John Kitto Evening Bible Devotions: November 2

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John Kitto Evening Bible Devotions: November 2

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Corroborative Circumstances


It has been before intimated that the narrative of these transactions, which Saul himself gives in the Epistle to the Galatians, is produced argumentatively for the purpose of showing that he derived not his apostolic authority from any human appointment, nor his doctrine from any human teaching. The only fact in his history that could furnish a hold for any contrary conclusion, was this visit of his to Jerusalem. He therefore recites the circumstances of that visit, to show how they agreed with the assertion of his own independence. In doing this, he produces details, which are not furnished by Luke in his general narrative of the events, but which fit exactly into that narrative. He shows that, after his conversion, he had little if any intercourse with the apostles at Jerusalem; or with the churches in Judea. After his conversion he withdrew into Arabia, and it was not until three years subsequently that he went to Jerusalem, after he had already been preaching the Gospel boldly, as one fully authorized and qualified to do so. Then, although he did go to Jerusalem, it was only for the purpose of forming a personal acquaintance with Peter; and his stay was short—only fifteen days—during which he saw no other apostle, “save James, the Lord’s brother.” He there could not have been commissioned or authorized by the college of the apostles, for they were actually not at Jerusalem; or, if they were, had not become known to him. It is inferred that all save two had quitted Jerusalem on various evangelical missions; but, as the word translated “to see” often means to form the personal acquaintance of one, he may mean, when he says that he saw none of the apostles but Peter and James, that he became personally acquainted only with these two, though more than these may have been at Jerusalem. Then, in another place (Act_22:17-21), he gives an incidental corroboration of his statements, by showing that he did not depart from Jerusalem under any delegation or appointment from the apostles, but by special command of the Lord himself, who had appeared to him in a vision. Further, he shows that, when he did take his departure, it was by a mode which precluded him from visiting the Christian churches in Palestine, so that he remained “unknown by face unto the churches of Judea which were in Christ: but they had heard only, that be which persecuted us in times past, now preacheth the faith which once he destroyed. And they glorified God in me.” He adds that fourteen years elapsed before he again visited Jerusalem. All these are new points which do no appear in Luke’s narrative, and it is worth while to look at them separately.

That of the object, “to see Peter,” has already been sufficiently considered.

From the shortness of the visit, as here stated, an important historical consideration arises, which has been well produced by Dr. Paley, in whose words it had best be given. “The direct account of the same journey in the Act_11:28, determines nothing concerning the time of his continuance there—‘And he was with them (the apostles) coming in and going out at Jerusalem. And he spake boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus, and disputed against the Grecians: but they went about to slay him, which when the brethren knew, they brought him down to Caesarea;’—or rather this account, taken by itself, would lead us to suppose that St. Paul’s abode at Jerusalem had been longer than fifteen days. But turn to the twenty-second chapter of the Acts, and you will find a reference to this visit to Jerusalem, which plainly indicates that Paul’s visit to the city must have been of short duration—‘And it came to pass, that when I was come again to Jerusalem, even while I prayed in the temple, I was in a trance; and saw him saying unto me, Make haste, and get thee quickly out of Jerusalem; for they will not receive thy testimony concerning me.’ Here we have the general terms of one text so explained by a distant text in the same book, as to bring an indeterminate expression into a close conformity with a specification delivered in another book—a species of consistency not, I think, usually found in fabulous relations.”

The same writer points to the distinctive mention of the James, with whom Saul became acquainted at Jerusalem, as “the Lord’s brother.” “There were at Jerusalem two apostles, or at least two eminent members of the church, of the name of James.” This is directly inferred from the Acts of the Apostles, which, in the second verse of the twelfth chapter, relates the death of James, the brother of John; and yet, in the fifteenth chapter, and in a subsequent part of the history, records a speech delivered by “James,” in the assembly of the apostles and elders. It is also strongly implied in the Epistle—“Other of the apostles saw I none, save James, the Lord’s brother;” that is, to distinguish him from “James, the brother of John.” In this matter the Rev. T.R. Birks, in his Horæ Apostolicæ, has pointed out a minute trait of historical accuracy which Paley had not observed. The apostle James is named three times in the Epistle to the Galatians, but only in this first instance with this distinctive title. The history supplies a full key. These several indications of James occur in connection with the mention of Saul’s two visits to Jerusalem, one fourteen years after the other. At the time of the first visit, both the apostles called James being alive, and both usually resident at Jerusalem (though one may have been temporarily absent), it became necessary to distinguish the one from the other, to preclude misapprehension. But at the second visit, James, the brother of John, having been long dead, this became needless, and “James” was alone a sufficient specification. “A distinctive addition to the name was thus as natural in the one case as it would have been superfluous, and even suspicious, in the other.” The same distinction is observed in the book of the Acts. In the earlier part the two apostles of this name are distinguished—“the brother of John,” or “the son of Alpheus.” But after the elder James was martyred, the one who remained at Jerusalem is three times called “James” simply, without any addition. “This minute propriety,” Mr. Birks observes, “is too delicate and refined to be easily accounted for, except by the fact, that Luke and Paul were contemporary with the events they record.”

In the incidental intimation, that he saw also “James the Lord’s brother,” there is a curiously minute coincidence, which reconciles the previous statement with the history. Saul himself has told us, that he went to see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days. St. Luke tells us that Barnabas took him, and introduced him to the apostles. Now the statements, if completed here, would scarcely be in agreement. But when we learn that he met with a second apostle, though it were only one, they are brought into coincidence, since the plural form requires more than one apostle to have been present, but cannot with certainty imply any greater number.

If we turn to the direct narrative in the Acts, we shall receive the impression, that on his departure Saul was conducted to the port of Caesarea, and there took ship for Tarsus. But Saul’s own words in the Epistle—“Afterwards I came to the regions of Syria and Cilicia,”—have been thought by some to necessitate the conclusion, that he travelled over land from Jerusalem to Cilicia, and that the Caesarea in question was not the city of that name upon the coast, but Caesarea Philippi, near the sources of the Jordan. To this we may object, that in this case he could not have been, as he says he was, unknown by face to the churches of Judea, and that when the name Caesarea occurs simply, it always denotes the great maritime Caesarea, never Caesarea Philippi. Some, who admit the latter fact, conclude that the land journey was made from the city on the coast. If so, it was a very inexplicable proceeding. People do not go far out of their way to a port whence they may find easy and quick access by water to the desired place, and then start on a tedious overland journey to that place. But although Paley declares the connection to be inexplicable without the supposition of such a journey, when the text is closely examined, there will be found no real need for this supposition, nor any want of connection between the passages as they stand. Saul does not seem to refer exclusively or mainly to the few days of his journey, but to the scene of many years’ subsequent labor in Syria and Cilicia; and while he was thus engaged, the churches in Judea, though he was personally unknown to them, “heard” (rather kept hearing, that is continually, or from time to time) how zealously he “preached the faith he had once destroyed.”