moved from Rome to Corinth, and in 53 from Corinth to Ephesus. They too had been forced to leave Ephesus at the time of the silversmiths’ riot in early 57 and were back hosting a church in Rome when St. Paul wrote Romans in early 58. No doubt their return to Ephesus had taken place after Rome’s Great Fire in July 64. While St. Luke referred to her more familiarly as Priscilla, St. Paul referred to her more respectfully as Prisca. The precedence of her name before that of her husband indicates that she was a Roman matron of independent and wealthy means. Able to travel often and to host house churches for the Apostles themselves, this couple were certainly more wealthy than could be accounted for by Aquila’s profession as a tent-maker. 16
In the first churches the Septuagint Greek translation of the Old Testament had been used for teaching and preaching at Mass. From the time of the first dispersion in 37 every newly founded church had at least one Gospel, and probably all four Gospels after 50. In the thirty years between St. James (the earliest epistle) and 67, the epistles were successively added as supplements for teaching on doctrine, morals and Church order. Since at least I Thessalonians (51) St. Paul had been systematic in propagating his epistles. The four Galatian churches in 49 would each have kept their own copy of their epistle, and the three magnificent epistles to the Corinthians and the Romans would have been quickly copied and shared out among other churches. St. Paul’s epistle ‘to the Ephesians’ was in fact, from the start, meant to be copied and circulated among all the churches. (Ephesians was St. Paul’s only epistle meant from the start to be a circular. In contrast, of the seven epistles of the other Apostles, five were meant to be circulars.) He asked the Colossians to get a copy of Ephesians from, and to share their own epistle with, their neighbours in Laodicaea.* 17
In the end 14 of the 27 works comprising the New Testament carried the name of St. Paul as their author. To summarise then St. Paul’s contribution to the New Testament: his first five epistles had been provoked by the internal problems of the Galatian (49), Thessalonian (51, 52) and Corinthian (56, 57) churches. Next came his formal treatise to the Romans (58) and then four Roman ‘captivity epistles’ (62, 63) – personal letters to Philemon and the Philippians, and two treatises (Ephesians, and to the Colossians) on the unity of the world-wide Church with Christ. Finally, after he endorsed a treatise to the Hebrews (63), came his three ‘pastoral’ epistles (64 to 66) on the selection and duties of the Church’s rulers. To summarise more briefly still, St. Paul followed his first six epistles on disciplinary matters in individual churches and on doctrine with five Roman ‘captivity’ epistles on the Church’s unity in Christ’s priesthood and finished with his three ‘pastoral’ epistles for Church rulers. 18
By 63 the Church had come a long way since that first decade when St. James wrote his epistle full of practical wisdom for Jewish Christians who had only ‘the rich’ to fear. Now dangers threatened externally not only from the Jews and the Jewish Temple and synagogue authorities but also increasingly from ordinary pagan citizens and from the imperial pagan authorities.
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...