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REMARKS ON THE
LIFE, CHARACTER, AND STYLE OF THE APOSTLE PAUL.
DESIGN ed As AN
INTRODUCTION TO THE STUDY OF THE PAULINE EPISTLEs.]
EARLY LIFE OF THE APOSTLE.
Importance of this investigation.—Time of Paul's earliest residence at Jerusalem.—Object of it.—His education in Greek Literature.—Quotations from the Greek Poets —His Greek chirography.
THAT part of the life of Paul, which is delineated in the book of Acts, and which relates to his agency, during the later periods of his life, in preaching the Gospel, has been fully exhibited in modern works as in those of Hemsen and Neander.” Neander in particular has examined the subject, with constant reference to the results, which flow from it, for the interpretation of the sacred writings. The events which occurred in the life of Paul before his conversion, and the circumstances of his early training have not been investigated with equal accuracy. Such an investigation, however, is needed by the interpreter of Paul's Epistles, because, by means of it, the whole image of the man is made to stand out so much the more visibly before the eye, and very many of his peculiar characteristics are so much the more easily explained. In reference to the education of the apostle, the first question of importance is, at what period of his life did he go to reside at Jerusalem. Eichhorn and Hemsen suppose, that he did not go to reside there until the thirtieth year of his age. As at the time of the martyrdom of Stephen, he was still called “a young man,” and as this designation supposes that he might then have been in his thirtieth year, but could not have exceeded it;” so it must be maintained, according to these writers, that he went to Jerusalem but a short time before this martyrdom, and also that very little could be said concerning any influence which he had then received from the school at Jerusalem, and from Gamaliel. But how can we adopt this opinion, when the apostle, in opposition to it, utters these words, “Born indeed in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, yet brought up, divate&gaugévos, in this city at the feet of Gamaliel.” It follows by necessity from this passage, that the apostle went to the capital city in the period of his boyhood. How early in his boyhood, cannot be determined. Certainly, however, too early a date must not be assigned, as Jerusalem furnished no special opportunity for the education of children. Neither in their capital city, nor generally among the Jews, do schools for boys and children appear to have been in existence at that time. They were first established shortly before the destruction of Jerusalem by Jeschu Ben Gamla. The training of lads was, until this period, a private business, and committed to parents and friends. We may therefore fix the date of Paul's first journey to Jerusalem, at that period of his youth, when the Rabbinical system of education began. In all probability Paul was sent to the capital for this particular object, to be educated by a Rabbi. The assertion of Strabo, that the inhabitants of Tarsus were, as a general thing, led by their love of learning to foreign cities for the completing of their education, has no proper reference to Paul and to his countrymen generally, but only to the Greeks.
* See Note A, at the close of this Treatise.
* [Life of Paul, by Hemsen, and History of the Establishment, and Progress of the Christian Church, by Neander. Hemsen's account of Paul's early life is inserted at the end of this Treatise.—TR.]
| Acts 7: 58.
* Zell, in his Observations on Aristotle's Ethics, Vol. II. p. 14, having occasion to explain the wide extent of the phrase véog traig, makes the following good remark, “The ancients extended the period of youth too far; we transgress the laws of nature, in making this period too short.”
* See Paul's speech recorded in Acts 22. 3.
The study of the Mishna is said to have been commenced at the tenth year of the child; at his thirteenth year he became a subject of the law, or in their phraseology, a son of the law. Accordingly we may determine, that Paul went to reside in Jerusalem, at some period between the tenth and thirteenth year of his life. And as, on this computation, he remained somewhere about twenty years under the guidance of the teachers in the capital, and especially of Gamaliel, the influence of this education upon his character must have been important. Before Paul went to Jerusalem, while in his earliest boyhood, we cannot suppose that he received any education, save that derived from the study of the Old Testament. This study is said in a passage of the Talmud to have commenced as early as the fifth year of the child. The expression, also “From a child thou hast known the Holy Scriptures,” shows that pious parents among the Jews instructed the minds of their children, at a very early age, in the sacred writings. The strictest class prescribed, that the child, as soon as it could speak, should learn the “Hear, oh Israel,” etc.” The apostle did not probably receive, at this earliest period of his youth, an education in Grecian literature. Even if it be granted, that his Hellenistic parents were, in this respect, less strict than others, still such an education did not by any means belong to so early a period of life. The question is here to be answered, how those three citations, which we find in Paul, from the Greek poets, are to be regarded." It is now supposed, generally, that they were learned from social intercourse, and not from his personal reading. In regard to the quotation from Menander and Epimenides, this is altogether probable; but not so in regard to that from Aratus. That passage is quoted precisely according to the text; and from its own nature it appears much less probable, than in the case of the other two, that it was introduced as a proverb into ordinary intercourse. Add to this the fact, that Aratus was a Cilician; so that, while Paul was residing in his native province, the works of the poet might very easily have fallen into his hands. We may therefore, perhaps with good reason, suppose that the apostle, when at a later period of his life he again took up his abode in Cilicia, became acquainted with this passage by his own perusal of Aratus. Why should we hesitate to believe, that this man, made free as he was by the Spirit of Christ from the prejudices of the Jews, having an eye so freely open to everything that concerned humanity, and especially to everything that stood related to his office; that this man, during his residence of almost thirty years among the Hellenists, should now and then have opened and read one of their books? This supposition will appear still more probable, if we consider, what we shall prove hereafter, that even Paul's Jewish teacher was not averse to Grecian culture.” The idea, that the apostle had such an intimate acquaintance with the literature of Greece, would have indeed the less probability, if it were correct, as many assert, that he never was really master of the Greek chirography. This assertion is founded on Gal. 6: 11.9 We would not, it is true, directly assert with Neander,” that the interpretation which Winer, Rückert, Usteri give of that passage, introduces into it an idea which is unworthy of the apostle, but the interpretation appears to us unintelligible. The large size and misshapen form, which Paul gave to the Greek letters, is mentioned on the supposition of those interpreters, for the purpose of showing that the chirography occasioned him trouble; that, notwithstanding the trouble, he had written; and this fact would be good evidence of his love to the church. But if the apostle designed barely to express this thought, ‘you see my love to you, that, notwithstanding I am
* In Pirke Aroth. Ch. 5. § 21, Jehuda Ben Thema prescribes, “At five years of age let children begin the Scripture; at ten, the Mishna; at thirteen be subjects of the law.” If this appointment seems to assign too early a period of life for such a study, it must be remembered that the Orientals come to maturity earlier than we do, and that the thirteenth year among them corresponds at least with the fifteenth among us. On this account, the same passage in the Talmud, which has been alluded to above, designates the eighteenth year as the one for marriage.
* 2 Tim. 3: 15.
* See the Treatise of Dassow, entitled, The Hebrew Infant liberally educated. Wittemb. 1714.
* See Note B, at the close of this Treatise.
* The passage from Aratus, as is well known, corresponds with that of Paul even to the ydo; thus, rot ydozai yévos fouév, while for example the parallel passage in Cleanthes runs thus, or ool ydoyèvoc ouév.
* See note C, at the close of this Treatise. w
* “Ye see how large a letter I have written unto you, with mine own hand."—Engl. Tr.
* Age of the Apostles, Part I. p. 285.