you, it was not in grandeur of speech…for I decided not to know anything among you but Jesus Christ and Him crucified, and I was among you in weakness and fear and much trembling.’ In Athens St. Paul had discovered that mere philosophy was not enough – it too often made men proud and complacent and full of strategies for remaining comfortable in their despair – and that they could not be simply reasoned out of these things. For ‘your faith should not depend on human philosophy, but on the power of God.’ Men, he now realised, needed to be shocked by the facts of the Incarnation, the Crucifixion and the Judgement to come. 7
Late in 51 St. Silas and St. Timothy joined St. Paul in Corinth bringing the good news that the church in Thessalonica had been stabilised. Inside this new church however there had arisen some misunderstandings with which St. Paul’s assistants had not been able to deal satisfactorily. These misunderstandings especially concerned the Second Coming or Return of our Lord, the Parousia: many believed that it was imminent any day, and were therefore neglecting their daily duties. As he could not come personally to Thessalonica, St. Paul decided to dictate for them an epistle to explain that the Second Coming was not to be expected as necessarily coming in their own lifetime. Rather it would come ‘like a thief in the night’. Thus, late in 51, was written St. Paul’s First Epistle to the Thessalonians. Idlers however were still denying the need to work and indeed some forged letter was being circulated purporting to be from St. Paul. In 52 therefore St. Paul dictated another epistle to explain how certain ‘signs’, certain events, were necessarily to come before the Parousia. Thus did St. Paul’s Second Epistle to the Thessalonians come to be written.* 8
These two epistles were dictated by St. Paul in Corinth where he based himself for a ‘year and six months’ (from the winter of 51/52 to the spring of 53). Here he had met Prisca and Aquila who had, like St. Peter, been exiled from Rome. With these he lodged and, to set an example for his Thessalonians, worked at his trade as a tent-maker. Corinth was the capital of Roman Greece (‘Achaia’) and was ideally located on Rome’s lines of sea communications with the East. The city lay by its narrow isthmus with its two ports of Cenchreae to the east, and Lechaeum to the west. Especially in the winter, when ships were confined to port, St. Paul’s skills as a tent-maker were here very much in demand for repairing sails. 9
After the Jerusalem Council in 50, all the Gospels, including St. John’s seem to have gone into official use in the churches. Thus in 51 St. Paul could refer to a doctrine found in the Gospels only in St. John: ‘As for loving the brothers, you have no need that I write to you about it, since you have learnt from God yourselves to love one another.’ (Notice the exalted status of Gospel readings.) Later in this same epistle, St. Paul refers to doctrines from St. Matthew and St. Luke as already common knowledge: ‘There is no need for writing to you about ‘times and seasons’, since you know very well that the Day of the Lord will be coming like a thief in the night.’
Published on Nov 29, 2011
Published on Nov 29, 2011
This survey of how the New Testament came to be written is also a chronicle of the first 40 years of the history of the Christian Church. It...