confines of the Praetorian barracks. He is optimistic that a decision for his release is imminent. He hopes to send St. Timothy and to come soon himself to Philippi. His Epistle to the Philippians is therefore to be dated to the eve of St. Paul’s release from his first Roman imprisonment, i.e. in the spring of 63. St. Paul was proud of his church at Philippi. No factions or defections were there needing to be dealt with. He wrote mainly to relieve their concern with his removal to the Praetorian prison, and over the illness of their compatriot. Indeed it was Epaphroditus himself who took this epistle back to his fellow Philippians. St. Paul also wrote to let them know that, after his release from prison, he hoped to come and visit them soon. This epistle also reflects his doctrinal preoccupation at that time with the worldwide unity of the Church in the mystery of Christ. In this epistle too we glimpse his preoccupation with the composition of Hebrews which was taking place at this time. Indeed in this epistle we find his clearest single statement of the mystery of Christ’s pre-existent divinity in eternity and His incarnation in time. 11
In 62 the Procurator of Judaea, Porcius Festus, died suddenly. Once again the Temple authorities seized the chance offered by the absence of a Roman governor. While Albinus the new Procurator was still on his way from Egypt, the High Priest Ananias II brought about the death of a group of ‘Nazarene’ leaders in Jerusalem. These included the Apostle, St. James the Lesser, the Bishop of Jerusalem. According to Josephus, this Ananias ‘profiting by the fact that Festus was dead and that his successor Albinus had not yet arrived, summoned the Sanhedrin, and caused to be brought before it the brother of the Lord called James, and some others, as guilty of having violated the Law; he had them stoned.’* 12
Jewish Christians were always under tremendous pressure to revert to the safety of their Jewish status, with its privileges under Roman law. It was therefore at about this time, in the shadow of the martyrdom of St. James the Lesser and his priests in Jerusalem in 62, that St. Paul’s Epistle to the Hebrews came to be written. This sublime treatise on the divine High Priesthood of Jesus Christ may have been composed by St. Paul himself, but although its teachings are his, its style is not. For while St. Paul generally quoted Old Testament texts loosely from memory and frequently fused texts, in Hebrews the citations, often lengthy, are word for word from the Septuagint (the Greek Bible) even where this differs notably from the Hebrew Bible. Later St. Jerome, discussing the problem of the authorship of Hebrews, simply leaves his reader to choose from among St. Barnabas, St. Luke and St. Clement of Rome. The Greek of Hebrews has been described as the finest in the New Testament. This argues for St. Luke as its immediate writer. Neither at the commencement nor anywhere else in this epistle does St. Paul name himself. Knowing the execration in which his name was held amongst Jews and many Judaeo-Christians, he simply did not wish to distract with his name his fellow Jewish Christians already distracted in the wake of the death of St. James. As the end of his captivity is near, this epistle seems to have been written in early 63. Whoever actually composed Hebrews, St.
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...