Page:A Brief Bible History (Boyd and Machen, 1922).djvu/132

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
126
TEACHING THE TEACHER

The two Epistles to Timothy and the Epistle to Titus, which are called the Pastoral Epistles, are similar to one another in important respects. They all lay stress upon soundness of teaching and upon the organization of the Church. In the closing years of his life Paul provided for the permanence of his work; the period of origination was over and the period of conservation had begun. It was not God's will that every Christian generation should have revealed to it anew the whole of the gospel. What is true in one age is true in all ages. It was a salutary thing, therefore, that the Pastoral Epistles provided for the preservation of the faith which was once for all delivered unto the saints.

Soon after the writing of II Timothy, Paul was beheaded at Rome. This event, which is attested in altogether credible Christian tradition outside of the New Testament, took place within the reign of the Emperor Nero — that is, before a.d. 68. At the time of the great fire at Rome in a.d. 64 Nero had persecuted the Christians, as is narrated by Tacitus, the Roman historian. But at that time Paul probably escaped by being out of the city; his execution probably did not occur until several years later.

At about the time of the death of Paul disastrous events were taking place in Palestine. James the brother of the Lord had been put to death by the Jews in a.d. 62, according to Josephus the Jewish historian, or a few years later according to another account. In a.d. 66 the Jews rose in revolt against the Romans. In the war that followed there was a terrible siege of Jerusalem. Before the siege the Christians in the city had fled to Pella, east of the Jordan. Jerusalem was captured by the Romans in a.d. 70, and the Temple destroyed.

From that time on, the Church in Palestine ceased to be of great relative importance; the gospel had passed for the most part to the Gentiles. A number of the apostles remained for many years, however, to guide and instruct the Church, and important books of the New Testament were written in this period either by the apostles themselves or by those who stood under their direction.

The Epistle to the Hebrews

Even before the destruction of the Temple, the original disciples had begun to labor far and wide among the Gentiles. It was perhaps during this early period that the Epistle to the Hebrews was written. The name of the author is unknown, but the book is truly apostolic