See Literature on John, § 40, of this vol.; Life and Character of John, §§ 41-43, of this vol.; Theology of John, § 72, pp.549 sqq.
The best comes last. The fourth Gospel is the Gospel of Gospels, the holy of holies in the New Testament. The favorite disciple and bosom friend of Christ, the protector of his mother, the survivor of the apostolic age was pre-eminently qualified by nature and grace to give to the church the inside view of that most wonderful person that ever walked on earth. In his early youth he had absorbed the deepest words of his Master, and treasured them in a faithful heart; in extreme old age, yet with the fire and vigor of manhood, he reproduced them under the influence of the Holy Spirit who dwelt in him and led him, as well as the other disciples, into |the whole truth.|
His Gospel is the golden sunset of the age of inspiration, and sheds its lustre into the second and all succeeding centuries of the church. It was written at Ephesus when Jerusalem lay in ruins, when the church had finally separated from the synagogue, when |the Jews| and the Christians were two distinct races, when Jewish and Gentile believers had melted into a homogeneous Christian community, a little band in a hostile world, yet strong in faith, full of hope and joy, and certain of victory.
For a satisfactory discussion of the difficult problems involved in this Gospel and its striking contrast with the Synoptic Gospels, we must keep in view the fact that Christ communed with the apostles after as well as before his visible departure, and spoke to them through that |other Advocate| whom he sent to them from the Father, and who brought to remembrance all things he had said unto them. Here lies the guarantee of the truthfulness of a picture which no human artist could have drawn without divine inspiration. Under any other view the fourth Gospel, and indeed the whole New Testament, becomes the strangest enigma in the history of literature and incapable of any rational solution.
John and the Synoptists.
If John wrote long after the Synoptists, we could, of course, not expect from him a repetition of the story already so well told by three independent witnesses. But what is surprising is the fact that, coming last, he should produce the most original of all the Gospels.
The transition from Matthew to Mark, and from Mark to Luke is easy and natural; but in passing from any of the Synoptists to the fourth Gospel we breathe a different atmosphere, and feel as if we were suddenly translated from a fertile valley to the height of a mountain with a boundless vision over new scenes of beauty and grandeur. We look in vain for a genealogy of Jesus, for an account of his birth, for the sermons of the Baptist, for the history of the temptation in the wilderness, the baptism in the Jordan, and the transfiguration on the Mount, for a list of the Twelve, for the miraculous cures of demoniacs. John says nothing of the institution of the church and the sacraments; though he is full of the mystical union and communion which is the essence of the church, and presents the spiritual meaning of baptism and the Lord's Supper (John 3 and John 6). He omits the ascension, though it is promised through Mary Magdalene (20:17). He has not a word of the Sermon on the Mount, and the Lord's Prayer, none of the inimitable parables about the kingdom of heaven, none of those telling answers to the entangling questions of the Pharisees. He omits the prophecies of the downfall of Jerusalem and the end of the world, and most of those proverbial, moral sentences and maxims of surpassing wisdom which are strung together by the Synoptists like so many sparkling diamonds.
But in the place of these Synoptical records John gives us an abundance of new matter of equal, if not greater, interest and importance. Right at the threshold we are startled, as by a peal of thunder from the depths, of eternity: |In the beginning was the Word.| And as we proceed we hear about the creation of the world, the shining of the true light in darkness, the preparatory revelations, the incarnation of the Logos, the testimony of the Baptist to the Lamb of God. We listen with increasing wonder to those mysterious discourses about the new birth of the Spirit, the water of life, the bread of life from heaven, about the relation of the eternal and only-begotten Son to the Father, to the world, and to believers, the mission of the Holy Spirit, the promise of the many mansions in heaven, the farewell to the disciples, and at last that sacerdotal prayer which brings us nearest to the throne and the beating heart of God. John alone reports the interviews with Nicodemus, the woman of Samaria, and the Greek foreigners. He records six miracles not mentioned by the Synoptists, and among them the two greatest -- the changing of water into wine and the raising of Lazarus from the grave. And where he meets the Synoptists, as in the feeding of the five thousand, he adds the mysterious discourse on the spiritual feeding of believers by the bread of life which has been going on ever since. He makes the nearest approach to his predecessors in the closing chapters on the betrayal, the denial of Peter, the trial before the ecclesiastical and civil tribunals, the crucifixion and resurrection, but even here he is more exact and circumstantial, and adds, interesting details which bear the unmistakable marks of personal observation.
He fills out the ministry of Christ in Judaea, among the hierarchy and the people of Jerusalem, and extends it over three years; while the Synoptists seem to confine it to one year and dwell chiefly on his labors among the peasantry of Galilee. But on close inspection John leaves ample room for the Galilaean, and the Synoptists for the Judaean ministry. None of the Gospels is a complete biography. John expressly disclaims, this (20:31). Matthew implies repeated visits to the holy city when he makes Christ exclaim: |O Jerusalem, Jerusalem ... how often would I have gathered thy children together| (23:37; comp.27:57). On the other hand John records several miracles in Cana, evidently only as typical examples of many (2:1 sqq.; 4:47 sqq.; 6:1 sqq.). But in Jerusalem the great conflict between light and darkness, belief and unbelief, was most fully developed and matured to the final crisis; and this it was one of his chief objects to describe.
The differences between John and the Synoptists are many and great, but there are no contradictions.
Irenaeus, who, as a native of Asia Minor and a spiritual grand-pupil of John, is entitled to special consideration, says: |Afterward| [i.e., after Matthew, Mark, and Luke] |John, the disciple of the Lord, who also had leaned upon his breast, did himself publish a Gospel during his residence at Ephesus in Asia.| In another place he makes the rise of the Gnostic heresy the prompting occasion of the composition.
A curious tradition, which probably contains a grain of truth, traces the composition to a request of John's fellow-disciples and elders of Ephesus. |Fast with me,| said John, according to the Muratorian fragment (170), |for three days from this time| [when the request was made], |and whatever shall be revealed to each of us| [concerning my composing the Gospel], |let us relate it to one another. On the same night it was revealed to Andrew, one of the apostles, that John should relate all things in his own name, aided by the revision of all. ... What wonder is it then that John brings forward every detail with so much emphasis, even in his Epistles, saying of himself, What we have seen with our eyes, and heard with our ears, and our hands have handled, these things have we written unto you. For so he professes that he was not only an eyewitness, but also a hearer, and moreover a writer of all the wonderful works of the Lord in their historical order.|
The mention of Andrew in this fragment is remarkable, for he was associated with John as a pupil of the Baptist and as the first called to the school of Christ (John 1:35-40). He was also prominent in other ways and stood next to the beloved three, or even next to his brother Peter in the catalogues of the apostles.
Victorinus of Pettau (d. about 304), in the Scholia on the Apocalypse, says that John wrote the Gospel after the Apocalypse, in consequence of the spread of the Gnostic heresy and at the request of |all the bishops from the neighboring provinces.|
Jerome, on the basis of a similar tradition, reports that John, being constrained by his brethren to write, consented to do so if all joined in a fast and prayer to God, and after this fast, being saturated with revelation (revelatione saturatus), he indited the heaven-sent preface: |In the beginning was the Word.|
Possibly those fellow-disciples and pupils who prompted John to write his Gospel, were the same who afterward added their testimony to the genuineness of the book, speaking in the plural (|we know that his witness is true,| 21:24), one of them acting as scribe (|I suppose,| 21:25).
The outward occasion does not exclude, of course, the inward prompting by the Holy Spirit, which is in fact implied in this tradition, but it shows how far the ancient church was from such a mechanical theory of inspiration as ignores or denies the human and natural factors in the composition of the apostolic writings. The preface of Luke proves the same.
The fourth Gospel does not aim at a complete biography of Christ, but distinctly declares that Jesus wrought |many other signs in the presence of the disciples which are not written in this book| (John 20:30; comp.21:25).
The author plainly states his object, to which all other objects must be subordinate as merely incidental, namely, to lead his readers to the faith |that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing they may have life in his name| (20:31). This includes three points: (1) the Messiahship of Jesus, which was of prime importance to the Jews, and was the sole or at least the chief aim of Matthew, the Jewish Evangelist; (2) the Divine Sonship of Jesus, which was the point to be gained with the Gentiles, and which Luke, the Gentile Evangelist, had also in view; (3) the practical benefit of such faith, to gain true, spiritual, eternal life in Him and through Him who is the personal embodiment and source of eternal life.
To this historico-didactic object all others which have been mentioned must be subordinated. The book is neither polemic and apologetic, nor supplementary, nor irenic, except incidentally and unintentionally as it serves all these purposes. The writer wrote in full view of the condition and needs of the church at the close of the first century, and shaped his record accordingly, taking for granted a general knowledge of the older Gospels, and refuting indirectly, by the statement of facts and truths, the errors of the day. Hence there is some measure of truth in those theories which have made an incidental aim the chief or only aim of the book.
1. The anti-heretical theory was started by Irenaeus. Being himself absorbed in the controversy with Gnosticism and finding the strongest weapons in John, he thought that John's motive was to root out the error of Cerinthus and of the Nicolaitans by showing that |there is one God who made all things by his word; and not, as they say, one who made the world, and another, the Father of the Lord.| Jerome adds the opposite error of Ebionism, Ewald that of the disciples of the Baptist.
No doubt the fourth Gospel, by the positive statement of the truth, is the most effective refutation of Gnostic dualism and doketism, which began to raise its head in Asia Minor toward the close of the first century. It shows the harmony of the ideal Christ of faith and the real Christ of history, which the ancient and modern schools of Gnosticism are unable to unite in one individual. But it is not on this account a polemical treatise, and it even had by its profound speculation a special attraction for Gnostics and philosophical rationalists, from Basilides down to Baur. The ancient Gnostics made the first use of it and quoted freely from the prologue, e.g., the passage: |The true light, which enlighteneth every man, was coming into the world| (1:9).
The polemical aim is more apparent in the first Epistle of John, which directly warns against the anti-Christian errors then threatening the church, and may be called a doctrinal and practical postscript to the Gospel.
2. The supplementary theory. Clement of Alexandria (about 200) states, on the authority of |presbyters of an earlier generation,| that John, at the request of his friends and the prompting of the divine Spirit, added a spiritual Gospel to the older bodily Gospels which set forth the outward facts. The distinction is ingenious. John is more spiritual and ideal than the Synoptists, and he represents as it were the esoteric tradition as distinct from the exoteric tradition of the church. Eusebius records also as a current opinion that John intended to supply an amount of the earlier period of Christ's ministry which was omitted by the other Evangelists. John is undoubtedly a most welcome supplementer both in matter and spirit, and furnishes in part the key for the full understanding of the Synoptists, yet he repeats many important events, especially in the closing chapters, and his Gospel is as complete as any.
3. The Irenic tendency-theory is a modern Tübingen invention. It is assumed that the fourth Gospel is purely speculative or theological, the last and crowning literary production which completed the process of unifying Jewish and Gentile Christianity and melting them into the one Catholic church of the second century.
No doubt it is an Irenicon of the church in the highest and best sense of the term, and a prophecy of the church of the future, when all discords of Christendom past and present will be harmonized in the perfect union of Christians with Christ, which is the last object of his sacerdotal prayer. But it is not an Irenicon at the expense of truth and facts.
In carrying out their hypothesis the Tübingen critics have resorted to the wildest fictions. It is said that the author depreciated the Mosaic dispensation and displayed jealousy of Peter. How in the world could this promote peace? It would rather have defeated the object. But there is no shadow of proof for such an assertion. While the author opposes the unbelieving Jews, he shows the highest reverence for the Old Testament, and derives salvation from the Jews. Instead of showing jealousy of Peter, he introduces his new name at the first interview with Jesus (1:42), reports his great confession even more fully than Matthew (John 6:68, 69), puts him at the head of the list of the apostles (21:2), and gives him his due prominence throughout down to the last interview when the risen Lord committed to him the feeding of his sheep (21:15-19). This misrepresentation is of a piece with the other Tübingen myth adopted by Renan, that the real John in the Apocalypse pursues a polemical aim against Paul and deliberately excludes him from the rank of the twelve Apostles. And yet Paul himself, in the acknowledged Epistle to the Galatians, represents John as one of the three pillar-apostles who recognized his peculiar gift for the apostolate of the Gentiles and extended to him the right hand of fellowship.
The object of John determined the selection and arrangement of the material. His plan is more clear and systematic than that of the Synoptists. It brings out the growing conflict between belief and unbelief, between light and darkness, and leads step by step to the great crisis of the cross, and to the concluding exclamation of Thomas, |My Lord and my God.|
In the following analysis the sections peculiar to John are marked by a star.
*I. The Prologue. The theme of the Gospel: the Logos, the eternal Revealer of God:
(1.) In relation to God, John 1:1, 2.
(2.) In relation to the world. General revelation, 1:3-5.
(3.) In relation to John the Baptist and the Jews. Particular revelation, 1:6-13.
(4.) The incarnation of the Logos, and its effect upon the disciples, 1:14-18.
II. The Public Manifestation of the Incarnate Logos in Active Word and Work, 1:19 to 12:50.
*(1.) The preparatory testimony of John the Baptist pointing to Jesus as the promised and expected Messiah, and as the Lamb of God that beareth the sin of the world, 1:19-37.
*(2.) The gathering of the first disciples, 1:38-51.
*(3.) The first sign: the changing of water into wine at Cana in Galilee, 2:1-11. First sojourn in Capernaum, 2:12. First Passover and journey to Jerusalem during the public ministry, 2:13.
*(4.) The reformatory cleansing of the Temple, 2:14-22. (Recorded also by the Synoptists, but at the close of the public ministry.) Labors among the Jews in Jerusalem, 2:23-25.
*(5.) Conversation with Nicodemus, representing the timid disciples, the higher classes among the Jews. Regeneration the condition of entering into the kingdom of God, 3:1-15. The love of God in the sending of his Son to save the world, 3:16-21. (Jerusalem.)
*(6.) Labors of Jesus in Judaea. The testimony of John the Baptist: He must increase, but I must decrease, 3:22-36. (Departure of Jesus into Galilee after John's imprisonment, 4:1-3; comp. Matt.4:12; Mark 1:14; Luke 4:14.)
*(7.) Labors in Samaria on the journey from Judaea to Galilee. The woman of Samaria; Jacob's well; the water of life; the worship of God the Spirit in spirit and in truth; the fields ripening for the harvest, John 4:1-42. Jesus teaches publicly in Galilee, 4:43-45 (comp. Matt.4:17; Mark 1:14, 15 Luke 4:14, 15).
*(8.) Jesus again visits Cana in Galilee and heals a nobleman's son at Capernaum, John 4:46-54.
*(9.) Second journey to Jerusalem at a feast (the second Passover?). The healing of the infirm man at the pool of Bethesda on the Sabbath, 5:1-18. Beginning of the hostility of the Jews. Discourse of Christ on his relation to the Father, and his authority to judge the world, 5:19-47.
(10.) The feeding of the five thousand, 6:1-14. The stilling of the tempest, 6:15-21.
*The mysterious discourse in Capernaum on the bread of life; the sifting of the disciples; the confession of Peter: |To whom shall we go,| etc.; the hinting at the treason of Judas, 6:22-71.
*(11.) Third visit to Jerusalem, at the feast of the Tabernacles. The hasty request of the brethren of Jesus who did not believe on him. His discourse in the Temple with opposite effect. Rising hostility of the Jews, and vain efforts of the hierarchy to seize him as a false teacher misleading the people, 7:1-52.
[*(12a.) The woman taken in adultery and pardoned by Jesus, 7:53-8:11. Jerusalem. Probably an interpolation from oral tradition, authentic and true, but not from the pen of John. Also found at the end, and at Luke 21.]
*(12b.) Discourse on the light of the world. The children of God and the children of the devil. Attempts to stone Jesus, John 8:12-59.
*(13.) The healing of the man born blind, on a Sabbath, and his testimony before the Pharisees, 9:1-41.
*(14.) The parable of the good shepherd, 10:1-21. Speech at the feast of Dedication in Solomon's porch, 10:22-39. Departure to the country beyond the Jordan, 10:40-42.
*(15.) The resurrection of Lazarus at Bethany, and its effect upon hastening the crisis. The counsel of Caiaphas. Jesus retires from Jerusalem to Ephraim, 11:1-57.
(16.) The anointing by Mary in Bethany, 12:1-8. The counsel of the chief priests, 12:9-11.
(17.) The entry into Jerusalem, 12:12-19. (Comp. Matt.21:1-17; Mark 11:1-11; Luke 19:29-44.)
*(18.) Visit of the Greeks. Discourse of Jesus on the grain of wheat which must die to bear fruit; the voice from heaven; the attraction of the cross; the opposite effect; reflection of the Evangelist; summary of the speeches of Jesus, John 12:20-50.
III. The Private Manifestation of Christ in the Circle of his Disciples. During the fourth and last Passover week. Jerusalem, 13:1-17:26.
*(l.) Jesus washes the feet of the disciples before the Passover meal, 13:1-20.
(2.) He announces the traitor, 13:21-27. The departure of Judas, 13:27-30.
*(3.) The new commandment of love, 13:31-35. (Here is the best place for the institution of the Lord's Supper, omitted by John, but reported by all the Synoptists and by Paul.)
(4.) Prophecy of Peter's denial, 13:36-38.
*(5.) The farewell discourses to the disciples; the promise of the Paraclete, and of Christ's return, 14:1 - 16:33.
*(6.) The Sacerdotal Prayer, 17:1-26.
IV. The Glorification of Christ in the Crucifixion and Resurrection, 18:1-20:31.
(1.) The passage over the Kedron, and the betrayal, 18:1-11.
(2.) Jesus before the high priests, Annas and Caiaphas, 18:12-14, 19-24.
(3.) Peter's denial, 18:15-18, 25-27.
(4.) Jesus before the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, 18:28-19:16. Original in part (19:4-16).
(5.) The crucifixion, 19:17-37.
(6.) The burial of Jesus, 19:38-42.
(7.) The resurrection. Mary Magdalene, Peter and John visit the empty tomb, 20:1-10.
(8.) Christ appears to Mary Magdalene, 20:11-18.
*(9.) Christ appears to the apostles, except Thomas, on the evening of the resurrection day, 20:19-23.
*(10.) Christ appears to the apostles, including Thomas, on the following Lord's Day, 20:26-29.
*(11.) Object of the Gospel, 20:30, 31
*V. The Appendix and Epilogue, 21:1-25.
(1.) Christ appears to seven disciples on the lake of Galilee. The third manifestation to the disciples, 21:1-14.
(2.) The dialogue with Simon Peter: |Lovest thou Me?| |Feed My sheep.| |Follow Me,| 21:15-19.
(3.) The mysterious word about the beloved disciple, 21:1-23.
(4.) The attestation of the authorship of the Gospel by the pupils of John, 21:24, 25.
Characteristics of the Fourth Gospel.
The Gospel of John is the most original, the most important, the most influential book in all literature. The great Origen called it the crown of the Gospels, as the Gospels are the crown of all sacred writings. It is pre-eminently the spiritual and ideal, though at the same time a most real Gospel, the truest transcript of the original. It lifts the veil from the holy of holies and reveals the glory of the Only Begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. It unites in harmony the deepest knowledge and the purest love of Christ. We hear as it were his beating heart; we lay our hands in his wound-prints and exclaim with doubting Thomas: |My Lord and my God.| No book is so plain and yet so deep, so natural and yet so full of mystery. It is simple as a child and sublime as a seraph, gentle as a lamb and bold as an eagle, deep as the sea and high as the heavens.
It has been praised as |the unique, tender, genuine Gospel,| |written by the hand of an angel,| as |the heart of Christ,| as |God's love-letter to the world,| or |Christ's love-letter to the church.| It has exerted an irresistible charm on many of the strongest and noblest minds in Christendom, as Origen in Egypt, Chrysostom in Asia, Augustin in Africa, the German Luther, the French Calvin, the poetic Herder, the critical Schleiermacher, and a multitude of less famous writers of all schools and shades of thought. Even many of those who doubt or deny the apostolic authorship cannot help admiring its more than earthly beauties.
But there are other sceptics who find the Johannean discourses monotonous, tedious, nebulous, unmeaning, hard, and feel as much offended by them as the original hearers.
Let us point out the chief characteristics of this book which distinguish it from the Synoptical Gospels.
1. The fourth Gospel is the Gospel of the Incarnation, that is, of the perfect union of the divine and human in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, who for this very reason is the Saviour of the world and the fountain of eternal life. |The Word became flesh.| This is the theoretical theme. The writer begins with the eternal pre-existence of the Logos, and ends with the adoration of his incarnate divinity in the exclamation of the sceptical Thomas: |My Lord and my God!| Luke's preface is historiographic and simply points to his sources of information; John's prologue is metaphysical and dogmatic, and sounds the keynote of the subsequent history. The Synoptists begin with the man Jesus and rise up to the recognition of his Messiahship and divine Sonship; John descends from the pre-existent Son of God through the preparatory revelations to his incarnation and crucifixion till he resumes the glory which he had before the world began. The former give us the history of a divine man, the latter the history of a human God. Not that he identifies him with the Godhead (ho theos); on the contrary, he clearly distinguishes the Son and the Father and makes him inferior in dignity (|the Father is greater than I|); but he declares that the Son is |God| (theos), that is, of divine essence or nature.
And yet there is no contradiction here between the Evangelists except for those who deem a union of the Divine and human in one person an impossibility. The Christian Church has always felt that the Synoptic and the Johannean Christ are one and the same, only represented from different points of view. And in this judgment the greatest scholars and keenest critics, from Origen down to the present time, have concurred.
For, on the one hand, John's Christ is just as real and truly human as that of the Synoptists. He calls himself the Son of man and |a man| (John 8:40); he |groaned in the spirit| (11:33), he |wept| at the grave of a friend (11:35), and his |soul| was |troubled| in the prospect of the dark hour of crucifixion (12:27) and the crime of the traitor (13:1). The Evangelist attests with solemn emphasis from what he saw with his own eyes that Jesus truly suffered and died (19:33-35).
The Synoptic Christ, on the other hand, is as truly elevated above ordinary mortals as the Johannean. It is true, he does not in so many words declare his pre-existence as in John 1:1; 6:62; 8:58; 17:5, 24, but it is implied, or follows as a legitimate consequence. He is conceived without sin, a descendant of David, and yet the Lord of David (Matt.22:41); he claims authority to forgive sins, for which he is accused of blasphemy by the Jews (quite consistently from their standpoint of unbelief); he gives his life a ransom for the redemption of the world; he will come in his glory and judge all nations; yea, in the very Sermon on the Mount, which all schools of Rationalists accept his genuine teaching, He declares himself to be the judge of the world (Matt.7:21-23; comp.25:31-46), and in the baptismal formula He associates himself and the Holy Spirit with the eternal Father, as the connecting link between the two, thus assuming a place on the very throne of the Deity (28:19). It is impossible to rise higher. Hence Matthew, the Jewish Evangelist, does not hesitate to apply to Him the name Immanuel, that is, |God with us|(1:23). Mark gives us the Gospel of Peter, the first who confessed that Jesus is not only |the Christ| in his official character, but also |the Son of the living God.| This is far more than a son; it designates his unique personal relation to God and forms the eternal basis of his historical Messiahship (Matt.16:16; comp.26:63). The two titles are distinct, and the high priest's charge of blasphemy (26:65) could only apply to the latter. A false Messiah would be an impostor, not a blasphemer. We could not substitute the Messiah for the Son in the baptismal formula. Peter, Mark, and Matthew were brought up in the most orthodox monotheism, with an instinctive horror of the least approach to idolatry, and yet they looked up to their Master with feelings of adoration. And, as for Luke, he delights in representing Jesus throughout as the sinless Saviour of sinners, and is in full sympathy with the theology of his elder brother Paul, who certainly taught the pre-existence and divine nature of Christ several years before the Gospels were written or published (Rom.1:3, 4; 9:5; 2 Cor.8:9; Col.1:15-17; Phil.2:6-11).
2. It is the Gospel of Love. Its practical motto is: |God is love.| In the incarnation of the eternal Word, in the historic mission of his Son, God has given the greatest possible proof of his love to mankind. In the fourth Gospel alone we read that precious sentence which contains the very essence of Christianity: |God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have eternal life| (John 3:16). It is the Gospel of the Good Shepherd who laid down his life for the sheep (10:11); the Gospel of the new commandment: |Love one another| (13:34). And this was the last exhortation of the aged disciple |whom Jesus loved.|
But for this very reason that Christ is the greatest gift of God to the world, unbelief is the greatest sin and blackest ingratitude, which carries in it its own condemnation. The guilt of unbelief, the contrast between faith and unbelief is nowhere set forth in such strong light as in the fourth Gospel. It is a consuming fire to all enemies of Christ.
3. It is the Gospel of Mystic Symbolism. The eight miracles it records are significant |signs| (semeia) which symbolize the character and mission of Christ, and manifest his glory. They are simply his |works| (erga), the natural manifestations of his marvellous person performed with the same ease as men perform their ordinary works. The turning of water into wine illustrates his transforming power, and fitly introduces his public ministry; the miraculous feeding of the five thousand set him forth as the Bread of life for the spiritual nourishment of countless believers; the healing of the man born blind, as the Light of the world; the raising of Lazarus, as the Resurrection and the Life. The miraculous draught of fishes shows the disciples to be fishers of men, and insures the abundant results of Christian labor to the end of time. The serpent in the wilderness prefigured the cross. The Baptist points to him as the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world. He represents himself under the significant figures of the Door, the good Shepherd, the Vine; and these figures have inspired Christian art and poetry, and guided the meditations of the church ever since.
The whole Old Testament is a type and prophecy of the New. |The law was given by Moses; grace and truth came by Jesus Christ| (1:17). Herein lies the vast superiority of Christianity, and yet the great importance of Judaism as an essential part in the scheme of redemption. Clearly and strongly as John brings out the opposition to the unbelieving Jews, he is yet far from going to the Gnostic extreme of rejecting or depreciating the Old Testament; on the contrary |salvation comes from the Jews| (says Christ to the Samaritan woman, 4:22); and turning the Scripture argument against the scribes and Pharisees who searched the letter of the Scriptures, but ignored the spirit, Christ confronts them with the authority of Moses on whom they fixed their hope. |If ye believed Moses, ye would believe me; for he wrote of me. But ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?| (5:46). John sees Christ everywhere in those ancient Scriptures which cannot be broken. He unfolds the true Messianic idea in conflict with the carnal perversion of it among the Jews under the guidance of the hierarchy.
The Johannean and Synoptic Discourses of Christ.
4. John gives prominence to the transcendent Discourses about the person of Christ and his relation to the Father, to the world, and the disciples. His words are testimonies, revealing the inner glory of his person; they are Spirit and they are life.
Matthew's Gospel is likewise didactic; but there is a marked difference between the contents and style of the Synoptic and the Johannean discourses of Jesus. The former discuss the nature of the Messianic kingdom, the fulfilment of the law, the duty of holy obedience, and are popular, practical, brief, pointed, sententious, parabolic, and proverbial; the latter touch the deepest mysteries of theology and Christology, are metaphysical, lengthy, liable to carnal misunderstanding, and scarcely discernible from John's own style in the prologue and the first Epistle, and from that used by the Baptist. The transition is almost imperceptible in John 3:16 and 3:31.
Here we reach the chief difficulty in the Johannean problem. Here is the strong point of sceptical criticism. We must freely admit at the outset that John so reproduced the words of his Master as to mould them unconsciously into his own type of thought and expression. He revolved them again and again in his heart, they were his daily food, and the burden of his teaching to the churches from Sunday to Sunday; yet he had to translate, to condense, to expand, and to apply them; and in this process it was unavoidable that his own reflections should more or less mingle with his recollections. With all the tenacity of his memory it was impossible that at such a great interval of time (fifty or sixty years after the events) he should be able to record literally every discourse just as it was spoken; and he makes no such claim, but intimates that he selects and summarizes.
This is the natural view of the case, and the same concession is now made by all the champions of the Johannean authorship who do not hold to a magical inspiration theory and turn the sacred writers into unthinking machines, contrary to their own express statements, as in the Preface of Luke. But we deny that this concession involves any sacrifice of the truth of history or of any lineament from the physiognomy of Christ. The difficulty here presented is usually overstated by the critics, and becomes less and less, the higher we rise in our estimation of Christ, and the closer we examine the differences in their proper connection. The following reflections will aid the student:
(1) In the first place we must remember the marvellous heighth and depth and breadth of Christ's intellect as it appears in the Synoptists as well as in John. He commanded the whole domain of religious and moral truth; he spake as never man spake, and the people were astonished at his teaching (Matt.7:28, 29; Mark 1:22; 6:2; Luke 4:32; John 7:46). He addressed not only his own generation, but through it all ages and classes of men. No wonder that his hearers often misunderstood him. The Synoptists give examples of such misunderstanding as well as John (comp. Mark 8:16). But who will set limits to his power and paedagogic wisdom in the matter and form of his teaching? Must he not necessarily have varied his style when he addressed the common people in Galilee, as in the Synoptists, and the educated, proud, hierarchy of Jerusalem, as in John? Or when he spoke on the mountain, inviting the multitude to the Messianic Kingdom at the opening of his ministry, and when he took farewell from his disciples in the chamber, in view of the great sacrifice? Socrates appears very different in Xenophon and in Plato, yet we can see him in both. But here is a far greater than Socrates.
(2) John's mind, at a period when it was most pliable and plastic, had been so conformed to the mind of Christ that his own thoughts and words faithfully reflected the teaching of his Master. If there ever was spiritual sympathy and congeniality between two minds, it was between Jesus and the disciple whom he loved and whom he intrusted with the care of his mother. John stood nearer to his Lord than any Christian or any of the Synoptists. |Why should not John have been formed upon the model of Jesus rather than the Jesus of his Gospel be the reflected image of himself? Surely it may be left to all candid minds to say whether, to adopt only the lowest supposition, the creative intellect of Jesus was not far more likely to mould His disciple to a conformity with itself, than the receptive spirit of the disciple to give birth by its own efforts to that conception of a Redeemer which so infinitely surpasses the loftiest image of man's own creation.|
(3) John reproduced the discourses from the fulness of the spirit of Christ that dwelt in him, and therefore without any departure from the ideas. The whole gospel history assumes that Christ did not finish, but only began his work while on earth, that he carries it on in heaven through his chosen organs, to whom he promised mouth and wisdom (Luke 21:15; Matt.10:19) and his constant presence (Matt.19:20; 28:20). The disciples became more and more convinced of the superhuman character of Christ by the irresistible logic of fact and thought. His earthly life appeared to them as a transient state of humiliation which was preceded by a pre-existent state of glory with the Father, as it was followed by a permanent state of glory after the resurrection and ascension to heaven. He withheld from them |many things| because they could not bear them before his glorification (John 16:12). |What I do,| he said to Peter, |thou knowest not now, but thou shalt come to know hereafter| (13:7). Some of his deepest sayings, which they had at first misunderstood, were illuminated by the resurrection (2:22; 12:16), and then by the outpouring of the Spirit, who took things out of the fulness of Christ and declared them to the disciples (16:13, 14). Hence the farewell discourses are so full of the Promises of the Spirit of truth who would glorify Christ in their hearts. Under such guidance we may be perfectly sure of the substantial faithfulness of John's record.
(4) Beneath the surface of the similarity there is a considerable difference between the language of Christ and the language of his disciple. John never attributes to Christ the designation Logos, which he uses so prominently in the Prologue and the first Epistle. This is very significant, and shows his conscientious care. He distinguished his own theology from the teaching of his Master, no matter whether he borrowed the term Logos from Philo (which cannot be proven), or coined it himself from his reflections on Old Testament distinctions between the hidden and the revealed God and Christ's own testimonies concerning his relation to the Father. The first Epistle of John is an echo of his Gospel, but with original matter of his own and Polemical references to the anti-Christian errors of big day. |The phrases of the Gospel,| says Westcott, |have a definite historic connection: they belong to circumstances which explain them. The phrases in the Epistle are in part generalizations, and in part interpretations of the earlier language in view of Christ's completed work and of the experience of the Christian church.|
As to the speeches of the Baptist, in the fourth Gospel, they keep, as the same writer remarks, strictly within the limits suggested by the Old Testament. |What he says spontaneously of Christ is summed up in the two figures of the 'Lamb' and the 'Bridegroom,' which together give a comprehensive view of the suffering and joy, the redemptive and the completive work of Messiah under prophetic imagery. Both figures appear again in the Apocalypse; but it is very significant that they do not occur in the Lord's teaching in the fourth Gospel or in St. John's Epistles.|
(5) There are not wanting striking resemblances in thought and style between the discourses in John and in the Synoptists, especially Matthew, which are sufficient to refute the assertion that the two types of teaching are irreconcilable. The Synoptists were not quite unfamiliar with the other type of teaching. They occasionally rise to the spiritual height of John and record briefer sayings of Jesus which could be inserted without a discord in his Gospel. Take the prayer of thanksgiving and the touching invitation to all that labor and are heavy laden, in Matt.11:25-30. The sublime declaration recorded by Luke 10:22 and Matthew 11:27: |No one knoweth the Son, save the Father; neither doth any know the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son willeth to reveal him,| is thoroughly Christ-like according to John's conception, and is the basis of his own declaration in the prologue: |No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him|(John 1:18). Jesus makes no higher claim in John than he does in Matthew when he proclaims: |All authority hath been given unto me in heaven and on earth| (Matt.28:18). In almost the same words Jesus says in John 17:2: |Thou hast given him power over all flesh.|
On the other hand, John gives us not a few specimens of those short, pithy maxims of oriental wisdom which characterize the Synoptic discourses.
The Style of the Gospel of John.
The style of the fourth Gospel differs widely from the ecclesiastical writers of the second century, and belongs to the apostolic age. It has none of the technical theological terms of post-apostolic controversies, no allusions to the state of the church, its government and worship, but moves in the atmosphere of the first Christian generation; yet differs widely from the style of the Synoptists and is altogether unique in the history of secular and religious literature, a fit expression of the genius of John: clear and deep, simple as a child, and mature as a saint, sad and yet serene, and basking in the sunshine of eternal life and love. The fourth Gospel is pure Greek in vocabulary and grammar, but thoroughly Hebrew in temper and spirit, even more so than any other book, and can be almost literally translated into Hebrew without losing its force or beauty. It has the childlike simplicity, the artlessness, the imaginativeness, the directness, the circumstantiality, and the rhythmical parallelism which characterize the writings of the Old Testament. The sentences are short and weighty, coordinated, not subordinated. The construction is exceedingly simple: no involved periods, no connecting links, no logical argumentation, but a succession of self-evident truths declared as from immediate intuition. The parallelism of Hebrew poetry is very apparent in such double sentences as: |Peace I leave with you; my peace I give unto you;| |A servant is not greater than his lord; neither one that is sent greater than he that sent him;| |All things were made by him, and without him was not anything made that hath been made.| Examples of antithetic parallelism are also frequent: |The light shineth in the darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not;| |He was in the world, and the world knew him not;| |He confessed, and denied not;| |I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish.|
The author has a limited vocabulary, but loves emphatic repetition, and his very monotony is solemn and impressive. He uses certain key-words of the profoundest import, as Word, life, light, truth, love, glory, testimony, name, sign, work, to know, to behold, to believe. These are not abstract conceptions but concrete realities. He views the world under comprehensive contrasts, as life and death, light and darkness, truth and falsehood, love and hatred, God and the devil, and (in the first Epistle) Christ and Antichrist.
He avoids the optative, and all argumentative particles, but uses very frequently the simple particles kai, de, houn, hina. His most characteristic particle in the narrative portions is |therefore| (houn], oeiche is oite eim not spsllogistich [like araand its compounds), but indicative simply of continuation and retrospect (like |so| and |then| or the German |nun|), yet with the idea that nothing happens without a cause; while the particle |in order that| (hina) indicates that nothing happens without a purpose. He avoids the relative pronoun and prefers the connecting |and| with the repetition of the noun, as |In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God .... In him was life, and the life was the light of men.| The |and| sometimes takes the place of |but,| as |The light shineth in the darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not| (John 1:5).
We look in vain for such important words as church, gospel, repentance (metanoia), but the substance is there in different forms. He does not even use the noun |faith| (pistis), which frequently occurs in the Synoptists and in Paul, but he uses the verb |to believe| (pisteuein) ninety-eight times, about twice as often as all three Synoptists together.
He applies the significant term Logos (ratio and oratio) to Christ as the Revealer and the Interpreter of God (1:18), but only in the Prologue, and such figurative designations as |the Light of the world,| |the Bread of life,| |the Good Shepherd,| |the Vine,| |the Way,| |the Truth,| and |the Life.| He alone uses the double |Verily| in the discourses of the Saviour. He calls the Holy Spirit the |Paraclete| or |Advocate| of believers, who pleads their cause here on earth, as Christ pleads it on the throne in heaven. There breathes through this book an air of calmness and serenity, of peace and repose, that seems to come from the eternal mansions of heaven.
Is such a style compatible with the hypothesis of a post- and pseudo-apostolic fiction? We have a large number of fictitious Gospels, but they differ as much from the fourth canonical Gospel as midnight darkness from noonday brightness.
For nearly eighteen centuries the Christian church of all denominations has enjoyed the fourth Gospel without a shadow of doubt that it was the work of John the Apostle. But in the nineteenth century the citadel was assailed with increasing force, and the conflict between the besiegers and defenders is still raging among scholars of the highest ability. It is a question of life and death between constructive and destructive criticism. The vindication of the fourth Gospel as a genuine product of John, the beloved disciple, is the death-blow of the mythical and legendary reconstruction and destruction of the life of Christ and the apostolic history. The ultimate result cannot be doubtful. The opponents have been forced gradually to retreat from the year 170 to the very beginning of the second century, as the time when the fourth Gospel was already known and used in the church, that is to the lifetime of many pupils and friends of John and other eye-witnesses of the life of Christ.
I. The External Proof of the Johannean authorship is as strong, yea stronger than that of the genuineness of any classical writer of antiquity, and goes up to the very beginning of the second century, within hailing distance of the living John. It includes catholic writers, heretics, and heathen enemies. There is but one dissenting voice, hardly audible, that of the insignificant sect of the Alogi who opposed the Johannean doctrine of the Logos (hence their name, with the double meaning of unreasonable, and anti-Logos heretics) and absurdly ascribed both the Gospel of John and the Apocalypse to his enemy, the Gnostic Cerinthus. Let us briefly sum up the chief testimonies.
1. Catholic testimonies. We begin at the fourth century and gradually rise up to the age of John. All the ancient Greek manuscripts of the New Testament, including the Sinaitic and the Vatican, which date from the age of Constantine and are based upon older copies of the second century, and all the ancient versions, including the Syriac and old Latin from the third and second centuries, contain without exception the Gospel of John, though the Peshito omits his second and third Epistles and the Apocalypse. These manuscripts and versions represent the universal voice of the churches.
Then we have the admitted individual testimonies of all the Greek and Latin fathers up to the middle of the second century, without a dissenting voice or doubt: Jerome (d.419) and Eusebius (d.340), who had the whole ante-Nicene literature before them; Origen in Egypt (d.254), the greatest scholar of his age and a commentator on John; Tertullian of North Africa (about 200), a Catholic in doctrine, a Montanist in discipline, and a zealous advocate of the dispensation of the Paraclete announced by John; Clement of Alexandria (about 190), a cultivated philosopher who had travelled in Greece, Italy, Syria, and Palestine, seeking religious instruction everywhere; Irenaeus, a native of Asia Minor and from 178 bishop of Lyons, a pupil of Polycarp and a grand-pupil of John himself, who derived his chief ammunition against the Gnostic heresy from the fourth Gospel, and represents the four canonical Gospels -- no more and no less -- as universally accepted by the churches of his time; Theophilus of Antioch (180), who expressly quotes from the fourth Gospel under the name of John; the Muratorian Canon (170), which reports the occasion of the composition of John's Gospel by urgent request of his friends and disciples; Tatian of Syria (155-170), who in his |Address to the Greeks| repeatedly quotes the fourth Gospel, though without naming the author, and who began his, |Diatessaron| -- once widely spread in the church notwithstanding the somewhat Gnostic leanings of the author, and commented on by Ephraem of Syria -- with the prologue of John. From him we have but one step to his teacher, Justin Martyr, a native of Palestine (103-166), and a bold and noble-minded defender of the faith in the reigns of Hadrian and the Antonines. In his two Apologies and his Dialogue with Trypho the Jew, he often quotes freely from the four Gospels under the name of Apostolic |Memoirs| or |Memorabilia of the Apostles,| which were read at his time in public, worship. He made most use of Matthew, but once at least he quotes a passage on regeneration from Christ's dialogue with Nicodemus which is recorded only by John. Several other allusions of Justin to John are unmistakable, and his whole doctrine of the pre-existent Logos who sowed precious seeds of truth among Jews and Gentiles before his incarnation, is unquestionably derived from John. To reverse the case is to derive the sunlight from the moon, or the fountain from one of its streams.
But we can go still farther back. The scanty writings of the Apostolic Fathers, so called, have very few allusions to the New Testament, and breathe the atmosphere of the primitive oral tradition. The author of the |Didache| was well acquainted with Matthew. The first Epistle of Clement has strong affinity with Paul. The shorter Epistles of Ignatius show the influence of John's Christology. Polycarp (d. a.d.155 in extreme old age), a personal pupil of John, used the First Epistle of John, and thus furnishes an indirect testimony to the Gospel, since both these 'books must stand or fall together. The same is true of Papias (died about 150), who studied with Polycarp, and probably was likewise a bearer of John. He |used testimonies from the former Epistle of John.| In enumerating the apostles whose living words he collected in his youth, he places John out of his regular order of precedence, along with Matthew, his fellow-Evangelist, and |Andrew, Peter, and Philip| in the same order as John 1:40-43; from which it has also been inferred that he knew the fourth Gospel. There is some reason to suppose that the disputed section on the woman taken in adultery was recorded by him in illustration of John 8:15; for, according to Eusebius, he mentioned a similar story in his lost work. These facts combined, make it at least extremely probable that Papias was familiar with John. The joint testimony of Polycarp and Papias represents the school of John in the very field of his later labors, and the succession was continued through Polycrates at Ephesus, through Melito at Sardis, through Claudius Apollinaris at Hieropolis, and Pothinus and Irenaeus in Southern Gaul. It is simply incredible that a spurious Gospel should have been smuggled into the churches under the name of their revered spiritual father and grandfather.
Finally, the concluding verse of the appendix, John 21:24, is a still older testimony of a number of personal friends and pupils of John, perhaps the very persons who, according to ancient tradition, urged him to write the Gospel. The book probably closed with the sentence: |This is the disciple who beareth witness of these things, and wrote these things.| To this the elders add their attestation in the plural: |And we know that his witness is true.| A literary fiction would not have been benefited by an anonymous postscript. The words as they, stand are either a false testimony of the pseudo-John, or the true testimony of the friends of the real John who first received his book and published it before or after his death.
The voice of the whole Catholic church, so far as it is heard, on the subject at all, is in favor of the authorship of John. There is not a shadow of proof to the contrary opinion except one, and that is purely negative and inconclusive. Baur to the very last laid the greatest stress on the entangled paschal controversy of the second century as a proof that John could not have written the fourth Gospel because he was quoted as an authority for the celebration of the Lord's Supper on the 14th of Nisan; while the fourth Gospel, in flat contradiction to the Synoptists, puts the crucifixion on that day (instead of the 15th), and represents Christ as the true paschal lamb slain at the very time when the typical Jewish passover was slain. But, in the first place, some of the ablest scholars know how to reconcile John with the Synoptic date of the crucifixion on the 15th of Nisan; and, secondly, there is no evidence at all that the apostle John celebrated Easter with the Quartodecimans on the 14th of Nisan in commemoration of the day of the Lord's Supper. The controversy was between conforming the celebration of the Christian Passover to the day of the month, that is to Jewish chronology, or to the day of the week on which Christ died. The former would have made Easter, more conveniently, a fixed festival like the Jewish Passover, the latter or Roman practice made it a movable feast, and this practice triumphed at the Council of Nicaea.
2. Heretical testimonies. They all the more important in view of their dissent from Catholic doctrine. It is remarkable that the heretics seem to have used and commented on the fourth Gospel even before the Catholic writers. The Clementine Homilies, besides several allusions, very clearly quote from the story of the man born blind, John 9:2, 3. The Gnostics of the second century, especially the Valentinians and Basilidians, made abundant use of the fourth Gospel, which alternately offended them by its historical realism, and attracted them by its idealism and mysticism. Heracleon, a pupil of Valentinus, wrote a commentary on it, of which Origen has preserved large extracts; Valentinus himself (according to Tertullian) tried either to explain it away, or he put his own meaning into it. Basilides, who flourished about a.d.125, quoted from the Gospel of John such passages as the |true light, which enlighteneth every man was coming into the world| (John 1:9), and, my hour is not yet come |(2:4).
These heretical testimonies are almost decisive by themselves. The Gnostics would rather have rejected the fourth Gospel altogether, as Marcion actually did, from doctrinal objection. They certainly would not have received it from the Catholic church, as little as the church would have received it from the Gnostics. The concurrent reception of the Gospel by both at so early a date is conclusive evidence of its genuineness. |The Gnostics of that date,| says Dr. Abbot, |received it because they could not help it. They would not have admitted the authority of a book which could be reconciled with their doctrines only by the most forced interpretation, if they could have destroyed its authority by denying its genuineness. Its genuineness could then be easily ascertained. Ephesus was one of the principal cities of the Eastern world, the centre of extensive commerce, the metropolis of Asia Minor. Hundreds, if not thousands, of people were living who had known the apostle John. The question whether he, the beloved disciple, had committed to writing his recollections of his Master's life and teaching, was one of the greatest interest. The fact of the reception of the fourth Gospel as his work at so early a date, by parties so violently opposed to each other, proves that the evidence of its genuineness was decisive. This argument is further confirmed by the use of the Gospel by the opposing parties in the later Montanistic controversy, and in the disputes about the time of celebrating Easter.|
3. Heathen testimony. Celsus, in his book against Christianity, which was written about a.d.178 (according to Keim, who reconstructed it from the fragments preserved in the refutation of Origen), derives his matter for attack from the four Gospels, though he does not name their authors, and he refers to several details which are peculiar to John, as, among others, the blood which flowed from the body of Jesus at his crucifixion (John 19:34), and the fact that Christ |after his death arose and showed the marks of his punishment, and how his hands had been pierced| (20:25, 27).
The radical assertion of Baur that no distinct trace of the fourth Gospel can be found before the last quarter of the second century has utterly broken down, and his own best pupils have been forced to make one concession after another as the successive discoveries of the many Gnostic quotations in the Philosophumena, the last book of the pseudo-Clementine Homilies, the Syrian Commentary on Tatian's Diatessaron, revealed the stubborn fact of the use and abuse of the Gospel before the middle and up to the very beginning of the second century, that is, to a time when it was simply impossible to mistake a pseudo-apostolic fiction for a genuine production of the patriarch of the apostolic age.
II. Internal Evidence. This is even still stronger, and leaves at last no alternative but truth or fraud.
1. To begin with the style of the fourth Gospel, we have already seen that it is altogether unique and without a parallel in post-apostolic literature, betraying a Hebrew of the Hebrews, impregnated with the genius of the Old Testament, in mode of thought and expression, in imagery and symbolism, in the symmetrical structure of sentences, in the simplicity and circumstantiality of narration; yet familiar with pure Greek, from long residence among Greeks. This is just what we should expect from John at Ephesus. Though not a rabbinical scholar, like Paul, he was acquainted with the Hebrew Scriptures and not dependent on the Septuagint. He has in all fourteen quotations from the Old Testament. Four of these agree with the Hebrew and the Septuagint; three agree with the Hebrew against the Septuagint (6:45; 13:18 19:37), the rest are neutral, either agreeing with both or differing from both, or being free adaptations rather than citations; but none of them agrees with the Septuagint against the Hebrew.
Among the post-apostolic writers there is no converted Jew, unless it be Hegesippus; none who could read the Hebrew and write Hebraistic Greek. After the destruction of Jerusalem the church finally separated from the synagogue and both assumed an attitude of uncompromising hostility.
2. The author was a Jew of Palestine. He gives, incidentally and without effort, unmistakable evidence of minute familiarity with the Holy Land and its inhabitants before the destruction of Jerusalem. He is at home in the localities of the holy city and the neighborhood. He describes Bethesda as |a pool by the sheep gate, having five porches| (5:2), Siloam as |a pool which is by interpretation Sent| (9:7), Solomon's porch as being |in the Temple| (10:23), the brook Kedron |where was a garden| (18:1); he knows the location of the praetorium (18:28), the meaning of Gabbatha (19:13), and Golgotha (19:17), the distance of Bethany from Jerusalem |about fifteen furlongs off| (11:18), and he distinguishes it from Bethany beyond Jordan (1:28). He gives the date when the Herodian reconstruction of the temple began (2:19). He is equally familiar with other parts of Palestine and makes no mistakes such as are so often made by foreigners. He locates Cana in Galilee (2:1; 4:26 21:2), to distinguish it from another Cana; Aenon |near to Salim| where there are |many waters| (3:23); Sychar in Samaria near |Jacob's, well,| and in view of Mount Gerizim (4:5). He knows the extent of the Lake of Tiberias (6:19); he describes Bethsaida as |the city of Andrew and Peter| (1:44), as distinct from Bethsaida Julias on the eastern bank of the Jordan; he represents Nazareth as a place of proverbial insignificance (1:46).
He is well acquainted with the confused politico-ecclesiastical Messianic ideas and expectations of the Jews (1:19-28, 45-49; 4:25; 6:14, 15 7:26; 12:34, and other passages); with the hostility between Jews and Samaritans (4:9, 20, 22 8:48); with Jewish usages and observances, as baptism (1:25; 3:22, 23 4:2), purification (2:6; 3:25, etc.), ceremonial pollution (18:28), feasts (2:13, 23; 5:1 7:37, etc.), circumcision, and the Sabbath (7:22, 23). He is also acquainted with the marriage and burial rites (2:1-10; 11:17-44), with the character of the Pharisees and their influence in the Sanhedrin, the relationship between Annas and Caiaphas. The objection of Bretschneider that he represents the office of the high-priest as an annual office arose from a misunderstanding of the phrase |that year| (11:49, 51 18:13), by which he means that memorable year in which Christ died for the sins of the people.
3. The author was an eye-witness of most of the events narrated. This appears from his life-like familiarity with the acting persons, the Baptist, Peter, Andrew, Philip, Nathanael, Thomas, Judas Iscariot, Pilate, Caiaphas, Annas, Nicodemus, Martha and Mary, Mary Magdalene, the woman of Samaria, the man born blind; and from the minute traits and vivid details which betray autopticity. He incidentally notices what the Synoptists omit, that the traitor was |the son of Simon| ( 6:71; 12:4; 13:2, 26 at Thomas was called |Didymus| (11:16; 20:24 21:2); while, on the other hand, he calls the Baptist simply |John| ( he himself being the other John), without adding to it the distinctive title as the Synoptists do more than a dozen times to distinguish him from the son of Zebedee. He indicates the days and hours of certain events, and the exact or approximate number of persons and objects mentioned. He was privy to the thoughts of the disciples on certain occasions, their ignorance and misunderstanding of the words of the Master, and even to the motives and feelings of the Lord.
No literary artist could have invented the conversation of Christ with Nicodemus on the mystery of spiritual regeneration (John 3), or the conversation with the woman of Samaria (John 4), or the characteristic details of the catechization of the man born blind, which brings out so naturally the proud and heartless bigotry of the Jewish hierarchy and the rough, outspoken honesty and common sense of the blind man and his parents (9:13-34). The scene at Jacob's well, described in John 4, presents a most graphic, and yet unartificial picture of nature and human life as it still remains, though in decay, at the foot of Gerizim and Ebal: there is the well of Jacob in a fertile, well-watered valley, there the Samaritan sanctuary on the top of Mount Gerizim, there the waving grain-fields ripening for the harvest; we are confronted with the historic antagonism of Jews and Samaritans which survives in the Nablus of to-day; there we see the genuine humanity of Jesus, as he sat down |wearied with his journey,| though not weary of his work, his elevation above the rabbinical prejudice of conversing with a woman, his superhuman knowledge and dignity; there is the curiosity and quick-wittedness of the Samaritan Magdalene; and how natural is the transition from the water of Jacob's well to the water of life, and from the hot dispute of the place of worship to the highest conception of God as an omnipresent spirit, and his true worship in spirit and in truth.
4. The writer represents himself expressly as an eye-witness of the life of Christ. He differs from the Synoptists, who never use the first person nor mix their subjective feelings with the narrative. |We beheld his glory,| he says, in the name of all the apostles and primitive disciples, in stating the general impression made upon them by the incarnate Logos dwelling. And in the parallel passage of the first Epistle, which is an inseparable companion of the fourth Gospel, he asserts with solemn emphasis his personal knowledge of the incarnate Word of life whom he heard with his ears and saw with his eyes and handled with his hands (1 John 1:1-3). This assertion is general, and covers the whole public life of our Lord. But he makes it also in particular a case of special interest for the realness of Christ's humanity; in recording the flow of blood and water from the wounded side, he adds emphatically: |He that hath seen hath borne witness, and his witness is true: and he knoweth that he saith things that are true, that ye also may believe| (John 19:35). Here we are driven to the alternative: either the writer was a true witness of what he relates, or he was a false witness who wrote down a deliberate lie.
5. Finally, the writer intimates that he is one of the Twelve, that he is one of the favorite three, that he is not Peter, nor James, that he is none other than the beloved John who leaned on the Master's bosom. He never names himself, nor his brother James, nor his mother Salome, but he has a very modest, delicate, and altogether unique way of indirect self-designation. He stands behind his Gospel like a mysterious figure with a thin veil over his face without ever lifting the veil. He leaves the reader to infer the name by combination. He is undoubtedly that unnamed disciple who, with Andrew, was led to Jesus by the testimony of the Baptist on the banks of the Jordan (1:35-40), the disciple who at the last Supper |was reclining at the table in Jesus' bosom| (13:23-25), that |other disciple| who, with Peter, followed Jesus into the court of the high-priest (18:15, 16), who stood by the cross and was intrusted by the dying Lord with the care of His mother (19:26, 27), and that |other disciple whom Jesus loved,| who went with Peter to the empty sepulchre on the resurrection morning and was convinced of the great fact by the sight of the grave-cloths, and the head-cover rolled up in a place by itself (20:2-8). All these narratives are interwoven with autobiographic details. He calls himself |the disciple whom Jesus loved,| not from vanity (as has been most strangely asserted by some critics), but in blessed and thankful remembrance of the infinite mercy of his divine Master who thus fulfilled the prophecy of his name Johanan, i.e., Jehovah is gracious. In that peculiar love of his all-beloved Lord was summed up for him the whole significance of his life.
With this mode of self-designation corresponds the designation of members of his family: his mother is probably meant by the unnamed |sister of the mother| of Jesus, who stood by the cross (John 19:25), for Salome was there, according to the Synoptists, and John would hardly omit this fact; and in the list of the disciples to whom Jesus appeared at the Lake of Galilee, |the sons of Zebedee| are put last (21:2), when yet in all the Synoptic lists of the apostles they are, with Peter and Andrew, placed at the head of the Twelve. This difference can only be explained from motives of delicacy and modesty.
What a contrast the author presents to those pseudonymous literary forgers of the second and third centuries, who unscrupulously put their writings into the mouth of the apostles or other honored names to lend them a fictitious charm and authority; and yet who cannot conceal the fraud which leaks out on every page.
A review of this array of testimonies, external and internal, drives us to the irresistible conclusion that the fourth Gospel is the work of John, the apostle. This view is clear, self-consistent, and in full harmony with the character of the book and the whole history of the apostolic age; while the hypothesis of a literary fiction and pious fraud is contradictory, absurd, and self-condemned. No writer in the second century could have produced such a marvellous book, which towers high above all the books of Justin Martyr and Irenaeus and Tertullian and Clement and Origen, or any other father or schoolman or reformer. No writer in the first century could have written it but an apostle, and no apostle but John, and John himself could not have written it without divine inspiration.