Images de page




JOHN, the writer of this Gospel, was the son of Zebedee and Salome. Compare Matt. xxvii. 56, with Mark xv. 40, 41. His father was a fisherman of Galilee, though it would appear that he was not destitute of property, and was not in the lowest condition of life. He had hired men in his employ. Mark i. 20. Salome is described as one who attended our Saviour in his travels, and ministered to his wants. Matt. xxvii. 55. Mark xv. 41. Jesus commended his own mother Mary, on the cross, to John, and he took her to his own home (John xix. 16), with whom, history informs us, she lived until her death, about fifteen years after the crucifixion of Christ; and John was known to Caiaphas, the high priest. John xviii. 15. From all this it would seem not improbable that John had some property, and was better known than any of the other apostles.

He was the youngest of the apostles when called, and lived to the greatest age, and is the only one who is supposed to have died a peaceful death. He was called to be a follower of Jesus while engaged with his father and his elder brother James, mending their nets at the sea of Tiberias. Matt. iv. 21. Mark i. 19. Luke v. 10.


John was admitted by our Saviour to peculiar favor and friendship. One of the ancient fathers (Theophylact) says that he was related to our Saviour. Joseph," he says, "had seven children by a former wife, four sons and three daughters, Martha, Esther, and Salome, whose son John was; therefore Salome was reckoned our Lord's sister, and John was his nephew." If this was the case, it may explain the reason why James and John sought and expected the first places in his kingdom. Matt. xx. 20, 21. These may also possibly be the persons who were called our Lord's "brethren" and "sisters." Matt. xiii. 55, 56. And it may also explain the reason why our Saviour committed his mother to the care of John on the cross. John xix. 27.

The two brothers, James and John, with Peter, were several times admitted to peculiar favors by our Lord. They were the only disciples that were permitted to be present at the raising of the daughter of Jairus (Mark v. 37; Luke viii. 51); they only were permitted to attend our Saviour to the mount where he was transfigured: Matt. xvii. 1. Mark ix. 2. The same three were permitted to be present at his sufferings in the garden of Gethsemane. Matt. xxvi. 36-45. Mark xiv. 32-42. And it was to these disciples, together with Andrew, to whom our Saviour especially addressed himself when he made


known the desolations that were coming upon Jerusalem and Judea. Compare Matt. xxiv. 12; Mark xiii. 3, 4. John was also admitted to peculiar friendship with the Lord Jesus. Hence he is mentioned as "that disciple whom Jesus loved" (John xix. 26), and he is represented (John xiii. 23) as leaning on Jesus' bosom at the institution of the Lord's supper; an evidence of peculiar friendship. See Note on that place. Though the Redeemer was attached to all his disciples, yet there is no absurdity in supposing that his disposition was congenial with that of the meek and amiable John; thus authorising, and setting the example of, special friendships among Christians.

To John was committed the care of Mary, the mother of Jesus. After the ascension of Christ he remained some time at Jerusalem. Acts i. 14; iii. 1; iv. 13. John is also mentioned as having been sent down to Samaria to preach the gospel there with Peter (Acts viii. 5-25), and from Acts xv. it appears that he was present at the council at Jerusalem, A. D. 49 or 50. All this agrees with what is said by Eusebius, that he lived at Jerusalem till the death of Mary, fifteen years after the crucifixion of Christ. Till this time it is probable that he had not been engaged in preaching the gospel among the Gentiles. At what time John went first among the Gentiles to preach the gospel is not certainly known. It has commonly been supposed that he resided in Judea and the neighborhood until the war broke out with the Romans, and that he came into Asia Minor about the year 66 or 70. It is clear that he was not at Ephesus at the time that Paul visited those regions, as in all the travels of Paul and Luke there is no mention ever made of John.

Ecclesiastical history informs us that he spent the latter part of his life in Asia Minor, and that he resided chiefly in Ephesus, the chief city of that country. Of his residence there, little is certainly known. In the latter part of his life he was banished to Patmos, a small desolate island in the Ægean sea, about twenty miles in circumference. This is commonly supposed to have been during the persecution of Domitian, in the latter part of his reign. Domitian died A. D. 96. It is probable that he returned soon after that, in the reign of the emperor Trajan. In that island he wrote the book of Revelation. Rev. i. 9. After his return from Patmos, he lived peaceably at Ephesus until his death, which is supposed to have occurred not long after. He was buried at Ephesus; and it has been commonly thought that he was the only one of the apostles who did not suffer martyrdom. It is evident that he lived to a very advanced period of life. We know not his age, indeed, when Christ called him to follow him; but we cannot suppose it was less than 25 or 30. If so, he must have been not far from 100 years old when he died.

Many anecdotes are related of him while he remained at Ephesus, but there is no sufficient evidence of their truth. Some have said that he was taken to Rome in a time of persecution, and thrown into a caldron of boiling oil, and came out uninjured. It has been said that going into a bath one day at Ephesus, he perceived Cerinthus, who denied the divinity of the Saviour, and that John fled from him hastily, to express his disapprobation of his doctrine. It is also said, and of this there can be no doubt, that during his latter years he was not able to make a long discourse. He was carried to the church, and was accustomed to say nothing but this: "Little children, love one another." At length his disciples asked him why he always dwelt upon the same thing. He replied, "Because it is the Lord's command; and if this be done, it is sufficient."

Learned men have been much divided about the time when this Gospel was written. Wetstein supposed it was written just after our Saviour's ascension; Mill and Le Clerc, that it was written in 97; Dr. Lardner, that it was about the year 68, just before the destruction of Jerusalem The common opinion

is, that it was written at Ephesus, after his return from Patmos, and of course as late as the year 97 or 98. Nothing can be determined with certainty on the subject, and it is a matter of very little consequence.

There is no doubt that it was written by John. This is abundantly confirmed by the ancient fathers, and was not questioned by Celsus, Porphyry, or Julian, the acutest enemies of revelation in the early ages. It has never been extensively questioned to have been the work of John, and is one of the books of the New Testament whose canonical authority was never disputed. See Lardner; or Paley's Evidences.

The design of writing it, John himself states. Ch. xx. 31. It was to show that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God, and that those who believed might have life through his name. This design is kept in view through the whole Gospel; and should be remembered in our attempts to explain it. Various attempts have been made to show that he wrote it to confute the followers of Cerinthus and the Gnostics, but no satisfactory evidence of such a design has been furnished.

As he wrote after the other evangelists, he has recorded many things which they omitted. He dwells much more fully than they do on the divine character of Jesus; relates many things pertaining to the early part of his ministry which they had omitted; records many more of his discourses than they have done, and particularly the interesting discourse at the institution of the supper. See ch. xiv., xv., xvi., xvii.

It has been remarked that there are evidences in this Gospel that it was not written for the Jews. He explains words and customs which to a Jew would have needed no explanation. See ch. i. 38, 41; v. 1, 2; vii. 2; iv. 9. The style in the Greek indicates that he was an unlearned man. It is simple, plain, unpolished; such as we should suppose would be used by one in his circumstances. At the same time it is dignified, containing pure and profound sentiments, and is on many accounts the most difficult of all the books of the New Testament to interpret. It contains more about Christ, his person, design, and work, than any of the other Gospels. The other evangelists were employed more in recording the miracles, and giving external evidence of the divine mission of Jesus. John is employed chiefly in telling us what he was, and what was his peculiar doctrine. His aim was to show, 1st. That Jesus was the Messiah. 2d. To show, from the words of Jesus himself, what the Messiah was. The other evangelists record his parables, his miracles, his debates with the scribes and Pharisees; John records chiefly his discourses about himself. If any one wishes to learn the true doctrine respecting the Messiah, the Son of God, expressed in simple language, but with most sublime conceptions; to learn the true nature and character of God, and the way of approach to his mercy. seat; to see the true nature of Christian piety, or the source and character of religious consolation; to have perpetually before him the purest model of character the world has seen, and to contemplate the purest precepts that have ever been delivered to man; he cannot better do it than by a prayerful study of the Gospel by John. It may be added that this Gospel is, of itself, proof that cannot be overthrown of the truth of revelation. John was a fisherman, unhonored and unlearned. Acts iv. 13. What man in that rank of life now could compose a book like this? And can it be conceived that any man of that rank, unless under the influence of inspiration, could conceive so sublime notions of God, so pure views of morals, and draw a character so inimitably lovely and pure as that of Jesus Christ? To ask these questions is to answer them. And this Gospel will stand to the end of time as an unanswerable demonstration that the fisherman who wrote it was under a more than human guidance, and was, according to the promise that he has recorded (xvi. 13, compare xiv. 26),

guided into all truth. It will also remain as an unanswerable proof that the cha. racter which he has described-the character of the Lord Jesus-was real. It is a perfect character. It has not a flaw. How has this happened? The attempt has often been made to draw a perfect character-and as often, in every other instance, failed. How is it, when Homer and Virgil and the ancient his torians have all failed to describe a perfect character, with the purest models before them, and with all the aid of imagination, that in every instance they have failed? How is it that this has at last been accomplished only by a Jewish fisherman? The difficulty is vastly increased if another idea is borne in mind. John describes one who he believed had a divine nature. Ch. i. 1. It is an attempt to describe God in human nature, or to show how the divine being acts when united with man, or when appearing in human form. And the description is complete. There is not a word expressed by the Lord Jesus, or an emotion ascribed to him, inconsistent with such a supposition.-But this same attempt was often made—and as often failed. Homer and Virgil and all the ancient poets have undertaken to show what the gods would be if they came down and conversed with man. And what were they? What were Jupiter, and Juno, and Venus, and Mars, and Vulcan ?-Beings of lust, and envy, and contention, and blood. How has it happened that the only successful account which has been given of the divine nature united with the human, and living and acting as became such a union, has been given by a Jewish fisherman ?-How, unless the character was real, and the writer under a guidance far superior to the genius of Homer, and the imagination of Virgil-the guidance of the Holy Spirit?

« PrécédentContinuer »