Images de page

he wrote. (a) The main features of S. John's character, so far as we can gather them from history and tradition, have been stated above (chapter I. ii.), and we cannot doubt that they have affected not only his choice of the incidents and discourses selected for narration, but also his mode of narrating them. No doubt in both he was under the guidance of the Holy Spirit (xiv. 26): but we have every reason for supposing that such guidance would work with, rather than against, the mental endowments of the person guided. To what extent the substance and form of his Gospel has been influenced by the intensity of his own nature we cannot tell : but the intensity is there, both in thought and language, both in its devotion and in its sternness; and the difference from the Synoptists shews that some influence has been at work. (b) The circumstances under which S. John wrote will carry us still further. They are very different from those under which the first Gospels were written. Christianity had grown from infancy to manhood and believed itself to be near the great consummation of the Lord's return. It was 'the last time.' Antichrist, who, as Jesus had foretold, was to precede His return, was already present in manifold shapes in the world (1 John ii. 18). In the bold speculations which had mingled themselves with Christianity, the Divine Government of the Father and the Incarnation of the Son were being explained away or denied (1 John ii. 22, iv. 3). The opposition, shewn from the first by 'the Jews' to the disciples of the Teacher whom they had crucified, had settled down into a relentless hostility. And while the gulf between Christianity and Judaism had thus widened, that between the Church and the world had also become more evident. The more the Christian realised the meaning of being 'born of God,' the more manifest became the truth, that 'the whole world lieth in wickedness' (1 John v. 18, 19). A Gospel that was to meet the needs of a society so changed both in its internal and external relations must obviously be very different from those which had suited its infancy. And a reverent mind will here trace the Providence of God, in that an Apostle, and he the Apostle S. John, was preserved for this crisis. It is scarcely too much S. JOHN 4

to say that, had a Gospel, claiming to have been written by him near the close of the first century, greatly resembled the other three in matter and form, we should have had reasonable grounds for doubting its authenticity. (The special difficulty with regard to the discourses as reported by the Synoptists and by S. John is discussed in the introductory note to chap. iii.)

It must be remarked on the other side that, along with these important differences as regards the things narrated and the mode of narrating them, there are coincidences less conspicuous, but not less real or important.

Among the most remarkable of these are the characters of the Lord, of S. Peter, of Mary and Martha, and of Judas. The similarity in most cases is too subtle for the picture in the Fourth Gospel to have been drawn from that in the Synoptic account. It is very much easier to believe that the two pictures agree because both are taken from life.

The invariable use by the Synoptists of the expression 'Son of Man' is rigidly observed by S. John. It is always used by Christ of Himself; never by, or of, any one else. See notes on i. 51; and also on ii. 19 and xviii. 11 for two other striking coincidences.

The student will find tabulated lists of minor coincidences in Dr Westcott's Introduction, pp. lxxxii., lxxxiii. He sums up thus: "The general conclusion stands firm. The Synoptists offer not only historical but also spiritual points of connexion between the teaching which they record and the teaching in the Fourth Gospel; and S. John himself in the Apocalypse completes the passage from the one to the other."



The chronological relation of the Gospel to the First Epistle of S. John cannot be determined with certainty. The Epistle

presupposes the Gospel in some shape or other: but as the Gospel was given orally for many years before it was written, it is possible that the Epistle may have been written first. Probably they were written within a few years of one another, whichever was written first of the two.

In comparing the Fourth Gospel with the Synoptists we found great and obvious differences, accompanied by real but less obvious correspondences. Here the opposite is rather the case. The coincidences both in thought and expression between the Gospel and the First Epistle of S. John are many and conspicuous; but closer inspection shews some important differences.

The object of the Gospel, as we have seen, is to create a conviction 'that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.' The object of the Epistle is rather to insist that the Son of God is Jesus. The Gospel starts from the historical human Teacher and proves that He is Divine; the Epistle starts rather from the Son of God and contends that He has come in the flesh. Again, the Gospel is not polemical: the truth is stated rather than error attacked. In the Epistle definite errors are attacked.

The lesson of both is one and the same; faith in Jesus Christ leading to fellowship with Him, and through fellowship with Him to fellowship with the Father and with one another: or, to sum up all in one word, Love.



The authorities are abundant and various. It will suffice to mention twelve of the most important; six Greek MSS. and six Ancient Versions.

Greek Manuscripts.

CODEX SINAITICUS (N). 4th century.

Discovered by Tisch

endorf in 1859 at the monastery of S. Catherine on Mount Sinai, and now at St Petersburg. The whole Gospel.

CODEX ALEXANDRINUS (A). 5th century. Brought by Cyril Lucar, Patriarch of Constantinople, from Alexandria, and afterwards presented by him to Charles I. in 1628. In the British Museum. The whole Gospel, excepting vi. 50-viii. 52.

CODEX VATICANUS (B). 4th century, but perhaps later than the Sinaiticus. In the Vatican Library. The whole Gospel. CODEX EPHRAEMI (C). 5th century. A palimpsest: the original writing has been partially rubbed out and the works of Ephraem the Syrian have been written over it. In the National Library at Paris. Eight fragments; i. 1-41; iii. 33—v. 16; vi. 38-vii. 3; viii. 34—ix. 11; xi. 8—46; xiii. 8—xiv. 7; xvi. 21-xviii. 36; xx. 26—xxi. 25.

CODEX BEZAE (D). 6th or 7th century. Given by Beza to the University Library at Cambridge in 1581. Remarkable for its interpolations and various readings. The whole Gospel, excepting i. 16-iii. 26: but xviii. 13-xx. 13 is by a later hand, possibly from the original MS.

CODEX REGIUS PARISIENSIS (L). 8th or 9th century. Nearly related to the Vaticanus. At Tours. The whole Gospel, ex

cepting xxi. 15-xxi. 25.

Ancient Versions.

OLD SYRIAC (Curetonian). 2nd century. Four fragments; i.—42; iii. 5—vii. 35; vii. 37—viii. 53, omitting vii. 53—viii. 11; xiv. 11-29.


VULGATE SYRIAC (Peschito). 3rd century. The whole Gos

HARCLEAN SYRIAC (a revision of the Philoxenian Syriac ; 5th or 6th century). 7th century. The whole Gospel.

OLD LATIN (Vetus Latina). 2nd century. The whole Gospel in several distinct forms.

VULGATE LATIN (mainly a revision of the Old Latin by Jerome, A.D. 383-5). 4th century. The whole Gospel.

MEMPHITIC (Coptic, in the dialect of Lower Egypt). 3rd century. The whole Gospel.



It would be impossible to give even a sketch of this within a small compass, so numerous are the works on S. John and his writings. All that will be attempted here will be to give more advanced students some information as to where they may look for greater help than can be given in a handbook for the use of schools.

Of the earliest known commentary, that of Heracleon (c. A.D. 150), only quotations preserved by Origen remain. Of Origen's own commentary (c. A.D. 225-235) only portions remain. Of the Greek commentators of the fourth century, Theodorus of Heraclea and Didymus of Alexandria, very little has come down to us. But we have S. Chrysostom's 88 Homilies on the Gospel, which have been translated in the Oxford 'Library of the Fathers.' S. Augustine's 124 Lectures (Tractatus) on S. John may be read in the 'Library of the Fathers,' or in the new translation by Gibb, published by T. & T. Clark, Edinburgh. But no translation can fairly represent the epigrammatic fulness of the original. The Commentary of Cyril of Alexandria has been translated by P. E. Pusey, Oxford, 1875. With Cyril the line of great patristic interpreters of S. John ends.

The Catena Aurea of Thomas Aquinas (c. A.D. 1250) was published in an English form at Oxford, 1841-45. It consists of a 'chain' of comments selected from Greek and Latin authors. Unfortunately Thomas Aquinas was the victim of previous forgers, and a considerable number of the quotations from early authorities are taken from spurious works.

Of modern commentaries those of Cornelius à Lapide (Van der Steen) and Maldonatus in the sixteenth century and of Lampe in the eighteenth must be mentioned. The last has been a treasury of information for many more recent writers.

The following foreign commentaries have all been published in an English form by T. & T. Clark, Edinburgh; Bengel,

« PrécédentContinuer »