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Early Years of Christianity: The Apostolic Era.
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M. [See page 429.]

AUTHENTICITY OF THE GOSPEL AND EPISTLES OF JOHN.

We cannot here go over the whole discussion that has arisen as to the author of the fourth gospel. Its authenticity was impugned with some reserve by Bretschneider in his "Probabilia." That theologian maintained that between the gospel of John and the synoptics the difference was absolute, especially in reference to the discourses of the Saviour. Strauss, in his "Life of Christ," proceeded to set forth three differences in support of his hypothesis of an evangelical mythology. Baur and his school have taken other ground in attacking the authenticity of the fourth gospel. It is, in their view, the last result of the struggle between Paulinism and Ebionitism, and, as it were, a treaty of peace between the two systems, signed upon the heights of Alexandrine Gnosticism. Baur, "Das Christ., der drei erst. Jahrh., 133. Such a reconciliation could only take place at an advanced date, when the combatants had become exhausted, that is to say, about the end of the second century. The most remarkable work in favor of its authenticity is Lücke's introduction to his commentary on the Gospel. All that M. Reuss has written on this subject, whether in his book, "The History of the New Testament," or in his "History of Christian Theology in the Apostolic Age," or in a separate dissertation, has great value. For ourselves, no point of sacred criticism seems to us better established than the authenticity of the fourth gospel. Lücke, in his commentary, had already shown how much favor is in its eternal testimony. Pp. 41-81. It appears to us evident that Justin Martyr makes numerous allusions to passages of the fourth gospel. "Dial. cum Tryph.," 88, 114, 108. His treatment of the doctrine of the "Word" reminds us of the prologue of John's gospel. He even goes so far as to call Jesus Christ μενεγενής, the only Son. Id. 105. Comp. "Apol.," i, 33. There is an equally evident allusion in the "Apology of Athenagoras," written about the year 177. It is only necessary to read the tenth chapter to be convinced of this. The allusions are also numerous in the letter of the Church of Lyons to the Churches of Asia Minor. Eusebius, "Hist. Eccles.," v, x. The rejection of the Gospel of John by the Alogi was exclusively founded on doctrinal grounds. Origen tells us that Celsus, who wrote about the middle of the second century, sought, in the fourth gospel, for weapons to use against the Christians. "Contr. Celsum," v, 52; i, 67; allusion to John ii, 18.

The first direct testimony is that of Theophilus of Antioch, who lived in the year I68. We read in his book to Antolicus, ii, 22: Ὀθεν διδάσκουσιν ἦμας ἀγιαι γραφαὶ καὶ πάντες ὁι πνευματοφόροι, ἐξ ὦν Ἰωάννης λέγεί Ἐν ἀρχῃ ἧν ὁ λόγος. The testimony of lrenæus is not less precise. "Contr. Hæres.," iii, 1. Comp. Tertullian, "Adv. Marconem," iv, 2, 5. The mention of the Apocalypse in the canon of Muratori proves to us that the Gospel was received into the canon of the Church of Rome at the commencement of the third century. From that time, all the "Fathers," without exception, confirm the apostolic origin of the fourth gospel. Origen, about the year 222, comments on it. The Peshito version translates it, and Eusebius ("Hist. Eccles.," iii, 24, 25) places it, without hesitation, among the "Homologoumena."

The external evidence derived from the testimony of the orthodox Church is, then, very strongly in favor of the authenticity of the fourth gospel. It will appear decisive and irrefragable, if we take also into account the testimony of heresy itself. The discovery of the "Philosophoumena" has decided the question. St. Hippolytus makes us acquainted with the first "Ophites," who are the immediate successors of the heretics of the apostolic age, and who lived in the first quarter of the second century. All know the doctrine of the "Word;" it occupies a prominent place in the rough outlines of their systems; all quote positively the fourth gospel. Thus Hippolytus attributes to the "Naassenians," the most ancient of the Ophites, declarations like this: Τὸ γεγεννημένον ἐκ τῆς σαρκὸς, σἀρξ ἐστι, καὶ τὸ γεγεννημένον ἐκ τοῦ πνεύματος, πνεῦμά ἐστιν. "Philosoph.," p. 106; quotation from John iii, 16. The Ophites Perates made the same use of the Gospel of John: Τοῦτό ἐστι, φησὶ, τὸ εἱρημένον. A quotation of John iii, 17, follows. "Philosoph.," p. 125. Basilides, the famous heretic, who wrote between the years 120 and 130, quotes St. John positively in the fragment reproduced by Hippolytus: Τοῦτο, φησὶν, ἔστι τὸ λεγόμενον ἐν τοῖς εὐαγγελίοις Ἠν τὸ φὼς το ἀληθινόν. "Philosoph., p. 232. (See Bunsen on this point; "Hippolytus," i, 33, 36.) We cannot comprehend how the significance of such passages can be questioned, and how the hypothesis of the Tübingen school can stand against them.685685If it were admitted with Lücke, ("Comment.," ii, p. 826,) and with Reuss, ("Geschichte Schr., N. T.," p. 227,) that the twenty-first chapter of the fourth gospel is not by John, though it is of very ancient date, since it is quoted by Origen and Clement of Alexandria, the gospel of John would bear with it, in its closing verses, the certificate of its origin. The question appears to us insoluble if we take the whole of the chapters; but we think, with Olshausen, that the hyperbola of the last two verses is a gloss. The very antiquity of this gloss makes it a most important witness in favor of the authenticity of the fourth gospel.

Let us proceed to the internal evidence. It appears to us, first, that there is a striking analogy between what we know of St. John and the character of the fourth gospel. One feels that the writer is a Jew by birth, for the allusions to the customs of his nation are many; but he is also acquainted with Greece and its lofty culture. An allusion to the heresies of Docetism is evident from the commencement, and is in harmony with what is known of the adversary of Cerinthus. The fourth gospel bears the mark of a date subsequent to the first three, and this again brings us to the time of John's abode at Ephesus. It is pre-eminent for accuracy, and shows throughout an eye-witness in the historian. Lastly, how can we avoid recognizing in every page the disciple whom Jesus loved, the apostle of love, who, as Clement of Alexandria says, "discerned like by like, love by love." Objection is taken to the marked difference between the discourses of the Saviour in the synoptics, and in the fourth gospel. It has even been said that John gives us another Christ than the first three evangelists. We admit that he presents him under another aspect, precisely because of his own moral affinity for that which was transcendent in the Master; but the Christ is essentially the same Christ. We have already observed that the writers of the synoptics also discerned the Son of God in the Son of man. It is not just to assert that the element of parable is completely absent from the gospel of John while we can point to the tenth and fifteenth chapters. The uniformity of the discourses is undeniable, and belongs to the more metaphysical character of the gospel of John. Evidently language has less variety when it touches on the highest points of religious teaching. We admit that John has given a certain sameness of color to the words of the Saviour, the same color which we find in his epistle; but the point to be ascertained is, whether John himself is molded by Jesus Christ, or whether the teaching of Jesus Christ is subsequently thrown into a certain form by John. Between the two alternatives we do not hesitate one moment. By admitting the first, the subjective share of the historian is considerably lessened. As regards the differences in the narration of facts between the first three gospels and the fourth, these differences, though real in one respect, do not rise to the height of an absolute incompatibility in narrative, taken as a whole. The synoptics, while they especially relate that which transpired in Galilee, nevertheless contain evident allusions to journeys of the Saviour to Jerusalem. Luke x, 38-42; Matt. xxiii, 37.

When the Tübingen school sets against our statement the asserted Judaism of the author of the Apocalypse, we are prepared to reduce this objection to its true value. (See the preceding note.) Nor can any argument against the authenticity of the fourth gospel be drawn from the fact that St. John, who, in his gospel, places the last supper of Christ with his disciples on the 13th of Nisan, kept the Passover on the 14th, for he might think that the death of the true Lamb of God at that date was of more weight in fixing the paschal feast than the celebration of the same feast on the 13th of Nisan in the upper chamber.

As to the epistles of John, the first is evidently written by the author of the fourth gospel. Never was internal evidence more conclusive. Let us add that it has the most ancient testimony in its favor: "Papias in Eusebius," iii, 39; Polycarp, "Ad. Philipp.," 7; Comp. Irenæus, "Contr. Hæres.," iii, 16; Clement of Alexandria, "Stromat.," ii, 389; Tertullian, "Adv. Praxeam," 15. It has always been classed among the "Homologoumena." There is no reason of any weight for disputing the authenticity of the two smaller epistles of John. They strikingly resemble his style and manner. They also have external evidence on their side, though some doubt was entertained by Origen. Eusebius, vi, 25; vii, 28. Dionysius of Alexandria recognized their authenticity; (Eusebius, vi, 25;) so also did Irenæus, ("Contr. Hæres.," i, 163,) who speaks positively of the second as being by John.


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