« PreviousContinue »
9. Our only resource then must be, the space included between the very wide limits above indicated. The final departure of Paul from Asia Minor, and indeed his death, must be supposed to have happened some time ;—this, such as it is, will be our earliest limit;-and our latest limit, the probable duration of John's life, or more properly speaking, of his power of writing as we find him writing in this Gospel. And as antiquity testifies that he lived to a great age, and survived his vigour, this latter terminus will be even less definite than the former.
10. One consideration, however, may tend somewhat to narrow its limits. I have argued in the Commentary, that ch. xxi. is a genuine addition by the hand of the Apostle himself, probably in the decline of life, some years at least, from internal evidence of style, after the Gospel was completed. Add to which, as hinted above, that the style of the Gospel is, as Lücke has also remarked, that of a matured, but not of an aged writer.
11. Whether then we set the death of Paul with Wieseler in A.D. 64, or, as upholders of a second Roman imprisonment, in A.D. 68, we perhaps must not in either case allow our earliest limit to be placed much earlier than 70: nor, supposing John to have been a few years younger than our Lord, can we prolong our latest limit much beyond A.D. 85. We should thus have, but with no great fixity either way, somewhere about fifteen years,—A.D. 70–85, during which it is probable that the Gospel was published.
IN WHAT LANGUAGE IT WAS WRITTEN.
1. The testimony of antiquity is unanimous that John wrote in Greek. Nor is there any reason to doubt the fact. If he lived and taught in Asia Minor, he must have been familiar with the Greek language.
2. Some among the moderns have held an Aramaic or Hebrew original. They seem to ground this principally on the citations from the Old Testament being from the Hebrew, not from the LXX. But this latter is by no means without exception. That we find other citations after the Hebrew solely or principally, was to be expected from the Apostle's personal history, as a Jew of Palestine who had been brought up in the knowledge of the Hebrew original : and is a confirmation of the genuineness of the Gospel. See below in the next section.
1. It would enlarge this Introduction too much, to give a detailed history of the recognition of this Gospel, and its impugners, in ancient times. It may suffice to refer to such works as Lücke’s, where this history will be found. The result of his researches on the subject is, that down to the end of the second century the Gospel was by all recognized and attributed to the Apostle whose name it bears, with the sole exception of the Alogi, an unimportant sect in Asia Minor, who, from excessive opposition to the heresy of Montanus, rejected both the Apocalypse and Gospel of John, as favouring (according to them) some of the views of that heretic. Such an exception rather strengthens than weakens the general evidence of ancient Christendom in its favour.
2. Equally satisfactory is the testimony of the fathers after the close of the second century. The citations by Irenæus from this Gospel are very frequent, and express, both as to its canonicity and the name of its author. And his testimony is peculiarly valuable, because (1) he was an anti-gnostic : (2) his acquaintance with the whole Church, Eastern and Western, was greater than that of any other ecclesiastical writer : and (3) in his youth he had conversed with Polycarp, himself a disciple of the Apostle John. Theophilus of Antioch, Tertullian, Clement of Alexandria, Hippolytus, Origen, Dionysius of Alexandria, Eusebius,the ancient Syriac version, the Peschito,—the adversaries of Christianity, Porphyry, and Julian,-all these refer to the Gospel as without doubt the work of the Apostle John.
3. We may then, as far as antiquity is concerned, regard its genuineness as established. But there is one circumstance which has furnished many modern writers with a ground for doubting this. Neither Papias, who carefully sought out all that Apostles and apostolic men had related regarding the life of Christ,-nor Polycarp, who was himself a disciple of the Apostle John,-nor Barnabas, nor Clement of Rome, in their Epistles, nor lastly Ignatius (in his genuine writings), makes any mention of, or allusion to, this Gospel. So that in the most ancient circle of ecclesiastical testimony, it appears to be unknown or not recognized.
4. But this circumstance, when fairly considered in connexion with its universal recognition by writers following on these, rather serves for a confirmation of the genuineness of this Gospel. It confessedly was written late in the apostolic age. As far then as silence (or apparent silence) can be valid as an argument, it seems to shew that the recognition of this Gospel, as might have been expected, was later than that of the others. And it is some confirmation also of this view, that Papias, if Eusebius gives his testimony entire, appears not to recognize Luke's Gospel, but only those of Matthew and Mark. It is remarkable, however, on the other hand, that Papias recognizes the First Epistle of John, which, as remarked in s iv., was probably written after the Gospel. This would seem to make it probable that we have not in Eusebius the whole testimony of Papias given ; for it would certainly seem from internal grounds that the First Epistle and the Gospel must stand or fall together.
5. It is evident that too much stress must not be laid on the silence of Polycarp, from whom we have one short epistle only. He also (apparently) was acquainted with the First Epistle of John. But he wrote with no purpose of giving testimony to the sacred books, and what reason therefore have we to expect in his Epistle, quotations from or allusions to any particular book which did not happen to come within his design, and the subject of which he was treating ?
6. The same may be said of the silence of Barnabas, Hermas, and Ignatius. Had any intention existed on the part of the primitive Christian writers of informing posterity what books were counted canonical in their days, their silence would be a strong argument against any particular book :—but they had no such intention : their citations are fortuitous, and most of them loose and allusory only. So that we cannot argue from such silence to the recognition or otherwise of any book, unless it be universal and continuous, which is not the case with regard to this Gospel
7. Again, the kind of testimony furnished by Irenæus is peculiarly valuable. He does not relate from whom he had heard that John wrote a Gospel, but he treats and quotes it as a well-known and long-used book in the Christian Church. What could have induced Irenæus to do this, except the fact of its being thus known and used ? So that this character of his testimony virtually carries it back farther than its actual date. Besides, when one who has had the means which Irenæus had of ascertaining the truth in a matter, asserts things respecting that matter,—the ordinary and just method is to suppose that he draws his information from his superior opportunities of gaining it, even though he may not expressly say so : so that when Irenæus, who had conversed with Polycarp himself, the friend of the Apostle John, quotes this Gospel as the work of that Apostle, we may fairly presume that he had assured himself of this by the testimony of one so well capable of informing him.
8. Another historical argument used against its genuineness is,—that in the dispute about the time of keeping Easter between Polycarp and Anicetus bishop of Rome, about the year 160, the former defended the practice of the Asiatic Churches,—which was to keep their Christian passover at the time of the Jewish passover, the evening of the 14th of Nisan, by what he had learned from John and the other Apostles. But, say the opponents, John himself in his Gospel clearly relates that our Lord instituted the Lord's supper on the evening of the 13th of Nisan, and was crucified on the 14th. Therefore either Polycarp falsely appealed to John's authority, which is not probable, or John did not write the Gospel which bears his name. But, as Lücke has shewn, this argument is altogether built on the assumption that the Christian passover must necessarily coincide with the time of the institution of the Lord's supper; whereas such a coincidence does not appear to have entered into the consideration of the litigants in this case, but merely the question, whether the Churches should follow the Jewish calendar, or an arrangement of their own. Even in the later dispute between Polycrates, bishop of Ephesus, and Victor, on the same point, this question was not raised, but the matter was debated on other grounds.
9. The last historical objection which I shall notice is, that this Gospel was first circulated by the Gnostics, and therefore is to be looked on with suspicion. But Lücke has shewn that this was not the case : that unquestionable traces of catholic reception of it are found before it was received by them: and that, at all events, Irenæus recognized and used it contemporaneously with the Valentinians. The known opposition between the catholic Fathers and the Gnostics furnishes a sure guarantee, that had these latter first promulgated the Gospel, it never would have been received into the Canon of the catholic Church.
10. The modern opponents of the genuineness and canonicity of this Gospel have raised two arguments against it upon internal evidence. The first of these rests upon the assumed radical diversity between the views of the Person and teaching of Christ presented to us by John, and by the other three Evangelists. On this point I have said nearly all that is necessary in § ii.; and I will only now add, that supposing the diversity to be as unaccountable as it is natural, it would of itself serve as a strong presumption that the Gospel was not the work of a forger, who would have enlarged and decorated the accounts already existing, but a genuine testimony of one who was not an imitator of nor dependent on those others.
11. The second endeavours, by bringing out various supposed inconsistencies in the narration, to show that the Apostle John cannot have been the Author. Such are,-imagined want of connexion in certain parts (ch. iv. 44; xiii. 20; xiv. 31, where see notes);-an imputed inconsistency in the character and development of the treachery of Judas (see note on ch. vi. 64);—the not naming once in the Gospel of his own brother James (which, as Lücke remarks, is far easier to account for on supposition of its genuineness than on that of its spuriousness ");—the
6 James, the son of Zebedee, though one of the favoured Three, comes forward no where personally in the Gospels, nor in tbe Acts; and vanishes the first of all the
supposed want of accurate information with regard to the geography and customs of Judæa. But again, the passages cited to support this involve only geographical and archæological difficulties, such as would never have been raised by an impostor ;—and one in particular (ch. vii. 52: see note there) is chargeable, not on the Evangelist, but on the Sanhedrim, who were likely enough to have made the mistake, or purposely overlooked the fact, in their proud spirit of contempt for Galilee. The other objections derived from internal considerations are hardly worth recounting. They are fully stated and answered by Lücke.
12. An hypothesis was advanced by Eckermann, Vögel, and Paulus, and brought to completeness by Weisse, founded on a compromise between the evidence for and against the Gospel : that it is partly genuine, and principally in the didactic portions, which are veritable notices from the Apostle John: but that a later hand has wrought upon these, and added most of the narrative portions. But first, ecclesiastical tradition gives no countenance to this, always citing the Gospel as a whole,—and dropping no hint of any such distinction between its parts ;—and secondly, it is quite impossible to draw any line in the Gospel itself which shall separate the original matter from the supposed additions. There certainly is a marked distinction in diction and style between the rest of the Gospel and ch. xxi. (of ch. vii. 53—viii. 12, I do not now speak; see notes there):—which I believe to be accounted for by that chapter being a later addition by the Author himself: but farther than this, no such distinction can, even by the most fanciful analogies, be established. The same spirit pervades the form of the narrative and didactic parts: and so strongly, that the impugners of the Gospel have made this very circumstance an argument against the authenticity of the latter ;-how unjustly, I have shewn above in § i.:—but the fact of the objection having been made is important, as fatal to Weisse's hypothesis.
13. The principal arguments against the genuineness of the Gospel have been repeated and elaborated by Baur, who tries to shew that the whole is apocryphal,-and has arisen from a pious fraud of an author in the latter part of the second century. I mention this attempt because an admirable answer to it has appeared, by Ebrard. In this work he has gone over carefully all the arguments treated in the preceding sections, and shewn their entire untenableness. Luthardt also, in the work above referred to, has treated at length of the view of Baur and his school.
14. Our conclusion then from internal as well as external evidence, must be that the Gospel is what it has generally been believed to be,the genuine work of the Apostle John. And this result has been obApostles from the historic field of view. It is very unlikely that John would have in. troduced mention of him merely because he was his brother. He has not named several others of the Apostles. See ch. xxi. 2, and note.