they did not also belong to the same description38 Now his address to the Colossians, whom he had not visited, is precisely the same as his address to the Christians to whom he wrote in the epistle which we are now con
38 Dr. Lardner contends against the validity of this conclusion; but, I think, without success. Lardner, vol. xiv. p. 473, edit. 1757.
sidering: “We give thanks to God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus, and of the love which ye have to all the saints.” (Col. ch. i. 3.) Thus he speaks to the Colossians. In the epistle before us, as follows: “Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints, cease not to give thanks for you
my prayers.” (Chap. i. 15.) The terms of this address are observable. The words,“ having heard of your faith and love,” are the very words, we see, which he uses towards strangers; and it is not probable that he should employ the same in accosting a church in which he had long exercised his ministry, and whose “ faith and love” he must have personally known 39 The Epistle to the Romans was written before St. Paul had been at Rome; and his address to them runs in the same strain with that just now quoted: “I thank my God, through Jesus Christ, for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world.” (Rom. ch. i. 8.) Let us now see what was the form in which our apostle was accustomed to introduce his epistles when he wrote to those with whom he was already acquainted. To the Corinthians it was this:
39 Mr. Locke endeavours to avoid this difficulty, by explaining “ their faith of which St. Paul had heard, to mean the steadfastness of their persuasion that they were called into the kingdom of God without subjection to the Mosaic institution. But this interpretation seems to me extremely hard; for, in the manner in which faith is here joined with love, in the expression, “your faith and love,” it could not be meant to denote any particular tenet which distinguished one set of Christians from others; forasmuch as the expression describes the general virtues of the Christian, profession. Vide Locke in loc.
“I thank my God always on your behalf for the grace of God which is given you by Christ Jesus.” (1 Cor. ch. i. 4.) To the Philippians: “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you.” (Phil. ch. i.
To the Thessalonians: “We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers, remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labour of love.” (1 Thess. ch. i. 3.) To Timothy: “ I thank God, whom I serve from my forefathers with pure conscience, that without ceasing I have remembrance of thee in my prayers night and day.” (2 Tim. ch. i. 3.) In these quotations it is usually his remembrance, and never his hearing of them, which he makes the subject of his thankfulness to God.
As great difficulties stand in the way, supposing the epistle before us to have been written to the church of Ephesus, so I think it probable that it is actually the Epistle to the Laodiceans referred to in the fourth chapter of the Epistle to the Colossians. The text which contains that reference is this: “ When this epistle is read among you, cause that it be read also in the church of the Laodiceans, and that ye
likewise read the epistle from Laodicea.” (Chap. iv. 16.) The
epistle from Laodicea” was an epistle sent by St. Paul to that church, and by them transmitted to Colosse. The two churches were mutually to communicate the epistles they had received. This is the way
in which the direction is explained by the greater part of commentators, and is the most probable sense that can be given to it. It is also probable that the epistle alluded to was an epistle which had been received by the church of Laodicea lately. It appears
then, with a considerable degree of evidence, that there existed an epistle of St. Paul's nearly of the same date with the epistle to the Colossians, and an epistle directed to a church (for such the church of Laodicea was) in which St. Paul had never been. What has been observed concerning the epistle before us shows that it answers perfectly to that character.
Nor does the mistake seem very difficult to account for. Whoever inspects the map of Asia Minor will see that a person proceeding from Rome to Laodicea would probably land at Ephesus as the nearest frequented seaport in that direction. Might not Tychicus then, in passing through Ephesus, communicate to the Christians of that place the letter with which he was charged? And might not copies of that letter be multiplied and preserved at Ephesus? Might not some of the copies drop the words of designation ev Tņ Aaodikeią 40, which it was of no consequence to an
40 And it is remarkable that there seem to have been some ancient copies without the words of designation, either the words in Ephesus, or the words in Laodicea. St. Basil, a writer of the fourth century, speaking of the present epistle, has this very singular passage: “And writing to the Ephesians, as truly united to him who is through knowledge, he (Paul) calleth them in a peculiar sense such who are; saying, to the saints who are and (or even) the faithful in Christ Jesus; for so those before us have transmitted it, and we have found it in ancient copies.” Dr. Mill interprets (and, notwithstanding some objections that have been made to him, in my opinion rightly interprets) these words of Basil, as declaring that this father had seen certain copies of the epistle in which the words “in Ephesus” were wanting. And the passage, I think, must be considered as Basil's fanciful way of explaining what was really a corrupt and defective reading; for I do not believe it possible that the author of the epistle could have originally written á yious TOIS 8O1v, without any name of place to follow it.
Ephesian to retain? Might not copies of the letter come out into the Christian church at large from Ephesus; and might not this give occasion to a belief that the letter was written to that church? And, lastly, might not this belief produce the error which we suppose to have crept into the inscription?
As our epistle purports to have been written during St. Paul's imprisonment at Rome, which lies beyond the period to which the Acts of the Apostles brings up his history; and as we have seen and acknowledged that the epistle contains no reference to any transaction at Ephesus during the apostle's residence in that city, we cannot expect that it should supply many marks of agreement with the narrative. One coincidence however occurs, and a coincidence of that minute and less obvious kind, which, as hath been repeatedly observed, is of all others the most to
be relied upon.
Chap. vi. 19, 20, we read,
praying for me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in bonds.” “ In bonds,” ev alvoel, in a chain. In the twenty-eighth chapter of the Acts we are informed, that Paul, after his arrival at Rome, was suffered to dwell by himself with a soldier that kept him. Dr. Lardner has shown that this mode of custody was in use amongst the Romans, and that whenever it was adopted, the prisoner was bound to the soldier by a single chain : in reference to which St. Paul, in the twentieth verse of this chapter, tells the Jews, whom he had assembled, “ For this cause therefore have I