Notes on the Fourth Gospel

By Alfred E. Garvie

Part X



(1) It is probable that a. transposition has taken place in the Gospel; and that. chapter vi. should precede chapter v. for the following reasons: —The fifty-fourth verse of chapter iv. suggests that Jesus had left Judea. to exercise His min­istry for a. time at least in Galilee; but the first verse of chapter v., without giving an adequate reason, takes Him away again to Judea. In iv. 46 He is in Cana. in Galilee, and is appealed to by a nobleman from Capemaum. In vi. l He is represented as going over the sea of Galilee; a more appropriate description if He was already on the one side of the sea, than if He was in Jerusalem where v. 4 7 leaves Him. The first verse of chapter vii. also follows more appropriately after the account of the visit to Jerusalem in chapter v., and the reference there in verses 16 and 18 to the extreme hostility of the Jews. We should probably also restore, as Dr. Moffatt has done in his New Translation of the New Testament, the passage vii. 15-24 to its original position in1the Gospel after v. 4 7, as the reference through­out is to the cure on the Sabbath. The order of events, then, would be that Jesus, after the miracle at Cana (iv. 46-54) for a time continued His ministry in Galilee (chap. vi.); that after the crisis there He went alone to Jerusalem, probably at the Pentecost (v. 1), following the Passover mentioned in vi. 4; that He was compelled by Jewish hos­tility (v. 1-47 and vii. 15-24) to return to Galilee (vii. 1), but visited Jerusalem again at the feast of Tabernacles (ver. 10). A confirmation of this order of events is suggested by the indefinite reference in v. I to" a feast of the Jews," or as "many ancient authorities read, the feast" (R.V. marg.). If in the original Pentecost was mentioned, and chaps. v. and vi. were transposed, the Passover would be mentioned between Pentecost and the Feast of Tabernacles, and the indefinite reference might be an attempt to get out of a chronological difficulty. The evangelist was too familiar himself with Jewish affairs not to be able to name this feast.

(2) Fixing our attention now on chapter vi. we are com­pelled to ask why the evangelist, contrary to his usual custom, covers the same ground as the synoptic records? (a) As will be shown in the next section, it is not likely that the evangelist was himself present at the events recorded in this chapter; but the narrative came to him at second­hand. While, as was assumed in the previous article, it is probable that he was with Jesus in Galilee till the Galilean disciples were called (according to the synoptic account), it is not necessary to assume this even, and this account (iv. 43-54) too may have come to him at second hand. As ii. 1 suggests, Mary the mother of Jesus, who at the Cross was entrusted to the beloved disciple's care, had some connexion with Cana; and she may have been his informant about the second sign, as it is to be noted no mention is made of any disciples as having accompanied Jesus. His informants, regarding the events in chapter vi. are not far to seek. Philip and Andrew, who play a part in the story, belonged to the circle of early companions of Jesus (i. 40-44); and Andrew was the evangelist's comrade in first following Jesus.

(b) But why did the evangelist give this second-hand narrative about Galilee, when he otherwise confines himself to Judea? Several reasons can be suggested. (i) Verses fourteen and fifteen are peculiar to the Fourth Gospel; but it is not at all improbable that the popular enthusiasm was by the miracle raised to danger point; and that some attempt was made to get Jesus to head a popular movement of revolt. There appears a confirmation of the situation presented in the Fourth Gospel in the statement of Matthew xiv. 22 (Mark vi. 45), that "straightway He constrained His disciples to enter into the boat, and to go before Him unto the other side, till He should send the multitudes away." On the word ἠνάγκασεν Bruce comments: "A strong word needing an explanation not here given, supplied in John vi. 15. Of course there was no physical compulsion, but there must have been urgency on Christ's part, and unwillingness on the part of the disciples " (The Expositor's Greek Testament, vol. i., p. 209). If the disciples, sharing the popular enthusiasm, also desired the people's purpose, their disappointment and irritation even may account for their panic in the storm; and, as Jesus worked no miracle for mere display, His walking on the water may be regarded as an appeal for their renewed confidence, an appeal which, at the moment at least, seems to have been vain. "Their heart was hardened" (Mark vi. 52). As the keynote of the Gospel of John is struck in i. 11, it is entirely congruous with his purpose that he should record the first step in the rejection of Jesus even in Galilee, where at first He had received a welcome such as Judea had failed to give. The intention· may also be to contrast the enthusiasm of Galilee, however mistaken in its aims, with the hostility of Judea. (ii) For the second reason we must combine a number of details in the narrative. In verse two the evangelist speaks of a great multitude, in verse fourteen of the people; in verse twenty-two the multitude is again men­tioned; but in verses forty-one and fifty-two the Jews appear on the scene. It is usually taken for granted that the same persons are referred to, and that the namative is continuous; but verse twenty-four indicates that the multitude was addressed on the sea-shore, and verse fifty­nine that the controversy with the Jews took place in the synagogue in Capernaum; and any interval may be as­sumed. What happened meanwhile may be gathered from Mark vii. l. " And there are gathered together unto Him the Pharisees, and certain of the scribes, which had come from Jerusalem." The opponents described as Jews, we may infer, were not Galileans but Judeans. The evan­gelist's interest in the controversy of Jesus with the Jews in Jerusalem led him in his narrative to follow the enemies of the Master into Galilee, in order to show that they, too, were responsible, in some measure at least, for the loss of popularity even in Galilee. If we can thus regard the two references to Jews in John vi., and the one reference in Mark vii. 3 as not to Galileans, but to Judeans, then we are warranted in affirming that the term Jews is not applied to Galileans anywhere in the Gospels, but is always used either of Judeans in contrast with Galileans, or of the Jewish nation as a whole. The writer does not profess an adequate knowledge of the contemporary Jewish literature to affirm whether this is in accord with a more general prac­tice, or may be regarded as a peculiarity of the Gospels. The problem of the contrast between the subjects and manner of controversy between Jesus and His opponents as recorded in the synoptics and the Fourth Gospel may not be solved; but its difficulty is somewhat mitigated if in John vi. Jesus is confronting in Galilee His Judean opponents. Otherwise we cannot appeal to the difference of place, Galilee in the one case, Judea in the other, for an explanation of the contrast between the synoptics and the Fourth Gospel. How far the report of the conversations in this chapter with even the Galileans are tinged with the dominant hues of the Judean controversy we must afterwards consider. Meanwhile these two reasons for the evangelist's turning from the Judean to the Galilean ministry may be offered for the sympathetic consideration of scholars.

(3) We must now try to establish the conclusion that the narrative in this chapter is second-hand, derived possibly from Andrew or Philip. (i) The story in Mark vi. 30-44 offers an altogether probable explanation of the occasion for the miracle. Jesus, absorbed in His teaching, moved thereto by His compassion, needs to be reminded by His disciples that the people have been all day without food, and that it will be desirable to dismiss them before nightfall. The record in John bears far less the marks of historical probability, and shows clearly the evangelist's pragmatism. Is it probable that as soon as Jesus saw the multitude coming to Him, He began to be concerned about how they should be fed (verse 5)? Is not this situation more artificial and less natural than that presented in Mark? Again, verse six is written from the standpoint of the evangelist's Christology, and accords with other passages in emphasising the super-naturalness of Jesus' knowledge beyond what seem the necessary limitations of a real incarnation. That after the disciples had brought the perilous position before Jesus He addressed Himself to Philip with such a question is not improbable, nor that Andrew offered the information about the five barley loaves and two fishes; especially if one of them was the evangel­ist's informant, or both were; but the Fourth Evangelist gives the information, however, obtained in a doctrinal rather than a historical setting. The comparison of the synoptic and the Johannine records need not be carried into further detail as regards vv· 1-21. (ii) It is not at all improbable that the multitude did follow Jesus to the other side of the lake, and that a conversation bearing on the miracle did take place, although it is strange that the synoptics, Mark and Matthew, have no record of it. Luke does not come into consideration here, for he passes at once from the feeding of the four thousand to the Confession at Caesarea Philippi (ix. 17-18). Does not the summary of the ministry in Gennesaret (Mark vi. 53-56) suggest that possibly, in their disappointment, some of the disciples; at least for a time, withdrew from their Master, and were not with Him when the event John records took place? It is difficult to suppose, however, that the Fourth Evan­gelist has given us a verbatim report of what Jesus did say. He had the report second-hand; the language and thought, distinctive of his Gospel, and not of the synoptic account of the teaching of Jesus appear; the conversation at the seashore, and the controversy in the synagogue are combined, and it is too easy a solution of the last difficulty to suppose that the conversation ends with verse 40, and the controversy begins at verse 41. "The unexpected ἐνσυναγωγῇ of vi. 59 coming after vi. 25, and vi. 30 after vi. 14, suggest a conflation of two traditions." (Moffatt's Introduction to the Literature of the New Testament, p. 554.) "Chastand," according to Moffatt, "distinguishes a speech in the synagogue (vi. 28-30, 36-40, 43-46) from one by the sea side" (vi. 26-27, 31-35, 41-42, 47-58). We may now examine this suggestion more closely as the basis of our analysis.

(4) Verses 26 and 27 were very probably spoken at the lake shore, as they are quite appropriate tp the occasion. Verses 28 and 29 also seem suitable; but they lead on to the demand for a sign, and is it likely that the multitude who had just been fed, and who had been roused to enthusiasm by the miracle, would at once have made such a request? We might refer vv. 28-30 with Chastand to the subsequent controversy in the synagogue. Or for an alternative explanation we might recall Mark viii. 11, where a similar demand is recorded after the feeding of the four thousand. If the narrative in Mark viii. 1-10 is a variant tradition of vi. 30-44, then possibly the evangelist, having some knowledge of the Galilean ministry only at second­hand, may have introduced this incident at what seemed by association of ideas the proper place.

Recognising that reminiscence may have been coloured by reflection, vv. 31-35 may continue the conversation at the sea-shore, as Jesus, after feeding the multitude, may have spoken of Himself under the figure of bread. But verses 36-40 seem to contain teaching far too advanced for the multitude at the sea-shore. If Jesus in Jerusalem, as there was no danger of a mistaken Messianic revolt, exercised less reserve with His opponents than He did with the excitable Galilean multitude, and pressed His personal claims more plainly where there was most resistance; and if, as has been suggested, He had been followed into Galilee by some of these Judean opponents, it is not inconceivable that in the controversy in the synagogue He did in substance at least assert what the evangelist reports. So plain a reference to His power in raising from the dead at the last day (verse 40) must, however, seem extremely improbable, and appears to go beyond the claim which, from His other teaching, we conclude He ever made for Himself. The Christology of the evangelist seems, here at least, to affect his report.

Chastand ascribes vv. 41 and 42 to the multitude at the seaside. But this is unlikely for three reasons. Firstly, does the evangelist not intend to make a distinction between the Galilean multitude and the Jews? This has already been shown. The Judean opponents in the synagogue, having heard of the claim Jesus had made before the multitude, would make it a ground of controversy on the first convenient occasion. Secondly, would the multitude, after having been fed, murmur at such. a claim? Lastly, does not verse forty-two recall at once Mark vi. 3; and was not the synagogue in Nazareth a much more likely place for such an objection to be made than the synagogue in Capernaum even? Here, again, there seems to be a displaced second-hand report. Verses 43-46 may belong to the controversy in the synagogue, and what has been said above in reference to vv. 36-40 applies here also.

In verses 47 to 51 we probably return to the sea-shore as the thought is continuous with verse 35; but the last clause of verse 51 makes us pause. At this time would Jesus refer to His giving His flesh for the life of the world? Is it likely that He would make even an obscure allusion to His death, when dealing with the multitude, before He had made any announcement of His coming passion to His own disciples? As has already been noted, the evangelist, looking back after a lapse of so many years, overlooked altogether the gradual development in the teaching of Jesus corresponding to the capacity of His disciples to receive it.. The allusion to the flesh is developed in vv. 52-57, but the thought of vv. 32-35 is resumed in verse 58. Chastand assigns verses 47 to 58 to the conversation at the sea­shore; but here we cannot follow him. We may admit as possible that vv. 47-51 except the last clause(" yea, and the bread which I will give is My flesh, for the life of the world "), and verse 58 were spoken to the multitude, although the difference between both the matter and the manner here and the synoptic discourses is a very serious difficulty, unless we frankly admit that report has been modified to a considerable extent by meditation upon it. The last clause of v. 51 and vv. 52-57 seem quite out of place in Galilee at this stage of Jesus' ministry. Possibly in the Upper Room Jesus may to some, if not to all His disciples, have expanded the thought implied in the words of institution of the Supper, or we may here have the evangelist's own reflections gathering around his reminiscences of that utterance. The association of ideas may have attracted either reminiscences or reflections to the present context.

(5) The claim of Jesus before the multitude to be the bread from Heaven (vv. 31-35), made a subject of controversy subsequently in the synagogue with the Jews (v. 41), may have been the hard saying which helped to turn the tide of popularity, and need not refer to the immediately preceding passage. Some crisis there was in Galilee, of which vv. 60-65 give an account. But is Jesus likely to have spoken to disciples even of ascending to heaven (v. 62) at this stage of His ministry? The use of the term Son of Man inclines the judgment to the conclusion that this is a genuine logion (even as ill. 13-15) which has drifted

from its proper moorings in much later teaching of Jesus to an inner circle of disciples. Verse 63 appears at least in verbal contradiction to the thought developed in vv. 52-57, and the relevance of the saying to the situation described is not apparent. In verse 64 the evangelist's comment again betrays his Christology in its constant emphasis on the super-naturalness of Jesus' knowledge. If the situation here referred to is previous to the scene at Caesarea Philippi, as will next be shewn to be probable, it is not likely that any thought of betrayal had yet entered into the mind of Judas; or that Jesus, whose foresight rested on insight, would as yet have any suspicion of Judas' loyalty, although He may have detected evidence of his discontent. If it was the announcement of the passion (Mark viii. 31) which decided Judas to betray, Jesus' insight may soon have discovered this change of attitude, and His discovery may account for the probable reference to betrayal (πραδίδοται) in the second announcement (Mark ix. 31). Not from some timeless beginning, as the evangelist may mean, but from the first signs of treachery in Judas, Jesus, by His insight, may have known "who it was that should betray Him." If such a sifting of disciples was taking place, verse 65 contains a thought appropriate to the occasion, and it has a partial, if not complete resemblance to Matthew xi. 25-27. An assertion of such entire depend­ence on God in His work is entirely congruous with the attitude of Jesus as presented in the synoptics.

(6) The last paragraph in this chapter (vv. 66-71) seems to the writer to be a Johannine version of the scene at Caesarea Philippi. Having his report of that scene at second-hand, the evangelist would have no vivid personal reminiscence of it, and so it would be easy for him, after the lapse of years, to misunderstand its import. As he ascribes to the first disciples at their first contact with Jesus an already advanced confession of faith (i. 41, 45, 49), he could not think of the Galilean disciples as for the first time confess­ing Jesus' Messiahship. For him they had already come eo far, that such a crisis could not involve advance to a fuller confession, but only withdrawal from a position already gained. Verses 67, 68, 69 are the Johannine equivalents of Mark viii. 29. But verses 70 to 71, if containing a genuine saying of Jesus, belong to a much later occasion than this. " Thou hast the words of eternal life " is a characteristically Johannine phrase, and sounds strange on the lips of Peter, as "Thou art the Christ.," does not.

(7) This minute analysis of the contents of this chapter has brought to clearer light several characteristics of the Gospel, which may in closing be noted. The passage from reminiscence to reflection, and the colouring of the language in which even the reminiscence is expressed by the reflection has appeared from time to time. The disregard of any development in the teaching of Jesus, so that sayings which might be appropriate at a later stage are placed in an improbable context, has also been noted. A tendency to be guided by the association of ideas rather than the chronological sequence has also been illustrated. The most important conclusion, which the writer had reached by a general study of the chapter, has been amply confirmed by the minute scrutiny which has been here pursued. It is that the evangelist was not an eye-witness of the Galilean ministry, of which he here offers a summary in which a series of events all significant for the great interest of the Gospel, the reception only by the few, and the rejection by the many of Jesus, is, as it were, run together with no atten­tion to intervals of time, so as to allow for a historical development. It is evident that he was dependent on another or others for the report, and that, consequently, there is here absent the vivid reminiscence which, in other parts, so impresses the reader with the historical character of so much of the Gospel, in spite of its doctrinal purpose. The difference between the synoptics and the Fourth Gospel is the most serious problem it presents; and here the difficulty must be felt to be most acute, as the ground here is common. Jesus may have spoken differently to learned opponents in Judea than to the unlearned multitude in Galilee, and the Johannine method may have been just as appropriate in the one case as we feel the synoptic to be in the other. But in this chapter the evangelist transfers to Galilee what is intelligible and credible only in Judea. The difficulty is partly relieved by the suggestions already made, that in parts of the record Jesus is dealing with Judean opponents who had followed Him into Galilee, and that sayings of another occasion and a later date have been attracted by the association of ideas into the present context; but it can be removed only by the candid admission that here the evangelist is dealing with events which he knew imperfectly, and the import of which he did not understand, as the conditions in Judea were so different from those in Galilee. Does not this confirm the contention that the evangelist was not John the son of Zebedee, but a Judean disciple?