TWO BOOKS ON THE GOSPEL OF ST. JOHN.* "So then,
we make bold to say that of all the Scriptures the Gospels are the firatfruits, and the firstfruits of the Gospels is that according to St. Jobn, the meaning whereof none can apprehend who has not leaned upon the .breast of Jesus, or received at the bands of Jesus Mary to be his mother too." This saying of Origen expresses vividly one's feeling after reading. in succession these two books on St. John. In Dr. Westcott there is the deep spiritual insight, the. searching thought, the profound devotion, of the Beloved Disciple. As Dr, Westcott has himself said, the voice of St. John, like the voice of God on Mount Sinai in the Jewish legend, I is to each one, as each one. has. the power to receive it," and it is the spiritual likeness between author and . commentator which has enabled Professor Sanday to say with truth : "Dr. Westcott's commentary remains, and will still for long remain, the best that we have on the Fourth Gospel." . It should be noticed that the introduction has not been altered since its publication in the Speaker's Commentary with the English.. text in 1869. The present edition contains the Greek and English text and a number of new notes.
When we tura from Dr. Westcott to Professor Schmiedel we pass into another world. .. Insight into the Gospel there is, and can be, little. Professor Schmiedel is a distinguished man, the author of the article "John, Son of Zebedee," in the• Encyclopedia lJiblica, but he is possessed with an inveterate dislike of the supernatural, and more particularly of. the .doctrine' of the divinity 'of Christ. St. John is, for Professor Schmiedel, a natural enemy, and. his behaviour to him is, as Professor Sunday notices, that of a lawyer to an awkward witness. For instance, to show that St. John borrows from the Synoptists, he tells us that St. John i. 15 is borrowed from St. Matthew iii. 11, "though,". he adds, "there the language and meaning are different." On this principle it is difficult to see how any author can save himself from the charge of plagiarism.. A most instructive example of Professor. S.chmiedel's attitude towards miracles is found in his treatment of the raising of Lazarus. This story he regards as a misunderstanding of the parable of Lazarus and Dives. He first alters one of the chief lessons of. the. parable by making Lazarus return to earth at .the. request of Dives. The Preacher is supposed to say, " with raised finger.'! " As a matter of fact Lazarus has risen, and. the brethren of. the .rich man have.. not listened to him." Some hearer who has missed "the delicate meaning of the turn ". goes home and says : " To-day the Preacher said that Lazarus has arisen." So the parable is transmuted into the miracle. And these are the futilities which are offered, us in exchange for the narrative which has touched the heart of the world Elsewhere Professor Schmiedel lays .down a proposition about the traditions known only to St. John which, if true, would be of far-reaching importance: "In no ease can what this person tells us be derived from actual observation of The events ; for, if it were, we should read of it in the. Synoptios as well." The critic forgets, apparently, not only the general rule that writers differ in their opportunities, objects, powers of memory and observation, but .the striking fact, :noticed by Professor Sunday, that,thongh St. Mark and the Logia both collected parables, St. Luke was able to add, from his. special sources such characteristic examples as the Prodigal .Son and the Good Samaritan. Moreover,. Professor Schmiedel, who makes the above far-reaching assertion, treats, as we have seen, a coincidence so minute as to appear neither in the language nor the meaning as sufficient to convict a. writer of plagiarism. The dilemma is perfect, so perfect, indeed, that it is difficult to see what historian could escape being impaled Ian one or the other horn.
Cowper once remarked of Dr. Johnson's treatment of • (1) The Gospel At:cording to St. John the Greek Teat. . With Introduction and Notes by the late Brooke Foss Westcott, London : John Murray. pie, net.' —(3) The Johunnine Writings. By Paul W. Schmledel, Professor of 'Theology at Virloh. Translated by Ilaurioe A, Cannay, M.A. London: A. .and C. Bleak. [Ss. 6d. net.]
Milton: "He has plucked one or two of the most beautiful feathers out of his Muse's wing, and trampled them under his great foot." There are not wanting examples of the great foot and the heavy band in Dr. Schmiedel's treatment of St. John. In a passage where, according to the critic's own con- fession, if there be any mistake, it is corrected a few verses later, be allows himself to write in these terms of St. John's motives :—" ' He must increase, but I must decrease '; with these words the Baptist himself is made to write the legend to this little picture, which is really sketched very gracefully.
In order to do so, the author adds a toilet), which, in reality, as he himself knows, does not at all harmonise with the truth." Has Professor Schmiedel ever realised that there are moral impossibilities which are harder to believe than the so-called physical impossibilities which trouble him so greatly P Professor Harnack's famous pronouncement as to the date of the Gospels and the authorship of the New Testament books, and the altered attitude of men of science towards phenomena such as telepathy, visions, phantoms, and the like, should prepare critics to accept Professor Sanday's two conclusions that what the early Christians believed to be miracles undoubtedly happened, and that their evidence on the point is absolute ly bond, fide It is a relief to turn from the superficial bickerings of Professor Schmiedel back again to Dr. Westcott and the Gospel itself. What was the object which St. John set before
himself P This question, and that of the Logos. are closely connected. The Logos doctrine is derived by Dr. Westcott
partly from Philo, but still more from the conception in
the Old Testament, the Apocrypha, and the Targums of the " Word of God." In all these there is a tendency to
personify "the Word." However derived, the Logos in St.
John is the revealer of God to man through the Incarnation, and the object of the Gospel is to set forth Cbrist as divine.
So St. John's Gospel is, in the famous words of Clement of Alexandria, "a spiritual Gospel." His purpose is doctrinal rather 'than historical. Not, however, that he undervalues the historical facts, but that "he reviews the facts in the light of their interpretation." " The Synoptic narratives ure implicit dogmas, no less truly than St. John's dogmas are•
concrete facts." Hence the large differences in detail between him and the Synoptists. The scene is laid mainly in Judaea,
where Christ spoke to the learned men of the nation a different language from that addressed to the fishermen of Galilee. Much of the Gospel is occupied with those later months when our Lord turned from the teaching of the people to the training of the Disciples. The last discourses are "a Sermon in the chamber to the Apostles, completing the Sermon on the Mount
to the multitudes" ; they are strange in character to the
reader who turns to them from the Synoptists, full of thoughts which the Disciples could only understand later, about the mysteries of the divine nature, of Christ and the Father and the Paracleto, of the communion of these with one another, and with man, thoughts bound together by the dominant idea of love, which harmonises and connects the whole, broken by the note of the coming separation with his friends, culminating in the victory over sorrow and persecution.
The style of St. John is peculiar to himself ; it is the same in the speeches of our Lord as in the narrative. This has been rashly assumed to prove that the discourses are not :Christ's, but his own. It is, however, much more probable that the style of his Master dominated the style of the Disciple, as in our own experience the characteristic ex- pression of.a great preacher or writer colours that of his pupils and friends.
These differences seem wider than they really are. There are many. indications in the Synoptists that there was a ministry in Judaea such as that narrated in St. John (e.g., St. Matthew xxiii. 37 and St. Luke iv. 44, where the best MSS. read "of Judaea"). On the other hand, in St. John vii. 3-4 'the taunt of the brethren of Jesus at His avoidance of Judaea implies a much more extended ministry in Galilee than is actually described in St. John. There are many fragments in the Synoptists of that larger teaching found in the Fourth Gospel. The most striking instance is St. Matthew xi. 27 : " All things are delivered unto me of my
Father : and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whonieoever the Son will reveal him." But there are a number
of other passages where the Synoptists recognise in our Lord the power of forgiveness of sins, His continued presence with. His followers, and His union with the Father. Even more striking is the likeness between St. John and the Epistles of St. Paul. As Professor Sunday says, " the confession that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, was common ground for all Christians," and the source of a doctrine so universal must in the end have been, not St. Paul or St. John, but Christ Himself.
The Gospel of St. John differs from the Synoptists in one other important point. He wrote, tradition tells us, after the fall of Jerusalem, near the end of the first century, in a new world. What once had been prophecy was now fulfilled fact : what once was obscure, events had now made clear. As Browning says, "what first were guessed as points I now knew stars." What he wrote must be to some extent a summary ; it may contain sometimes his interpretation of the Apostle's daily intercourse with Christ; the exact form may not be, perhaps cannot be, always preserved. That St. John was careful to preserve where possible the very words of Christ is not only certain from his intense reverence for Christ's person, but is shown by the explanation which he adds of words or facts which he leaves in their original form (e.g., ii. 19-22). St. John had waited long; now be must speak. "How will it be, when none more saith, 'I saw' ?" The whole of that wonderful experience rises before him ; Christ first and last, and yet around him the old familiar faces, Peter, and Thomas, and Nicodemus, and the rest; and each has his place, however small, in the story.
For the evidence that it was the Apostle John who wrote the Gospel is very strong, even in face of the difficulties, which, us we have seen, are not so formidable as they appear. The internal evidence points, as Dr. Westcott shows in detail, to the author being an eyewitness. This he himself claims to be, and there is the strongest moral difficulty in setting this claim aside. But apart from this, the accurate descriptions of locality and ritual, blurred or obliterated for any one who had not known them before the fall of Jerusalem ; the vivid realisation of the different attitudes of the multitude, the hostile Jews, the priestly Party, and the Pharisees; the rapid interchange of comment and question; above all, the living portrayal of character,— stamp the account as that of one who had seen and borne record. Witness the account of the healing of the man born blind; the conversation with the woman at the well; the characters of Philip, who " believed without confidence," of Thomas, who "believed without hope," of Peter, both confident and hopeful. St. John only speaks of himself obliquely by a title adopted, not boastfully, as some have thought, but in the tenderness of one looking back from old age on the treasured past, "the disciple whom Jesus loved." The external evidence is of great weight, and comes from every quarter of the Christian world. When one remembers that 'rumens, about 170 A.D., speaks With certainty of St. John's authorship of.the Gospel, and describes how he heard his master, Polycarp, speaking of his Intercourse with St. John, one realises how impossible it would have been to foist upon the Church, under St. John's name, a Gospel that was not his. The evidence in favour of St. John's authorship has been greatly strengthened during the last fifty Or sixty years by such discoveries as Tatian's Diatessaron, nippolytwee Brfulation of All heresies, the Acts of St. John, the Didache, and the Logic. Practically the only evidence on the other side discovered in recent times is the statement, repeated in almost the same words by the De Boor fragment (dating from about 430 A.D.), and by another document of the ninth century, that " Papias in his second book states that John the Divine end James his brother were slain by Jews." These statements, however, besides being very late, contain Inaccuracies, and are regarded by Professor Harnack as of no value. They do not weigh against the almost universal testimony of tradition in favour of him who alone had the opportunity without which what Luther called " the true, unique, tender Gospel of Gospels " could never have been written. Its influence on Christianity, great everywhere, has been greatest on the greatest men. It occupied the last days of Bede and Lightfoot. It has moved philosophers like Schleier- :umber and Martineau, and inspired some of the noblest writing of the two greatest poets of our own time. It baa been the most precious possession of the most deeply religious minds, the charter, as has been said, of Christian mysticism.