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ON THE GOSPEL BY SAINT JOHN.
1. Author.--- II. Date. - III. Genuineness and authenticity of this
Gospel.-IV. Its occasion and design. - Account of the tenets of Cerinthus. - - Analysis of its contents. – V. Saint John's Gos
pel, a supplement to the other three. - VI. Observations on its
style. I. SAINT JOHN, the evangelist and apostle, was the son of Zebedee, a fisherman of the town of Bethsaida, on the sea of Galilee, and the younger brother of James the elder. His mother's name was Salome. Zebedee, though a fisherman, appears to have been in good circumstances: for the evangelical history informs us that he was the owner of a vessel, and had hired servants. (Mark i. 27.) And therefore we have no reason to imagine that his children were altogether illiterate, as some critics have imagined them to have been, from a misinterpretation of Acts iv. 13., where the terms aypopata and idiwrai, in our version rendered unlearned and ignorant men, simply denote persons in private stations of life, who were neither rabbis nor magistrates, and such as had not studied in the schools of the Pharisees, and consequently were ignorant of the rabbinical learning and traditions of the Jews. John and his brother James were, doubtless, well acquainted with the Scriptures of the Old Testament, having not only read them, but heard them publicly explained in the synagogues; and, in common with the other Jews, they entertained the expectation of the Messiah, and that his kingdom would be a temporal one. It is not impossible, though it cannot be affirmed with certainty, that Saint John had been a disciple of John the Baptist, before he became a disciple of Christ. At least, the circumstantial account, which he has given in ch. i. 37–41. of the two disciples who followed Christ, might induce us to suppose that he was one of the two. It is, however, certain that he had both seen and heard our Saviour, and had witnessed some of his miracles, particularly that performed at Cana in Galilee. (ii. 1–11.) Saint John has not recorded his own call to the apostleship; but we learn from the other three evangelists that it took place when he and James were fishing upon the sea of Galilee.' And Saint Mark, in enumerating the twelve apostles (iii. 17.), when he mentions James and John, says that our Lord “surnamed them Boanerges, which is, sons of thunder," from which appellation we are not to suppose that they were of particularly fierce and ungovernable tempers (as Dr. Cave has conjectured) ;' but, as Dr. Lardner and others have observed, it is rather to be considered as prophetically representing the resolution and courage with which they would openly and boldly declare the great truths of the Gospel when fully acquainted with them. How appropriate this title was, the Acts of the Apostles and the writings of Saint John abundantly show.? From the time when John and his brother received their immediate call from Christ, they became his constant attendants; they heard his discourses, and beheld his miraeles; and, after previous instruction, both public and private, they were honoured with a selection and appointment to be of the number of the apostles.
1 Matt. iv. 21, 22. Mark i. 19, 20. Luke v. 1--10. Lampe has marked what he thinks are three degrees in the call of Saint John to be a follower of Christ, viz. 1. His call to the discipleship (John i. 37-42.), after which he continued to follow his business for a short time; 2. His call to be one of the immediate coinpanions of Christ (Matt. iv. 21, 22.); and, 3. His call to the apostleship, when the surname of Boanerges was given to him and his brother. Lampe, Comment in Evangelium Johannis Prolegom. cap. ii. pp. 17-21.
What Saint John's age was at this time, his history does not precisely ascertain. Some have conjectured that he was then twenty-two years old ; others that he was about twenty-five or twenty-six years of age; and others again think that he was about the age of our Saviour. Dr. Lardner is of opinion that none of the apostles were much under the age of thirty when they were appointed to that important office. Whatever his age might have been, John seems to have been the youngest of the twelve, and, (if we may judge from his writings,) to have possessed a temper singularly mild, amiable, and affectionate. He was eminently the object of our Lord's regard and confidence; and was, on various occasions, admitted to free and intimate intercourse with him, so that he was characterised as “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” (John xüi. 23.) Hence we find him present at several scenes, to which most of the other disciples were not admitted. He was an eye-witness, in company with only Peter and James, to the resurrection of Jairus's daughter to life, to our Saviour's transfiguration on the mount, and to his agony in the garden. Saint John repaid this attention by the most sincere attachment to his master : for though, in common with the other apostles, he had betrayed a culpable timidity in forsaking him during his last conflict, yet he afterwards recovered his firmness, and was the only apostle who followed Christ to the place of his crucifixion. He was also present at the several appearances of our Saviour after his resurrection, and has given his testimony to the truth of that miraculous fact; and these circumstances, together with his intercourse with the mother of Christ (whom our Saviour had commended to his care), (xix. 26, 27.), qualified him, better than any other writer, to give a circumstantial and authentic history of Jesus Christ.
In one of our Saviour's interviews with his apostles, after his resurrection, he prophetically told this evangelist that he would survive the destruction of Jerusalem, and intimated, not obscurely, that Saint Peter would suffer crucifixion, but that he would die a natural death. (xxi. 18 — 24.) After the ascension of Christ, and the effusion of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, Saint John became one of the chief apostles of the circumcision, and exercised his ministry at Jerusalem and its vicinity, in the manner and with the success related
I Cave's Life of Saint James the Great, $ 5. p. 142. % Lampe, ut supra, pp. 21-30
in the Acts of the Apostles. He was present at the council held in that city (Acts xv.) about the year 49 or 50. Until this time he probably remained in Judæa, and had not travelled into any foreign countries. From ecclesiastical history we learn, that after the death of Mary, the mother of Christ, Saint John proceeded to Asia Minor, where he founded and presided over seven churches in as many cities, but resided chiefly at Ephesus. Thence he was banished to the Isle of Patmos towards the close of Domitian's reign, where he wrote his revelation. (Rev. i. 9.) On his liberation from exile, by the accession of Nerva to the imperial throne, Saint John returned to Ephesus, where he wrote his Gospel and Epistles, and died in the hundredth year of his age, about the year of Christ 100, and in the third year of the reign of the emperor Trajan.
II. The precise time when this Gospel was written, has not been ascertained, though it is generally agreed that Saint John composed it at Ephesus. Basnage and Lampe suppose it to have been written before the destruction of Jerusalem ; and in conformity with their opinion Dr. Lardner fixes its date in the year 68; Dr. Owen in 69; Michaelis in 70. But Chrysostom and Epiphanius, among the antient fathers, and Dr. Mill, Fabricius, Le Clerc, and Bishop Tomline, among the moderns, refer its date, with greater probability, to the year 97, and Mr. Jones to the year 98. The principal argument for its early date is derived from John v. 2., where the apostle says, “Now there is at Jerusalem, by the sheep market, a pool, which is called in the Hebrew tongue Bethesda, having five porches." From these words it is urged, that Jerusalem was standing when they were written; and that, if they had been written after the destruction of Jerusalem, the evangelist would have used the past tense instead of the present, and would have said, There was at Jerusalem a pool, &c. But this argument is more specious than forcible; for, though Jerusalem was demolished, it does not necessarily follow that the pool of Bethesda was dried up. On the contrary, there are much stronger reasons for supposing that it escaped the general devastation ; for, when Vespasian ordered the city to be demolished, he permitted some things to remain for the use of the garrison which was to be stationed there ;) and he would naturally leave this bathing place, fitted up with recesses or porticoes for shade and shelter, that he might not deprive the soldiers of a grateful refreshment. Now, since the evangelist's proposition may simply regard Bethesda, we cannot be certain that it looks further, or has any view to the state of Jerusalem. The argument, therefore, which is deduced from the above passage in favour of an early date, is inconclusive.
I See particularly Acts ii. 1--11. ii. iv. 1-22. and viii. 5–26.
2 Lardner's works, 8vo. vol. vi. pp. 156–170. ; 4to. vol. iii. pp. 212–220. Michaelis,, vol. iii. part i. pp. 272—274. Lampe, Proleg. in Joan. Evangel. pp. 3 31102. Jones on the Canon, vol. iii. pp. 101-110.
3 See Josephus de Bell. Jud. lib. iii. c. i. $ 1.
4 Dr. Townson's Works, vol. i. p. 224. This conjecture is confirmed by the fact that
Vespasian soon after erected magnificent public baths at Rome. Suetonius in Vespasiano, e. vii.
But, besides this argument, we have strong evidence from the contents and design of the Gospel itself, that it was not written until the year 97. It is evident, as Bishop Tomline has forcibly remarked, that the evangelist considers those to whom he addresses his Gospel as but little acquainted with Jewish customs and names; for he gives various explanations which would be unnecessary, if the persons for whom he wrote were conversant with the usages of the Jews. Similar explanations occur in the Gospels of Saint Mark and Saint Luke; but in this of Saint John they are more marked, and occur more frequently. The reason of which may be, that, when Saint John wrote, many more Gentiles, and of more distant countries, had been converted to Christianity; and it was now become necessary to explain to the Christian church, thus extended, many circumstances which needed no explanation while its members belonged only to the neighbourhood of Judæa, and while the Jewish polity was still in existence. It is reasonable to suppose that the feasts and other peculiarities of the Jews would be but little understood by the Gentiles of Asia Minor, thirty years after the destruction of Jerusalem.?
III. The Gospel by Saint John has been universally received as genuine. The circumstantiality of its details proves that the book was written by an eye-witness of the discourses and transactions it records; and, consequently, could not be written long afterwards by a Platonic Christian, as it has been recently asserted, contrary to all evidence. But, besides this incontestable internal evidence, we have the external and uninterrupted testimony of the antient fathers of the Christian church. His Gospel is alluded to, once by Clement of Rome, and once by Barnabas ; and four times by Ignatius Bishop of Antioch, who had been a disciple of the evangelist, and had conversed familiarly with several of the apostles. It was also received by Justin Martyr, Tatian, the churches of Vienne and Lyons, Irenæus, Athenagoras,& Theophilus of Antioch, Clement of Alexandria,10 Tertullian," Ammonius,'?, Origen,13 Eusebius,14 Epiphanius, Augustine, Chrysostom, and in short by all subsequent writers of the antient Christian church.15 The Alogi or Alogians, a sect which is
, said to have existed in the second century, are reported to have re
1 See particularly John i. 38. 41. ii. 6. 13. iy. 9. and xi. 55. 2 Elements of Christ. Theol. vol. i. p. 335. Jones on the Canon, vol. iii. pp. 113-116.
3 See Jones on the Canon, vol. iii. pp. 117, 118. 4 Dr. Lardner's Works, 8vo. vol. ii. pp. 120, 121; 4to. vol. i. p. 344. 5 Ibid. 8vo. vol. ii. p. 139. ; 4o. vol. i. p. 355. 6 Ibid. 8vo. vol. ii. p. 150. ; 4to. vol. i. p. 361. 7 Ibid. 8vo. vol. ii. p. 161. ; 4to. vol. i. p. 367. 8 Ibid. 8vo. vol. ii. p. 183. ; 4to. vol. i. p. 379. 9 Ibid. 8vo. vol. ii. p. 193. ; 4to. vol. i. p. 384. 10 Ibid. 8vo. vol. ii. pp. 212. 220.; 4to. vol. i. pp. 395. 399. 11 Ibid. 8vo. vol. ii. p. 256. ; 4to. vol. i. p. 419. 12 Ibid. 8vo. vol. ii. pp. 414–417. ; 4to. vol. i. pp. 503, 505. 13 Ibid. Evo. vol. ii. pp. 469, 470.; 4to. vol. i. pp. 533, 534. 14 Ibid. &vo. vol. iv. pp. 225-227.; 4to. vol. ii. pp. 368, 369. 15 See their several testimonies in Lardner's Works, 8vo, vol. vi. pp. 187--190., 4to. vol. iii. pp. 227, 228.
jected this Gospel, as well as the rest of Saint John's writings; but we have no information concerning these Alogi, on which any dependence can be placed : for, in strictness, we have no account of them except the later and uncertain accounts of Philaster and Epiphanius; Irenæus, Eusebius, and other antient writers before them, being totally silent concerning the Alogi. The probability therefore is, that there never was any such heresy.'
With such decisive testimonies to the genuineness of Saint John's Gospel, it is not a little surprising, that an eminent critic on the continent should assert that his Gospel and Epistles exhibit clear evidence, that it was not written by an eye-witness, but was compiled by some Gentile Christian in the beginning of the second century, after the death of the evangelist John, for whom he passed himself!!! It is also astonishing that, with such testimonies to the genuineness of this Gospel, so distinguished a critic as Grotius should have imagined that the evangelist terminated his history of our Saviour with the twentieth chapter, and that the twenty-first chapter was added after his death by the church at Ephesus. But this opinion is contradicted by the universal consent of manuscripts and versions; for, as this Gospel was published before the evangelist's death, if there had been an edition of it without the twenty-first chapter, it would in all probability have been wanting in some copies. To which we may add that the genuineness of the chapter in question was never doubted by any one of the antient Christian writers. Finally, the style is precisely the same as that of the rest of his Gospel.3
I Dr. Lardner's Works, vol. ix. pp. 515, 516. ; 4to. vol. iv. pp. 690, 691.
2 M. Bretschneider, in his Probabilia de Eranyclii et Epistolarum Johannis Apostoli Indole, et Origine. 8vo. Lipsiæ, 1820.
*3 Some doubts have been entertained concerning the genuineness of the portion of this Gospel comprised between ch. vii. 53. and viii. 1-11. Its authenticity has been questioned by Erasmus, Calvin, Beza, Grotius, Le Clerc, Wetstein, Semler, Schulze, Morus, Haenlein, Paulus, Schmidt, and various other writers who are mentioned by Wolfius (Cur. Phil in loc.), and by Koecher (Analect in loc.); and its genuineness has been advocated by Drs. Mill and Whitby, Ep. Middleton, Heumann, Michaelis, Storr, Langius, Dettmers, and especially by Staeudlin in his Prolusio, quà Pericopa de adulterd Joh. vii. 53. viii. 1-11. rcritas, et authentia, defenditur. (Gottingen, 1806, 4to.) Kuinöel has devoted 17 closely printed pages of his valuable commentary to a detail of the arguments against and for this clause, the genuineness of which he considers as most satisfactorily proved. (Comment. in Libros Novi Testainenti Historicos, vol. iv. pp. 379—396.) See also Tittmann's Commentarius in Evangelium Johannis, pp. 318-322. The limits of a note forbid us to enter into a review of all that has been said on this subject ; but it may be permitted to remark that the evidence is in favour of the genuineness of the passage in question. For, though it is not found in several antient versions, and is not quoted or illustrated by Chrysostom, Theophylact, Nonnus, (who wrote commentaries or explanations of this Gospel), nor by Tertullian, or Cyprian, both of whom treat copiovzly on chastity and adultery, and therefore had abundant opportunity of citing it, if it had been extant in their copies ; yet it is
found in the greater part of the manuscripts (Griesbach has enumerated more than eightiy) that are extant, though with great diversity of readings. If it had not been genuine, how could it have found its way into these manuscripts? More. over, there is nothing in the paragraph in question that militates either against the character, sentiments, or conduct of Jesus Christ : on the contrary, the whole is perfectly consistent with his meekness, gentleness, and benevolence. To which we may add that this passage is cited as genuine by Augustine, who assigns the reason why it was omitted by some copyisis, viz. lest any offence should be taken