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THE FOURTH GOSPEL
The terminus a quo for this book is fixed by the date of the synoptic gospels, which it presupposes. As a certain interval must be allowed for their circulation and the rise of so independent a narrative, John cannot be placed earlier than the last decade of the first century. Mark, Matthew, and Luke are all sources for the author of the fourth gospel, who omits, corrects, supplements, and reproduces their narrative and sayings (E. Abbott, New World, 1895, pp. 459-483), incorporating as much as proved suitable for his purpose along with his own original materials.1 This freedom in method is accompanied by an equal freedom in conception. Theological reflection upon the words of Jesus himself, which already was at work in the synoptic gospels, and of which a casual example is given in the Oxyrhynchite Logia, assumes a wider function in the fourth gospel. In its Christology, the fourth gospel is an advance even upon Hebrews, which forms (like the tradition preserved in 1 Ti 316) an intermediate stage between the later Pauline epistles and the Johannine conceptions. Jesus is pictured in terms of a current metaphysic, and his pre-existence developed to an extent hitherto unparalleled. In fact, the whole spirit of the book points to an advanced period.' Mystical reflection and moralising upon reminiscences of Jesus is accompanied throughout by the use of antitheses (light and darkness, life and death, etc.). The treatment of the subject in form and contents constantly exhibits the careful skill and speculative grasp of a trained thinker who lived at a time when he was no longer overpowered by the primitive evangelic tradition, although he naturally claims to base his account upon the direct testimony 3 of an eye-witness (1935). The idealistic4
1 Good summaries in Wendt, LJ, i. pp. 251 f., Das Joh. Evglm. (1900), pp. 8-44, and Wernle, Die Syiwpt. Frage, pp. 234-248; also from another standpoint in Zahn, Bird. ii. pp. 498-518. On the supremacy of the fourth gospel in the development of early Christianity, cp. the appreciative paragraphs in T. H. Green, Works, iii. pp. 170, 171, 214-220. Also EBi, ii. 2558 f., with 1767 f.
2 Holtzmann puts it in a sentence, "Die johanneische Lehre ist der popularisirte, vcreinfachte und dnrch seine Anweudung auf eine historische Erscheiuung, iiberhaupt durch Combination mit der synoptisehen und paulinischen Tradition modiflcirte Alexandrinismus." Elaborated somewhat keenly by Schmiedel, EBi, ii. 2518-2533.
a The exact relation of this tradition to the author is hard to understand. If the identity of the eye-witness and the incognito "disciple whom Jesus loved" (13M 19j6.i7 202"5) were beyond dispute, it might be concluded (i.) that a historical tradition due to the apostle John lies at the basis of the fourth gospel, and (ii.) that the gospel was written by an adherent of the Johannine school in Asia Minor, possibly by John the presbyter. In both of these conclusions there is pith and moment.
4 A candid and ingenious attempt has recently been made by Loofs (Die Auferstehungsberichte und ihr Wert, 1898, pp. 33-36; JtTE, IV. p. 29 f.) to explain this feature of the book, by means of psychological considerations drawn from the personality of the apostle John. Loofs frankly admits the lack of historicity in (a) the speeches of Jesus, (6) the representation of the Jews, (c) the miraculous element. On its apologetic and polemical features cp. Baldensperger, Prolog, pp. 152-165; and Bruce, Apologetics, pp. 476-492. Also Wrede, OOA (1900), pp. 1-26.
method of the author, coupled with his strong mental idiosyncrasies, leads him to treat the preceding1 tradition of the synoptists in quite a free manner. His attitude to them is independent and unfettered, dominated strongly by the mystic's sense of " repose and hope amid eternal tilings." Yet all the traces of omission, tacit correction, and variation, shown in his treatment of the earlier histories, are less notable than his adherence notwithstanding to the historical plan, upon which his own work is often a symbolic comment. It evidently constituted an acceptable channel for conveying new Christian teaching. The fourth gospel certainly proves that the first three were not considered adequate or authoritative by the whole mass of Christians at that time, and that they did not satisfy some circles in the church. But it also signifies that, especially for those who were deprived of direct evidence (2029), the historical tradition was a welcome method of instruction and impression, although for the "esoteric"2 purposes of this writer it had to be freely and freshly handled. If it can hardly be said that his aim was to produce a semi-philosophical romance (fine philosophisclie Dichtung mit religioser Tendeiiz), it was at least to furnish an exposition of God's mind and providence in the personality of Jesus, by which these might be accessible and intelligible to his readers as they were defined in terms of a current philosophy, and with reference to an environment of Hellenistic thought and feeling. "Christianity," in fact, at that epoch "had to become speculative, if it was to coalesce with human intelligence" (Denney, GR, 1900, p. 258).
It was owing to the Alexandrian culture of the author and his circle that the term \6yos came to be adopted, and adapted as a practical and timely category for the person of Jesus. It was intelligible3 to
i It is most unsafe to imagine that after the fourth gospel (c. 100 A.D.) the synoptic gospels were finally edited in so trenchant a style as to permit of the omission of certain discourses and narratives because John had already recorded them (Wilkinson, Four Lectures, pp. 99-100). This is to invert what evidence we possess for the historicity of the synoptists. Similarly, all the evidence contradicts cleverattempts like those made by Wuttig (Das Joh. Evglm. und seine Abfassungszeit, 1897), and independently by Halcoinbe (Historic Relation of Gospels), to date the fourth gospel before the synoptists. Indications of the late period are to be heard unequivocally in passages like 4s8 1016 154-6 1730; cp. especially Thoma, Die Genes, d. JohannesEvglm. (1882) pp. 353-372. Discussions on Halcombe's theory in Exp. Ti. iii. iv.; reviews of Wuttig by Dr. H. A. A. Kennedy (GR, 1897, pp. 354-356), Blass (PG, 241-243), and Holtzmann (with suitable severity, ThLz, 1897, pp. 379-384). Havet remarks of Luke (IV. 296): '' Son evangile a ete alors par excellence celui des simples, comme le quatrieme etait celui des raffines " ; and later (p. 367): "II semble que les premiers evangiles repondent autonr d'eux ces fleurs des champs dont ils nous parlent, qui poussent partout, pour la joie de tous; celles dn quatn&me sont des fleurs de serre d'esptVe rare, reservees a quelqnes uns seulement, qui en sont eblonis ou enivres." Abbott's analysis of the gospel is particularly subtle (Elii, ii. 1799 f.).
'The expression is Zahn's (Einl. ii. p. 528). He lays stress upon the obvious fact that the gospel's purpose were not to introduce the knowledge of Jesus for the first time to men hitherto unacquainted with the synoptic tradition. "It is not the herald of the gospel preaching to the whole people, but the later pastor of individual souls committee! to his care, who has drawn it up in order that those who already believe on Jesus may believe more fully, and become truer disciples." Cp. on this E. H. Hall, Papias (1889), pp. 199-240.
a Weizsiicker (AA, ii. 226-236), O. Holtzmann (Das Joh.-Erjlm. 1887, p. 91). Harnack (HI), i. p. 329 n.; ZT/iK, 1892, pp. 189-232) carries this a step further. "The prologue to the gospel," he writes, "is not the key to the comprehension of the book, but it prepares the Hellenistic readers for this comprehension. It starts with a familiar object, the Logos, works upon it, transforms it—implicitly opposing false Christologies—in order to substitute for it Jesus Christ as the futrruiis Mt, or in
the readers for whom the author wrote, and he employed it as the nearest equivalent in order to suggest to them the standpoint from which they could view Jesus. "Introite, nam et hie Xoyor" (TS, 1899, p. 295). The affinities of the term were not confined to the idiosyncrasies of the writer's own mind, nor does it follow that the Logos-idea, with its dogmatic substructure of Incarnation-theology, is the final and permanent expression of Christ's person. The historical evidence points to a much more modest scope. It also distinctly indicates Philonic influence, however vague and indirect that influence may have been. There is a modern reaction in many quarters (Loofs, Leit-faden, pp. 10-12) against the older view which referred Johannine thought too exclusively to Alexandrian influence, as though Philo were some Alexandrian John the baptizer. The reaction is healthy, especially in its emphasis upon the OT elements1 in the Johannine theology. But, as Reville has shown, even with these germs or anticipations, the Philonic filiation 3 is unmistakable. The appropriation of the Logos-idea in early Christianity was merely another instance of the way in which Hebrew originality and independence spoiled the Egyptians for the sake of its own purposes, upon the threshold of fresh progress. It was for this fine issue that the genius who composed the fourth gospel was so finely touched, for the translation of the evangelic tradition into a semi-allegorical form, which— although not final—was most timely and vital. [EBi,ii. 1799-1810,2537f.] The wider outlook already won in the third gospel and Acts is even more conspicuous in the spacious atmosphere of Hellenism which surrounds the fourth gospel.^ Yet the passion for exhibiting Jesus as the climax and fulfilment of Messianic Judaism, is as plain here as the corresponding effort to present him under the category of the Absolute,
order to reveal it as this Jesus Christ. The moment this takes place, the Logos-idea is allowed to drop." It is true that the author does not seek to prove Christ's divinity by means of external philosophical and cosmological considerations, but it is doubtful whether the idea of the Logos is so sharply and totally dropped as Harnack argues, in the rest of the gospel: cp. Eesoh (TU, x. 4, p. 41 f.), and Holtzmann (ZwTh, 1893, pp. 385-406; NTTh, il p. 396 f.; HO, rv. £ pp. 40-45), and for the connection of the prologue with the gospel, Prof. K. A. Falconer [Exp.6 March 1897, pp. 222-234), Baldensperger (Prolog, pp. 165-171), and Wendt (Joh.-Evglm. pp. 205-215). Also Schmieden EBi, ii. 2534-2536. Otherwise Januaris, ZNW (1901), 13-25.
1 In A. H. Franke's monograph (Das Alte Testament oei Joh. 1885) the author of the gospel is made a Jewish-Christian of legal proclivities: see Riehm's critique (SE, 1884, pp. 563-582). The use of italics in the text of the present edition will serve to bring out the facts upon which such theories rest. Yet, even when full allowance is made for these, it must be said that to discard the Philonic atmosphere is to assign early Christianity a self-isolating tendency within distinctly Judaistie lines, for which the evidence is quite insufficient. By the last quarter of the first century, and to some extent before that, outside influences were beginning to make themselves felt on most sides of the primitive faith, mystical, symbolic, and legendary.
8 Still, Thoma's standard discussion is not so balanced as that of O. Holtzmann. The latter rightly gives a less academic and more natural view of the book; he takes it, not as the exposition of a religious philosophy in historical guise, but as a life of Jesus written for the purposes of Christian devotion by an author who, in all likelihood of Jewish birth himself, had been influenced by Alexandrian Judaism, and was acquainted with Pauline ideas. This does not exclude the possibility that the Logosspeculations throve in Ephesus almost independently of Alexandria (Sabatier, Revue de VHist. des Religions, 1897, p. 173f.).
» O. Holtzmann, Neulest. Zeitgesch. §§ 38-40, pp. 232-245. As Kuenen points out (Relig. Israel (Eng. tr.) iii. p. 202 f.), the fruits of Hellenism were plucked by philosophy and Christianity rather than by Judaism. "In the history of the Jewish religion after the year 70 of our era, it may be passed over almost in silence." Cp. Harnack (ThLz, 1889, p. 173; Das Wesen d. Christent. 1900, pp. 126 f., ETr. pp. 199 f.).
God's Son in deed and word. These tendencies are alike due to the fact that the book is preoccupied with the semi-Christian and antiChristian beliefs of the age; and yet it is easier to feel in its pages the contemporary problem of Judaism than even the prevailing errors and needs of Hellenism. Here we have the conception of an antagonism between Jesus and the Jews, which steadily deepens through revelation and unbelief, until it culminates in his rejection and their doom. But this is more than an interpretation of the life of Jesus.1 It is meant to be a symbol of the actual outcome, in history, of the relation between Christianity and Judaism during the years 30-90 A.d. The experience of Christ2 is made the microcosm of the church's career (compare Jo 12*° with Ac 2827f). Under the dialogue and discourses there is the underlying consciousness of Judaism as an active and subtle propaganda, whose rivalry and polemic liave to be dialectically met. This helps to explain the curiously distant tone in which the Jews are spoken of throughout the book (cp. M. Arnold, God and tlie Bible, pp. 142, 143), and throws light upon theological debates like those in chapters 5-10, which turn upon questions and controversies vital mainly to the age of the Epigoni, when the character and authority of Jesus had come to be openly canvassed by Jewish critics.
After the political overthrow of Judaism, Christianity was free to trace back her origin to the older national faith, without the fear of being misunderstood, and without that need of asserting her distinctiveness and independence, which pressed for example on Paul at an earlier stage (Gal l1324). Even then Jerusalem had been acknowledged as in a sense the centre of the world (Ro 1519, arco 'Itpovo-dKrui). But this germ was developed in the later writings, in Acts where the writer's pragmatism leads him to find the start of Christianity in the old capital and in its church (ll—81), in the apocalypse of John with its "new Jerusalem"— although the language is poetic, and the aim visionary—and especially in the fourth gospel, where Jerusalem absorbs almost all the ministry of Jesus. It is present to a lesser degree in the synoptic gospels, where the Jerusalem tendency is only developing. Christianity in fact came to be more and more put forward (cp. Ep. Barnabas, passim) as the fruit and fulfilment of Judaism. This view must liave prevailed of course in embryo previous to 70 A.d., but it was only after that epoch that the conception of the new religion as a sublimated Judaism could become characteristic and dominant in the literature (vide Hilgenfeld on "the anti-Judaism of the fourth gospel": ZwTh, 1898, pp. 507-517).
1 rati 'r« ^i '/ y:» r rati, wet friffTlCrr.ri in \r,roZ( i*Tl» 0 Xptrrit 9 vltf Tt:j Out;, xm'i jr« *irrlvt91tt
?«. I'xhti i> ri i,ifum *imZ (Jo 20"). It is curious to read the almost contemporary language of Tacitus at the close of his biography of Agricola, with its grave ethical beauty: "Jil llliae qnoque uxorique praeccperim, sic patris, sic mariti nieiuoriaui venerari, lit omnia facta dictnque eius secum resolvnnt, formamque ac tiguram animi magis quuni corporis compleetautur . . . ut vnltus hoininum. ita simulacra vultus imbecilla ac moitalia sunt, forma mentis aetema, quani teuere et exprimere nou per alienam materiam et arteui, sed tuis ipse moribus possis." God fully and finally revealed in Jesus—that is the theme of the fourth gospel. To justify and commend this conviction is the author's purpose, and under this dominating tendency history lieeomes essentially the handmaiden of faith. See this argued most capably by Schiirer in the work cited below, and compare Philo's use of Moses to illustrate the Logos.
a Perhaps this helps to account for the argumentative aspect of Christ s selfrevelation in the gospel, which contrasts strangely with the synoptic method of selfexpression through deeds and dialogue. "Ici le Dieu argumentc atin de demontrer sa divinite. C'est la rose se faisant disputeuse pour prouver son parfuin " (Renan, L'figlise Chrit. p. 62). Sec also above, pp. 35-36.
In regard to the question of the date, then, the Johannine problem has now been brought to a somewhat final if approximate (E. H. Hall, Papias, pp. 301-314) conclusion—and that upon fairly traditional lines. Formerly the gospel was put far down into the second century among currents of Gnosticism, Montanism, and the Easter-controversv in Asia Minor (Baur= 170 A.d., Zeller = before 150 c). With Hilgenfeld"(pp. 132140) and Scholten, Tlioma (Die Gen. d. Johan. Evangel. 1882) came down to 140 c.,1 followed by Schmiedel (EBi, ii. 2550 f.), after Martineau (Seat of Authority, pp. 189-243), H. J. Holtzmann (HC, IV. i. pp. 14, 15) and Pfleiderer (Urc. pp. 776-786). Still further, 110-115 A.d., or later, was adopted by Reuss, Sabatier, and Renan (L'Eglise Ghre'tienne, chaps, iv. v., dating gospel and epistles in Hadrian's reign), after Eeim (i. pp. 183-207), who subsequently relapsed to 130 A.d. Dr. Cone (Gospel Criticism, pp. 224253) inclines to 125-150; Wendt and Jiilicher (formerly, but now, Einl. 317,100-110 A.d.) to the first quarter of the second century, while 100-160 is advocated by Oscar Holtzmann (Dos Joh. Evalm. 1887) and A. Reville (130-150). Forty years ago, however, Ritschl (Eitistehung, p. 48 n.) had broken quite away from the second-century date, and his instinct has been corroborated by some modern movements in criticism which tend to fix the gospel between 90 and 100. "We may look forward," wrote Lightfoot, "to the time when it will be held discreditable to the reputation of any critic for sobriety and judgment to assign to this gospel any later date than the end of the first century, or the very beginning of the second" (Exp. * i. 10). The forecast has only been a trifle too sanguine. Besides the fact that a commentary (Herakleon's) could be written upon it, as an authoritative book, by 160 A.d., the use of the gospel by Justin Martyr (147 A.d.) and Basileides (c. 125, quoted in the Philosophumena, vii. 22) points to its circulation (Zahn, GK, i. pp. 220-262) comparatively early m the second century. This furnishes a terminus ad quern; and the argument is reinforced, for those who accept the Johannine authorship, by the tradition (but cp. Harnack, Chron. pp. 320 f., 656 f.) which extends the lifetime and Ephesian residence of John down to the reign of Trajan, when the apostle would be
Like a sea-jelly weak on Patmos strand,
To tell dry sea-beach gazers how I fared
When there was mid-sea, and the mighty things;
Loft to repeat, "I saw, I heard, I knew,"
And go all over the old ground again,
With antichrist already in the world.
Generally between 95 and 115 — nearer the latter year, in all probability, than the former—the gospel may be conjectured to have been written,2 separated from the period of its subject by an interval which, it is interesting to notice, roughly corresponds with that which lies between Columba and his biographer Adamnan. Sanday,3 after Godct
1 Relvine; on the rather hazardous interpretation of 6° ll48 as reflections of the Jewish revolt and annihilation under Bar-kokhba, 135 A.d. For a conclusive rejection of the older idea, that the date of the gospel was affected by its supposed references to the quarto-deciraan controversy, cp. Drummond (AJT, i. pp. 601-637).
2 So Wilkinson (Four Lectures on Early History of Gospels), attributing the authorship to John the presbyter. Similarly McGiffert (A A, pp. 609-614). Apart from the question of authorship (which—if decided in favour of John the apostle—imposes c. 100 as a limit), the main help in fixing this approximate date, as has been indicated, comes from the results gained in the criticism of the synoptic gospels.
3 "The present position of the Johannine Question" (Exp.* v. 391). Zahn