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of S. Peter and S. Paul (Haer. III. i. 1), this would again place the writing of the Fourth Gospel considerably later than A.D. 70. It is not improbable that the first twenty chapters were written a considerable time before the Gospel was published, that the last chapter was added some years later, and then the whole given to the church (see introductory note to chap. xxi.). S. John may have lived almost if not quite to the end of the century; therefore from A.D. 80 to 95 would seem to be the period within which it is probable that the Gospel was published.

Those who deny that S. John is the author have tried almost every date from A.D. 110 to 165. Dividing this period into two, we have this dilemma:—If the Gospel was published between 110 and 140, why did not the hundreds of Christians, who had known S. John during his later years, denounce it as a forgery? If it was not published till between 140 and 165, how did it become universally accepted by 170?



i. The Object.

These two subjects, the object and the plan, naturally go together, for the one to a large extent determines the other : the purpose with which the Evangelist wrote his Gospel greatly influences the form which it assumes. What that purpose was he tells us plainly himself: 'These have been written that ye may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing ye may have life in His name' (xx. 31). His object is not to write the life of Christ; if it were, we might wonder that out of his immense stores of personal knowledge he has not given us a great deal more than he has done. Rather, out of these abundant stores he has made a careful and self-denying selection with a view to producing a particular effect upon his readers, and by means of that effect to open to them an inesti

mable benefit. In this way his object manifestly influences his plan. He might have given himself the delight of pouring forth streams of information, which he alone possessed, to a community ardently thirsting for it. But such prodigality would have obscured rather than strengthened his argument: he therefore rigidly limits himself in order to produce the desired effect.

The effect is twofold: (1) to create a belief that Jesus is the Christ; (2) to create a belief that Jesus is the Son of God. The first truth is primarily for the Jew; the second is primarily for the Gentile; then both are for all united. The first truth leads the Jew to become a Christian; the second raises the Gentile above the barriers of Jewish exclusiveness; the two together bring eternal life to both.

To the Jews the Evangelist would prove that Jesus, the Man who had been known to them personally or historically by that name, is the Christ, the Messiah for whom they had been looking, in whom all types and prophecies have been fulfilled, to whom therefore the fullest allegiance is due. To the Gentiles the Evangelist would prove that this same Jesus, of whom they also have heard, is the Son of God, the Only God, theirs as well as His, the Universal Father, their Father as well as His; whose Son's mission, therefore, must be coextensive with His Father's family and kingdom. Long before the promise was made to Abraham 'all things came into being through Him' (i. 3): if therefore the Jews had a claim on the Christ, the Gentiles had a still older claim on the Son of God.

These two great truths, that Jesus is the Christ, and that Jesus is the Son of God, being recognised and believed, the blessed result follows that believers have life in His name, i.e. in Him as revealed to them in the character which His name implies. There is neither Gentile nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free; but Christ is all and in all; all are one in Christ Jesus (Col. iii. 11; Gal. iii. 28). There is no need to look for any additional object over and above that which the Evangelist himself states; although this is frequently done. Thus from the time of Irenaeus (Haer.

III. xi.) it has been common to say that S. John wrote his Gospel against Cerinthus and other heretics. By clearly teaching the main truths of the Gospel S. John necessarily refutes errors; and it is possible that here and there some particular form of error was in his mind when he wrote: but the refutation of error is not his object in writing. If his Gospel is not a Life of Christ, still less is it a polemical treatise.

Again, from the time of Eusebius (H. E. III. xxiv. 11) and earlier it has been maintained that S. John wrote to supplement the Synoptists, recording what had not been recorded by them. No doubt he does supplement them to a large extent, especially as regards the ministry in Judæa: but it does not follow from this that he wrote in order to supplement them. Where something not recorded by them would suit his purpose equally well he would naturally prefer it; but he has no hesitation in retelling what has already been told by one, two, or even all three of them, if he requires it for the object which he has in view (see introductory note to chap. vi.).

ii. The Plan.


In no Gospel is the plan so manifest as in the Fourth. haps we may say of the others that they scarcely have a plan. We may divide and subdivide them for our own convenience; but there is no clear evidence that the three Evangelists had any definite scheme before them in putting together the fragments of Gospel history which they have preserved for us. It is quite otherwise with the Fourth Evangelist. The different scenes from the life of Jesus Christ which he puts before us, are not only carefully selected but carefully arranged, leading up step by step to the conclusion expressed in the confession of S. Thomas, 'My Lord and my God.' But if there is a development of faith and love on the one side in those who accept and follow Jesus, so also there is a development of unbelief and hatred on the other in those who reject and persecute Him. 'The Word became flesh;' but, in as much as He was not generally recognised and welcomed, His presence in the world necessarily involved a separation and a conflict; a separation

of light from darkness, truth from falsehood, good from evil, life from death, and a conflict between the two. It is the critical episodes in that conflict round the person of the Incarnate Word that the Evangelist places before us one by one. These various episodes taken one by one go far to shew,taken all together and combined with the issue of the conflict irrefragably prove,' that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.' The main outlines of the plan are these:





The Word in His own Nature (i. 1—5).

His revelation to men and rejection by them (i. 6—13).

3. His revelation of the Father (i. 14—18).

FIRST MAIN DIVISION. CHRIST'S MINISTRY, OR HIS Revelation of Himself to the World (i. 19—xii. 50).

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(The work has become a Conflict). 4. among mixed multitudes (v.—xi.).

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d. The inner Glorification of Christ in His last Dis

courses (xiii.-xvii.).

1. His love in humiliation (xiii. 1-30).


His love in keeping His own (xiii. 31 −xv. 27).




The promise of the Comforter and of His re

turn (xvi.).

The prayer of the High-Priest (xvii.).

The outer Glorification of Christ in His Passion

(xviii., xix.).

I. The betrayal (xviii. 1—11).



The ecclesiastical and civil trials (xviii. 12xix. 16).

The crucifixion and burial (xix. 17—42).

f. The Resurrection (xx.).

The manifestation to Mary Magdalene (1-18).


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Here again, only a few leading points can be noticed: the subject is capable of almost indefinite expansion.

I. From the time of Clement of Alexandria (c. A. D. 190) this Gospel has been distinguished as a 'Spiritual GospEL' (Eus. H. E. vI. xiv. 7). The Synoptists give us mainly the external acts of Jesus Christ: S. John lays before us glimpses of the inner life and spirit of the Son of God. Their narrative is chiefly composed of His manifold and ceaseless dealings with men in S. John we have rather His tranquil and unbroken union with His Father. The heavenly element which forms the background of the first three Gospels is the atmosphere of the Fourth.

It is quite in harmony with this characteristic of the Gospel that it should contain such a much larger proportion of Christ's

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