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History of the Church #28

The Gospel of John #3


30-100 AD

From "History of the Christian Church " by Philip Schaff


Continued from previous page:

2. Heretical testimonies.     

They are all the more important in view of their dissent from
Catholic doctrine. It is remarkable that the heretics seem to
have used and commented on the fourth Gospel even before the
Catholic writers. The Clementine homilies, besides several
allusions, very clearly quote from the story of the man born
blind, John 9:2,3. The Gnostics of the second century, especially
the Valentinians and Basilidians, made abundant use of the fourth
Gospel, which alternately offended them by its historical
realism, and attracted them by its idealism and mysticism. 
Heracleon, a pupil of Valentinus, wrote a commentary on it, of
which Origen has preserved large extracts; Valentinus himself
(according to Tertullian) tried either to explain it away, or 
put his own meaning into it. Basilides, who flourished about A.D.
125, quoted from the Gospel of John such passages as the "true
light, which enlighteneth every man, was coming into the world"
(1:9), and "my hour is not yet come " (2:4).

These heretical testimonies are almost decisive by themselves.
The Gnostics would rather have rejected the fourth Gospel
altogether, as Marcion actually did, from doctrinal objection.
They certainly would not have received it from the Catholic
church, as little as the church would have received it from the
Gnostics. The concurrent reception of the Gospel by both at so
early a date is conclusive evidence of its genuineness. "The
Gnostics of that date," says Dr. Abbot, "received it because
they could not help it. They would not have admitted the
authority of a book which could be reconciled with their
doctrines only by the most forced interpretation, if they could
have destroyed its authority by denying its genuineness. Its
genuineness could then be easily ascertained.  Ephesus was one of
the principal cities of the Eastern world, the centre of
extensive commerce, the metropolis of Asia Minor. Hundreds, if
not thousands, of people were living who had known the apostle
The question whether he, the beloved disciple, had committed to
writing his recollections of his Master's life and teaching, was
one of the greatest interest. The fact of the reception of the
fourth Gospel as his work at so early a date, by parties so
violently opposed to each other, proves that the evidence of its
genuineness was decisive. This argument is further confirmed
by the use of the Gospel by the opposing parties in the later
Montanistic controversy, and in the disputes about the time of
celebrating Easter.

3. Heathen testimony. Celsus, in his book against Christianity,
which was written about A.D.178 (according to Keim, who
reconstructed it from the fragments preserved in the refutation
of Origen), derives his matter for attack from the four Gospels,
though he does not name their authors, and he refers to several
details which are peculiar to John, as, among others, the blood
which flowed from the body of Jesus at his crucifixion (John 19:
34), and the fact that Christ "after his death arose and showed
the marks of his punishment, and how his hands had been pierced "

The radical assertion of Baur that no distinct trace of the
fourth Gospel can be found before the last quarter of the second
century has utterly broken down, and his own best pupils have
been forced to make one concession after another as the
successive discoveries of the many Gnostic quotations in the
Philosophumena, the last book of the pseudo-Clementine Homilies,
the Syrian Commentary on Tatian's Diatessaron, revealed the
stub-born fact of the use and abuse of the Gospel before the
middle and up to the very beginning of the second century, that
is, to a time when it was simply impossible to mistake a
pseudo-apostolic fiction for a genuine production of the
patriarch of the apostolic age.


This is even still stronger, and leaves at last no alternative
but truth or fraud.

1. To begin with the style of the fourth Gospel, we have already
seen that it is altogether unique and without a parallel in
post-apostolic literature, betraying a Hebrew of the Hebrews,
impregnated with the genius of the Old Testament, in mode of
thought and expression, in imagery and symbolism, in the
sym-metrical structure of sentences, in the simplicity and
circumstantiality of narration; yet familiar with pure Greek,
from long residence among Greeks.  This is just what we should
expect from John at Ephesus. Though not a rabbinical scholar,
like Paul, he was acquainted with the Hebrew Scriptures and not
dependent on the Septuagint. He has in all fourteen quotations
from the Old Testament. Four of these agree with the Hebrew and
the Septuagint; three agree with the Hebrew against the
Septuagint (6:45; 13:18; 19:37), the rest are neutral, either
agreeing with both or differing from both, or being free
adaptations rather than citations; but none of them agrees with
the Septuagint against the Hebrew.

Among the post-apostolic writers there is no converted Jew,
unless it be Hegesippus; none who could read the Hebrew and
write Hebraistic Greek. After the destruction of Jerusalem the
church finally separated from the synagogue and both assumed an
attitude of uncompromising hostility.

2. The author was a Jew of Palestine:

He gives, incidentally and without effort, unmistakable evidence
of minute familiarity with the Holy Land and its inhabitants
before the destruction of Jerusalem. He is at home in the
localities of the holy city and the neighborhood. He describes
Bethesda as "a pool by the sheep gate, having five porches" (5:
2), Siloam as "a pool which is by interpretation Sent" (9:7),
Solomon's porch as being "in the Temple" (10:23), the brook
Kedron "where was a garden" (18:1); he knows the location of the
praetorium (18:28), the meaning of Gabbatha (19:13), and Golgotha
(19:17), the distance of Bethany from Jerusalem " about fifteen
furlongs off"(11:18), and he distinguishes it from Bethany beyond
Jordan (1:28). He gives the date when the Herodian recon
struction of the temple began (2:19). He is equally familiar with
other parts of Palestine and makes no mistakes such as are so
often made by foreigners. He locates Cana in Galilee (2:1; 4:26;
21:2), to distinguish it from another Cana; Aenon "near to
Salim," where there are "many waters" (3:23); Sychar in Samaria
near" Jacob's well," and in view of Mount Gerizim (4:5). He knows
the extent of the Lake of Tiberias (6:19); he describes
Bethsaida as "the city of Andrew and Peter" (1:44), as distinct
from Bethsaida Julias on the eastern bank of the Jordan; he
represents Nazareth as a place of proverbial insignificance (1:
He is well acquainted with the confused politico-ecclesiastical
Messianic ideas and expectations of the Jews (1:19-28,45-49;
4:25; 6:14,15; 7:26; 12:34, and other passages); with the
hostility between Jews and Samaritans (4 9,20,52; 8:48);
with Jewish usages and observances, as baptism (1:25; 3:22,
23; 4:2), purification (2:6; 3:25, etc.), ceremonial
pollution (18:28), feasts  (2:13,23;  5:1;  7:37, etc.),   
circumcision, and the Sabbath (7:22,23). He is also
acquainted with the marriage and burial rites (2:1-10; 11:
17-44), with the character of the Pharisees and their influence
in the Sanhedrin, the relationship between Annas and Caiaphas.   
The objection of Bretschneider that he represents the office of
the high-priest as an annual office arose from a misunderstanding
of the phrase "that year" (11:49,51; 18:13), by which he means
that memorable year in which Christ died for the sins of the

3. The author was an eye-witness of most of the events narrated:

This appears from his life-like familiarity with the acting
persons, the Baptist, Peter, Andrew, Philip, Nathanael, Thomas,
Judas Iscariot, Pilate, Caiaphas, Annas, Nicodemus, Martha and
Mary, Mary Magdalene, the woman of Samaria, the man born blind;
and from the minute traits and vivid details which betray
autopticity. He incidentally notices what the Synoptists omit,
that the traitor was "the son of Simon" (6:71; 12:4; 13:2,26),
that Thomas was called "Didymus" (11:16; 20:24; 21:2); while, on
the other hand, he calls the Baptist simply "John" (he himself
being the other John), without adding to it the distinctive title
as the Synoptists do more than a dozen times to distinguish him
from the son of Zebedee. He indicates the days and hours of
certain events, and the exact or approximate number of persons
and objects mentioned. He was privy to the thoughts of the
disciples on certain occasions, their ignorance and
misunderstanding of the words of the Master, and even to the
motives and feelings of the Lord.

No literary artist could have invented the conversation of Christ
with Nicodemus on the mystery of spiritual regeneration (ch. 3),
or the conversation with the woman of Samaria (ch. 4), or the
characteristic details of the catechization of the man born
blind, which brings out so naturally the proud and heartless
bigotry of the Jewish hierarchy and the rough, outspoken honesty
and common sense of the blind man and his parents (9:13-34). The
scene at Jacob's well, described in the fourth chapter, presents
a most graphic, and yet unartificial picture of nature and human
life as it still remains, though in decay, at the foot of Gerizim
and Ebal: there is the well of Jacob in a fertile, well-watered
valley, there the Samaritan sanctuary on the top of Mount
Gerizim, there the waving grain-fields ripening for the harvest;
we are confronted with the historic antagonism of Jews and
Samaritans which survives in the Nablus of to-day; there we see
the genuine humanity of Jesus, as he sat down "wearied with his
journey," though not weary of his work, his elevation above the
rabbinical prejudice of conversing with a woman, his superhuman
knowledge and dignity; there is the curiosity and
quick-wittedness of the Samaritan Magdalene; and how natural is
the transition from the water of Jacob's well to the water of
life, and from the hot dispute of the place of worship to the
highest conception of God as an omnipresent spirit, and his true
worship in spirit and in truth.

4. The writer represents himself expressly as an eye-witness of
the life of Christ. He differs from the Synoptists, who never use
the first person nor mix their subjective feelings with the
narrative. "We beheld his glory," he says, in the name of
all the apostles and primitive disciples, in stating the general
impression made upon them by the incarnate Logos dwelling. And
in the parallel passage of the first Epistle, which is an
inseparable companion of the fourth Gospel, he asserts with
solemn emphasis his personal knowledge of the incarnate Word of
life whom he heard with his ears and saw with his eyes and
handled with his hands (1 John 1:1-3). This assertion is general,
and covers the whole public life of our Lord. But he makes it
also in particular a case of special interest for the realness of
Christ's humanity; in recording the flow of blood and water from
the wounded side, he adds emphatically: "He that hath seen hath
borne witness, and his witness is true: and be knoweth that he
saith things that are true, that ye also may believe" (19:35).
Here we are driven to the alternative : either the writer was a
true witness of what he relates, or he was a false witness who
wrote down a deliberate lie.

5. Finally, the writer intimates that he is one of the Twelve,
that he is one of the favorite three, that he is not Peter, nor
James, that he is none other than the beloved John who leaned on
the Master's bosom. He never names himself, nor his brother
James, nor his mother Salome, but he has a very modest, delicate,
and altogether unique way of indirect self-designation. He stands
behind his Gospel like a mysterious figure with a thin veil over
his face without ever lifting the veil. He leaves the reader to
infer the name by combination. He is undoubtedly that unnamed
disciple who, with Andrew, was led to Jesus by the testimony of
the Baptist on the banks of the Jordan (1:35-40), the disciple
who at the last Supper  was reclining at the table in Jesus'
bosom" (13:23-25), that "other disciple" who, with Peter,
followed Jesus into the court of the high-priest (18:15,16),
who stood by the cross and was intrusted by the dying Lord with
the care of His mother (19:26,27), and that "other disciple
whom Jesus loved," who went with Peter to the empty sepulchre on
the resurrection morning and was convinced of the great fact by
the sight of the grave-cloths, and the headcover rolled up in a
place by itself (20: 2-8). All these narratives are interwoven
with autobiographic details. He calls himself "the disciple whom
Jesus loved," not from vanity (as has been most strangely
asserted by some critics), but in blessed and thankful
remembrance of the infinite mercy of his divine Master who thus
fulfilled the prophecy of his name Johanan, i.e., Jehovah is
gracious. In that peculiar love of his all-beloved Lord was
summed up for him the whole significance of his life.
With this mode of self-designation corresponds the designation of
members of his family: his mother is probably meant by the
unnamed "sister of the mother" of Jesus, who stood by the cross
(John 19:25), for Salome was there, according to the Synoptists,
and John would hardly omit this fact; and in the list of the
disciples to whole Jesus appeared at the Lake of Galilee, "the
sons of Zebedee" are put last (21:2), when yet in all the
Synoptic lists of the apostles they are, with Peter and Andrew,
placed at the head of the Twelve. This difference can only be
explained from motives of delicacy and modesty.

What a contrast the author presents to those pseudonymous
literary forgers of the second and third centuries, who
unscrupulously put their writings into the mouth of the apostles
or other honored names to lend them a fictitious charm and
authority; and yet who cannot conceal the fraud which leaks out
on every page.


A review of this array of testimonies, external and internal,
drives us to the irresistible conclusion that the fourth Gospel
is the work of John, the apostle. This view is clear,
self-consistent, and in full harmony with the character of the
book and the whole history of the apostolic age; while the
hypothesis of a literary fiction and pious fraud is
contradictory, absurd, and self-condemned. No writer in the
second century could have produced such a marvellous book, which
towers high above all the books of Justin Martyr and Irenaeus and
Tertuilian and Clement and Origen, or any other father or
schoolman or reformer. No writer in the first century could
have written it but an apostle, and no apostle but John, and John
himself could not have written it without divine inspiration.

The importance of the subject justifies a special section on the
opposition to the fourth Gospel, after we have presented our own
view on the subject with constant reference to the recent


The Johannean problem is the burning question of modern criticism
on the soil of the New Testament. It arises from the difference
between John and the Synoptists on the one hand, and the
difference between the fourth Gospel and the Apocalypse on the

I. The Synoptic aspect of the problem includes the differences
between the first three Evangelists and the fourth concerning the
theatre and length of Christ's ministry, the picture of Christ,
the nature and extent of his discourses, and a number of minor
details.  It admits the following possibilities:

(1.) Both the Synoptists and John are historical, and represent
only different aspects of the same person and work of Christ,
supplementing and confirming each other in every essential point.
This is the faith of the Church and the conviction of nearly all
conservative critics and commentators.

(2.) The fourth Gospel is the work of John, and, owing to his
intimacy with Christ, it is more accurate and reliable than the
Synoptists, who contain some legendary embellishments and even
errors, derived from oral tradition, and must be rectified by
John. This is the view of Schleiermacher, Dicke, Bleek, Ewald,
Meyer, Weiss, and a considerable number of liberal critics and
exegetes who yet accept the substance of the whole gospel history
as true, and Christ as the Lord and Saviour of the race. The
difference between these scholars and the church tradition is not
fundamental, and admits of adjustment.

(3.) The Synoptists represent (in the main) the Christ of
history, the fourth Gospel the ideal Christ of faith and fiction.
So Baur and the Tubingen school (Schwegler, Zeller, Kostlin,
Hilgenfeld, Volkmar, Holtzmann, Hausrath, Schenkel, Mangold,
Keim, Thoma), with their followers and sympathizers in France
(Nicolas, d'Eichthal, Renan, Reville, Sabatier), Holland
(Seholten and the Leyden school), and England (the anonymous
author of "Supernatural Religion," Sam Davidson, Edwin A.
Abbott). But these critics eliminate the miraculous even from the
Synoptic Christ, at least as far as possible, and approach the
fourth hypothesis.

(4.) The Synoptic and Johannean Gospels are alike fictitious, and
resolve themselves into myths and legends or pious frauds. This
is the position of the extreme left wing of modern criticism
represented chiefly by Strauss. It is the legitimate result of
the denial of the supernatural and miraculous, which is as
inseparable from the Synoptic as it is from the Johannean Christ;
but it is also subversive of all history and cannot be seriously
maintained in the face of overwhelming facts and results. Hence
there has been a considerable reaction among the radical critics
in favor of a more historical position. Keim's "History of Jesus
of Nazara" is a very great advance upon Strauss's "Leben Jesu,"
though equally critical and more learned, and meets the orthodox
view half way on the ground of the Synoptic tradition, as
represented in the Gospel of Matthew, which he dates back to A.D.

II. The Apocalyptic aspect of the Johannean problem belongs
properly to the consideration of the Apocalypse, but it has of
late been inseparably interwoven with the Gospel question. It
admits likewise of four distinct views:

(1.) The fourth Gospel and the Apocalypse are both from the pen
of the apostle John, but separated by the nature of the subject,
the condition of the writer, and an interval of at least twenty
or thirty years, to account for the striking differences
of temper and style. When he met Paul at Jerusalem, A.D 50, he
was one of the three "pillar-apostles" of Jewish Christianity
(Gal. 2:9), but probably less than forty years of age,
remarkably silent with his reserved force, and sufficiently in
sympathy with Paul to give him the right hand of fellowship; when
he wrote the Apocalypse, between A.D.68 and 70,(Not so, today
most scholars put the Aposalypse at the end of John life - 90-100
A.D. - Keith Hunt)  he was not yet sixty, and when he wrote the
Gospel he was over eighty years of age. (Again most scholar today
put it exactly the opposite way around - Keith Hunt). Moreover,
the differences between the two books are more than
counterbalanced by an underlying harmony. This has been
acknowledged even by the head of the Tubingen critics, who calls
the fourth Gospel an Apocalypse spiritualized or a
transfiguration of the Apocalypse.

(2.) John wrote the Gospel, but not the Apocalypse. Many
critics of the moderate school are disposed to surrender the
Apocalypse and to assign it to the somewhat doubtful and
mysterious "Presbyter John," a contemporary of the Apostle John.
So Schleiermacher, Lucke, Bleek, Neander, Ewald, Dusterdieck,
etc. If we are to choose between the two books, the Gospel has no
doubt stronger claims upon our acceptance.

(3.) John wrote the Apocalypse, but for this very reason he
cannot have written the fourth Gospel. So Baur, Renan, Davidson,
Abbott, and nearly all the radical critics (except Keim).

(4.) The fourth Gospel and the Apocalypse are both spurious and
the work of the Gnostic Cerinthus (as the Alogi held), or of some
anonymous forger. This view is so preposterous and unsound that
no critic of any reputation for learning and judgment dares to
defend it.

There is a correspondence between the four possible attitudes on
both aspects of the Johannean question, and the parties
advocating them.

The result of the conflict will be the substantial triumph of the
faith of the church which accepts, on new grounds of evidence,
all the four Gospels as genuine and historical, and the
Apocalypse and the fourth Gospel as the works of John.


Criticism has completely shifted its attitude on both parts of
the problem. The change is very remarkable. When the first
serious assault was made upon the genuineness of the fourth
Gospel by the learned General Superintendent Bretschneider (in
1820), he was met with such overwhelming opposition, not only
from evangelical divines like Olshausen and Tholuck, but also
from Schleiermacher, Lucke, Credner, and Schott, that he honestly
confessed his defeat a few years afterward (1824 and 1828).     
And when Dr. Strauss, in his Leben Jesu (1835), renewed the
denial, a host of old and new defenders arose with such powerful
arguments that he himself (as he confessed in the third edition
of 1838) was shaken in his doubt, especially by the weight and
candor of Neander, although he felt compelled, in self-defence,
to reaffirm his doubt as essential to the mythical hypothesis (in
the fourth edition, 1840, and afterward in his popular Leben
Jesu, 1864).
But in the meantime his teacher, Dr. Baur, the coryphaeus of the
Tubingen school, was preparing his heavy ammunition, and led the
second, the boldest, the most vigorous and effective assault upon
the Johannean fort (since 1844). He was followed in the main
question, though with considerable modifications in detail, by a
number of able and acute critics in Germany and other countries.
He represented the fourth Gospel as a purely ideal work which
grew out of the Gnostic, Montanistic, and paschal controversies
after the middle of the second century, and adjusted the various
elements of the Catholic faith with consummate skill and art. It
was not intended to be a history, but a system of theology in the
garb of history. This "tendency" hypothesis was virtually a
death-blow to the mythical theory of Strauss, which excludes
conscious design.

The third great assault inspired by Baur, yet with independent
learning and judgment, was made by Dr. Keim (in his Geschichte
Jesu von Nazara, 1867). Re went beyond Baur in one point: he
denied the whole tradition of John's sojourn in Ephesus as a
mistake of Irenaeus; he thus removed even the foundation for the
defence of the Apocalypse as a Johannean production, and
neutralized the force of the Tubingen assault derived from that
book. On the other hand, he approached the traditional view
by tracing the composition back from 170 (Baur) to the reign of
Trajan, i.e., to within a few years after the death of the
apostle. In his denial of the Ephesus tradition he met with
little favor, but strong opposition from the Tubin-gen critics,
who see the fatal bearing of this denial upon the genuineness of
the Apocalypse. The effect of Keim's movement therefore tended
rather to divide and demoralize the besieging force.

Nevertheless the effect of these persistent attacks was so great
that three eminent scholars, Hase of Jena (1876), Reuss of
Strassburg, and Sabatier of Paris (1879), deserted from the camp
of the defenders to the army of the besiegers. Renan, too, who
had in the thirteenth edition of his Vie de Jesus (1867) defended
the fourth Gospel at least in part, has now (since 1879, in his
L'Eylise chretienne) given it up entirely.


The incisive criticism of Baur and his school compelled a
thorough reinvestigation of the whole problem, and in this way
has been of very great service to the cause of truth. We owe to
it the ablest defences of the Johannean authorship of the fourth
Gospel and the precious history which it represents. Prominent
among these defenders against the latest attacks were Bleek,
Lange, Ebrard, Thiersch, Schneider, Tischendorf, Riggenbach,
Ewald, Steitz, Aberle, Meyer, Luthardt, Wieseler, Beyschlag,
Weiss, among the Germans; Godet, Pressense, Astie, among the
French; Niermeyer, Van Oosterzee, Hofstede de Groot, among the
Dutch; Alford, Milligan, Lightfoot, Westcott, Sanday, Plummer,
among the English; Fisher, and Abbot among the Americans.

It is significant that the school of negative criticism has
produced no learned commentary on John. All the recent
commentators on the fourth Gospel (Lucke, Ewald, Lange,
Hengstenberg, Luthardt, Meyer, Weiss, Alford, Wordsworth, Godet,
Westeott, Milligan, Moulton, Plummer, etc.) favor its


The prevailing theory of the negative critics is this: They
accept the Synoptic Gospels, with the exception of the miracles,
as genuine history, but for this very reason they reject John;
and they accept the Apocalypse as the genuine work of the apostle
John, who is represented by the Synoptists as a Son of Thunder,
and by Paul (Gal. 2) as one of the three pillars of conservative
Jewish Christianity, but for this very reason they deny that he
can have written the Gospel, which in style and spirit differs so
widely from the Apocalypse. For this position they appeal to the
fact that the Synoptists and the Apocalypse are equally well, and
even better supported by internal and external evidence, and
represent a tradition which is at least twenty years older.

But what then becomes of the fourth Gospel? It is incredible
that the real John should have falsified the history of his
Master; consequently the Gospel which bears his name is a
post-apostolic fiction, a religious poem, or a romance on the
theme of the incarnate Logos. It is the Gospel of Christian
Gnosticism, strongly influenced by the Alexandrian philosophy of
Philo. Yet it is no fraud any more than other literary fictions. 
The unknown author dealt with the historical Jesus of the
Synoptists, as Plato dealt with Socrates, making him simply the
base for his own sublime speculations, and putting speeches into
his mouth which he never uttered.
Who was that Christian Plato? No critic can tell, or even
conjecture, except Renan, who revived, as possible at least, the
absurd view of the Alogi, that the Gnostic heretic, Cerinthus,
the enemy of John, wrote the fourth Gospel! Such a conjecture
requires an extraordinary stretch of imagination and an
amazing amount of credulity. The more sober among the critics
suppose that the author was a highly gifted Ephesian disciple of
John, who freely reproduced and modified his oral teaching after
he was removed by death. But how could his name be utterly
unknown, when the names of Polycarp and Papias and other
disciples of John, far less important, have come down to its ?   
"The great unknown" is a mystery indeed. Some critics, half
in sympathy with Tubingen, are willing to admit that John himself
wrote a part of the book, either the historic narratives or the
discourses, but neither of these compromises will do the book is
a unit, and is either wholly genuine or wholly a fiction.

Nor are the negative critics agreed as to the time of
composition. Under the increasing pressure of argument and
evidence they have been forced to retreat, step by step, from the
last quarter of the second century to the first, even within a
few years of John's death, and within the lifetime of hundreds of
his hearers, when it was impossible for a pseudo-Johannean book
to pass into general currency without the discovery of the fraud.
Dr. Baur and Schwegler assigned the composition to A.D. 170 or
160; Volkmar to 155; Zeller to 150; Scholten to 140; Hilgenfeld
to about 130; Renan to about 125; Schenkel to 120 or 115; until
Keim (in 1867) went up as high as 110 or even 100, but having
reached such an early date, he felt compelled (1875) in
self-defence to advance again to 130, and this notwithstanding
the conceded testimonies of Justin Martyr and the early Gnostics.
These vacillations of criticism reveal the impossibility of
locating the Gospel in the second century.

If we surrender the fourth Gospel, what shall we gain in its
place? Fiction for fact, stone for bread, a Gnostic dream for
the most glorious truth.

Fortunately the whole anti-Johannean hypothesis breaks down at
every point. It suffers shipwreck on innumerable details which do
not fit at all into the supposed dogmatic scheme, but rest on
hard facts of historical recollections.
And instead of removing any difficulties it creates greater
difficulties in their place. There are certain contradictions
which no ingenuity can solve. If "the great unknown" was the
creative artist of his ideal Christ, and the inventor of those
sublime discourses, the like of which were never heard before or
since, he must have been a mightier genius than Dante or
Shakespeare, yea greater than his own hero, that is greater than
the greatest: this is a psychological impossibility and a logical
absurdity. Moreover, if he was not John and yet wanted to be
known as John, he was a deceiver and a liar: this is a moral
impossibility. The case of Plato is very different, and his rela-
tion to Socrates is generally understood. The Synoptic Gospels
are anonymous, but do not deceive the reader. Luke and the
author of the Epistle to the Hebrews honestly make themselves
known as mere disciples of the apostles. The real parallel would
be the apocryphal Gospels and the pseudo-Clementine productions,
where the fraud is unmistakable, but the contents are so far
below the fourth Gospel that a comparison is out of the
question. Literary fictions were not uncommon in the ancient
church, but men had common sense and moral sense then as well as
now to distinguish between fact and fiction, truth and lie. It is
simply incredible that the ancient church should have been duped
into a unanimous acceptance of such an important book as the work
of the beloved disciple almost from the very date of his death,
and that the whole Christian church, Greek, Latin, Protestant,
including an innumerable army of scholars, should have been under
a radical delusion for eighteen hundred years, mistaking a
Gnostic dream for the genuine history of the Saviour of mankind,
and drinking the water of life from the muddy source of fraud.

In the meantime the fourth Gospel continues and will continue to
shine, like the sun in heaven, its own best evidence, and will
shine all the brighter when the clouds, great and small, shall
have passed away.



Keith Hunt

To be continued

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