« AnteriorContinua »
pose some influence corresponding to that of John, between the state of the Asiatic Churches as shewn in the Pauline Epistles, and that in the time of Polycarp, who immediately followed the apostolic age. I reserve the discussion of the other element of uncertainty in this matter, -the possible confusion of two persons named John, the Apostle and the Presbyter, for the Introduction to the Second Epistle of John.
13. I mention here,―reserving its discussion for the Introduction to the Apocalypse,-the tradition universally received in the early Church, which records that the Apostle John was exiled under Domitian to the island of Patmos. Assuming the Apocalypse to be his work, the fact of such an exile is established, see Rev. i. 9,—but the time left uncertain. But even those who do not ascribe the Apocalypse to him, relate this exile, for example, Eusebius.
14. It is also related by Eusebius that he returned under Nerva to Ephesus, and that his death (under Trajan, see above) took place (in what manner is uncertain, but probably not by martyrdom) in extreme old age. It would be out of place here to recount the other traditions, some of them highly interesting, which are extant. See one of them in note on 1 John iii. 18, and the whole recounted and commented on in Stanley's Sermons and Essays on the Apostolic Age, pp. 275–289.
1. In several places the Author of this Gospel plainly declares or implies that he relates what he had seen and heard. See ch. i. 14; xiii. 2; xviii. 15; xix. 26; xx. 2, and especially xix. 35. Also xxi.
2. And with this declaration the contents of the Gospel agree. Amidst the entire disregard of minute specifications of sequence or locality as a general rule, in almost every narrative we have undoubted marks of the testimony of an eye-witness.
3. The only question which arises on receiving this as the fact, has reference to the diversity of style observed in the discourses of our Lord as related by the three other Evangelists, and as related by John. In their more or less common report, a certain similarity of style is supposed to be observable throughout the parables and sayings of Jesus, which is wholly absent from them in John's Gospel. Let us examine this matter more closely.
4. In order to form a satisfactory judgment on this point, it would be necessary to be in possession of some common matter reported by both.
But such common matter, in any sufficient quantity for this purpose, we do not possess. No one discourse is reported by all four. Certain insulated sayings are so reported; for example, John ii. 19; compare Matt. xxvi. 61, Mark xiv. 58.—John vi. 20; Matt. xiv. 27, Mark vi. 50. -John xii. 7, 8; Matt. xxvi. 10, 11, Mark xiv. 6, 7.—John x 20; Matt. x. 40, Luke x. 16.—John xi⇓. 21; Matt. xxvi. 21, Mark xiv. 18. -John xi. 37, 38; Matt. xxvi. 33, and parallel places.-John xx. 19; Luke xxiv. 36.-Now in these common reports, amidst much variety in verbal and circumstantial detail, such as might have been expected from independent narrators, there is no such difference of style observable.
5. We have then the following remarkable phænomenon presented by the two classes of narrators;-that the sayings of our Lord reported by the one are different from, and exclusive of those contained in the other. And this must very much modify our view of the subject in question.
6. It would be in the highest degree probable that our Lord would discourse mainly and usually on two great branches of divine truth; one of these being, the nature and moral requirements of that kingdom which He came to found among men, which would embrace the greater part of His discourses to the multitude,-His outer or popular sayings,-His parables and prophecies;-and the other, the deeper spiritual verities relating to his own divine Person and Mission. Of these latter, there would be two subdivisions: one class of them would be spoken in the gracious condescension of love to His own disciples when conversing privately with them, and the other in the fire of holy zeal when contending against His bitter adversaries, the rulers of the Jews.
7. Now of the two greater classes just mentioned, let us enquire which would most naturally form the matter of the oral apostolic teaching to the Churches in the first age. Let it be remembered that that teaching was mostly elementary,-matter of catechization;-selected for the edification of those who were to be built up as Christian converts. Would it not unquestionably be the first? Granted, that some few of those deeper sayings (deeper, I mean, in their very form and primary reference) might occasionally find their place in the reports of longer discourses (see Matt. xi. 27: Luke x. 22), yet I cannot imagine the main stream of oral apostolic teaching to have been otherwise composed than as we find it: viz. of the popular discourses and parables of our Lord, to the exclusion for the most part of His inner teaching and deeper revelations respecting his own divine Person. These, in case the Apostles had been suffered by Providence to carry on systematically their testimony to the Church, might have followed after: but certainly they would not be likely to form the first subject of their oral teaching.
8. But that they would dwell powerfully on their minds, and in proportion to their individual receptivity of the Spirit and Person of their Lord, is most evident. And this consideration, united with that of the
very nature and purpose of the apostolic office, and with the promise specially recorded that the Spirit should bring to their minds all things which He had said to them, will fully account for there arising, late in the apostolic age, so copious and particular a report of these inner and personal discourses of our Lord.
9. That such a report should be characterized in some measure by the individual mind which has furnished it, was to be expected, on any view of spiritual guidance. But that this individuality has in any considerable degree modified the report, I think extremely improbable. Taking the circumstances into consideration, the relation of John to his divine Master, the employment and station from which he was called, and the facts also which have been noticed respecting the sayings reported by all in common, I think it much more probable, that the character and diction of our Lord's discourses entirely penetrated and assimilated the habits of thought of His beloved Apostle; so that in his first epistle he writes in the very tone and spirit of those discourses; and when reporting the sayings of his own former teacher the Baptist, he gives them, consistently with the deepest inner truth of narration (see note on ch. iii. 31), the forms and cadences so familiar and habitual to himself.
10. It belongs to the present section of our subject, to enquire how far it may be supposed that John had seen or used the three other Gospels. I confess myself wholly unable to receive the supposition that any of them, in their present form, had ever been seen by him. On such a supposition, the phænomena presented by his Gospel would be wholly inexplicable. To those parts of it which he has in common with them, the reasonings of the former part of this Introduction will apply. And though these are not so considerable in extent as in the case of the three Gospels, yet they are quite important enough to decide this question. The account and testimony of the Baptist in ch. i. ;-the miraculous feeding in ch. vi. ;-the whole history from ch. xii. 1, in its subjectmatter, will come under this description. Let any common passages be selected, and tried by the considerations above advanced, ch. i. § ii.— and our conclusion must be that the report is an independent one, not influenced or modified by theirs. Of those parts of his Gospel which are peculiar to himself, I will speak in another section.
11. It is, however, an entirely distinct question, how far John had in his view the generally-received oral teaching from which our three Gospels are derived. That he himself, answering so strictly to the description in Acts i. 21,-laying so much weight as he does on testimony, ch. i. 19; xix. 35; xxi. 24,-bore his part, and that no inconsiderable one, in the Apostles' witness to the facts of the evangelic history, I take for granted. It will follow that he was aware of the general nature and contents of that cycle of narratives and discourses of
our Lord which became current at Jerusalem from his own testimony and that of the other Apostles. Accordingly we find him in his Gospel assuming as known, certain facts contained in that cycle. See ch. vii. 41, and note,―ch. xi. 1,—also ch. i. 40, where Simon Peter is referred to as one known, before the giving of the latter name is related.
12. I can hardly however suppose, that John wrote with any fixed design of filling up by a supplementary Gospel the deficiencies of the generally-received oral account. Sometimes, e. g. ch. vi. 1—14, xviii., xix., he goes over the same ground with it: and in no part can it by the most ingenious application of the supplementary theory be shewn, that he in any respect produces or aims at the effect of a work designed to fill up and elucidate those which have gone before. This point will
be dwelt on more at length in the next section.
13. I have no hesitation, therefore, in receiving as the true account of the source of this Gospel, that generally given and believed;—viz. that we have it from the authority of the Apostle himself as an eye
FOR WHAT READERS AND WITH WHAT OBJECT IT WAS WRITTEN.
1. This Gospel presupposes readers already Christians, and was written to build them up and confirm them in the faith. (See ch. xix. 35; xx. 31.) It is, as Lücke remarks, neither complete enough, nor elementary enough, for the first founding of a belief in Christ in the mind. This must have been, even as early as the apostolic times, the work of no written Gospel (see Luke i. 1-4), but of the oral preaching of the word. "These (things) are written that ye may believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God: and that believing ye may have life in His name."
2. Being written then for Christian readers, the main and ultimate purpose as regards them is sufficiently declared in ch. xx. 31.
3. This purpose however, as it would be common to all the sacred writings of the New Testament more or less, in no way accounts for the peculiar cast of the Gospel, or the portions of the Christian's faith which are most prominently brought out in it. These will require closer examination.
4. It will at once appear, that some especial occasion must have induced John to write so pointedly as he has done on certain doctrines, -and to adopt, in doing so, a nomenclature unknown to the rest of the New Testament writers. Some state of opinion in the Church must have rendered it necessary for the Apostle to state strongly and clearly the truth about which error was prevalent, or questions had been raised:
the method of speaking which even he, under the guidance of the Spirit, adopted to convey that truth, must have become familiar to and valued by the educated and philosophic minds in the Christian community.
5. It may be well to set down the opinions of the ancients on this, before we enter into the matter itself.
Irenæus states that John wrote his Gospel to controvert the errors of Cerinthus, and before him the Nicolaitans. Tertullian in the main agrees with this. Epiphanius and Jerome repeat it as a certain fact, that John wrote against Cerinthus; but instead of the Nicolaitans, they mention the Ebionites. Those who assert him to have written against Valentinus or Marcion are evidently chronologically in error.
6. Several of the ancients give, in substance, the supplementary view of the design of John's Gospel. Clement of Alexandria related, "that John, last of all, perceiving that only outward and bodily facts were related in the existing Gospels, being urged on by the skilled in divine things, and inspired by God's Spirit, composed a spiritual Gospel." Eusebius states, that whereas the other Evangelists wrote the history of the official life of our Lord subsequent to the imprisonment of the Baptist, John wishing that there should be a complete account, gave in his Gospel the particulars preceding that event. The same is repeated almost word for word by Jerome. Later authors reproduced the conjectures of their predecessors as being traditions of the Church; and for the most part united the polemical with the supplementary theory".
7. None of the above-cited authors appeal to any historical or traditionary fact, as the ground of their own statements. Those statements have therefore for us no external authority, and must be judged by their own intrinsic probability or otherwise, as established by the contents of the Gospel, and the state of the Church at the period of its publication. In modern times, these last considerations have given rise to several opinions, which I shall now briefly state; acknowledging, throughout this part of the section, my obligations to Lücke, whose facts and remarks I have for the most part borrowed.
8. Grotius, and some of the Socinian Commentators, supposed, on account of the contrast strongly drawn in the prologue, ch. i. and elsewhere, between Jesus Christ as the true Light, and the Baptist as only having come to bear witness of that Light,-that the Evangelist wrote against the so-called disciples of John, who held the Baptist to have been the Messiah. Others thought that the Sabaans, who combined
2 For an instance of the kind of use which is made of these notices in Eusebius and others by the advocates of the supplementary theory, see Dr. Wordsworth's note introductory to St. John: where such parts of them as suit that theory are strongly affirmed as fact, and called "the uniform consent of antiquity concerning the design of St. John's Gospel in relation to the other three," while the part not suiting it is hushed up under "for other reasons of a doctrinal nature."