Imagini ale paginilor

the Saviour's birth as heralded by angels 1 to shepherds watching their flocks by night (ii. 8-14), and His ministry as opening in a despised village of Galilee with the gracious words of the evangelic prophet, "The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he anointed me to preach good tidings to the poor" (iv. 18); it is no accident that as its first chapters resound with the voice of praise and thanksgiving for the birth of the Saviour, its closing verses tell of the disciples' joy as they returned to Jerusalem with the blessing of the Ascended Saviour resting on their heads, to be "continually in the temple, blessing God." It is because this Gospel from first to last tells the "good tidings of great joy which shall be to all the people" (ii. 10), and proclaims a Saviour who is to be “a light for revelation to the Gentiles and the glory of (Thy people) Israel" (ii. 32),-in whose name "repentance and remission of sins should be preached unto all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem " (xxiv. 47). Luke is indeed the most evangelical of all the evangelists, and as such he has fitly preserved for us the first precious germs of Christian hymnology, which, after eighteen centuries, are still prized as an aid to worship by almost all sections of the Christian Church, viz. the Magnificat (i. 46-55), the Benedictus (i. 68-79), the Gloria in Excelsis (ii. 14), and the Nunc Dimittis (ii. 29-32).



[ocr errors]

It adds to the importance of this Gospel, styled by Renan "the most beautiful book in the world," that about one-third of its contents is peculiar to itself, consisting mainly of chapters ix. 51-xviii. 14, relating to the Saviour's last journey to Jerusalem.

1 ii. 8-14. The ministry of angels both to Christ and to His people is more prominent in this than in any other Gospel; the same feature is noticeable in the Book of Acts, in which angels are mentioned twenty-two times.

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

1. Authorship.-It is a weighty and significant fact that until the close of the eighteenth century the Johannine authorship of this Gospel was never seriously challenged. Epiphanius, indeed (380 A.D.), tells us of a very small| party who had ascribed it to Cerinthus, a heretical contemporary of the Apostle John at Ephesus; but they seem to have had no other reason for rejecting it than their aversion to its teaching. During the present century no question has been the subject of more controversy; and scarcely any can be of more importance, considering its close bearing on the doctrinal aspects of Christianity, and especially on the divinity of Jesus Christ.

To a large extent the question is overtaken by the line of evidence already indicated in connection with the Gospels as a whole (Chap. II. § 2). Although not quoted by name till late in the second century (by Theophilus), the external evidence for this Gospel is in some respects stronger than for any of the others. It is specially quoted by such early Gnostic writers as Basilides (125 A.D.), Valentinus (145 A.D., whose favourite phrases were borrowed from its opening verses), and Heracleon (a disciple of Valentinus), who wrote a commentary on it -being the first known commentary on any part of the

New Testament. It has also to be borne in mind that John himself survived till near the close of the first century, so that a comparatively short interval was left between his death and the time when the four Gospels are known to have been universally accepted by the Church (185 A.D.). For this interval it so happens that, apart from the Gnostic testimony already adduced, we have a direct chain of testimony consisting of a very few strong and well-connected links. At the lower end of the chain we have Irenæus, one of the most important witnesses to the general reception of the four Gospels towards the close of the second century. Born in Asia Minor, where John spent the last twenty or thirty years of his life, he became Bishop of Lyons in Gaul, which had a close ecclesiastical connection with his native land. Early in life he was brought into familiar contact with Polycarp (born 70 A.D.), a disciple of the Apostle John, who was for more than forty years Bishop of Smyrna and was martyred 155-156 A.D. Among other allusions which he makes to Polycarp, he says (Eus. v. 20), in a letter to his friend Florinus (177 A.D.), "I can describe the very place in which the blessed Polycarp used to sit when he discoursed, and his goings out and his comings in, and his manner of life and his personal appearance, and the discourses which he held before the people, and how he would describe his intercourse with John and with the rest who had seen the Lord, and how he would relate their words. And whatsoever things he had heard from them about the Lord and about His miracles, Polycarp, as having received them from eye-witnesses of the life of the Word, would relate altogether in accordance with the Scriptures."

It is beyond dispute that this Irenæus had accepted the fourth Gospel as a genuine work of the Apostle John. Is it credible that he would have done so, if it had not

been acknowledged by his teacher Polycarp, who had been a disciple of John? And if it was accepted by Polycarp as a genuine writing, notwithstanding its marked dissimilarity to the other Gospels, what better evidence could we have that John was really its author, and that it was accepted as his, from the very first, by the leaders of the Church in Asia Minor? 1

The following are the principal facts in John's life, and the circumstances under which he is said to have written his Gospel.

The younger son of Zebedee, a Galilean fisherman, who was in a position to have "hired servants," he was a follower of the Baptist before joining Christ's fellowship. To his mother Salome (supposed by some to be the sister of the Virgin Mary, Mark xv. 40; John xix. 25), who was one of the most devoted followers of Jesus, he and his brother James seem to have been indebted for much of their enthusiasm. They were surnamed by Jesus "Boanerges" (sons of thunder), in allusion to the latent fervour and vehemence of their nature, of which we are not without tokens (Matt. xx. 20-24; Luke ix. 49-54). During Christ's trial and crucifixion John was a close and deeply -interested observer, receiving a charge from his dying Master to act the part of a son to the bereaved Mary, which he faithfully carried out (John xviii. 15, 16; xix. 25, 26). After the resurrection we find him associated with Peter on several important occasions (Acts iii., iv.), but not a single discourse of his is recorded in the Book of Acts. He still continued, however, to be revered as a leader of the Church, for we find him referred to by St. Paul (Gal. ii. 9), apparently in

1 This argument is further strengthened by the fact that not a few quotations from this Gospel are found in the writings of Justin Martyr, who wrote before the middle of the second century, and was well acquainted with the teaching of the Church in Asia Minor, his Dialogue with Trypho the Jew having taken place in Ephesus.

connection with the Council of Jerusalem (50 a.d.), as one of those who were 66 reputed to be pillars." In his later life, after the fall of Jerusalem (70 A.D.), according to a general and well-supported tradition, John resided in Ephesus, as bishop of the Churches in Asia Minor which had been founded by Paul, and was banished under Domitian to the island of Patmos (where he wrote the Book of Revelation, Rev. i. 9), returning to Ephesus in the reign of Nerva, and living there till after the accession of Trajan (98 A.D.).

It was in Ephesus, which had now become the chief centre of Christianity, and was beginning to be infected by the errors of which Paul had warned its elders at Miletus (Acts xx. 29, 30), that the earliest traditions represent John to have written his Gospel. He is said to have done so on the entreaty, and with the subsequent approval, of the Apostle Andrew and other leading members of the Church, in order to supplement the teaching of the three Gospels already published, and to counteract the errors which were beguiling some from the simplicity of the faith.

Turning now to the evidence of its authorship afforded by the Gospel itself, we may first of all note the fact that the whole tone of the book would give one the impression that it was written by some one who was familiar with the inner life of Christ and His apostles (i. 35-51; ii. 11, 17, 22; iv. 6, 8, 27; vi. 5, 8, 68-71; ix. 2; xi. 16; xii. 21, 22; xiii.; xviii. 16; xx.). This circumstance points to one of the twelve disciples as the author—in accordance with the statement (i. 14), “We beheld his glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father," and the explicit declaration in the 24th verse of the last chapter (the whole of which seems to form a postscript added by the apostle and endorsed by his companions),—“This is the disciple which beareth wit

« ÎnapoiContinuă »