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INTRODUCTION.

CHAPTER I.

THE LIFE OF S. JOHN.

THE life of S. John falls naturally into two divisions, the limits of which correspond to the two main sources of information respecting him. (1) From his birth to the departure from Jerusalem after the Ascension; the sources for which are contained in N. T. (2) From the departure from Jerusalem to his death; the sources for which are the traditions of the primitive Church. In both cases the notices of S. John are fragmentary, and cannot be woven together into anything like a complete whole without a good deal of conjecture. But the fragments are in the main very harmonious, and contain definite traits and characteristics, enabling us to form a portrait, which though imperfect is unique.

(i) Before the Departure from Jerusalem.

The date of S. John's birth cannot be determined. He was probably younger than his Master and than the other Apostles. He was the son of Zebedee and Salome, and brother of James, who was probably the older of the two. Zebedee was a fisherman of the lake of Galilee, who seems to have lived in or near Bethsaida (i. 44), and was well enough off to have hired servants (Mark i. 20). He appears only once in the Gospelnarrative (Matt. iv. 21, 22; Mark i. 19, 20), but is mentioned frequently as the father of S. James and S. John. Salome (see

on xix. 25) was probably the sister of the Virgin, and in that case S. John was our Lord's first cousin. This relationship harmonizes well with the special intimacy granted to the beloved disciple by his Lord, with the fact of S. James also being among the chosen three, and with the final committal of the Virgin to St John's care. Salome was one of those women who followed Christ and 'ministered to Him of their substance' (Mark xv. 40; comp. Matt. xxvii. 55; Luke viii. 3). This was probably after Zebedee's death. S. John's parents, therefore, would seem to have been people of means; and it is likely from xix. 27 that the Apostle himself was fairly well off, a conclusion to which his acquaintance with the high-priest (xviii. 15) also points.

S. John, therefore, like all the Apostles, excepting the traitor, was a Galilean; and this fact may be taken as in some degree accounting for that fieriness of temper which earned for him and his brother the name of 'sons of thunder' (Mark iii. 17). The inhabitants of Galilee, while they had remained to a large extent untouched by the culture of the rest of the nation, remained also untouched by the enervation both in belief and habits which culture commonly brings. Ignorant of the glosses of tradition, they kept the old simple faith in the letter of the Law. Uninterested alike in politics and philosophy, they preferred the sword to intrigue, and industry to speculation. Thus, while the hierarchy jealously scrutinise all the circumstances of Jesus' position, the Galileans on the strength of a single miracle would 'take Him by force' (vi. 14, 15) and make Him king. Population was dense and mixed, and between the Syrians and Jews there were often fierce disputes. To this industrious, hardy, and warlike race S. John belonged by birth and residence, sharing its characteristic energy and its impatience of indecision and intrigue. Hence, when the Baptist proclaimed the kingdom of the Messiah, the young fisherman at once became a follower, and pressed steadily onwards until the goal was reached.

Christian art has so familiarised us with a form of almost feminine sweetness as representing the beloved disciple, that

the strong energy and even vehemence of his character is almost lost sight of. In his writings as well as in what is recorded of him both in N. T. and elsewhere we find both sides of his character appearing. And indeed though apparently opposed they are not really so; the one may beget the other, and did so in him.

In yet another way his Galilean origin might influence S. John. The population of the country, as has been said, was mixed. From a boy he would have the opportunity of coming in contact with Greek life and language. Hence that union of Jewish and Greek characteristics which are found in him, and which have led some to the conclusion that the author of the

Fourth Gospel was a Greek. We shall find as we go along that the enormous preponderance of Jewish modes of thought and expression, and of Jewish points of view, renders this conclusion absolutely untenable.

The young son of Zebedee was perhaps never at one of the rabbinical schools, which after the fall of Jerusalem made Tiberias a great centre of education, and probably existed in some shape before that. Hence he can be contemptuously spoken of by the hierarchy as an 'illiterate and common' person (Acts iv. 13). No doubt he paid the usual visits to Jerusalem at the proper seasons, and became acquainted with the grand liturgy of the Temple; a worship which while it kindled his deep spiritual emotions and gave him material for reverent meditation, would insensibly prepare the way for that intense hatred of the hierarchy, who had made the worship there worse than a mockery, which breathes through all the pages of his Gospel.

While he was still a lad, and perhaps already learning to admire and love the impetuosity of his older friend S. Peter, the rising of 'Judas of Galilee in the days of the taxing' (see on Acts v. 37) took place. Judas, like our own Wat Tyler, raised a revolt against a tax which he held to be tyrannical, and proclaimed that the people had 'no lord or master but God.' Whether the boy and his future friend sympathized with the movement we have no means of knowing. But the honest

though ill-advised cry of the leaders of this revolt may easily have been remembered by S. John when he heard the false and renegade priests declare to Pilate, 'We have no king but Caesar' (xix. 15).

There was another movement of a very different kind, with which we know that he did sympathize heartily. After centuries of dreary silence, in which it seemed as if Jehovah had deserted His chosen people, a thrill went through the land that God had again visited them, and that a Prophet had once more appeared. His was a call, not to resist foreign taxation or to throw off the yoke of Rome, but to withstand their own temptations and to break the heavy bondage of their own crying sins: 'Repent ye, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!' S. John heard and followed, and from the Baptist learnt to know and at once to follow 'the Lamb of God' that was to do (what the lambs provided by man in the Temple could never do)—'take away the sin of the world.' Assuming that the unnamed disciple (i. 40) is S. John, we infer (i. 41) that he proceeded to bring his brother S. James to Jesus as S. Andrew had brought S. Peter. But from 'that day' (i. 39), that never to be forgotten day, the whole tenour of the young man's life was changed. The disciple of the Baptist had become the disciple of Christ.

After remaining with Jesus for a time he seems to have gone back to his old employment; from which he was again called, and possibly more than once (Matt. iv. 18; Luke v. 1-11), to become an Apostle and fisher of men. Then the group of the chosen three is formed. At the raising of Jairus' daughter, at the Transfiguration, and in the Garden of Gethsemane, 'Peter, James, and John' are admitted to nearer relationship with their Lord than the rest; and on one other solemn occasion, when He foretold the destruction of Jerusalem (Mark xiii. 3), S. Andrew also is with them. In this group, although S. Peter takes the lead, it is S. John who is nearest and dearest to the Lord, 'the disciple whom Jesus loved.'

On three different occasions the burning temper of the 'sons of thunder' displayed itself. (1) 'And John answered Him,

saying, Master, we saw one casting out devils in Thy name, and he followeth not us: and we forbad him, because he followeth not us' (Mark ix. 38; Luke ix. 49); a touch of zealous intolerance which reminds us of Joshua's zeal against Eldad and Medad (Numb. xi. 28), as Christ's reply recalls the reply of Moses. Probably his brother S. James is included in the 'we forbad him.' (2) When the Samaritan villagers refused to receive Him, 'because His face was as though He would go to Jerusalem,' His disciples James and John said, 'Lord, wilt Thou that we command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?' (Luke ix. 54). Once again their zeal for their Master makes them forget the spirit of their Master. (3) On the last journey to Jerusalem Salome, as the mouthpiece of her two sons (Matt. xx. 20; Mark x. 35), begs that they may sit, the one on the Messiah's right hand, and the other on His left, in His kingdom. This is their bold ambition, shewing that in spite of their close intimacy with Him, they are still grossly ignorant of the nature of His kingdom. And in their reply to His challenge the same bold temper and burning zeal is manifest. They are willing to go through the furnace in order to be near the Son of God. When S. John and his mother stood beside the Cross, and when S. James won the crown of martyrdom, Christ's challenge was taken up and their aspiration fulfilled.

It will not be necessary to recount at length the history of the last Passover, in which S. John is a prominent figure. As he gives us so much more than the Synoptists about the family at Bethany, we may infer that he was a more intimate friend of Lazarus and his sisters. He and S. Peter prepare the Last Supper (Luke xxii. 8), at which S. Peter gets him to ask who is the traitor; and after the betrayal S. John gets his friend introduced into the high-priest's palace. He followed his Master to judgment and death, and received His Mother as a farewell charge (xviii. 15, xix. 26, 27). His friend's fall does not break their friendship, and they visit the sepulchre together on Easter morning. (On the characteristics of the two as shewn in this incident see notes on xx. 4-6.). We find them still together

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