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man (for the doctrine of the Incarnation does not appear in the teachings of Jesus), a righteous man, and one who works miracles as great as were wrought by Moses or Elijah; but yet simply a man, on whom at his baptism a great measure of the spirit descended. A baptism, too, of repentance for the remission of sins! One who does not even declare himself the Christ till at the very close of his earthly career, and then not by way of teaching, it being forced from him, as it were, by judicial process.
Then John the “Baptist,” too, inspired prophet as he was, must have understood the greatness of the Christ_his true office as the Lamb of God to take away the sins of the world—and must equally have known him to be no other than Jesus, yet he is represented as ignorant of the fact; he does not know whether Jesus is the Christ or not.
And the Christ, our Paschal Lamb, is represented as having himself eaten the Passover, and as not having been slain till the day after. Surely, this cannot be; God must have caused that the true Passover should have been slain on the appointed day. *
* We believe most critics are persuaded that the fourth evangelist had before him the other three ; Professor Plumptre, however, thought the objections to this theory “altogether insuperable.” “It is surely enough,” he wrote (1866), “to refer to the perplexing differences between his narrative and that of the other three Gospels as to the day and hour of crucifixion. It is altogether incredible that he should, either unconsciously or deliberately, have left these difficulties unexplained, if he had the other records before him (“Christ and Christendom," p. 73). But it is possible to believe (and, perhaps, to some impossible not to believe) that the great number and glaring nature of the differences
So when the Pauline Christian of whom we have been writing ponders these and other variations from what he feels sure must have been the facts, to what conclusion does he come? We may conceive him asking about the Gospels, and demanding who wrote these histories, these professed narrations respecting Christ and his gospel. They are anonymous. And he is convinced that though they may contain much that is true, yet, in regard to many chief matters, whoever wrote them, they cannot be true. Evidently (to him) the men who handed these down as the sum and substance of the life and teachings of Jesus were men, as they are described in the books themselves, "without understanding.” They have ignored the main features of the gospel, and have dwelt on many trivial matters. The books, as transcripts of the life of Christ, are altogether unworthy of him. Did the writers know their own ignorance? Presumably not, or they would have prayed for the Spirit to bring to their remembrance the most weighty things that Jesus had said to them ;* or if, as was most likely, the writers were not the original apostles, still they could have prayed for the Spirit to teach them what Jesus had said and done. They were blind and knew it not, or surely they would have sought and obtained an unction from the Holy One, giving the knowledge of all things.*
together form a total which could not have existed by mere accident, which could only have been the result of a deliberate rejection of the Synoptic narrative in every such case of difference; and that it was, in fact, a strong conviction of the untruth of his predecessors' statements that caused the fourth evangelist to issue counter statements.
* See John xiv. 26.
It is necessary, then, that there should be a true record (especially that the existing ones so radically unsound may be supplanted) of the most important teachings of Jesus Christ; and all the more that there is now no strong hope of his immediate appearance, of that advent which is being indefinitely postponed, which, indeed, could never have been promised in the words given in these Gospels.
Seeing, then (let us suppose him to continue), that we have no faithful narrative of the Gospel, and that, though there is such need, it cannot be obtained of man, all the apostles having been long dead, why should not I write as well as another, yea, why not rather, since the Spirit has caused me to discern the need thereof?
I have faith that God will reveal even this unto me, and give me that anointing of the Spirit which teacheth all things, “all mysteries, and all knowledge. Can it be denied to the prayer of faith? Impossible, seeing also that it is most surely in accordance with the will of God.
Such a man as this would therefore pray that the divine unction should rest upon him, and teach him the very words that Jesus had uttered, those words of chief importance, pregnant with spirit and life. Praying thus in faith, in like faith he commences his work, deliberately striking the Logos note to bring himself into harmony with what shall be revealed to him i.e. in him); and, being impressed with the conviction—since the Logos is the Christ, who is the Incarnate Word—that there must, in the first place, have been full and explicit testimony to the Messiahship of Jesus, and to the fact that he, the Word made flesh, was the Lamb of God to take away the sins of the world, we find, accordingly, that the Baptist is most emphatic in his testimony,* having been first himself convinced by a sign from heaven.†
* See i John ii. 20, 27.
It must, he concludes, be untrue that Simon Peter was first to profess faith in the Messiahship, and that not till near the end of Jesus' life; nor could the Saviour have uttered the words put into his mouth, to the effect that no human being had informed Simon of it. So the author of the fourth Gospel represents the Christhood of Jesus as having been known to Simon from the first, since it was expressly told him by his brother Andrew, who had it from the Baptist; for, to the fourth evangelist, discipleship to Jesus implied a profession of belief in him as the Christ. I
Jesus had definitely instructed his disciples not to go (with the good tidings of the approaching kingdom) into any city of the Samaritans, but to confine themselves to the house of Israel. But it appears to our author impossible that such commands could have been given ; accordingly he suppresses and, after his manner, obliquely nullifies them, for his Jesus himself John i. 29–31. + John i. 33, 34.
# John i. 35-51.
goes into Samaria, and reveals to a woman of that district that he is the Christ, and he obtained many disciples among the Samaritans.*
The main purpose of this Gospel is acknowledged at its close,f for since the existing narratives are not fitted to confirm any believer, being rather likely to raise doubts as to the Messiahship than to allay them, it is necessary that a true account be given of the prominent points of Jesus' teaching, and especially that respecting his own rank in the spiritual world, and the universality of his redeeming grace.
As the John of the Apocalypse places himself in spirit—in imagination-forward into the day of the Lord, so does the fourth evangelist transport himself backward into the day of the Lord already past, making as vivid a picture to himself as he is able, fondly believing that he is so guided by the Holy Spirit as to reproduce actual occurrences, and the very words uttered by the Christ on many important occasions. He thus from time to time continues his work as thoughts occur to him, inserting from the prior Gospels such narratives as commend themselves, inserting also what he deems necessary to counteract the errors of those Gospels, and probably he interweaves some traditions of Jesus as they rose to his mind, such as, by the laws of association of ideas, happened to fit in with his train of thought. That Jesus should not personally have given the Holy Ghost to his disciples before his ascension, is another
* John iv. 25, 26; 39-42. + John xx. 30, 31.