A Historical Introduction to the Study of the Books of the New Testament

By George Salmon

Chapter 16




The result at which I arrived (p. 243), from a comparison of the diction of the Gospel and the Apocalypse, left it an open question whether the former were written by the author of the latter, or by a disciple of his. To-day I propose to make a further examination of the contents of the Gospel, with the view of obtaining, if possible, a more definite conclusion.1

I. The author of the fourth Gospel was a Jew.

(1) I remark, in the first place, the familiarity with the Old Testament which he exhibits. Quotations from it occur as frequently as in what has been regarded as the Jewish Gospel, St. Matthew s; and in two or three cases they are made directly from the Hebrew, not the Septuagint. These cases are, the passage from the 4ist Psalm (xiii. 18), He that eateth bread with me hath lifted up his heel against me, and that (xix. 37) from Zechariah xii. 10, They shall look on him whom they pierced. The prophecy also (Isaiah vi. 9, 10) which is so often referred to in the New Testament, and which is quoted by St. Matthew (xiii. 14) nearly in the words of the Septuagint, appears in quite a different rendering in St. John (xii. 40).

(2) Next I note his acquaintance with the Jewish feasts. It is remarkable that this Evangelist (said to be anti-Jewish) has alone recorded our Lord's attendance at these feasts, and has used them as land-marks to divide the history. It is in this way we learn, what we should not have found from the Synoptic Gospels, that our Lord's public ministry lasted more than one year. Three passovers are directly mentioned (ii. 13, 23; vi. 4; xiii. i, xviii. 28); besides another feast, named generally a feast of the Jews (v. i), with respect to which commentators are divided whether or not it was a passover. The feast of Tabernacles is spoken of with a note that the last was the great day of the feast (vii. 37), and this verse contains what seems a plain allusion to the rite, practised at this feast, of pouring forth water from the pool of Siloam. Mention is likewise made of that feast of the later Jews, instituted without any express divine command, which commemorated the dedication of the Temple after its profanation by Antiochus Epiphanes (x. 22).

(3) In connexion with the preceding, I note the acquaintance shown with Jewish customs and habits of thought. There are, for instance, repeated references to the customs in connexion with purification: the waterpots after the manner of the purifying of the Jews (ii. 5); the question about purifying between John's disciples and the Jews (iii. 25); the coming up of Jews to Jerusalem, previous to the passover, in order to purify themselves (xi. 55); the fear of our Lord's accusers to defile themselves, previous to the passover, by entering the heathen Praetorium (xviii. 28); and the Jewish scruple against allowing the bodies to remain on the cross on the Sabbath day (xix. 31). We learn, moreover, from St. John (what other testimony confirms) that baptism was not a rite newly instituted by John the Baptist, but one known to the Jews before; for the question is not put to the Baptist (i. 25), What is this new thing that thou doest? but he is asked why he baptized, seeing that he claimed for himself no official position, neither to be the Christ, nor Elias, nor the prophet. Then, again, the Evangelist, in his well-known narrative (ch. iv.), shows his knowledge of the state of feeling between the Jews and Samaritans (see also viii. 48); he is familiar with current Rabbinical and popular notions, as, for instance, concerning the connexion between sin and bodily suffering, in the question (ix. 2), Who did sin, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?; as to the importance attached to the religious schools (vii. 15); the disparagement of the dispersion (vii. 35); and with the Rabbinical rule against holding con verse with a woman (iv. 27). I have already had occasion to notice one passage which has been a terrible stumbling-block in the way of those who would ascribe the book to a Gnosticizing Gentile of the second century. In the very passage where the claims of spiritual religion, apart from any distinction of place and race, are most strongly set forth, the prerogatives of the Jew are asserted as strongly as they are by St. Paul himself when he has to answer the question, What advantage then hath the Jew? This Gospel puts into our Lord's mouth the words (iv. 22), Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship; for salvation is of the Jews. If these words be invention, assuredly they are not a Gentile or a Gnostic invention (see also p. 208).

I do not present the argument from the language, because to enter into details would make it necessary to discuss what phrases can positively be asserted to be Hebraisms; but the whole colouring of the diction, and still more of the thoughts, is essentially Hebrew.2

The best argument3 that can be used in opposition to those I have produced is that founded on the constant use of the phrase the Jews, which seems to imply that the writer was not a Jew. But the use of the phrase presents no difficulty when we remember the late date of the Gospel, and that it was written in a Greek city where the Jews were in all probability the bitterest adversaries of the Christian Church. I need only refer to the hard things said of the Jews many years before by St. Paul (1 Thess. ii. 14-16), who more than any other gloried in being able to call himself a Jew (see p. 30).4

II. The writer was a Jew of Palestine. We may infer this from his minute acquaintance with the topography of the Holy Land. Thus he knows the small town Cana of Galilee (ii. 1, 11; iv. 46; xxi. 2), a place not noticed by any earlier writer: Bethsaida, the native place of Philip, Peter, and Andrew (i. 44); Bethany beyond Jordan (i. 28), for this seems to be the true reading instead of Bethabara, of the common text; he knows the exact distance from Jerusalem of the better known Bethany (xi. 18); he knows the city Ephraim near the wilderness (xi. 54); Ænon5 near to Salim, where John baptized (iii. 23); Sychar the city of Samaria, where Jacob's well was, of which the Evangelist tells that the well is deep (iv. 11 ), as indeed it is, more than a hundred feet; he knows the whole aspect of the place; the mountain where the Samaritans worshipped, that is to say, Mount Gerizim, which rises to a sheer height of eight hundred feet above the village, and where the remains of a temple are still visible; and he knows the rich corn-fields at the base of the mountain (v. 35)6

There is the same familiarity with the topography of Jerusalem. He speaks of Bethesda, the pool near the sheep gate, having five porches; of the treasury at the Temple; of Solomon's porch; of the pool Siloam, which name he correctly derives as the sending forth of waters; of the brook Kedron; of the place that is called the Pavement, but in the Hebrew Gabbatha; of the place of the skull, called in Hebrew Golgotha. I would also notice the graphic description of the aspect of the Temple on the occasion of its cleansing by our Lord; the animals for sacrifice, sheep, oxen, and doves, crowding its courts; and the money-changers, who are described as sitting, the sellers of the animals naturally standing.

Now even a single topographical reference may give a revelation of the writer's nationality. I remember, at the beginning of the Crimean war, when we knew nothing here of the authorship of the brilliant war correspondence which began to appear in the Times, how a comparison, in one of the early letters, of some scenery to that of the Dargle, suggested to us the inference, This writer must be an Irish man. If a novel appeared in which the scene was laid in Ireland, and mention freely made of small Irish localities, and of different Dublin public buildings, we should feel little doubt that the writer was either an Irishman, or one who had spent some time in Ireland; and yet I need not say how much easier it is now, than in the days when the Gospel was written, for a writer to get up from books the details which would add verisimilitude to his narrative.

The work of a native of Palestine may also be recognized in the knowledge of local jealousies which the writer exhibits. One outside a country thinks little of the distinctions between different provinces. But here we seem to have a picture drawn by a Galilean who had smarted under the haughty contempt with which the inhabitants of Jerusalem regarded his province: Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth? (i. 46). Shall Christ come out of Galilee? (vii. 41). * Search and look, for out of Galilee ariseth no prophet (vii. 52). Note also the scorn of the rulers and the Pharisees for the opinion of the vulgar: This people who knoweth not the law are cursed (vii. 49).

Further, the writer is as familiar with the history of the Temple as with its external aspect. One of the data used at present in calculating the chronology of our Saviour's ministry is the remark recorded by St. John (ii. 20), Forty and six years was this Temple in building. Counting the commencement of the forty-six years from the time recorded by Josephus, we obtain a date for our Lord's ministry in close agreement with what we are led to by other considerations. But is it credible either that a forger in the second century, when the science of chronology was unknown, could have had the information rightly to state the interval between the beginning of the Temple building and our Lord's ministry, or, that if he had made a random guess, he could have hit the truth so accurately?

III. I come next to the question, It having been thus proved that the writer was a Jew, was he a Jew of the first or of the second century? And this question is not difficult to answer, for the subjects which engage interest, and which excite controversy, differ from age to age. Even in the lifetime of one man they change. Compare Paul's earlier Epistles with his later, compare the Epistles to the Romans and Galatians with those to Timothy and Titus, and you will find that the controversy about justification with or without the works of the law, which is the main subject of the earlier Epistles, is hardly alluded to in the later. This is one of the tests by which was exposed the forgery of the Decretal Epistles ascribed to the early Popes, that the controversies and topics with which these letters deal are not those of the centuries when the alleged writers lived, but those of the ninth century, when the letters were really written. Now, test the fourth Gospel in this way, and you will find that the controversies with which it deals, and the feelings which it assumes, are those of the first century not the second. The Messianic idea that pervades the Gospel is not that which prevailed after the Gnostic heresies arose, but that which existed before Jerusalem was destroyed, when the Jews still expected the Messiah to be a deliverer who should establish a temporal sovereignty and make the Jews the rulers of the surrounding nations. This Evangelist tells us, what we do not learn from the Synoptic Gospels, that the impression produced by the miracle of feeding the multitude was such that they were about to come by force to make our Lord a king, evidently believing that they had now found him who would lead them against the Romans, and victoriously restore the kingdom to Israel. And we are told that our Lord was obliged to withdraw Himself from their importunity to a mountain alone. It was because He refused to proclaim a kingdom of this world that the Jews found it hard to own as their Messiah one who, though He could preach and heal, yet seemed unable to bring them the deliverance or the glory which they desired. St. John represents the prudent Jewish rulers as resolved to put down the prophesying of Jesus, because they feared that the political consequences of His assertion of His kingdom would be an unsuccessful revolt against foreign rule, the result of which would be that the Romans would come and take away their place and nation (xi. 48). And St. John brings out with great clearness the fact that it was as a pretender to temporal sovereignty that Jesus was accused before Pilate, who, though personally inclined to dismiss the complaint, was withheld from doing so through fear of exciting the jealousy of his own emperor by his remissness, if in such a matter as this he showed himself * not Caesar's friend (xix. 12). Remember that the state of Jewish feeling which I have described was quelled by the destruction of Jerusalem, and judge whether it is probable that a writer of the next century would have been able to throw himself into the midst of these hopes and feelings, and to reproduce them as if they were part of the atmosphere which he had himself breathed.7

Then, again, the topics introduced are those which were discussed in our Lord's time, and not a hundred years after wards. For example, what Gnostic of the second century would have cared to discuss a breach of the Sabbath, and to inquire when the duty of Sabbath observance (admitted to be the general rule) was overborne by a higher obligation? See, again, how familiar the writer is with the expectations which before our Lord's coming the Jews had formed of what their Messiah was to be. He was not to be from Galilee: Shall Christ come out of Galilee? Hath not the Scripture said that Christ cometh of the seed of David, and out of the town of Bethlehem, where David was? (vii. 42); { We have heard out of the law that Christ abideth for ever (xii. 34); We know this man whence he is, but when Christ cometh no man knoweth whence he is (vii. 27); When Christ cometh, will he do more miracles than these which this man hath done? (vii. 31).

On the other hand, the writer shows no knowledge of the controversies raised by the Gnostic heresies which broke out early in the second century. The problem that most occupied the minds of the Gnostic speculators was how to account for the origin of evil, and the solution they generally agreed in offering was that evil was inherent in matter. It followed that the creation of matter could not have been the work of the good God; and since the God of the Jews claimed the work of creation as his own, that he must be a being different from, and, according to many systems, hostile to, the Supreme God. Thus the authority of the Old Testament was rejected. Further, those who held these views found it impossible to believe that the Saviour could have assumed a material body, and so they were led to maintain that in His earthly life He was only in appearance like other men. Again, they could not believe that the existence of matter would be prolonged beyond the present life, and so they rejected the doctrine of the resur rection of the body. And as they conceived that perfection was to be attained through release from the dominion of matter, they inculcated an ascetic mode of life, abstinence from animal food and from wine, as well as from marriage, through which the material life is perpetuated. Now it is not merely that the fourth Evangelist gives no countenance to any of these theories, but he shows no sign that he had ever heard of them. He is an unsuspicious monotheist, and the theory of two independent principles is one that it as little occurs to him to refute as to hold. He is an equally unsuspicious believer in the Divine authority of the Old Testament. I have given some proofs of this (p. 207), but what is chiefly important to observe is, that while the Evangelist feels the controversy with Judaism pressing, the controversy with Gnosticism does not exist for him. He is solicitous to maintain that Jesus was He of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets did write; and he seems to have no idea that our Lord's claims could have been set on any other foundation. No question as to the lawfulness of marriage is raised; but Jesus is represented as gracing a wedding feast with his presence. Controversies as to the use of animal food and as to the ascetic life, though known to St. Paul (Rom. xiv. 2; 1 Cor. vii.; 1 Tim. iv. 3), do not appear to have been raised in the circle for which the fourth Evangelist wrote. The resurrection of the body is plainly taught (v. 28); for the future life is not represented as resulting from the continuance of the soul, though separated from the body; but they that are in the grave shall hear the voice of the Son of Man, and shall come forth. Yet he is so little solicitous to maintain the doctrine controversially, that, as I have already mentioned (p. 210), there have been those who have imagined that he has no other idea of eternal life than of that the possession of which is present. Jesus is represented as having a body subject to the accidents of weariness and thirst, and which even after His resurrection His disciples might handle (John xx. 27; 1 John i. 1). Yet in the Gospel the Evangelist shows little anxiety to combat a Docetic theory of our Lord's person, and tells without scruple some things which might seem to favour such a theory, as, for example, the appearance of our Lord to His disciples when the doors were shut. But it would seem that when the Epistle was written Docetism had become formidable enough to need express condemnation; and then the denial that Jesus Christ was come in the flesh was pronounced to emanate from the spirit of antichrist (i John iv. 3; 2 John 7). In sum, then, the fourth Evangelist proves himself not to be a second century writer, by his utter want of interest in the controversies which stirred the Christian Church early in the second century.

IV. I regard it, then, as proved that the writer of the fourth Gospel was a Jew, not very distant in time from the events which he relates. Is there, then, any reason why we should refuse credence to the claim, which he himself makes four times, to have been an eyewitness of our Saviour's life? (i. 14, xix. 35, xxi. 24; i John i. i). There is nothing against admitting this claim, but everything in favour of it. It is quite remarkable how frequently the Evangelist throws him self into the position of the original disciples, and repeats their reflections or comments; these being such as, though appropriate at the time, would not be likely to have occurred to one who was not himself a disciple. There are three instances in the very second chapter. The effect of the miracle of the turning the water into wine is said to have been that His disciples believed on Him (v. u). Again, His disciples remembered that it was written, The zeal of Thine house hath eaten me up (v. 17). Again, when there fore He was risen from the dead, His disciples remembered that he had said this unto them, and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had said (v. 22). Why is this prominence given to the reflections of the disciples? Is it likely that a forger of the second century, who wished to exhibit the glory of the Logos, would say, what sounds SO like a truism, that His disciples believed on Him? If they had not, they would not have been disciples. It would surely have been more to the point to tell the effect upon the guests: and a forger would hardly have failed to do this. But all is explained when we suppose that a disciple is speaking, and recording how that favourable impression produced by the testimony of the Baptist, which had disposed him to join the company of Jesus, was changed by this miracle into actual faith. I leave other instances of the same kind to be traced out by yourselves, only taking notice now of one of them: how we are told that the disciples who took part in the triumphal entry of Palm Sunday understood not at the time what they had been doing, but, after Jesus was glorified, remembered that these things were written of Him, and that they had done these things unto Him (xii. 1 6).8

I think we may also conclude that the writer had been a disciple of the Baptist as well as of our Lord. This appears from the fulness of the opening chapter, which deals with the Baptist's ministry, and which is best explained if we suppose the Evangelist to be the unnamed disciple who, together with Andrew, heard the testimony, Behold the Lamb of God. And if the Evangelist had heard the story from another he would scarcely have added the minute detail that it was the tenth hour of the day when the conversation with Jesus took place. We trace the work of a disciple of the Baptist in more than one subsequent allusion to that testimony, and, above all, in one remarkable periphrasis, which is undoubtedly what no forger would have imagined, Jesus went away beyond Jordan into the place where John at first baptized, and there He abode; and many resorted unto Him and said, John did no miracle, but all things that John spake of this man were true (x. 41). To describe the place of Jesus sojourn as the place where John at first baptized, and to record the impressions of those who had been affected by the Baptist's teaching, and were hesitating whether or not they should attach themselves to Jesus, would not naturally occur to anyone who had not himself moved in the same circle. Indeed, the prominence given to the Baptist in the fourth Gospel is in itself a proof how near the writer was to the events which he records. A modern reader seldom realizes the importance of the work done by the Baptist in preparing the way of Jesus. Yet the Synoptic Gospels tell of the reputation and influence gained by John (Matt. xiv. 5, Mark vi. 20, Luke xx. 6; cp. Acts xviii. 25, xix. 3). They tell also that there was such a connexion between John and his successor, that any who acknowledged the divine mission of the Baptist would be bound in consistency to own the authority of Jesus (Matt. xxi. 25, Mark xi. 31, Luke xx. 5). The fourth Gospel explains fully what the connexion was, by telling that it was among the disciples of the Baptist that Jesus first gained followers, who joined Him in consequence of the testimony borne to Him by John. This testimony is again referred to as furnishing part of the credentials of Jesus ( v. 32 & 33). But we have no reason to think that in the second century John occupied such a place in the minds of men as would lead a forger to lay such stress on his authority.

Other notes of autoptic testimony are the minute particulars of time, and place, and persons, that are mentioned; that such a discourse took place in Solomon's porch (x. 23); such another in the treasury (viii. 20); another, as I mentioned a moment ago, at the tenth hour; another (that with the woman of Samaria) at the sixth (iv. 6); that such another miracle was performed at the seventh hour (iv. 52); that this or that re mark was made, not by the disciples generally, but by Philip (vi. 7, xiv. 8), or Andrew (vi. 9), or Thomas (xi. 16, xiv. 5), or Judas, not Iscariot (xiv. 22). The name of the servant whose ear Peter cut off is given (xviii. 10). In two different places the native town of Peter and Andrew is mentioned as Bethsaida (i. 44., xii. 21): the Synoptic Gospels would rather have led us to conjecture Capernaum.

There is one passage in particular which by its graphic character forcibly impresses me with the conviction that I read the testimony of an eyewitness: I mean the account (xx. 3) of the conduct of Peter and an unnamed disciple (who is unmistakeably the Evangelist himself), when Mary Magda lene came running to tell them that the body of our Lord had been removed from the sepulchre; how the younger was fore most in the race, but contented himself with looking into the sepulchre; how Peter, with characteristic boldness, went in,, and how the other disciple then followed the example set him. If any but an eyewitness devised all these details, so minute and so natural, we must credit him with a literary skill such as we nowhere else find employed in the manufacture of Apocryphal Gospels. But there remains to be mentioned a touch so subtle, that I find it impossible to ascribe it to a forger's invention. Not a word is said as to the effect of what he had seen on the mind of Peter; but we are told that the other disciple went in, and saw, and believed: for as yet they had not known the Scripture, that Christ must rise again from the dead. Is it not plain that the writer is relating his own experience, and recalling how it was that the idea of the Resurrection opened on his mind as a reality? And lastly, note that we have here the work of no reckless forger. To such an one it would cost nothing to record that he and Peter had then seen our Lord. But no; the disciples are merely said to have returned to their own home. It is Mary Magdalene who remains behind and first enjoys the sight of the risen Saviour.

V. If it has been proved that the author of the fourth Gospel was an eyewitness, little time need be spent on the proof that he was the Apostle John; for few would care to dispute this, if forced to concede that the Evangelist actually witnessed what he related. To accept him as an eyewitness implies an admission that the things he tells are not mere inventions: and some of these things could only have been known to one of the inner circle of disciples who surrounded our Lord. The Evangelist tells what these disciples said to one another (iv. 33, xi. 16, xvi. 17, xx. 25, xxi. 3, 7); what they thought (ii. u, 17, 23, iv. 27, xiii. 22, 29); what places they were accustomed to resort to (xi. 54, xviii. 2, xx. 19). The epilogue to the Gospel (xxi. 24) identifies its author with him whom it describes as the disciple whom Jesus loved; and even if there had not been this explicit declaration, the way in which that disciple is introduced (xiii. 23, xix. 26, xx. 2, xxi. 7, 20, and probably xviii. 15) irresistibly conveys the impression that the Evangelist wished his readers to understand that he himself was that disciple. The disciple whom Jesus loved must surely have been one of those three (Peter, James, and John), who in the Synoptic Gospels are represented as honoured by our Lord's special intimacy; and in this Gospel that disciple is expressly distinguished from Peter (xiii. 24; xx. 2; xxi. 7, 20), while we know that James was dead long before the fourth Gospel was written (Acts xii. 2).

There is, however, one writer whose claims to the composition of the Gospel must be carefully considered, namely, one of the most shadowy personages in ecclesiastical history, John the Elder. A whole school of critics speak of him with as assured confidence as if he were a person concerning whose acts we had as much information as concerning those of Julius Caesar; but in truth his very existence seems to have been first discovered by Eusebius, and it is still a disputed matter whether the discovery be a real one. I have already quoted (p. 91) the passage of Papias's preface, from which Eusebius drew his inference. In naming the elders whose traditions he had made it his business to collect, having mentioned Andrew, Peter, Philip, Thomas and James, John and Matthew, Papias adds immediately afterwards the names of Aristion and John the Elder. Eusebius inferred from the double mention of the name that two Johns are spoken of: the first, who is coupled with Matthew, being clearly the Evangelist; the second, who is described as the * elder, and whose name is placed after that of Aristion, being a different person. Eusebius had learned from Dionysius of Alexandria (see p. 232) to recognize the possibility that there might have been more Johns than one; yet it must be observed that Dionysius himself had failed to notice that Papias had given any countenance to his suggestion. Irenaeus also (see p. 92) seems to be ignorant of this second John, who is equally unrecognized by the great majority of later ecclesiastical writers.

It would be important if we could exactly know what Papias meant by calling the second John the elder. It can scarcely mean only that he held the office of presbyter in the Church; for then Papias would not have used the definite article as he does, not only here in the preface, but afterwards, when he cites a saying of this John with the formula, This also the elder said (p. 92). But Papias had used the phrase the elders, as we might use the phrase the fathers, in speaking of the venerated heads of the Church in a former generation. And since he gives this title to John, and withholds it from Aristion, it does not appear that we can lay any stress on the remark of Eusebius, that he places Aristion's name first. Further, this very title elders is given by Papias to Andrew, Peter, and the rest whom he first enumerates, and therefore he cannot be supposed, in giving this title the second time to John, to intend to place him in a different category from those in his first list. The only fact, then, which remains for us to build on is, that Papias in his preface names John twice over; but whether this is a mere slovenliness of composition, or whether he really means to speak of two Johns, is a matter on which it seems to me rash to speak positively, on such scanty knowledge as we have of Papias's work. It may be assumed that none of the subsequent passages in that work where John is mentioned speaks decisively on the present question, else Eusebius would have quoted it.

But though we cannot accept the existence of the second John as a proved fact, we may at least receive it as an admissible hypothesis, and may examine whether it enables us to give a better account of the Johannine writings. Judging merely by the diction, we could easily believe that the author of the Apocalypse was different from the author of the other books; so that if we reject the notion of Eusebius, that John the Elder, not John the Apostle, was the author of the former, we must still inquire whether we can invert the relation: Did John the Apostle write the Apocalypse, and John the Elder the Gospel? But. here we are inconveniently pressed by the results we have just obtained, namely, that he who wrote the Gospel must have been an eyewitness and a close companion of our Lord. If this were not the Apostle, there must have been in our Lord's company one of whom the Synoptic Evangelists have told us nothing, and he no ordinary disciple, but the disciple whom Jesus loved, and who at the Last Supper reclined on the bosom of our Lord. Further, the name of this disciple was John, and here we have the additional difficulty that (as remarked, p. 63) the fourth Gospel gives no intimation of the intercourse of our Lord with any John but the Baptist. We can easily acquiesce in the suggestion that the Evangelist thought it needless to name himself: but if there was in our Lord's company a second John holding one of the highest places among His disciples, is it possible that the Evangelist could pass over him also in silence?

It follows, then, irresistibly, that if the writer of the fourth Gospel was not John the Apostle, he at least wished to be taken for him, and desired that his readers should think of no one else. Let us see, then, how the hypothesis works, that the Gospel was written by a disciple of John, who wished to sink his own personality, and to present the traditions he had gathered from his master's teaching, together with some modifications of his own, in such a form that they might be taken for the work of John himself. But this hypo thesis will not bear to be burdened with the addition that the recording disciple was John the Elder; for his is a personality which refuses to be suppressed. If this were John the Elder, whose traditions Papias set himself to collect, he must have been a notable person in the Church of Asia, and we can hardly help identifying him with the John who is said to have lived to the reign of Trajan, and to have been the teacher of Polycarp and other early Asiatic bishops.9 At all events, we cannot help identifying him with the author of the Second and Third Epistles, who designates himself as the elder. These Epistles are recognized by Irenaeus and by Clement of Alexandria (see p. 211). Their brevity and the comparative unimportance of their matter caused them to be looked on with some suspicion. Origen tells of some who did not regard them as genuine10 (Euseb. vi. 25); and they are not included in the Peshitto Syriac.11 Jerome was disposed to ascribe them not to John the Apostle but John the Elder (De Viris Illust. 9). Other proofs may be given of reluctance, on the part of those who recognized them, to set them on a level with the First Epistle.

I believe that these hesitations arose from the fact that these Epistles were not included in the public reading of the early Church a thing intelligible enough from the private nature of their contents. The antiquity of the letters is un doubted, and they are evidently precious relics of avene rated teacher carefully preserved by the Asiatic Church; but to those who were ignorant of their history they appeared to stand on a different level from the documents sanctioned by the public use of the Church. If the external evidence leaves any room for doubt about the two minor letters, internal evidence removes it; for the hypothesis of forgery will not stand examination. A forger would surely inscribe his composition with some well-known name; he would never have referred the authorship to so enigmatical a personage as the elder. But, above all, the contents of the Third Epistle exclude the supposition of forgery, for which indeed no conceivable motive is apparent. The writer represents (v. 11) that he had sent a letter to a Church, but that his messengers, in stead of being received with the hospitality which was the invariable rule12 of the Christian societies, were absolutely rejected. The man who claimed to take the leading part in the government of the Church not only failed to receive them himself, but, under pain of excommunication, forbade anyone else to do so. This is clearly a case not of in- hospitality, but of breach of communion. The bearers of the elder's letter are treated precisely as he himself had directed that heretical teachers should be treated. If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: for he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds (2 John 10, n). We may well believe (since we know the fact from the Epistle to the Corinthians) that schisms and dissensions existed even in Apostolic times; but this was a state of things a forger was not likely to invent or even to recognize. It is certain, then, that these two letters are no forgeries, but genuine relics of some great Church ruler, pre served after the circumstances which had drawn them forth were forgotten. And if ever the argument from identity of style and matter can be relied on, it is certain also that tradition has rightly handed down the belief that the writer was no other than the author of the First Epistle and the Gospel.

If this identity be established, it follows at once that that author is no unknown person who hides his personality under the cover of a great name. He comes forward in his own person, claiming great authority, sending his legates to an old established Church, and treating resistance to his claims on the part of the rulers of such Churches as idle prating (φλυαρεῖν), which he is confident that by his presence he will at once put down. And, according to all appearance, his anticipations prove correct, and his rule over the Churches of Asia is completely acquiesced in. When such a man publishes a Gospel containing a clearly implied claim on the part of the writer to be the disciple whom Jesus loved, I cannot suppose the claim to be made on behalf of someone else, but must regard it as exhibiting the grounds of the authority which the writer himself exercised. And no account of the matter seems satisfactory but the traditional one, that the writer was the Apostle John.

To the historical inquirer, then, the minor Epistles of St. John, being not impersonal like the First Epistle, have an importance quite out of proportion to their length. And though the light they cast on the writer's surroundings be but that of a lightning flash, enabling us to get a momentary sight of a position of which we have no knowledge as regards its antecedents or consequents, yet enough is revealed in that short glimpse to assure us of the rank the writer occupied, and of the struggles which were at first necessary to establish his authority. Everything harmonizes with the traditional account that John came late in life to Asia Minor, where he must have found Churches of Paul's founding long established. There is nothing incredible in the statement that leading persons in such Churches at first resisted the authority, not of John himself, but of emissaries sent by him. The authority which these emissaries claimed may have seemed an intrusion on the legitimate rule possessed by the actual governors of the Church. It is remarkable that John appears to have found the form of government by a single man already in existence; for Diotrephes singly is spoken of as excommunicating those who disobeyed his prohibitions. Bishop Lightfoot is disposed (Philippians, pp. 202, 206, 7th ed.) to attribute a principal share in the establishment of episcopacy to the action of John in Asia Minor. But if the view here taken is right, John did not bring in that form of government, but found it there; whether it was that Paul had originally so constituted the Churches; or that, in the natural growth of things, the method of government by a single man, which in political matters was the rule of the Roman Empire, proved to be also the most congenial to the people in ecclesiastical matters. It is impossible for us to say whether the rejection of John's legates was actuated solely by jealousy of foreign intrusion, or whether there may not also have been doctrinal differences. Diotrephes may have been tainted by that Docetic heresy against which the Apostle so earnestly struggled (1 John iv. 3, 2 John 7).

Some have identified the hospitable Caius of the third Epistle with Paul's host at Corinth (Rom. xvi. 23);13 but no argument can be built on the recurrence of so very common a name. This third Epistle professes to have had a companion letter: I wrote somewhat to the Church, says the writer (v. 9); ἔγραψά τι, which seems to imply some short composition. I believe that we have that letter still in the companion Epistle which has actually reached us. By those who understand the inscription as denoting an individual it has been variously translated: whether as in our version, * to the elect Lady, or to the elect Kyria, or to the lady Electa. I do not delay to discuss these renderings, because I believe that it is a Church, not an individual, which is de scribed (v. i) as known and loved by all who know the truth, of which it is told that some of her children walk in the truth (v. 4), to which the precept of mutual love is addressed (v. 5), and which possessed an elect sister in the city whence the letter was written (v. 13). We are not called on to explain why this mode of addressing a Church should have been adopted; but we can account for it if we accept Kenan's conjecture (see p. 255) that Peter on his last visit to Rome had been accompanied by John, who, after Peter's martyr dom, escaped to Asia Minor. Certain it is that these two Apostles appear to have had very close relations with each other (Acts iii. i, viii. 14, John xiii. 24, xviii. 15, xx. 2, xxi. 7); that the Evangelist shows himself acquainted with Peter's martyrdom (xxi. 19); while the Apocalypse exhibit marks of the impression made on the writer by the cruelties of the Neronian persecution. If, as I believe, Peter's Epistle was written from Rome, and if John was with Peter when he wrote it, it would be natural that the words of that letter should stamp themselves on his memory; and I have noted (see p. 236) some coincidences between Peter's Epistle and the Johannine writings. It would then be only a reproduction of the phrase ἡ ἐν βυλῶνι σνεκλεκτή (1 Peter v. 13), if John applies the title ἐκλεκτή to the two sister Churches of Asia Minor; while again his description of himself as the elder would be suggested by ὁ συμπρεσβύτερος (1 Peter v. 1).

What I have said about the Second Epistle is in a great measure conjectural; but I wish you to observe that the un certainty which attaches to all conjectures does not affect the inferences which I have drawn from the Third Epistle, and which I count as of great importance. At the present day Baur has more faithful disciples in Holland than in Germany. A typical representation of the form which Baur's theories take among his disciples of the present day is to be found in a book called the Bible for Young People, of which the New Testament part is written by a Dr. Hooykaas, and of which an English translation was published a few years ago. In this book the disciple whom Jesus loved is volatilized away.14 We are taught that the last chapter of the fourth Gospel is intended only to give a symbolical revelation of certain passages of old Church history. If it is said that the disciple whom Jesus loved is to remain when Peter passes away, this only means that the authority of Peter, whose supremacy over the Apostolic communities is not disputed, was only to last during his life, whereas the disciple who read into the soul of Jesus will retain his influence till the perfecting of the kingdom of God. Who is meant by this disciple is not clear. The author is greatly tempted to think of Paul, but can find nothing to countenance this conjecture; so he has to be satisfied with setting him down as an ideal personage. In the presence of such attempts to turn the Gospel narrative into allegory, we have cause for gratitude that the short letter to Caius has been preserved to us. It matters little that we are ignorant of the circumstances that drew it forth, and that Diotrephes and Demetrius are to us little more than names. But we see clearly that the letter contains solid facts which cannot be allegorized, and that the writer is no abstraction, but a man busy with active work and engaged in real contests, one who claimed the superintendence of distant Churches, and who vigorously asserted his authority against those who refused obedience. I have looked for other solutions, but can acquiesce in none, save that he is the Apostle John.


1) In this lecture I chiefly reproduce the arguments of Dr. Sanday (Fourth Gospel, ch. 19), with the additions made to them by Professor Westcott in the Introduction to his Commentary on St. John's Gospel. I also make use of an appendix added by Renan to the 13th edition of his Vie de Jesus, in which he justifies the preference he had expressed (see p. 212) for the narrative as given in the fourth Gospel.

2) For proofs, see Sanday, p. 289; Westcott, pp. vii., li.

3) The description of Caiaphas as high-priest that year (xi. 49, 51; xviii. 13) does not oblige us to suppose the writer to be so ignorant of Jewish affairs as to imagine the high-priesthood to be an annual office. All that the words assert is, that in that year when one man died for the people, Caiaphas was the high-priest. The repeated changes made by the government in the high-priesthood at this time are mentioned by Josephus (Antt. xviii. 2, 2).

4) In John vii. 1, οἱ Ἰουδαῖοι seems to mean the inhabitants of Judaea as opposed to the Galileans, a use of the word natural enough in a Galilean writer. The word will bear this meaning in most of the passages where it occurs in this Gospel, of course setting those aside where the word would in any case be used in a book intended for Gentile readers, as, for instance, where customs or feasts of the Jews are spoken of. But vi. 41, 52, will not admit this interpretation, since it is not said that the objectors were visitors from Judaea.

5) On this Renan remarks, Vie de Jesus, p. 492, 'On ignore, il est vrai, oil etait Salim; mais Αἰνών est un trait de lumiere. C'est le mot Ænawan, pluriel Chaldeen de Ain ou Æn, "fontaine." Comment voulez-vous que des sectaires hellenistes d'Ephese eussent devine cela? Us n eussent nomme aucune localite, ou ils en eussent nomme une tres-connue, ou ils eussent forge un mot impossible sous le rapport de 1 etymologie semitique.

6) See Stanley's Sinai and Palestine, ch. v., ii., p. 240, 2nd edit.

7) The argument in this paragraph, which had been forcibly urged by Sanday (p. 291) has been parried by the remark that in Barcochba's rebel lion, in the reign of Hadrian, there was a revival of Jewish nationalist and anti-Roman feeling. But the argument at least obliges us to choose between the accepted date of the Gospel and a date later than A.D. 135, when Barcochba's rebellion was put down. And even leaving out of sight the use made of the Gospel by Justin Martyr, I cannot reconcile so late a date- with the other indications mentioned above.

8) It harmonizes curiously with this remark that Mark (xi. 1) and Luke (xix. 29) relate our Lord's triumphal entry without noting that it was a fulfilment of prophecy; whence we may probably infer, that if these two Evangelists used an earlier document, it too contained no reference to the prophet Zechariah. It is Matthew who first appeals to the prophecy (xxi. 4).

9) Ecclesiastical tradition speaks so constantly only of one John in Asia, that Scholten, Keim, and others have rid themselves of the double John by denying that the Apostle John was ever in Asia; but the arguments they offer in support of their paradox are so weak that I have not thought it worth while to discuss them.

10) Origen's immediate object apparently would lead him to present the least favourable view of disputed books. He is deprecating the multiplication of books, and with that object remarking how small is the number of books of Scripture. Compared with all the Churches from Jerusalem round about unto Illyricum, to which Paul fully preached the Gospel (Rom. xv. 19), how small is the number of Churches to which he wrote Epistles, and these but short ones! Peter has left only one undisputed Epistle: there may be a second, but that is controverted. John owns (xxi. 25) how many of the deeds of Christ he has of necessity left unrecorded; and (Rev. x. 4) that in his Apocalypse he had not been permitted to write all that he had heard. He has left also a very short Epistle. There may be likewise a second and a third, for the genuineness is not universally acknowledged; but in any case they do not make up 100 στίχοι in all. (Origen, In Joann. v., Prsef. 1-4, pp. 94-96, Philocal. ch. 5).

11) Ephraem Syrus quotes 3 John 4. (De Tim. Dei Opp. Gr. I. 76 F.)

12) See Rom. xii. 13; Heb. xiii. 2; 1 Peter iv. 9; 1 Tim. iii. 2, v. 10; Tit. i. 8; and compare Acts xvi. 15, xvii. 5, xxi. 8, 16, Rom. xvi. 23. We learn from the newly- discovered Teaching of the Twelve Apostles that it was found necessary in the early Church to make regulations in order to prevent the readiness of Christians to entertain strangers from being traded on by idle persons, who tried to make the pretence of preaching the Gospel a means of living without working. Let every Apostle who comes to you be received as the Lord. But he shall only stay a single day, but if need be another day also. But if he stays three days he is a false pro phet. Let the Apostle when he leaves you take nothing but bread enough to last till he reaches his quarters for the night. But if he asks for money he is a false prophet (ch. xi.).

13) Pseud. Athanas., Synops. Sac. Script., cb. 76 (Athan. t. ii. p. 202, Ed. Bened.)

14) The notion that the disciple whom Jesus loved is not to be identified with the Apostle John, but is only an ideal personage, originated, as far as I know, with another Dutch divine, Scholten. See Der Apostel Johannes in Kleinasien (Berlin, 1872), p. 110.