An Introduction to the New Testament

By Adolf Jülicher

PART ONE - Book III

Chapter 1 - Section 30

 

B. John

§ 30. The Gospel according to John

[Cf. works mentioned at § 23. For commentaries see Meyer, ii., by B. Weiss (ed. 8, 1893); ʽHand-Commentar,ʼ iv., by Holtzmann (ed. 2, 1893); C. E. Luthardt, ʽDas Johanneische Evangeliumʼ (1875-76); F. Godet, ʽSaint Jean.ʼ The last two take the apologetic side entirely, but Luthardt with slightly more perception of the difficulties than Godet. Further, O. Holtzmann, ʽDas Joh. Evangelium untersucht und erklirtʼ (1887); F. Spittaʼs article on ʽUnordnungen im Texte des vierten Evangeliums,ʼ in ʽZur Gesch. und Liter. des Urehristentums,ʼ part i. 1893, pp. 155 904; W. Baldensperger, ʽDer Prolog des vierten Evangeliumsʼ (1898), which reconstructs anew historical background for the Fourth Gospel with equal boldness and skill (on this question compare W. Wredein ʽGöttingische gelehrte Anzeigenʼ for 1900, pp. 1-26) and H. H. Wendt, ʽDas Johannesevangelium—Hine Untersuchung seiner Entstehung und seines geschichtlichen Wertesʼ (1900), a defence of the hypothesis that certain earlier written records from the Apostleʼs hand were embodied and recast in the discourses of the Fourth Gospel. Lastly, C. Weizsäckerʼs chapter on the Fourth Gospel in his ʽApostolisches Zeitalterʼ (1892), which will always remain a classic (pp. 513-538, and cf. 476—486).]

1. The Gospel of John has been credited by lovers of the mysterious with a construction devised with the most exquisite art; that is, with a system of trinities (Dretherten) carried out with equal persistency in small things1 as in great. The writer himself, according to this theory, did not perceive the greater part of them, and the most contradictory views have been put forward with equal justice as to his own intentions in the matter of arrangement. In reality one section usually fits into the next by its very form, and larger divisions can be suggested at many different points almost as well as in the single case of chapter xili., after which the Gospel unfolds the passage of Jesus to the Father in a variety of scenes, whereas up to that point it had described his activity on earth alone.

The Prologue (i. 1-18) expounds in short, terse sentences what really forms the subject of the Gospel. Jesus is the incarnate ʽWord,ʼ the universal Reason which has been with God from all eternity, and he has now come down among us men to bring us grace and truth and the perfect knowledge of God. Upon this John the Baptist, who had already been mentioned in the Prologue2 as a witness to the only-begotten Son, leads up through a series of other witnesses to the first public appearance of the Son of God, for whom he was to prepare the way; a group of disciples gather round Jesus, and Nathaniel repeats the testimony of John.3 Next, Jesus manifests his glory by performing his first miracle, the conversion of the water into wine at the marriage at Cana.4 From Cana he journeys through Capernaum to Jerusalem and there cleanses the Temple5; he finds faith even among the rulers of the Jews, one of whom, Nicodemus, comes to him by night and holds converse with him about the second birth.6 Jesusʼ activity as baptiser next calls forth fresh testimonies from John,7 and on his journey through Samaria he reveals himself to a Samaritan woman as Prophet and Messiah, while other Samaritans believe on him ʽbecause of his word.ʼ8 On his return to Galilee he heals the noblemanʼs son at Capernaum.9 The subsequent feast of the Jews takes him again to Jerusalem, where at the Pool of Bethesda he heals by a single word the man who had been infirm for thirty-eight years, thereby breaking the Sabbath and being obliged to defend himself against the Jews.10 The feeding of the five thousand on the other side of the Sea of Tiberias next leads to the sayings in which he calls himself the ʽbread of lifeʼ and speaks of the eating of his flesh and the drinking of his blood, upon which a division occurs in the ranks of his disciples.11 At the Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem matters come to a collision between him and the Jews, who are already planning his destruction; the fools among them will not hear at any price of a Galilean Messiah.12 An episode13 tells how he set free the woman taken in adultery, whose judges had all disappeared because none dared cast the first stone at her and thus inflict the punishment to which she was liable in the eyes of the Law. Then follow further disputes with the Jews,14 in which Jesus seeks to demonstrate the contrasts, typified by himself and them, between light and darkness, above and beneath, freedom and bondage, the children of God and the children of the devil—all this leading up to the healing on the Sabbath of the man born blind,15 at which the wilful blindness of the Jews is fully brought to light. He declares himself the good shepherd who collects his scattered sheep into one flock and is willing to lay down his life for them, but the unbelievers, those who are ʽnot of his sheep,ʼ see in him one possessed with a devil; and later on, when at the feast of the Dedication in Jerusalem he announces plainly—in answer to a question from the Jews— that he is the Christ, and even that ʽhe and the Father are one,ʼ his hearers threaten to stone him for blasphemy.16 The last section of this first part, x. 40-xii. 50, shows the breach complete between the Christ and the mass of the Jews; in the very detailed account of the raising of the four days buried Lazarus, Jesus reveals himself as the Resurrection and the Life, but before this17 he suffers himself to be anointed as though for burial by the sisters of Lazarus in Bethany. Then in Jerusalem, which he enters amid cries of Hosanna,18 himself conscious of approaching death, he sets the great decision for the last time before the people. A few Greeks indeed seek him out, a voice from Heaven announces his approaching glorification in the presence of the multitude, but he finds but little faith among the people, and even among his followers there are many who do not venture to acknowledge him.

From chapter xiii. onwards he devotes himself solely to his disciples; the action of washing their feet, which he performs after a meal, is made the occasion for the expulsion of the traitor Judas; and throughout the next three chapters19 he addresses those long-drawn parting speeches to the Eleven in which he exhorts them to remain steadfast in love, in prayer and in him, the true Vine, even after his departure; promises to send them the ʽParaclete,ʼ the Holy Spirit proceeding from the Father, as a substitute for his own presence, and finally comforts them with the thought of the hour of re-union, when there would be no more ʽspeaking in proverbs.ʼ Then follows20 the ʽHigh-Priestlyʼ prayer for the glorification of the Son and all his disciples. The story of his suffering, death and burial fills the next two chapters; three appearances of the Risen One—to Mary, to the Eleven and to Thomas—are described in chapter xx., and the Gospel appears to end at verse 30; then, however, another chapter follows in a supplementary manner, telling of the miraculous draught of fishes which the risen Christ causes his disciples to make in the Sea of Tiberias. The end is formed by prophecies concerning the death of Peter and of the Beloved Disciple.

2. The peculiar character borne by the Gospel of John, differing as it does so markedly from the Synoptics that even a child learning its Sunday lesson would notice it, cannot be explained by the ostensible purpose ascribed to it in xx. 81. The Synoptics, too, were written in order to bring their readers faith in Jesus as Messiah and as the Son of God, and thereby to give them eternal life in his Name; and if John expressly declares21 that he did not attempt to make his record complete, the same may certainly be said of Mark. It is rather that the special ʽtendencyʼ of the writer gained an infinitely greater influence over the Gospel material in John than in the case of the Synoptics. Let us but compare the Prologues of Luke and of John: in the former it is the interest of the historian that is displayed in ʽthose matters which have been fulfilled among us,ʼ he wishes to relate ʽall things accurately from the first,ʼ while in the latter the theologian sums up in terse phrases the truths which every reader must bring with him in order to study the Gospel story in the spirit of piety. This Prologue, in fact, contains the whole of the Gospel in nuce. It contains the melody, the Leit-motiv (especially vv. 11-14) which rings in our ears again and again amid a mass of variations. The instrument to which the composer is bound is the earthly life of Jesus, and thus everything which we learn in the Fourth Gospel has the sound of history, but the important thing is not to hear the history, but to catch the melody through it, and to satisfy the soul with the enjoyment of it. But it is certainly an exaggeration to think that the miracle stories existed in the mind of John only as allegories, as disguises for his own metaphysical and religious thoughts, for we should then be obliged to extend this theory to the story of the Passion as well, which is out of the question; Nicodemus, too, and Nathaniel are meant to be taken as historical personages just as seriously as John,22 Simon Peter,23 Thomas24 or the High Priest Caiaphas.25

The writer believed the marriage at Cana to have been an actual event, the changing of ordinary water into noble wine to have taken place on that occasion; he does not intend the man ʽblind from his birthʼ of chapter ix. to be a symbol of those who were as yet unenlightened, who had never seen God, nor his Lazarus to be a personification of the creature subject to decay, in the sense of Romans vii. 24 and vii. 20. But he treats almost all these persons as mere framework; they vanish as suddenly as they appear, as in the case of Nicodemus and of the Greeks who wished to see Jesus.26 The Evangelist only takes an interest in them as long as he can make use of them to reflect some feature of the inner life of Jesus. The miracles, in fact, attest the divine omnipotence of Jesus, the sayings his divine omniscience, and the double meanings conveyed in both strengthen in a manner characteristic of the authorʼs taste the impression of the unique greatness, the fulness,27 of Jesus. The Fourth Evangelist certainly did not undervalue the evidential power of miracles in awakening faith, as may be seen by ii. 11 and 23, but he places a still higher value on knowledge than on power, and this explains the marked preponderance he gives to the words of Jesus, which he regards as indispensable commentaries even on the miracles.

But, more than this, John does not paint the wonder-working Jesus as one who used his power to exercise compassion, to banish trouble and misery and to dry the weeping eye; touches like Lukeʼs ʽAnd when the Lord saw her he had compassion on her . . .  and he gave him to his motherʼ28— even the very words for ʽcompassionʼ—are not to be found in John; here the actions of the Saviour, who knows well how to appreciate love,29 are not directed towards removing the petty ills of the day, but solely towards the ultimate goal of pointing out the division between the children of God, and the children of the world who had given themselves over to perdition. God loves the world only in so far as it is his work and contains the germ of eternity, nor are we bidden to love the world or the sinner, but Light, God and the brethren. The one-sidedness of the central idea of John, upon which all the words—and deeds—of Jesus turn, is, after all, its chief characteristic; Jesus lifts up his voice, not in order to explain the riddles of life and of history, to supply his hearers with advice for their practical conduct or with precepts for the new morality (as in the Sermon on the Mount), or to solve certain problems of the Jewish faith and Jewish philosophy, such as those of healing on the Sabbath, true cleanliness, or the resurrection of the dead; wherever he is not speaking as a Prophet in order to reveal his omniscience, or in parables in order to test the understanding of his hearers, he has one constant theme—himself, his relations to the Father, to the world and to those who believe in him, and through all this the fulfilment, the completion of the Scriptures. This gives the Gospel a remarkable monotony; sublime as its ideas are, they are but few, repeated again and again and expressed in scarcely differing forms; and this impression is strengthened by a certain poverty of vocabulary and a sameness in the manner of presentation.

At first sight, John appears to be constructed with more skill and to attain a higher unity than Matthew itself. Whereas the Synoptics usually string their material together by external links only, John creates a sort of drama, in which later events constantly refer to earlier,30 and the chronological thread is never lost sight of; from the first appearance of Jesus to the end we may always know exactly where the action takes place, nor is there any lack of definite indications of time and place, such as Cana, Bethany, Sychar in Samaria, the ʽtwo daysʼ of iv. 40 and 48, or the ʽmidst of the feastʼ and the ʽlast day, the great day of the feast,ʼ of chapter vii. But we are inclined to feel that by this constant change of scene an appearance of movement is artificially produced of which the reality is entirely lacking; not only is there no space left for any development in Jesus himself: there is not even room for it in his relations with the world and in his achievements. He himself—quite in accordance with the dogma of the Gospel —is the same on the first day as after his Resurrection; we are told nothing of his birth, nothing of his baptism, of his sojourn in the wilderness or even of his temptation. Even the division of mankind into believers, enemies, and waverers, is there from the beginning. That he was joyfully acclaimed at first from all sides, then that the people grew suspicious and in open disputes applied the test of Jewish standards to his piety and authority, in order to destroy him at last with all the hatred of disappointment—such a course of events has not left the slightest trace behind it in the Fourth Gospel.

Next to the Prologue, John reveals himself most clearly as the interpreter (not the reporter) of history in those insertions which he loves to make in the substance of his narrative. Such additions are also to be found in the Synoptics, especially when these describe the occasion for an important saying of the Lordʼs (e.g., Lukeʼs ʽAnd the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard these things; and they scoffed at himʼ31), but they are confined to a few indispensable parentheses, whereas in John the writer uses them to make his readers entirely dependent upon his interpretation and his judgment; ii. 21 fol. is characteristic of this, and so is 24 fol., ʽBut Jesus did not trust himself unto them, for that he knew all men, and because he needed not that anyone should bear witness concerning a man, for he himself knew what was in man.ʼ32 These observations of the writerʼs are made in exactly the same tone as the discourses of Jesus, and it is impossible to separate them from the context; occasionally even one may seriously doubt whether the speaker is Jesus or the Evangelist, and in i. 16-18 some hold it to be the Baptist, others the writer, a fact which proves how subjective is the character of the report and how completely the Gospel material is here steeped in the individuality of the writer. To unfold the right interpretation of Christ—that is, of Christianity —before his readersʼ eyes, is the writerʼs sole desire, and therefore we cannot expect him to give us vivid pictures from the life of Jesus; he did not even succeed in reaching a living realisation of what he wished to tell, and hence the inconsistencies and self-contradictions of his story: as when he assumes a thing to be known in chapter xi.33 which he only relates in chapter xii., or when in chapter xvi.34 Jesus foretells an event to his disciples which according to ix. 22 had long since come to pass.

Johnʼs mode of presentation is also characterised by a remarkable uniformity. The construction of the sentences is Hebraistic,35 and there is an entire absence of the true period; final clauses are the only subordinates which are at all unusually frequent, and generally the writer merely likes to co-ordinate his principal clauses, while a sort of rhythmical solemnity is imparted to his language by his habit of expressing his more important thoughts in two parallel sentences: e.g., ʽHe that believeth on me, believeth not on me, but on him that sent me. And he that beholdeth me beholdeth him that sent me.ʼ36 Or again, ʽHe that believeth on the Son hath eternal life, but he that obeyeth not the Son shall not see life.ʼ37 As examples of his circumstantial mode of expression, which cannot indulge too largely in repetition,38 we may take i. 20, ʽAnd he confessed, and denied not; and he confessed . . .ʼ or i. 32, where the words ʽAnd John bare witness, saying . . .ʼ divide the speech of John—which is by no means long in itself—quite superfluously into two halves. In the remarkably small vocabulary of the Gospel, abstract ideas, like ʽto believe on,ʼ ʽto bear witness of,ʼ ʽwitness,ʼ ʽlove,ʼ ʽlife,ʼ are relatively the best represented, while certain concrete words used in a metaphorical sense, such as ʽlight,ʼ ʽdarkness,ʼ ʽvine,ʼ ʽbread,ʼ ʽwater,ʼ have not the effect of a true image in vivifying the language, because their new meaning is already stereotyped; illustrations of a parabolic nature, like those of the travailing woman of xvi. 21, and the ʽfriend of the bridegroomʼ of iii. 29, are exceptional.

The most curious point, however, is the regular system displayed in the arrangement of the discourses; though they appear to flow on spontaneously in conversational form, with alternating speeches—for even in the leave-taking discourses of chapters xiii. xvi. Peter, Thomas, Philip and Judas are made to step in with separate questions39—they are in reality all made after the same pattern. Whether Jesus is conversing with Nicodemus, with the ʽJews,ʼ with the Samaritan woman or with his own disciples, the process is the same: an introductory question is answered by him with an ambiguous sentence40 which the questioner misunderstands; Jesus then corrects the mistake, and if a second question shows that he has done so effectually, he gives further and more detailed instruction on the subject which is in truth his only one, and upon the understanding of which everything depends. Almost in the same words as the woman of Samaria, with her ʽSir, give me this water, that I thirst not,ʼ41 do the Galileans beseech him ʽLord, evermore give us this breadʼ42; and the answers in the two cases are not less similar. Thus instead of the endless variety of real history, what we find in John, down to the most trifling details of form, is the monotonous, systematising tendency of an historical construction as incapable of plain narrative as it is indifferent to historical detail.

3. It would seem impossible that any doubts should exist as to the integrity of a Gospel whose individual features are so sharply defined as these. Nevertheless the texts of all the Gospels have come down to us in a state which leaves free scope for a critical reconstruction of the wording of individual passages,43 and even John has been emendated and added to by the dogmatic tendencies of later generations. Textual criticism, then, has long since decided that the paragraph about the woman taken in adultery—which is to be found, by the way, in two very different recensions—was interpolated into the Fourth Gospel by accident from an external source; very few old Greek manuscripts contain it, nor are the earlier Latin Fathers acquainted with it; Blass nevertheless regards it as an original part of his Roman recension of Luke, in which he complacently finds a home for it at xxi. 86; Eusebius tells us that he read it in Papias and in the Gospel to the Hebrews, and if Papias endowed it with the authority of a John, the motive which induced the unknown copyist (perhaps in the third century) to insert it into the Fourth Gospel would not be far to seek. From internal evidence alone we should be obliged to declare it spurious, for both in tone and diction it departs very widely from its context; but neither its beauty nor its credibility sustains any injury from the removal of its ʽApostolic authorityʼ—it remains the noblest of Agrapha.

It is not so easy to pronounce decisively upon chapter xxi. At first sight everyone would assume it to be a supplement added by another hand. The Gospel possesses an admirable conclusion in the last two verses of chapter xx.; the idea that the writer inserted it when making the fair copy, merely in order to fill up a page which would otherwise have remained blank, is scarcely to be taken seriously, and if he was the Beloved Disciple himself, he could never have forgotten or intentionally have passed over the appearance of the Risen One related in chapter xxi. Again, verse 24 sounds like the testimony of younger disciples concerning the writer of xx. 30 and 31, and the principal object of the supplement might have been to justify the death of John by a saying of Jesus, seeing that it had occurred, contrary to all expectation, before the Parusia. The locality of chapter xxi. alone seems to point to some stream of tradition not otherwise made use of in John, for whereas chapter xx., like the Gospel of Luke, tells only of appearances in Jerusalem, chapter xxi. transfers such a scene to the sea of Tiberias in Galilee. Of course, the notion that this chapter was taken from another Gospel and merely tacked on to John is inadmissible, for vv. 1 and 14 refer distinctly to chapter xx.,and the interest of the narrator in chapter xxi. is limited to Johnʼs Gospel, which he merely wished to complete. On the other hand, we find that the tradition knows of no Fourth Gospel without chapter xxi., that in mental attitude, tone and vocabulary the latter corresponds entirely with the Gospel (as in verse 19a, for instance, a parenthetical remark on the double meaning of the miraculous draught of fish), so that the disciple who is here supposed to have added to the Gospel must have worked himself into the mental individuality of his master in a truly wonderful manner. He must even have known that masterʼs innermost intentions better than the Evangelist himself, for an essential part of the Gospel would be wanting if, while xviii. 15 fol. tell us that Peter and the Beloved Disciple were the only ones among his friends who followed their Master after his arrest, and xx. 2-4 that they alone hastened to the grave on the first day of the week to ascertain whether he had actually quitted it, yet when their Lord had risen again they were not held worthy, like the Magdalene, of a special appearance from him. In xx. 21-28, Jesus had imparted their mission to his disciples; what special charge had he to lay upon his most faithful pair? It is this question to which chapter xxi. gives the answer; the testimony of the departing Son of God, that the Beloved Disciple should tarry till his return, sets the seal upon the witness borne by this disciple throughout the Gospel to the Son of God; nor are even vv. 24 fol. written by a different hand, but by the same interpreter to whom we owe verse 19a. The last two verses of chapter xx. were not originally intended as the ending of the Gospel, but, like xix. 35, constituted a sort of editorial addition inserted into the body of the story, like the phrase ʽHe that hath ears to hear, let him hearʼ of the Synoptics and the Apocalypse. It is perfectly in accordance with the writerʼs manner that we are not prepared beforehand for a change in the scene of the visions; as he appears to bring the farewell discourse to an end at xiv. 31, and yet takes it up again in a still more exalted tone in chapter xv., so he appears to bring the Resurrection story to an end at xx. 31, and yet adds to it one of its most important parts; xx. 30 and 81 are but one of the writerʼs many exhortations to his readers to use his book aright; he does not really take leave of them until xxi. 24 fol.

The passages in John, however, which have been struck out by critical censors are far from being confined to chapter xxi. and vii. 53—viii. 11. The schemes for its dissection are by this time almost innumerable. Critics have attempted to prove that whole sections—among others an account of the Last Supper—have disappeared from the Gospel, that others have been moved to the wrong place,44 while others45 again are later interpolations. Or else a considerably shorter original Gospel is reconstructed (this view is held by Weisse, Schweizer, Renan, Wendt and Delff) by declaring either the ʽGalileanʼ sections, or the majority of the miracle stories, or the great discourses to be interpolations. The Prologue is pronounced spurious, except for the fragment comprised in vv. 6-8, which is indispensable as an introduction to i. 19 fol., and as a witness to which the anti-Christian controversialist Celsus, who flourished about 170 A.D., is appealed to; the theologian who added the remaining verses, it is contended, did so with the intention of bringing the Gospel into line with Alexandrian metaphysics, but not only did the want of connection between vv. 6-8 and what immediately precedes and follows them betray the later composition of those parts, but the two main ideas of the Prologue, those of the Logos and the Charis,46 disappeared without a trace in the rest of the Gospel. Most of these suggestions are prompted solely by the wish to save at least a groundwork of Apostolic authorship for the Gospel, even though the whole of it could not be ascribed to the Apostle; but such a wish, as the starting-point for critical hypotheses, is extremely suspicious. These hypotheses must, however, be rejected in toto, because they do not take into account the similarity both in form and matter which extends to every part of the Gospel—for even the miracle stories are indissolubly connected with the discourses that precede and follow them.47 The Prologue is the most indispensable part of all; it bears the very stamp both of the other explanatory insertions of the Evangelist and of the Johannine discourses of Jesus; but the writer was prevented by the fineness of his tact from putting a Greek philosophical term like ʽthe Wordʼ into the mouth of Jesus himself or even of his disciples, and wherever Jesus speaks the general term ʽgraceʼ is replaced, in accordance with the old tradition, by the more particular ʽsalvationʼ (σώζειν, σωτήρ, σωτηρία). Add to this that it is impossible to discover any obvious motive for the interpolations. The irregularities and contradictions which are relied upon to support such hypotheses are the very characteristics of John.48 The critics too often set up the standard of their own logic, their own attention to details, their own demand for a correct succession of events, in short, a Gospel such as they themselves would write it, as their guide, whereas the task which John set himself (that of carrying out his ideal of the Christ in the actual history of Jesus, and of using materials drawn from a tradition still partly entangled in the things of the fiesh for the representation of a spiritual Christ) was not attainable without certain inconsistencies, since the form prescribed was far too inflexible for the new matter it was to contain.

4. (a) In order to ascertain the date at which the Fourth Gospel was composed, we must first examine its relation to the other Gospels we possess, i.e. the Synoptics. It is almost universally regarded as certain that John was a later production, because the Synoptics are all utilised in it. It is true that the differences between them are far more extensive than the points of agreement, for, apart from the Passion story, only a very few passages of John are unquestionably paralleled in the Synoptics —of the discourses, indeed, practically none but xii. 25-31—and of course any literal copying-down of an earlier document is not to be thought of in the case of a writer who dealt with his material in so independent a fashion; but sufficient traces have nevertheless remained of his acquaintance with the older works. In the story of the anointing (xii. 1-11), verse 8 is word for word identical with Matt. xxvi. 11, which is itself an abbreviation of Mark xiv. 7; in verse 7 Jesus speaks of his being anointed for burial in much the same manner as in Mark 8 and Matthew 12, while the selling of the ointment for three hundred pence and the deprecating ʽLet her aloneʼ are shared by John with Mark only. Finally, the remarkable identity in the description of the ointment, where the dependence of the one on the other is indisputable,49 leaves no further room for doubt. The dependent writer can, however, only be John, for instead of following Mark and Matthew in saying that the ointment was poured over the head of Jesus, he relates how Mary anointed the feet of Christ and wiped them with her hair—a trait taken practically word for word from Lukeʼs account,50 which is itself a variant of the story based upon Mark. In the same way we may observe in comparing Johnʼs description of the Entry into Jerusalem,51 or of the feeding of the five thousand,52 or even large parts of his story of the Passion,53 with their Synoptic equivalents, that John, though never binding himself slavishly to his predecessors, is yet influenced by them even in matters of expression. All other explanations of these facts are unsatisfactory, since the points of agreement between John and the three Synoptists are inextricably intertwined, and extend to the peculiar property of each. This relationship alone, then, will prevent us from assigning the Fourth Gospel to any date before 100 A.D.

(b) That John made use of the Pauline Epistles in the same way as he employed the Synoptics cannot be asserted with so much confidence. It is true that in reading his work we are reminded often enough of Pauline ideas and phrases— most frequently of those of Romans,54 Corinthians and Ephesians—and the Epistle to the Hebrews, too, might have been known to him; but we must not expect to find in his work any literal transcripts from these writings. His theological position certainly implies a knowledge of the Pauline teaching; he presents us with a modification of the Pauline theology characteristic of a time when the great differences of the first period were overcome, when compromise was no longer possible with Judaism, and when Christianity had long begun to feel itself a new religion, or rather the religion in contradistinction to the godlessness of the world. Paul and the Apocalypse still look upon the name of ʽJewʼ as a title of honour, which they were by no means inclined to surrender to the unbelieving Hebrews; John, on the other hand, regards ʽthe Jewsʼ from the very beginning as a body alien and hostile to the Lord and his followers, and this evidently represents the state of things which existed when he wrote the Gospel. The two main theses of Paul, those of the universality of salvation and of the freedom of faith from the Law, have entered into the writerʼs very marrow; in v. 11 we are told that the Son ʽquickeneth whom he will,ʼ and xi. 52 is still more explicit.55 We read of Samaritans and Greeks as well as ʽtrue Israelitesʼ pressing to hear him, and behind the words about the one flock and the one shepherd,56 and the prayer ʽthat they may be one,ʼ57 the idea rises up distinctly of the one Church in which there were no distinguishing degrees; John could never have written those words of the Epistle to the Romans about the ʽadvantageʼ of the Jew.58 The man who points the contrast between the law given by Moses and the grace and truth which came by Jesus Christ,59 or between Moses, who was not the giver of the ʽbread from heaven,ʼ60 and the Father who gave the true bread from heaven in the person of the Son he sent into the world; the man who claims obedience only for the commandments or commandment of Jesus61 and repeatedly designates the Law as the Law of the Jews62—such a man had not only broken with Judaism in his own person, but in his time the Church had long ceased to be concerned with questions of circumcision, Sabbath-observance and forbidden meats. The Johannine theology arose through the simplification of the Pauline; it allowed a number of favourite Pauline theories, like the self-abrogation of the Law, or the atoning power of Christʼs death upon the Cross, to drop, because they were no longer necessary; the process of salvation is much less complicated with John than it is with Paul, for the substance of Johnʼs story consists in nothing but the perpetual struggle between the flesh and the spirit, the Father and the world, darkness and light. The descent into the world of the only-begotten Son, who offered the highest good to all men and demonstrated his divinity in the clearest way, necessarily put an end in principle to this struggle; the hitherto commingled elements separated themselves; to see Jesus was to see the Father,63 and meant truth and life, and whoever denied this henceforth was lost beyond all further help, while he who recognised it aright possessed all things therein.

The absolute significance of the Person of Christ is still more sharply emphasised here than it is by Paul; the image of the Jewish Messiah is completely lost sight of, and the pre-existing Messiah of Paul, who renounced his Godhead, assumed the image of man, and humbled himself so low for the purposes of God that God rewarded him by exalting him still higher, giving him the name of Lord and judging him worthy of adoration, becomes with John the ʽWordʼ that was with God from all eternity, the creator of the world, who allowed his glory to be seen for a short time in the flesh, and then returned again to the Father, not to new honours, but to the place he had occupied of old, where he was now preparing the abode of his faithful flock. Here, too, beside the ancient phrase ʽthat the Scripture might be fulfilled,ʼ64 we find another taking equal rank with it—ʽthat the word of Jesus might be fulfilledʼ65; Jesus, in fact, decides his own fate and determines what is his; xii. 48, where the rôle of the worldʼs judge is given to the word which Jesus speaks, is another case in point: one might almost be tempted, indeed, to draw a parallel between it and the Word of God which assumes the part of the worldʼs Creator in i. 8. The deification of Jesus, for which Paul had opened the way, was inexorably carried out by John to its furthest conclusion, and this alone should be enough to set all doubts at rest as to the relative dates of the two theologians. In the domain of eschatology, too, the riddance of Jewish realism which Paul had failed to effect is completed in principle by John. Although the old forms of expression are still preserved,66 the writer has no place for a Last Judgment dividing the blessed from the damned and for a period of sleep before the general resurrection——still less for a thousand yearsʼ reign within the limits of the earth; in his eyes Jesus had already67 bestowed the glory which he had received from the Father upon his followers; they possessed eternal life, because they were no longer of the world. Even their separation from Jesus could not disturb their joy and peace, for they had received in his stead the spirit of truth, which led them even higher into the realms of truth and produced in them the power to do yet mightier works than Jesus himself had done. Death for the Christian, as for Christ himself, meant exaltation, and Jesus by his death ʽdrew all men unto him.ʼ68

Such a transformation of the Gospel as understood by Paul would only have been possible a considerable time after Paulʼs death, and the fact that it was produced under the unmistakable influence of Greek philosophising speaks still more strongly for the relatively late composition of the Fourth Gospel. We may doubt the direct dependence of John upon the Tractates of Philo, but his spiritualism, his love for symbolic reasoning, and the whole fund of ideas with which he works prove his intellectual affinity to the Alexandrians, and his conception of the all-creating Logos points in the same direction.

Nevertheless, we have already recognised a similar combination between the theological ideas of Alexandria and the fundamental principles of Paul in the Epistle to the Hebrews, which is most probably of earlier origin than Luke or Matthew. The arguments drawn from the theological attitude of John, indeed, lead us but to a terminus a quo at about 70 A.D., though this must subsequently be brought down to the end of the first century through the dependence of John on the Synoptics. It is more important to determine the terminus ad quem, and here the means at our command do not permit us to say of the Gospel alone more than ʽat latest from 100 to 125.ʼ ʽThe Gnostic school of Valentine, which flourished from 130 onwards, was greatly influenced by the Fourth Gospel from its very beginning, and one of its members, Heracleon, wrote the first commentary upon it about the year 170. The Montanists,69 again, were very fond of using all the Johannine writings as their authorities. I therefore believe that I am Justified by an argumentum e silentio in giving the date somewhat more precisely as from 100 to 110. The school of Baur has indeed discovered that both Gnosticism and Montanism are referred to in the Fourth Gospel, but in reality we are struck by the negative relation in which it stands towards Gnosticism; its author was not dreaming of carrying on a campaign against the fundamental ideas of the Gnostic system. Words with a Gnostic ring, however, are not entirely absent from the Fourth Gospel, such as x. 8, ʽAll that came before me are thieves and robbersʼ—though naturally the ʽallʼ does not imply, as Marcion contends, a condemnation of the Old Testament Prophets, but is limited to those who pretended to come as shepherds, lords of the flock, i.e. as pseudo-Christs. John the Baptist would have been such a thief if he had not been the very opposite of what the enemies of Christianity sought to paint him. But with a reasonable exegesis all that remains of the so-called Gnosticism of John are the facts that he sets an unusually high value upon knowledge, that, like many Gnostic systems, the Fourth Gospel may be called an unconscious attempt to give the elements of Hellenic culture the preponderating influence in Christianity over the remains of Jewish thought and feeling, and that the monotonous, didactic tone which so sharply distinguishes the Gospel of John from the vernacular freshness of the Synoptics, as also the writerʼs preference for abstract ideas and his love of introducing symbols like those of water, bread or ~wine—these things do occasionally remind us of Gnostic productions. All other points of contact with Gnostic writers, certain phrases bordering on Docetism in reference to the bodily nature of Jesus, the dissolution in the Prologue of the pure Monotheistic idea, the dualistic foundation of the Gospel, these belong in an equal degree to most of the other ecclesiastical writers of that time. But the fact that the Fourth Evangelist could write a Gospel with a purpose (Tendenz-Evangelium) without a trace of anti-Gnostic purpose, surely shows that Gnosticism had not as yet begun to be a serious danger to the Church, or at any rate to that part of it which lay within his field of view. The Gospel of John thus appears to lie before Jude and the Pastoral Epistles.

But with this we come to the all-important question as to the authorship of John, upon a right solution of which our understanding of its nature, purpose and value depends in a. far greater degree than is usually the case with such a problem.

 

 

1) E.g., i. 1 a b and c.

2) i, 15-18.

3) i. 19-51.

4) ii. 1-11

5) ii, 12-25.

6)  iii. 1-21.

7) iii. 22-36.

8) iv. 1-42.

9) iv. 43-54,

10) Ch. v.

11) Ch. vi.

12) Ch. vii.

13) vii. 53-viii. 11.

14) viii. 12-59.

15) Ch. ix.

16) x. 1-39.

17) xii. 1-11.

18) xii. 12-15.

19) xiii, 31-xvi. 33.

20) Ch. xvii.

21) xx. 30, and cf. xxi. 25.

22) Chaps. i. and iii.

23) Chaps. xiii. and xxi.

24) xx. 24.

25) xi, 49.

26) xii. 20-22.

27) i. 14 and 16.

28) Luke vii. 13 fol.

29) v. 42, xiii. 35 and Ch. xv.

30) E.g., iv. 15 to ii. 23; iv. 46 (and 54) to ii. 1-11; vii. 23 to v.8 and 9; xiii. 33 to vii. 33 fol. and viii. 21 fol.; xv. 20 to xiii. 16, and xviii. 14 to xi 49 fol.

31) xvi. 14, and cf. xviii. 1 and xix. 11.

32) Cf. vii. 39, x. 6, xi. 13, xii. 16,33 and 41: ʽThese things said Isaiah, because he saw his glory, and he spake of him,ʼ i.e. Jesus.

33) Verse 2.

34) Verse 2.

35) E.g., in the placing of the predicate first, which occurs almost without exception: e.g., xviii. 12-27.

36) xii. 44 fol.

37) iii. 36, and cf. p. 249.

38) Cf. xviii. 15 and 16, and xvii. 14” and 16.

39) xiii. 36, xiv. 5, 8 and 22; cf. xvi. 17 fol. and 29 fol.

40) E.g., ii. 19, ʽDestroy this temple,ʼ etc.; iii. 3, ʽExcept a man be born from above (ᾰνωθεν)ʼ; iv. 10, ʽliving waterʼ; iv. 32,ʽI have meat to eat that ye know not.ʼ

41) iv. 15.

42) vi. 34.

43) E.g., John i. 18, where there is a question as to whether we should read ʽonly begotten Sonʼ or ʽonly begotten Godʼ; v. 4, x. 8, xxi. 25.

44) E.g., vv. vii. 15-24 and chaps. xv. and xvi., the proper places for which are said to be respectively between v. 47 and vi. 1, and after ver. xiii. 31a.

45) E.g., vi. 51-59.

46) Vv. 14, 16 and 17.

47) E.g., chaps. ix. and xi.

48) See pp. 246 and 391.

49) John has μύρου νάρδου πιστικῆς πολυτίμου Mark is identical, except for the word πολυτελοῦς for πολυτίμην, and Matthew has μύρου βαρυτίμου.

50) Luke vii. 37-50.

51) John xii. 12 etc.; Mark xi. 1-11; Matt. xxi. 1-11; Luke xix. 29 etc.

52) John vi. 1-14; Mark vi. 30; Matt. xiv. 13; Luke ix. 10.

53) John xviii., e.g., the judgment of Pilate, οὐδεμίαν εὑρίσκω ἐν αὐτῷ αἰτίαν, beside Luke xxiii. 4, οὐδὲν εὑρίσκω αἴτιον ἐν τῷ ἀνθρώπῳ τούτῳ, and especially xix. 1-3, 15-19, 29 and 38.

54) Cf. John viii. 34 and Rom. vi. 16; John xii. 38 and Rom. x. 16.

55) Cf. x. 16 and xvii. 6.

56) x. 16.

57) xvii. 11 and 22.

58) τὸ περισσὸν τοῦ Ἰουδαίου, Rom. iii. 1.

59) i. 17.

60) vi. 32.

61) xiv. 15 and 21, xv. 10 and 12, or verse xiii. 34, ʽthe new commandmentʼ (cf. xii. 49 fol.).

62) viii. 17, x. 34, xv. 25.

63) xiv. 9 fol.

64) E.g., xiii. 18, xvii. 12, xix. 24 and 36; and cf. xii. 38 and xv. 25, ἵνα πληρζθῇ ὁ λόγος ὁ ἐν τῷ νόμῳ αὐτῶν γεγραμμένος.

65) xviii. 9 and 32, which refer back to xvii. 12 and xii. 32 fol.

66) E.g., xii. 48.

67) xvii. 22.

68) xii. 32.

69) From 160 onwards.