Imatges de pÓgina
PDF
EPUB

gnosis St. John opposes the counteracting truth of our Lord's Divine and Eternal Nature, as manifested in and through His human life. This Nature was united to the Manhood of Jesus from the moment of the Incarnation. It was not a transient endowment of the Person of Jesus; since it was Itself the seat of His Personality, although clothed with a human form. This Divine Nature was 'glorified' in Christ's Passion, as also in His miracles and His Resurrection. St. John disentangles the Catholic doctrine from the negations and the speculations of Cerinthus; he proclaims the Presence among men of the Divine Word, Himself the Creator of all things, incarnate in Jesus Christ.

3. Thus St. John's Gospel has also a direct, positive, dogmatic purpose. It is not merely a controversial treatise, as it is not merely an historical appendix. Its teaching is far deeper and wider than would have been necessary, in order to refute the errors of Cerinthus. It teaches the highest revealed truth concerning the Person of our Lord. Its substantive and enduring value consists in its displaying the Everlasting Word or Son of God as historically incarnate, and as uniting Himself to His Church.

The peculiarities of St. John's Gospel are explained, when this threefold aspect of it is kept in view. As a supplementary narrative it presents us, for the most part, with particulars concerning our Blessed Lord which are unrecorded elsewhere. It meets the doubts which might naturally have arisen in the later Apostolical age, when the narratives of the earlier Evangelists had been for some time before the Church. If the question was raised, why, if Jesus was so holy and so supernatural a Person, His countrymen and contemporaries did not believe in Him, St. John shews the moral causes which account for their incredulity. He pourtrays the fierce hatred of the Jews against the moral truth which they had rejected; he exhibits this hatred as ever increasing in its intensity as the sanctity of Jesus shines out more and more brightly. If men asked anxiously for more proof that the Death and Resurrection of Jesus were real events, St. John meets that demand by recording his own experience as an eye-witness, and by carefully accumulating the witness of others. If it was objected that Christ's violent Death was inconsistent with His Divine claims, St. John points out that it was strictly voluntary, and even that by it Christ's true glorification was achieved. If the authority of the Apostles and of those who were succeeding

[ocr errors]

them was popularly depreciated on the score of their being rude and illiterate men, St. John shews from the discourse in the supper-room that the claims of Apostles upon the dutiful submission of the Church did not depend upon any natural advantages which they possessed. Jesus had promised a Divine Comforter, Who was to guide them into the whole truth, and to bring to their minds whatever He had said to them 1.

As a polemical writer, St. John selects and marshals his materials with a view to confuting, from historical data, the Humanitarian or Docetic errors of the time. St. John is anxious to bring a particular section of the Life of Jesus to bear upon the intellectual world of Ephesus m. He puts forward an aspect of the original truth which was certain to command present and local attention; he is sufficiently in correspondence with the age to which he ministers, and with the speculative temper of the men around him. He had been led to note and to treasure up in his thought certain phases of the teaching and character of Jesus with especial care. He had remembered more accurately those particular discourses, in which Jesus speaks of His eternal relation to the Father, and of the profound mystic communion of life into which He would enter with His followers through the Holy Spirit and the Sacraments. These cherished memories of St. John's earlier years, unshared in their completeness by less privileged Apostles, were well fitted to meet the hard necessities of the Church during the closing years of the beloved disciple. To St. John the gnosis of Cerinthus must have appeared to be in direct contradiction to the sacred certainties which he had heard from the lips of Jesus, and which he treasured in his heart and memory. In order to confute the heresy which separated the man Jesus from the 'Eon' Christ, he had merely to publish what he remembered of the actual words and works of Jesus ". His translation of those divine words may be coloured by a phraseology current in the school which he is addressing, sufficiently to make them popularly intelligible. But the peculiarities of his language have been greatly exaggerated by criticism, while they are naturally explained by the polemical and positively doctrinal objects which he had in view. To these objects, the

1 Cf. Alford, Greek Test. vol. i. m St. Irenæus adv. Hær. iii. 1. which have been urged against div. 2, § 127.

Prolegom. p. 60.

See Ebrard's discussion of the objections this statement. Gospel History, pt. 2, n Cf. Pressensé, Jésus-Christ, p. 246.

gnosis St. John opposes the counteracting truth of our Lord's Divine and Eternal Nature, as manifested in and through His human life. This Nature was united to the Manhood of Jesus from the moment of the Incarnation. It was not a transient endowment of the Person of Jesus; since it was Itself the seat of His Personality, although clothed with a human form. This Divine Nature was 'glorified' in Christ's Passion, as also in His miracles and His Resurrection. St. John disentangles the Catholic doctrine from the negations and the speculations of Cerinthus; he proclaims the Presence among men of the Divine Word, Himself the Creator of all things, incarnate in Jesus Christ.

3. Thus St. John's Gospel has also a direct, positive, dogmatic purpose. It is not merely a controversial treatise, as it is not merely an historical appendix. Its teaching is far deeper and wider than would have been necessary, in order to refute the errors of Cerinthus. It teaches the highest revealed truth concerning the Person of our Lord. Its substantive and enduring value consists in its displaying the Everlasting Word or Son of God as historically incarnate, and as uniting Himself to His Church.

The peculiarities of St. John's Gospel are explained, when this threefold aspect of it is kept in view. As a supplementary narrative it presents us, for the most part, with particulars concerning our Blessed Lord which are unrecorded elsewhere. It meets the doubts which might naturally have arisen in the later Apostolical age, when the narratives of the earlier Evangelists had been for some time before the Church. If the question was raised, why, if Jesus was so holy and so supernatural a Person, His countrymen and contemporaries did not believe in Him, St. John shews the moral causes which account for their incredulity. He pourtrays the fierce hatred of the Jews against the moral truth which they had rejected; he exhibits this hatred as ever increasing in its intensity as the sanctity of Jesus shines out more and more brightly. If men asked anxiously for more proof that the Death and Resurrection of Jesus were real events, St. John meets that demand by recording his own experience as an eye-witness, and by carefully accumulating the witness of others. If it was objected that Christ's violent Death was inconsistent with His Divine claims, St. John points out that it was strictly voluntary, and even that by it Christ's true glorification was achieved. If the authority of the Apostles and of those who were succeeding

them was popularly depreciated on the score of their being rude and illiterate men, St. John shews from the discourse in the supper-room that the claims of Apostles upon the dutiful submission of the Church did not depend upon any natural advantages which they possessed. Jesus had promised a Divine Comforter, Who was to guide them into the whole truth, and to bring to their minds whatever He had said to them 1.

As a polemical writer, St. John selects and marshals his materials with a view to confuting, from historical data, the Humanitarian or Docetic errors of the time. St. John is anxious to bring a particular section of the Life of Jesus to bear upon the intellectual world of Ephesus m. He puts forward an aspect of the original truth which was certain to command present and local attention; he is sufficiently in correspondence with the age to which he ministers, and with the speculative temper of the men around him. He had been led to note and to treasure up in his thought certain phases of the teaching and character of Jesus with especial care. He had remembered more accurately those particular discourses, in which Jesus speaks of His eternal relation to the Father, and of the profound mystic communion of life into which He would enter with His followers through the Holy Spirit and the Sacraments. These cherished memories of St. John's earlier years, unshared in their completeness by less privileged Apostles, were well fitted to meet the hard necessities of the Church during the closing years of the beloved disciple. To St. John the gnosis of Cerinthus must have appeared to be in direct contradiction to the sacred certainties which he had heard from the lips of Jesus, and which he treasured in his heart and memory. In order to confute the heresy which separated the man Jesus from the 'on' Christ, he had merely to publish what he remembered of the actual words and works of Jesus ". His translation of those divine words may be coloured by a phraseology current in the school which he is addressing, sufficiently to make them popularly intelligible. But the peculiarities of his language have been greatly exaggerated by criticism, while they are naturally explained by the polemical and positively doctrinal objects which he had in view. To these objects, the

1 Cf. Alford, Greek Test. vol. i. Prolegom. p. 60.

m St. Irenæus adv. Hær. iii. 1. which have been urged against div. 2, § 127.

See Ebrard's discussion of the objections this statement. Gospel History, pt. 2, n Cf. Pressensé, Jésus-Christ, p. 246.

language, the historical arrangement, the selection from conversations and discourses before unpublished, the few deeply significant miracles, the description of opponents by a generic name-the 'Jews'-which ignores the differences of character, class, and sect among them, and notices them only so far as they are in conflict with the central truth manifested in Jesus, -all contribute. But these very peculiarities of the fourth Gospel subserve its positive devotional and didactic aim even more directly than its controversial one. The false gnosis

• The internal difficulties urged against St. John's Gospel appear to be overborne by the weight of the external testimony, taken in conjunction with the characteristics and necessities of the later Apostolical age. These difficulties may however be very briefly summarized as follows:1. As to time:

(a) The fourth Gospel implies a long Ministry, with festivals for its landmarks.' But the three (Westcott, Study of Gospels, 267) at least allow of a ministry as long as the fourth can require; while reference to the festivals was natural in a narrative, the main scene of which is laid at Jerusalem.

(B) The fourth Gospel appears to place the crucifixion on Nisan 14, the three on Nisan 15.' This real difficulty has been explained by various hypotheses, as

e. g. (1) Of an anticipated passover, kept by our Lord, on Nisan 13. Westcott, Int. p. 319; Ellicott, Huls. Lect. p. 322, and others. This is perhaps the most satisfactory. The objection drawn from the observance of Nisan 14, by those churches in the second century which inherited St. John's traditions, assumes that such observance was commemorative of the Last Supper, and not, as is probable, of our Lord's Death. Cf. Meyer, Ev. Joh. Einl. p. 18; Mansel, note on St. Matt. xxvi. in Speaker's Commentary.

(2) Of a passover postponed by the chief priests. St. Chrys.; Estius; Wordsworth.

(3) Of a difference of computation, as to the true day of the Passover, owing to the variation between the Solar and Lunar reckonings. Petavius, qu. by Neale, Int. East. Ch. ii. 1054.

(4) Of a possible explanation of St. John's language (xviii. 28, &c.), which would make it consistent with the date of Nisan 15, as that of the crucifixion. Dict. of Bible, vol. ii. 720; Edersheim, Life and Times of Jesus, ii. 481, 507; St. Tho. Sum. p. iii. q. 46. a. 9. If none of these explanations be quite unobjectionable, they may fairly warn us against concluding with our present knowledge that the difficulty is by any means insuperable.

2. As to the scene of Christ's teaching:-'St. John places it chiefly in Judæa; the three in Galilee.' But no Gospel professes to be a complete history of our Lord's actions, and records of a Galilean and of a Judæan ministry respectively leave room for each other. Westcott on the Gospels, p. 265.

3. As to the style of Christ's teaching:-'Si Jésus parlait comme le veut Matthieu, il n'a pu parler comme le veut Jean.' But, the difference of subjects, hearers, and circumstances in the two cases, taken in conjunction

« AnteriorContinua »