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son of John, lovest thou me more than these do?" He says to him.
“Yes, Lord : thou knowest that I love thee.” He says to him, “Feed my 16 lambs.” Once more he says to him a second time, “Simon, son of John,
lovest thou me?” He says to him, “Yes, Lord : thou knowest that I 17 love thee.” He says to him, “Be a shepherd to my sheep." For the
third time he says to him, “Simon, son of John, lovest thou me?" Peter was grieved because he said to him, “ Lovest thou me?" for the third
time, and he said to him, “Lord, thou knowest all things : thou seest 18 that I love thee.” Jesus says to him, “Feed my sheep. Truly, I tell thee, truly,
When thou wast young, thou didst gird thyself and walk where thou
didst choose : But when thou growest old, thou shalt hold out thy hands, and
another shall gird thee and bring thee where thou dost not choose." 19 (He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he was to honour 20 God.) And after saying this he says to him, “Follow me.” On turning
round, Peter sees the disciple whom Jesus loved, following the one who
leant back on his breast at the supper and said, “Lord, who is thy 21 betrayer ?” So on seeing him Peter says to Jesus, “Lord, and what 22 about this man?” Jesus says to him, “If I choose that he should survive 23 till I come, what is that to thee? Follow thou me.” So this rumour
spread abroad among the brothers, namely, that that disciple was not to die. Yet Jesus did not tell him he was not to die; he said, “If I choose
that he should survive till I come, what is that to thee?" 24 This is the disciple who bears witness concerning these things and who
has written these things; and his witness, we know, is true.] 25 [[Now there are many other things besides, which Jesus did; were
they written one by one, I suppose that not even the world itself would have room for the books that would be written.17
THE LETTERS OF JOHN
For the historical understanding of these letters the data are scanty and ambiguous :
(a) The relative position of the fourth gospel and the first epistle.1 The remarkable similarities of thought and diction between the two writings indicate a common situation. Both writings are addressed to practically the same condition of things in the Christian community, although they approach it from different sides. The epistle naturally has a more marked polemical tendency than the gospel, and it has been conjectured that the author of the epistle endeavoured in the interests of popular Christianity to recast the ideas of the fourth gospel and thereby introduce them to a wider public.? Such a motive and method is quite credible. Whether it involves a dual authorship or not (cp. Jülicher, Einl. pp. 155–158, and Salmond, DB, ii. pp. 737, 738) is a further question, and a question for which no evidence-least of all the stylistic resemblance-supplies a final answer, although probabilities favour unity. At any rate the writing is a product of the Johannine school in Ephesus, a postscript rather than (as ē.g. Renan and Tolstoi think) a preface to the larger history. Taking the epistle with most (cp. especially Pfleiderer, Urc. p. 791 f., and 0. Holtzmann, op. cit. pp. 166-171, but on other side Bartlet, AA, p. 435 f.) as subsequent in time to the gospel, we find that its period lies not earlier than 95-100 A.D. It is the application and reproduction of the Johannine ideas, addressed to some definite and local circle (“non videtur peregre misisse, sed coram impertiisse auditoribus," Bengel), and yet passing beyond these limits to the needs of wider Christendom. Here too, simple truth” has been “miscalled simplicity.” But the verdict is not adequate. Patiently the author turns and repeats his leading themes, like a teacher, with a monotony that wins upon one till it becomes often impressive and—within its own limits—attractive.3 “ The style is not flowing and articulated; the sentences come like minute
1 Exhaustively discussed by Holtzmann, Jpth (1881), pp. 690-712, (1882), pp. 316–342, whose arguments are reviewed by Weiss (-Meyer, 1888, Epp. Joh. pp. 4-9). The differences are held by numerous critics (e.g. in this country S. Davidson, M. Arnold, and Martineau, Seat of Authority, pp. 509–512) to be incompatible in a single author. Wendt (Joh. Evglm. pp. 158-162) also finds that the resemblances refer to the source, not to the editor of the fourth gospel.
2 Cp. Schmiedel, EWK, 11. 34, p. 368. The absence of title or greeting gives this
intimate circle ; but there is no evidence to show that the readers owed their Christian faith to the author.
3 Weiss, NTTh, ii. pp. 317, 318. “His whole spiritual work is a contemplative sinking of himself in a small circle of great truths.” At the same time, in comparison with the preceding and the subsequent letters of the NT, there is no denying that in 1 John the range of interest and ideas is limited if not meagre, and that the treatment is frequently tautological, although the style often approaches limpidity and the conceptions grandeur.
guns, as they would drop from a natural Hebrew. The writer moves indeed amidst that order of religious ideas which meets us in the fourth gospel, and which was that of the Greek world wherein he found himself. He moves amongst these new ideas, however, not with the practical felicity of the evangelist, but with something of helplessness, although the depth and serene beauty of his spirit give to all he says an infinite impressiveness and charm” (Arnold).
(6) The evidence of the errors 1 presupposed (1 Jn 46 218 222). As in the case of the fourth gospel, these have been variously and vaguely interpreted as dualism, doketism, Gnostic, Basilidian, and Montanist tendencies, etc. Consequently 140-150 A.D. has been taken as the period of the first epistle's composition (e.g. by Pfleiderer, Urc. p. 790 f.), owing to the supposed development of Gnostic errors. The comparative absence of emphasis upon the personalities of the Logos and the Spirit is probably due, upon this theory, to the monarchian dread of approximating to the Gnostic aeons which swarmed between man and the Divine being. After the results reached in regard to the gospel, however, it is unnecessary to look for any period later than the opening decade of the second century, since the religious and moral atmosphere of the one writing is essentially that of the other. Among the incipient forms of the Cerinthian heresy the epistle is accordingly to be placed. So most of the recent editors ; Westcott, Haupt, Weiss, Plummer (CGT). The two main features of heresy against which the writer sets up the true faith, spring from a loosened hold of the historical tradition; they are (i.) the denial of the divine sonship of the incarnate (42) Jesus, and (ii.) a practical libertinism which, as in the later pastoral epistles, was marked by antinomian principles. This false and speculative teaching, with its Christological basis and ethical (34)consequences, forms the occasion for the positive statement of Christianity as a body of truth based on tradition and experience, that is conveyed in the pages of this anonymous epistle. The writer, too, like the later author of James, has to face an abuse of Pauline ideas, which failed to maintain the vital connection between uprightness by faith and the exercise of uprightness in moral acts (229 310 3171).
The second and third letters are even more elusive than the first. Both spring from the same school of thought and feeling, if not from the
1 Internal dangers not external persecutions are the topic that absorbs the writer. On other grounds it is highly probable, if not certain, that the epistle falls later than the period covered by the Domitian persecution ; but it is scarcely safe to argue that it must have been “written in a time of peace as it contains no allusion to” any such rough experiences (BI, p. 454). The cast of the writer's idealism makes it unlikely that he would have cared to notice such temporal and outward circumstances. His interests are elsewhere ar
here and higher : his atinosphere is too rarified for such sublunary concerns. The esoteric tone of the gospel is in fact reproduced here, along with a broad and denationalised interest. "It is the view of a temper wrapped in itself, a view which could satisfy and promote the quiet life of an isolated community, but could not render possible the task involved in the grand mission to the world. For that it had no taste" (Weizsäcker, AA, ii. p. 297).
2 Cp. Häring Th A (1892), pp. 173–200, besides Weiss, INT, ii. pp. 175–197 (and in Meyer), and Keim, i. p. 200 f. (“The epistle and the gospel are the evident, acute, and comprehensive answer to this Cerinthus”). On the curious attempt (Jn 1934, 1 Jn 56-8) at a semi-mystical allegorising of baptism, after the Philonic pattern, which is common to both writings, cp. Abbott, EB, article “Gospels,” pp. 828–830 : “It reveals an exaggerated notice of the importance of baptism by water, against which the author feels compelled to contend.” But it is also a bit of polemic against Cerinthus and the school of John the Baptist, who laid excessive stress upon the baptism of Jesus.
same author ; 1 and both also are unpretending notes evidently subsequent to 1 John, whether they were written by the apostle, or-as was widely and early felt in the church (Jerome, De Vir. Illust. 3)—by the Presbyter John. The doctrinal and ecclesiastical circumstances which they reflect have suggested 130-140 A.D. as the date of their origin. So Hilgenfeld (Einl. pp. 682-694), Holtzmann (HC, IV. 2, pp. 268, 272), and Weizsäcker (AA, ii. 239), who reckon the epistles as products of the Johannine school which were composed about the time when the great Gnostic systems began to rise. But this is to interpret far too rigidly their occasional references. Their atmosphere is similar to, though less developed than, that of the “pastorals ” ; so much at least can be traced in their incidental allusions. Also, the similarity of ecclesiastical life to that portrayed in the Didachê (c. 130 A.D.) becomes significant only when it is remembered that the latter implies a system which has been in existence for some time previously. The letters may be put, therefore, into the opening decades of the century 2 when that system was in process of consolidation (J. Réville, Les origines de l'Épiscop. pp. 204–208).
The emphasis in the second epistle is on doctrine. But the false teaching which is insidiously permeating the church is apparently none other than that already controverted in the first epistle. Although the third epistle is addressed to an individual, the second seems to imply a community veiled under the semi-poetic, semi-playful title of “the elect Lady.” The tenor of the counsels suits the circumstances of those who were the members (or “children”) of this church, in their exposure to heresy and uncharitableness. Evidently, ultra-spiritualism was also one of the dangers of that critical period. Its failure to do justice to the historical basis of the faith had to be corrected by a sharp recall to the apostolic tradition in which that basis was preserved.
In the third epistle, again, the organisation of the church comes into greater prominence. If Harnack's ingenious theory 3 be correct in the main, it is a ray of light upon the passage of the early church from the earlier and undeveloped state of primitive itinerant preachers to one where the more settled order of monarchical bishops (like Diotrephes) and churchofficials was assuming control ; though in some aspects Diotrephes seems
1 Réville (loc. cit.) remarks: “Il faut se représenter la coexistence de ces courants intellectuels différents dans les petits cercles mystiques de l'Asie-Mineure grecque, de la même facon'que s'associent, dans certaines sociétés mystiques de la fin du moyen âge, le légalisme monastique et la plus large indépendence à l'égard de la théologie ecclésiastique officielle." Eusebius (HE, Iv. 22) mentions a certain Theobutis (Thebutis) who, according to Hegesippus, corrupted a pure church (tcpoivor) with his teaching (& zocis patcídos), owing to anger at missing a bishopric. A prototype or comrade of Diotrephes ! Brückner (Chron. pp. 302-306), I observe, agrees that the two smaller epistles are due to one hand ; he is not sure if this writer also wrote the first epistle, but in any case it was not the author of the gospel. There is really no reason, however, to doubt the obvious fact-noticed long ago by Erasmus and Grotius, and amply confirmed by modern criticism—that these notes are to be relegated to John the presbyter.
2 Adeney (BI, pp. 455-458), like Weiss and Westcott, puts them towards the end of the first century, a position which is of course necessary if they are ascribed to John the apostle. Zahn goes even earlier, to the 9th decade of the first century Dinl. ii. pp. 576-582), and is followed by Bartlet (AA, pp. 418-433).
3 Cp. TÙ, xv. 3. “Es ist der Kampf der alten patriarchalischen und provinzialen Missionsorganization gegen die sich konsolidierende Einzelgemeinde, die zum Zweck ihrer Konsolidierung und strengen Abschliessung nach aussen den monarchischen Episkopat aus ihrer Mitte hervortreibt” (p. 21); also HD, i. p. 213f. But see reviews by Baldensperger (Prolog. p. 148), Krüger (ZwTh, 1898, pp. 307–311), and Hilgenfeld (Ibid. 316-320).
more like the champion of the old order. It is at any rate the private note of an ecclesiastic, varying from irate criticism of an influential rival to generous approval of his correspondent's hospitality and character. Official rights are in the air, and here as in Clem. Rom. (13–15) their possessors insist upon deference. Order and unity are the object of desire within the church, as the Ignatian epistles clearly indicate, although the origin of this movement to hegemony (Palestinian Jewish Christianity, or Asiatic Hellenism) remains far from clear.
Questions of authorship 1 and object apart, however, the three Johannine epistles undoubtedly follow in the wake of the fourth gospel. It is safest to print them immediately after it, as the epistles themselves are so isolated in the NT that they fail to furnish evidence 2 which would enable us to determine their relative position with any more definiteness, from literary affinities with the subsequent records. There is equally little evidence for the supposition that the first epistle was composed after the others.
Evidence for the late stage of development in the apostolic consciousness is furnished incidentally by the use of the collective name åvoixplotos. The word, while evidently a familiar term and implying a tradition (1 Jn 43. 6, åknkóare), only occurs--and that figuratively-in 1-2 Jn (cp. the quotation and commentary in Polyk. Ad Philip. vii.). From denoting, as in 2 Thess and Apoc 13, 17 (probably earlier portions of the book), a personage or world-power, primarily Jewish and secondarily pagan, the idea has become that of a principle, i.e. the Gnostic denial of Jesus' true humanity. This heresy 3 (a spirit, 1 Jn 43) may again be represented in numerous individuals. These exponents of the idea become "antichrists,” as they oppose and displace Christ, by their belief in other divine powers, idolatrous and untrue (vide Baldensperger, Prolog. pp. 145–147). In the crisis and change which mark the opening of the second century, this untoward result has already taken place within the sphere of Christianity (kai vûv ... 78n). The “great” church is being driven to the verge of a distinction between the visible and the invisible ecclesia (2 Ti 220). Her increasing self-consciousness demands that the cleavage (Jn 179, 1 Jn 516, 2 Jn 10) be recognised between herself and the heretics of the day. Through her communion, founded on apostolic tradition (1 Jn 11-5 46), communion with God is alone possible for men.
From the point of historical interest, then, these writings help inci. dentally to corroborate (1 Jn 11-4, 2 Jn 12) the traditional theory that even alongside of the written gospels oral teaching with its systematic catechism 4 kept a tenacious existence and supplemented the records, just
1 2 and 3 John were in all likelihood written by John the presbyter, as Jerome admits. 1 John at any rate cannot have been written by the man who wrote Apoc. 2, 3. The contrast between concrete pregnant advice and abstract review is fatal to identity of authorship.
22 Jn 7 is too vague to be taken as a reflection of the Domitianic persecution. It could have been written at almost any time after 65 A.D.
3 The evidence for the existence of a party who perverted Paulinism (1 Jo 37, etc.) within the church, is scarcely adequate, although the fact is perfectly probable.
nain issues of Paul's epoch are of course ancient history to this writer. 4 “There must be, we admit, a fairly constant impact. A wandering voice will not fill the mind, it will prove like a fine symphony heard once and then only faintly remembered. ... But, given a long-continued and sustained personal influence over receptive minds, we think that the power of the living voice as an organ of reason cannot be dispensed with or surpassed” (Spectator, March 1899, p. 411, “On the Living Voice and the Printed Page”). Cp. Žahn, GK, i. p. 840 f., on oral tradition and the gospels. An interesting instance in Pliny's Epp. ii. 3.