Freethought Archives > Walter R. Cassels > Supernatural Religion 

PART THREE

THE FOURTH GOSPEL

CHAPTER 1.

THE EXTERNAL EVIDENCE

WE shall now examine, in the same order, the witnesses already cited in connection with the Synoptics, and ascertain what evidence they furnish for the date and authenticity of the fourth Gospel.
 


Apologists do not even allege that there is any reference to the fourth Gospel in the so-called Epistle of Clement of Rome to the Corinthians. [435:1]
 


A few critics [435:2] pretend to find a trace of it in the Epistle of Barnabas, in the reference to the brazen Serpent as a type of Jesus. Tischendorf states the case as follows: "And when in the same chapter 12 it is shown how Moses, in the brazen serpent, made a type of Jesus 'who should suffer (die) and yet himself make alive,' the natural inference is that Barnabas connected therewith John 3:14 f., even if the use of this passage in particular cannot be proved. Although this connection cannot be affirmed, since the author of the Epistle, in this passage as in many others, may be independent, yet it is justifiable to ascribe the greatest probability to its dependence on the passage in John, as the tendency of the Epistle in no way required a particular leaning to the expression of John. The disproportionately more abundant use of express quotations from the Old Testament in Barnabas is, on the contrary, connected most intimately with the tendency of his whole composition." [436:1]

It will be observed that the suggestion of reference to the fourth Gospel is here advanced in a very hesitating way, and does not indeed go beyond an assertion of probability. We might, therefore, well leave the matter without further notice, as the reference in no case could be of any weight as evidence. On examination of the context, however, we find that there is every reason to conclude that the reference to the brazen serpent is made direct to the Old Testament. The author, who delights in typology, is bent upon showing that the cross is prefigured in the Old Testament. He gives a number of instances, involving the necessity for a display of ridiculous ingenuity of explanation, which should prepare us to find the type of the brazen serpent naturally selected. After pointing out that Moses, with his arms stretched out in prayer that the Israelites might prevail in the fight, was a type of the cross, he goes on to say: "Again Moses makes a type of Jesus, that he must suffer and himself make alive (kai autos zôopoiêsei), whom they will appear to have destroyed, in a figure, while Israel was falling"; [436:2] and connecting the circumstance that the people were bit by serpents arid died with the transgression of Eve by means of the serpent, he goes on to narrate minutely the story of Moses and the brazen serpent, and then winds up with the words: "Thou hast in this the glory of Jesus; that in him are all things and for him." [436:3] No one can read the whole passage carefully without seeing that the reference is direct to the Old Testament. There is no ground for supposing that the author was acquainted with the fourth Gospel.
 


To the Shepherd of Hermas Tischendorf devotes only two lines, in which he states that "it has neither quotations from the Old nor from the New Testament." Dr. Westcott makes the same statement, [436:4] but, unlike the German apologist, he proceeds subsequently to affirm that Hermas makes "clear allusions to St. John," which few or no apologists support. This assertion he elaborates and illustrates as follows:

"The view which Hermas gives of Christ's nature and work is no less harmonious with apostolic doctrine, and it offers striking analogies to the Gospel of St. John. Not only did the Son appoint angels to preserve each of those whom the Father gave to him,' but 'He himself toiled very much and suffered very much to cleanse our sins … And so when he himself had cleansed the sins of the people, he showed them the paths of life by giving them the Law which he received from his Father.' [437:1] He is 'a Rock higher than the mountains, able to hold the whole world; ancient, and yet having a new gate.' [437:2] 'His name is great and infinite, and the whole world is supported by him.' [437:3] 'He is older than Creation, so that he took counsel with the Father about the creation which he made.' [437:4] 'He is the sole way of access to the Lord; and no one shall enter in unto him otherwise than by his Son.'" [437:5]

This is all Dr. Westcott says on the subject. [437:6] He does not attempt to point out any precise portions of the fourth Gospel with which to compare these "striking analogies," nor does he produce any instances of similarity of language, or of the use of the same terminology as the Gospel in this apocalyptic allegory. It is clear that such evidence could in no case be of any value for the fourth Gospel.

When we examine more closely, however, it becomes certain that these passages possess no real analogy with the fourth Gospel, and were not derived from it. There is no part of them that has not close parallels in writings antecedent to our Gospel, and there is no use of terminology peculiar to it. The author does not even once use the term Logos. Dr. Westcott makes no mention of the fact that the doctrine of the Logos and of the pre-existence of Jesus was enunciated long before the composition of the fourth Gospel, with almost equal clearness and fulness, and that its development can be traced through the Septuagint translation, the "Proverbs of Solomon," some of the Apocryphal works of the Old Testament, the writings of Philo, the Apocalypse, and the Epistle to the Hebrews, as well as the Pauline Epistles. To anyone who examines the passages cited from the work of Hermas, and still more to any one acquainted with the history of the Logos doctrine, it will, we fear, seem wasted time to enter upon any minute refutation of such imaginary "analogies." We shall, however, as briefly as possible refer to each passage quoted.

The first is taken from an elaborate similitude with regard to true fasting, in which the world is likened to a vineyard, and, in explaining his parable, the Shepherd says: 'God planted the vineyard; that is, he created the people and gave them to his Son: and the Son appointed his angels over them to keep them: and he himself cleansed their sins, having suffered many things and endured many labours ... He himself, therefore, having cleansed the sins of the people, showed them the paths of life by giving them the Law which he received from his Father." [438:1]

It is difficult indeed to find anything in this passage which is in the slightest degree peculiar to the fourth Gospel, or apart from the whole teaching of the Epistles, and more especially the Epistle to the Hebrews. We may point out a few passages for comparison: Heb. 1:2-4; 2:10-11; 5:8-9; 7:12, 17-19; 8:6-10; 10:10-16; Romans 8:14-17; Matt. 21:33; Mark 12:1; Isaiah 5:7; 53.

The second passage is taken from a similar parable on the building of the Church: (A) "And in the middle of the plain he showed me a great white rock which had risen out of the plain, and the rock was higher than the mountains, rectangular so as to be able to hold the whole world, but that rock was old, having a gate (pulê) hewn out of it, and the hewing out of the gate (pulê) seemed to me to be recent." [438:2] Upon this rock the tower of the Church is built. Further on an explanation is given of the similitude, in which occurs another of the passages referred to. (B) "This rock (petra) and this gate (pulê) are the Son of God. 'How, Lord,' I said, 'is the rock old and the gate new?' 'Listen,' he said, 'and understand, thou ignorant man. (C) The Son of God is older than all of his creation (ho men uios tou theou pasês tês ktiseôs autou progenesteros estin), so that he was a councillor with the Father in his work of creation; and for this is he old.' (D) 'And why is the gate new, Lord?' I said. 'Because,' he replied, 'he was manifested in the last days (ep' eschatôn tôn hêmerôn) of the dispensation; for this cause the gate was made new, in order that they who shall be saved might enter by it into the kingdom of God.'" [438:3]

And a few lines lower down the Shepherd further explains, referring to entrance through the gate, and introducing another of the passages cited: (E) "' In this way,' he said, 'no one shall enter into the kingdom of God unless he receive his holy name. If, therefore, you cannot enter into the City unless through its gate, so also,' he said, 'a man cannot enter in any other way into the kingdom of God than by the name of his Son beloved by him' … 'and the gate is the Son of God. This is the one entrance to the Lord.' In no other way, therefore, shall any one enter in to him, except through his Son." [438:4]

With regard to the similitude of a rock, we need scarcely say that the Old Testament teems with it; and we need not point to the parable of the house built upon a rock in the first Gospel. [438:5] A more apt illustration is the famous saying with regard to Peter: "And upon this rock (petra) I will build my Church," upon which, indeed, the whole similitude of Hermas turns; and in 1 Cor. 10:4 we read: "For they drank of the Spiritual Rock accompanying them; but the Rock was Christ" (hê petra de ên ho Christos). There is no such similitude in the fourth Gospel at all.

We then have the "gate," on which we presume Dr. Westcott chiefly relies. The parable in John 10:1-9 is quite different from that of Hermas, [439:1] and there is a persistent use of different terminology. The door into the sheepfold is always thura, the gate in the rock always pulê. "I am the door" [439:2] (egô eimi hê thura) is twice repeated in the fourth Gospel. "The gate is the Son of God" (hê pulê ho uios tou theou estin) is the declaration of Hermas. On the other hand, there are numerous passages, elsewhere, analogous to that in the Shepherd of Hermas. Everyone will remember the injunction in the Sermon on the Mount: Matt. 7:13, 14. "Enter in through the strait gate (pulê), for wide is the gate (pulê) etc., 14. Because narrow is the gate (pulê) and straitened is the way which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it." [439:3] The limitation to the one way of entrance into the kingdom of God, "by the name of his Son," is also found everywhere throughout the Epistles, and likewise in the Acts of the Apostles; as, for instance, Acts 4:12: "And there is no salvation in any other: for neither is there any other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved."

The reasons given why the rock is old and the gate new (C, D) have anything but special analogy with the fourth Gospel. We are, on the contrary, taken directly to the Epistle to the Hebrews in which the pre-existence of Jesus is prominently asserted, and between which and the Shepherd, as in a former passage, we find singular linguistic analogies. For instance, take the whole opening portion of Heb. 1:1: "God having at many times and in many manners spoken in times past to the fathers by the prophets, 2. At the end of these days (ep' eschatou tôn hêmerôn toutôn) spake to us in the Son whom he appointed heir (klêronomos[439:4] of all things, by whom he also made the worlds, 3. Who being the brightness of his glory and the express image of his substance, upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had made by himself a cleansing of our sins sat down at the right hand of Majesty on high, 4. Having become so much better than the angels," [440:1] etc.; and if we take the different clauses we may also find them elsewhere constantly repeated, as for instance: (C) The son older than all his creation: compare 2 Tim. 1:9, Col. 1:15 ("who is … the first born of all creation" -- hos estin ...prôtotokos pasês ktiseos), 16, 17, 18, Rev. 3:14; 10:6. The works of Philo are full of this representation of the Logos. For example: "For the Word of God is over all the universe, and the oldest and most universal of all things created" (kai ho Logos de tou theou huperanô pantos esti tou kosmou, kai presbytatos kai genikôtatos tôn hosa gegone). [440:2] Again, as to the second clause, that he assisted the Father in the work of creation, compare Heb. 2:10; 1:2, 11:3; Rom. 11:36; 1 Cor. 8:6, Col. 1:15, 16. [440:3]

The only remaining passage is the following: "The name of the Son of God is great and infinite, and supports the whole world." For the first phrase, compare 2 Tim. 4:18, Heb, 1: 8; and for the second part of the sentence, Heb, 1:3, Col. 1:17, and many other passages quoted above. [440:4]

The whole assertion [440:5] is devoid of foundation, and might well have been left unnoticed. The attention called to it, however, may not be wasted in observing the kind of evidence with which apologists are compelled to be content.
 


It would scarcely be necessary to refer to The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles in connection with the fourth Gospel, for no critic that we are aware of has claimed that it contains any quotation from that Gospel; but a few consider that in parts, it exhibits a Johannine spirit which seems to indicate at least acquaintance with the fourth Gospel. This is said to be chiefly or only found in the Eucharistic prayers of the Didache 9 and 10, and it may, therefore, be well to say a few words on the subject. In 10:2, the principal passage, we read: "We thank thee, holy Father, for thy holy name which thou hast caused to dwell (kateskênôsas) in our hearts."This verse is supposed by those who entertain the Johannine theory to be connected with John 1:14, "The Word dwelt (eskênôsen) amongst us," and reliance is specially placed on the use of this verb - not a very strong basis upon which to rest such a theory. Dr. Taylor has pointed out, however, that instead of there being no precedent for the transitive sense of the Greek word kataskênoô, to make to dwell, it is found in the Septuagint version of Jeremiah 7:12: "But go ye now unto my place which was in Shiloh, where I caused my name to dwell (ou kateskênôsa to onoma mou ekei emposthen). [441:1] It is all the more appropriate to find this passage in Jeremiah, as the germ of the "Two Ways," from which the Didache has grown, is also derived from the same prophet, 21:8. A similar phrase occurs in Neh. 2:9, "and will bring them unto the place that I have chosen to cause my name to dwell there" (kateskênôsai to onoma mou ekei).

With regard to the Eucharistic prayer which we have quoted, Dr. Taylor says: "The Thanksgiving opens with a simple Hebraism"; [441:2] and, treating generally of the Eucharistic passage of the Didache, Mr. Rendel Harris has rightly and ably pointed out: "The prayers are full of reminiscence of the Jewish Passover ritual, and capable of direct illustration from the Jewish Service- books of the present day; and even in those parts of the thanks- giving where no direct parallel can be made the language of the teaching is utterly Jewish. Take, for example, the rule of prayer given in Berachoth f. 40 b: 'All blessing in which there is no mention of the Name is not a blessing'; … And the 'Name' is found in the expression, 'Thy holy Name which thou hast caused to dwell in our hearts.' Nothing could be more evidently Jewish." [441:3]

This practically disposes of the allegation which we are examining, and, for the rest, if this anonymous work had really any reminiscences of the fourth Gospel, which can fully be denied, these could do nothing to establish its authenticity or value as testimony for miracles.
 


Tischendorf points out two passages in the Epistles of pseudo-Ignatius which, he considers, show the use of the fourth Gospel. [442:1] They are as follows -- Epistle to the Romans 7: "I desire the bread of God, the bread of heaven, the bread of life, which is the flesh of Jesus Christ the son of God, who was born at a later time of the seed of David and Abraham; and I desire the drink of God (poma theou) that is his blood, which is love incorruptible, and eternal life (aennaos zôê). [442:2] This is compared with John 6:41, "I am the bread which came down from heaven," 48. "…I am the bread of life," 51. "…And the bread that I will give is my flesh,"; 54. "He who eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood hath everlasting life" (zôên aiônion) Scholten has pointed out that the reference to Jesus as "born of the seed of David and Abraham "is not in the spirit of the fourth Gospel; and the use of poma theou for the posis of 6:55, and aennaos zôê instead of zôê aiônios are also opposed to the connection with that Gospel. [442:3] On the other hand, in the institution of the Supper, the bread is described as the body of Jesus, and the wine as his blood; and reference is made there, and elsewhere, to eating bread and drinking wine in the kingdom of God, [442:4] and the passage seems to be nothing but a development of this teaching. [442:5] Nothing could be proved by such an analogy.

The second passage referred to by Tischendorf is in the Epistle to the Philadelphians, 7: "For if some would have led me astray according to the flesh, yet the Spirit is not led astray, being from God, for it knoweth whence it cometh and whither it goeth, and detecteth the things that are hidden." [442:6] Tischendorf considers that these words are based upon John 3:6-8, and the last phrase, "And detecteth the hidden things," upon verse 20. The sense of the Epistle, however, is precisely the reverse of that of the Gospel, which reads: "The wind bloweth where it listeth; and thou hearest the sound thereof, but knowest not whence it cometh and whither it goeth; so is every one that is born of the Spirit"; [442:7] whilst the Epistle does not refer to the wind at all, but affirms that the Spirit of God does know whence it cometh, etc. The analogy in verse 20 is still more remote: "For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be detected." [442:8] In 1 Cor. 2:10 the sense is found more closely: "For the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, even the deep things of God." [442:9] It is evidently unreasonable to assert from such a passage the use of the fourth Gospel. Even Tischendorf recognises that in themselves the phrases which he points out in Pseudo-Ignatius could not, unsupported by other corroboration, possess much weight as testimony for the use of our Gospels. He says: "Were these allusions of Ignatius to Matthew and John a wholly isolated phenomenon, and one which perhaps other undoubted results of inquiry wholly contradicted, they would hardly have any conclusive weight. But --." [443:1] Dr. Westcott says: The "Ignatian writings, as might be expected, are not without traces of the influence of St. John. The circumstances in which he was placed required a special enunciation of Pauline doctrine; but this is not so expressed as to exclude the parallel lines of Christian thought. Love is 'the stamp of the Christian' (Ad Magn. 5). 'Faith is the beginning and love the end of life' (Ad Ephes. 14). 'Faith is our guide upward' (anagôgeus), but love is the road that 'leads to God' (Ad Eph. 9). 'The Eternal (aidios) Word is the manifestation of God' (Ad Magn. 8), 'the door by which we come to the Father' (Ad Philad. 9, cf. John 10:7), 'and without Him we have not the principle of true life' (Ad Trall. 9: ou chôris to alêthinon zên ouk echomen. cf. Ad Eph. 3: I.C. to adiakriton hêmôn zên). The true meat of the Christian is the 'bread of God, the bread of heaven, the bread of life, which is the flesh of Jesus Christ,' and his is drink is 'Christ's blood, which is love incorruptible' (AdRom. 7, cf. John 6:32, 51, 53). He has no love of this life; 'his love has been crucified, and he has in him no burning passion for the world, but living water (as the spring of a new life), speaking within him, and bidding him come to his Father' (Ad Rom. l. c.). Meanwhile his enemy is the enemy of his Master, even the 'ruler of this age' (Ad Rom. l. c., ho archôn tou aiônos toutou. Cf. John 12:31, 16:11 -- ho archôn tou kosmou toutou, and see 1 Cor. 2:6, 8)." [443:2]

Part of these references we have already considered; others of them really do not require any notice, and the only one to which we need direct our attention for a moment may be the passage from the Epistle to the Philadelphians (9), which reads: 'He is the Door of the Father, by which enter in Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and the prophets, and the apostles, and the Church." [443:3] This is compared with John 10:7. "Therefore said Jesus again: Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the Sheep" (egô eimi hê thura tôn probatôn). We have already referred, a few pages back, [443:4] to the image of the door. Here again it is obvious that there is a marked difference in the sense of the Epistle from that of the Gospel. In the latter Jesus is said to be the door into the Sheepfold; [444:1] whilst in the Epistle he is the door into the Father, through which not only the patriarchs, prophets, and apostles enter, but also the Church itself. Such distant analogy cannot warrant the conclusion that the passage shows any acquaintance with the fourth Gospel. As for the other phrases, they are not only without special bearing upon the fourth Gospel, but they are everywhere found in the canonical Epistles, as well as elsewhere. Regarding love and faith, for instance, compare Gal. 5:6, 14, 22; Rom. 12: 9-10; 8:39; 13:9; 1 Cor. 2:9; 8:3; Ephes. 3:17; 5:1-2; 6:23; Philip. 1:9; 2:2; 2 Thess. 3:5; 1 Tim. 1:14; 6:11; 2 Tim. 1:13; Heb. 10:38 f., 11, etc.

We might point out many equally close analogies in the works of Philo, [444:2] but it is unnecessary to do so, although we may indicate one or two which first present themselves. Philo equally has "the Eternal Logos" (ho aidios Logos), [444:3] whom he represents as the manifestation of God in every way. "The Word is the likeness of God, by whom the universe was created" (Logos de estin eikôn Theou, di' ou sumpas ho kosmos edêmiourgeito). [444:4] He is "the vicegerent" (huparchos) of God, [444:5] "the heavenly incorruptible food of the soul," "the bread (artos) from heaven." In one place he says: "and they who inquired what is the food of the soul ... learnt at last that it is the word of God, and the Divine Logos ... This is the heavenly nourishment, and it is mentioned in the holy Scriptures … saying, 'Lo! I rain upon you bread (artos)from heaven' (Exod. 16:4). This is the bread (artos) which the Lord has given them to eat'" (Exod. 16:15). [444:6] And again: "For the one indeed raises his eyes towards the sky, contemplating the manna, the divine Word, the heavenly incorruptible food of the longing soul." [444:7] Elsewhere: "… but it is taught by the Hierophant and Prophet Moses, who will say: 'This is the bread (artos), the nourishment which God gave to the soul' -- that he offered his own Word and his own Logos; for this is bread (artos) which he has given us to eat, this is the Word (to rhêma). [445:1] He also says: "Therefore he exhorts him that can run swiftly to strive with breathless eagerness towards the Divine Word, who is, above all things, the fountain of Wisdom, in order that, by drinking of the stream, instead of death he may for his reward obtain eternal life." [445:2] It is the Logos who guides us to the Father, God "by the same Logos both creating all things and leading up (anagôn) the perfect man from the things of earth to himself." [445:3] These are very imperfect examples, but it may be asserted that there is not a representation of the Logos in the fourth Gospel which has not close parallels in the works of Philo.

We have given these passages of the Pseudo-Ignatian Epistles which are pointed out as indicating acquaintance with the fourth Gospel, in order that the whole case might be stated and appreciated. The analogies are too distant to prove anything, but were they fifty times more close, they could do little or nothing to establish an early origin for the fourth Gospel, and nothing at all to elucidate the question as to its character and authorship.  [445:4] The Epistles in which the passages occur are spurious, and of no value as evidence for the fourth Gospel. Only one of them is found in the three Syriac Epistles. We have already stated the facts connected with the so-called Epistles of Ignatius[445:5] and no one who has attentively examined them can fail to see that the testimony of such documents cannot be considered of any historic weight, except for a period when evidence of the use of the fourth Gospel ceases to be of any, significance.
 


It is not pretended that the so-called Epistle of Polycarp to the Philippians contains any references to the fourth Gospel. Tischendorf, however, affirms that it is weighty testimony for that Gospel, inasmuch as he discovers in it a certain trace of the first "Epistle of John"; and, as he maintains that the Epistle and the Gospel are the works of the same author, any evidence for the one is at the same time evidence for the other. [445:6] We shall hereafter consider the point of the common authorship of the Epistles and fourth Gospel, and here confine ourselves chiefly to the alleged fact of the reference. The passage to which Tischendorf alludes we subjoin, with the supposed parallel in the Epistle.
 

EPISTLE OF POLYCARP, 8. 1st EPISTLE OF JOHN, 4:3.
For whosoever doth not confess that Jesus Christ hath come in the flesh is Antichrist, and whosoever doth not confess the martyrdom of the cross is of the devil, and whosoever doth pervert the oracles of the Lord to his own lusts, and saith that there is neither resurrection nor judgment, he is a firstborn of Satan And every spirit that confesseth not the Lord Jesus come in the flesh is not of God, and this is the (spirit) of Antichrist of which ye have heard that is cometh, and now already it is in the world.
Pas gar, hos an me homologe, Iesoun Christon en sarki elêluthenai, antichristos estin, kai hos an mê homologê to martyrion tou staurou, ek tou diabolou estin, kai hos an methodeuê ta logia tou kuriou pros tas idias epithumias, kai legei mête anastasin mête krisin, outos prôtotokos esti tou Satana. Kai pan pneuma ho mê homologei Iêsoun kurioun en sarki elêluthota, ek tou theou ouk estin, kai touto estin to tou antichristou, ho ti akêkoamen hoti erchetai, kai nun en tô kosmô estin êdê. [446:1]

This passage does not occur as a quotation, and the utmost that can be said of the few words with which it opens is that a phrase somewhat resembling, but at the same time materially differing from, the Epistle of John is interwoven with the text of the Epistle to the Philippians. If this were really a quotation from the canonical Epistle, it would indeed be singular that, considering the supposed relations of Polycarp and John, the name of the apostle should not have been mentioned, and a quotation have been distinctly and correctly made. On the other hand, there is no earlier trace of the canonical Epistle, and, as Volkmar argues, it may be doubted whether it may not rather be dependent on the Epistle to the Philippians, than the latter upon the Epistle of John. [446:2]

We believe, with Scholten, that neither is dependent on the other, but that both adopted a formula in use in the early Church against various heresies, [447:1] the superficial coincidence of which is without any weight as evidence for the use of either Epistle by the writer of the other. Moreover, it is clear that the writers refer to different classes of heretics. Polycarp attacks the Docetae who deny that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh, that is with a human body of flesh and blood; whilst the Epistle of John is directed against those who deny that Jesus who has come in the flesh is the Christ the Son of God. [447:2] Volkmar points out that in Polycarp the word "Antichrist" is made a proper name, whilst in the Epistle the expression used is the abstract "Spirit of Anti-Christ." Polycarp, in fact, says that whoever denies the flesh of Christ is no Christian but anti-Christ, and Volkmar finds this direct assertion more original than the assertion of the Epistle: "Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God" [447:3] etc. In any case it seems to us clear that in both writings we have only the independent enunciation, with decided difference of language and sense, of a formula current in the Church, and that neither writer can be held to have originated the condemnation, in these words, of heresies which the Church had begun vehemently to oppose, and which were merely an application of ideas already well known, as we see from the expression of the Epistle in reference to the Spirit of Antichrist, "of which ye have heard that it cometh." Whether this phrase be an allusion to the Apocalypse 13, or to 2 Thess. 2, or to traditions current in the Church, we need not inquire; it is sufficient that the Epistle of John avowedly applies a prophecy regarding Antichrist already known amongst Christians, which was equally open to the other writer, and probably familiar in the Church. This cannot under any circumstances be admitted as evidence of weight for the use of the first Epistle of John. There is no evidence of the existence of the Epistles ascribed to John previous to this date, and their origin would have to be established on sure grounds before the argument we are considering can have any value.

On the other hand, we have already seen [447:4] that there is strong reason to doubt the authenticity of the Epistle attributed to Polycarp, and certainty that in any case it is, in its present form, considerably interpolated. Even if genuine in any part, the use of the first Epistle of John, if established, could not be of much value as testimony for the fourth Gospel, of which the writing does not show a trace. So far from there being any evidence that Polycarp knew the fourth Gospel, however, everything points to the opposite conclusion. About AD 154-155 we find them taking part in the Paschal controversy, [448:1] contradicting the statements of the fourth Gospel, [448:2] and supporting the Synoptic view, contending that the Christian festival should be celebrated on the 14th Nisan, the day on which he affirmed that the Apostle John himself had observed it. [448:3] Irenaeus, who represents Polycarp as the disciple of John, says of him: "For neither was Anicetus able to persuade Polycarp not to observe it (on the 14th) because he had always observed it with John the disciple of our Lord, and with the rest of the apostles with whom he consorted." [448:4] Not only, therefore, does Polycarp not refer to the fourth Gospel, but he is, on the contrary, an important witness against it as the work of John, for he represents that apostle as practically contradicting the Gospel of which he is said to be the author.
 


The fulness with which we have discussed the character of the evangelical quotations of Justin Martyr renders the task of ascertaining whether his works indicate any acquaintance with the fourth Gospel comparatively easy. The detailed statements already made enable us without preliminary explanation directly to attack the problem, and we are freed from the necessity of making extensive quotations to illustrate the facts of the case.

Whilst apologists assert with some boldness that Justin made use of our Synoptics, they are evidently, and with good reason, less confident in maintaining his acquaintance with the fourth Gospel. Dr. Westcott states: "His references to St. John are uncertain; but this, as has been already remarked, follows from the character of the fourth Gospel. It was unlikely that he should quote its peculiar teaching on apologetic writings addressed to Jews and heathens; and at the same time he exhibits types of language and doctrine which, if not immediately drawn from St. John, yet mark the presence of his influence and the recognition of his authority." [448:5] This apology for the neglect of the fourth Gospel illustrates the obvious scantiness of the evidence furnished by Justin.

Tischendorf, however, with his usual temerity, claims Justin as a powerful witness for the fourth Gospel. He says: "According to our judgment there are convincing grounds of proof for the fact that John also was known and used by Justin, provided that unprejudiced consideration be not made to give way to antagonistic predilection against the Johannine Gospel." In order fully and fairly to state the case which he puts forward, we shall quote his own words, but to avoid repetition we shall permit ourselves to interrupt him by remarks and by parallel passages from other writings for comparison with Justin. Tischendorf says: "The representation of the person of Christ, altogether peculiar to John, as it is given particularly in his prologue 1:1 ('In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God'), and verse 14 ('and the word became flesh'), in the designation of him as Logos, as the word of God, unmistakably re-echoes in not a few passages in Justin; for instance: 'And Jesus Christ is alone the special Son begotten by God, being his Word and first-begotten and power.'" [449:1]

With this we may compare another passage of Justin from the second Apology. "But his son, who alone is rightly called Son, the Word before the works of creation, who was both with him and begotten when in the beginning he created and ordered all things by him," [449:2] etc.

Now the same words and ideas are to be found throughout the Canonical Epistles and other writings, as well as in earlier works. In the Apocalypse, [449:3] the only book of the New Testament mentioned by Justin, and which is directly ascribed by him to John, [449:4] the term Logos is applied to Jesus "the Lamb" (19:13); "and his name is called the Word of God" (kai keklêtai to onoma autou ho Logos tou theou). Elsewhere (3:14) he is called "the Beginning of the Creation of God" (hê archê tês ktiseôs tou Theou); and again in the same book (1:5) he is "the first-begotten of the dead" (ho prôtotokos tôn nekrôn). In Heb. 1:6 he is the "first-born" (prôtotokos), as in Coloss. 1:15 he is "the first-born of every creature" (prôtotokos pasês ktiseôs); and in 1 Cor. 1:24 we have: "Christ the Power of God and the Wisdom of God" (Christon theou dynamin kai Theoi sophian), and it will be remembered that "Wisdom" was the earlier term which became an alternative with "Word" for the intermediate Being. In Heb. 1:2 God is represented as speaking to us "in the Son … by whom he also made the worlds" (en uiô, ... di' ou kai epoiêsen tous aiônias). In 2 Tim. 1:9 he is "before all worlds" (pro chronôn aiôniôn), cf. Heb. 1:10, 2:10, Rom. 11:36, 1 Cor. 8:6, Ephes. 3:9.

The works of Philo are filled with similar representations of the Logos, but we must restrict ourselves to a very few. God as a Shepherd and King governs the universe, "having appointed his true Logos, his first begotten Son, to have the care of this sacred flock, as the Vicegerent of a great King." [450:1] In another place Philo exhorts men to strive to become like God's "first begotten Word" (ton prôtogonon autou Logon), [450:2] and he adds, a few lines further on: "for the most ancient Word is the image of God" (Theou gar eikôn Logos ho presbytatos). The high priest of God in the world is the divine Word, his first-begotten son (ho prôtogonos autou theios Logos). [450:3] Speaking of the creation of the world, Philo says: "The instrument by which it was formed is the Word of God" (organon de Logon Theou, di' ou kateskeuasthê). [450:4] Elsewhere: "For the word is the image of God by which the whole world was created" (Logos de estin eikôn theou, di' ou sumpas ho kosmos edêmiourgeito). [450:5] These passages might be indefinitely multiplied.

Tischendorf's next passage is: "The first power (dynamis) after the Father of all and God the Lord, and Son, is the Word (Logos); in what manner having been made flesh (sarkopoiêtheis) he became man, we shall in what follows relate." [450:6]

We find everywhere parallels for this passage without seeking them in the fourth Gospel. In 1 Cor. 1:24, "Christ the Power (dynamis) of God and the Wisdom of God"; cf. Heb. 1:2, 3, 4, 6, 8; 2:8. In Heb. 2:14-18 there is a distinct account of his becoming flesh; cf. verse 7. In Phil. 2:6-8: "Who (Jesus Christ) being in the form of God, deemed it not grasping to be equal with God (7), But gave himself up, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men," etc. In Rom. 8:3 we have: "God sending his own Son in the likeness of the flesh of sin," etc. (ho theos ton eautou uion pempsas en omoiômati sarkos hamartias). It must be borne in mind that the terminology of John 1:14, "and the word became flesh" (sarx egeneto) is different from that of Justin, who uses the word sarkopoiêtheis. The sense and language here is, therefore, quite as close as that of the fourth Gospel. We have also another parallel in 1 Tim. 3:16, "Who (God) was manifested in the flesh" (hos ephanerôthê en sarki); cf. 1 Cor. 15:4, 47.

In like manner we find many similar passages in the works of Philo. He says, in one place, that man was not made in the likeness of the most high God the Father of the universe, but in that of the "Second God who is his Word" (alla pros ton deuteron theon, hos estin ekeinou Logos). [451:1] In another place the Logos is said to be the interpreter of the highest God, and he continues: "that must be God of us imperfect beings" (Outos gar hêmôn tôn atelôn an ein theos). [451:2] Elsewhere he says: "But the divine Word which is above these (the Winged Cherubim) … but being itself the image of God, at once the most ancient of all conceivable things, and the one placed nearest to the only true and absolute existence without any separation or distance between them"; [451:3] and a few lines further on he explains the cities of refuge to be: "The word of the Governor (of all things) and his creative and kingly power, for of these are the heavens and the whole world." [451:4] "The Logos of God is above all things in the world, and is the most ancient and the most universal of all things which are." [451:5] The Word is also the "Ambassador sent by the Governor (of the universe) to his subject (man)" (presbeutês de tou hêgemonos pros to hupêkoon). [451:6] Such views of the Logos are everywhere met with in the pages of Philo.

Tischendorf continues: "The Word (Logos) of God is his Son." [451:7] We have already in the preceding paragraphs abundantly illustrated this sentence, and may proceed to the next: "But since they did not know all things concerning the Logos, which is Christ, they have frequently contradicted each other." [452:1] These words are used with reference to lawgivers and philosophers. Justin, who frankly admits the delight he took in the writings of Plato [452:2] and other Greek philosophers, held the view that Socrates and Plato had, in an elementary form, enunciated the doctrine of the Logos, [452:3] although he contends that they borrowed it from the writings of Moses; and with a largeness of mind very uncommon in the early Church, and, indeed, we might add, in any age, he believed Socrates and such philosophers to have been Christians, even although they had been considered Atheists. [452:4] As they did not, of course, know Christ to be the Logos, he makes the assertion just quoted. Now, the only point in the passage which requires notice is the identification of the Logos with Jesus, which has already been dealt with, and, as this was asserted in the Apocalypse 19:13, before the fourth Gospel was written, no evidence in its favour is deducible from the statement. We shall have more to say regarding this presently.

Tischendorf continues: "But in what manner, through the Word of God, Jesus Christ our Saviour has become flesh," [452:5] etc.

It must be apparent that the doctrine here is not that of the fourth Gospel which makes "the word become flesh" simply, whilst Justin, representing a less advanced form, and more uncertain stage, of its development, draws a distinction between the Logos and Jesus, and describes Jesus Christ as being made flesh by the power of the Logos. This is no accidental use of words, for he repeatedly states the same fact, as for instance: "But why through the power of the Word, according to the will of God the Father and Lord of all, he was born a man of a Virgin," [452:6] etc.

Tischendorf continues: "To these passages out of the short second Apology we extract from the first (cap. 33). [452:7] By the Spirit, therefore, and power of God (in reference to Luke 1:35: 'The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee) we have nothing else to understand but the Logos, which is the first-born of God." [452:8]

Here again we have the same difference from the doctrine of the fourth Gospel which we have just pointed out, which is, however, completely in agreement with the views of Philo, and characteristic of a less developed form of the idea. We shall further refer to the terminology hereafter, and meantime we proceed to the last illustration given by Tischendorf.

"Out of the Dialogue (c. 105): 'For that he was the only-begotten of the Father of all, in peculiar wise begotten of him as Word and Power (dynamis), and afterwards became man through the Virgin, as we have learnt from the Memoirs, I have already stated." [453:1]

The allusion here is to the preceding chapters of the Dialogue, wherein, with special reference (c. 100) to the passage which has a parallel in Luke 1:35, quoted by Tischendorf in the preceding illustration, Justin narrates the birth of Jesus.

This reference very appropriately leads us to a more general discussion of the real source of the terminology and Logos doctrine of Justin. We do not propose, in this work, to enter fully into the history of the Logos doctrine, and we must confine ourselves strictly to showing, in the most simple manner possible, that not only is there no evidence whatever that Justin derived his ideas regarding it from the fourth Gospel, but that, on the contrary, his terminology and doctrine may be traced to another source. In the very chapter (100) from which this last illustration is taken, Justin shows clearly whence he derives the expression, "only-begotten". In chap. 97 he refers to the Ps. 22 (Sept. 21) as a prophecy applying to Jesus, quotes the whole Psalm, and comments upon it in the following chapters; refers to Ps. 2:7, "Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee," uttered by the voice at the baptism, in ch. 103, in illustration of it; and in ch. 105 he arrives, in his exposition of it, at verse 20: "Deliver my soul from the sword, and my [453:2] only-begotten (monogenê) from the hand of the dog." Then follows the passage we are discussing, in which Justin affirms that he has proved that he was the only-begotten (mongenês) of the Father, and at the close he again quotes the verse as indicative of his sufferings. The Memoirs are referred to in regard to the fulfilment of this prophecy, and his birth as man through the Virgin. The phrase in Justin is quite different from that in the fourth Gospel, 1:14: "And the Word became flesh (sarx egeneto) and tabernacled among us, and we beheld his glory, glory as of the only-begotten from the Father" (hos monogenous para patros), etc. In Justin, he is "the only-begotten of the Father of all" (monogenês tô Patri tôn holôn), and he "became man (anthrôpos genomenos) through the Virgin," and Justin never once employs the peculiar terminology of the fourth Gospel, sarx egeneto, in any part of his writings.

There can be no doubt that, however the Christian doctrine of the Logos may at one period of its development have been influenced by Greek philosophy, it was in its central idea mainly of Jewish origin, and the mere application to an individual of a theory which had long occupied the Hebrew mind. After the original simplicity which represented God as holding personal intercourse with the Patriarchs, and communing face to face with the great leaders of Israel, had been outgrown, an increasing tendency set in to shroud the Divinity in impenetrable mystery, and to regard him as unapproachable and undiscernible by man. This led to the recognition of a Divine representative and substitute of the highest God and Father, who communicated with his creatures, and through whom alone he revealed himself. A new system of interpretation of the ancient traditions of the nation was rendered necessary, and in the Septuagint translation of the Bible we are fortunately able to trace the progress of the theory which culminated in the Christian doctrine of the Logos. Wherever in the sacred records God has been represented as holding intercourse with man, the translators either symbolised the appearance or interposed an angel, who was afterwards understood to be the Divine Word. The first name under which the Divine Mediator was known in the Old Testament was Wisdom (Sophia), although in its Apocrypha the term Logos was not unknown. The personification of the idea was very rapidly effected, and in the Book of Proverbs, as well as in the later Apocrypha based upon it (the Wisdom of Solomon, and the Wisdom of Sirach, "Ecclesiasticus") we find it in ever-increasing clearness and concretion. In the School of Alexandria the active Jewish intellect eagerly occupied itself with the speculation, and in the writings of Philo especially we find the doctrine of the Logos -- the term which by that time had almost entirely supplanted that of Wisdom -- elaborated to almost its final point, and wanting little or nothing but its application in an incarnate form to an individual man to represent the doctrine of the earlier Canonical writings of the New Testament, and notably the Epistle to the Hebrews -- the work of a Christian Philo [454:1] -- the Pauline Epistles, and lastly the fourth Gospel.

In Proverbs 8:22 f. we have a representation of Wisdom corresponding closely with the prelude to the fourth Gospel, and still more so with the doctrine enunciated by Justin: "22. The Lord created me the Beginning of his ways for his works. 23. Before the ages he established me, in the beginning before he made the earth. 24. And before he made the abysses, before the springs of the waters issued forth. 25. Before the mountains were settled, and before all the hills he begets me. 26. The Lord made the lands, both those which are uninhabited and the inhabited heights of the earth beneath the sky. 27. When he prepared the heavens I was present with him, and when he set his throne upon the winds, 28, and made strong the high clouds, and the deeps under the heaven made secure, 29, and made strong the foundations of the earth, 30, I was with him adjusting, I was that in which he delighted; daily I rejoiced in his presence at all times." [455:1] In the Wisdom of Solomon we find the writer addressing God: 9:1 "...Who madest all things by thy Word" (ho poiêsas ta panta en Logô sou); and further on in the same chapter, 5:9: "And Wisdom was with thee who knoweth thy works, and was present when thou madest the world, and knew what was acceptable in thy sight, and right in thy commandments." In verse 4 the writer prays: "Give me Wisdom that sitteth by thy thrones" (Dos moi tên tôn sôn thronôn paredron sophian). In a similar way the son of Sirach makes Wisdom say (Eccles. 24:9): "He (the Most High) created me from the beginning before the world, and as long as the world I shall not fail." We have already incidentally seen how these thoughts grew into an elaborate doctrine of the Logos in the works of Philo.

Now Justin, whilst he nowhere adopts the terminology of the fourth Gospel, and nowhere refers to its introductory condensed statement of the Logos doctrine, closely follows Philo and, like him, traces it back to the Old Testament in the most direct way, accounting for the interposition of the divine Mediator in precisely the same manner as Philo, and expressing the views which had led the Seventy to modify the statement of the Hebrew original in their Greek translation. He is, in fact, thoroughly acquainted with the history of the Logos doctrine and its earlier enunciation under the symbol of Wisdom, and his knowledge of it is clearly independent of, and antecedent to, the statements of the fourth Gospel.

Referring to various episodes of the Old Testament in which God is represented as appearing to Moses and the Patriarchs, and in which it is said that "God went up from Abraham," [455:2] or "The Lord spake to Moses," [455:3] or "The Lord came down to behold the town," [455:4] etc., or "God shut Noah into the ark," [455:5] and so on, Justin warns his antagonist that he is not to suppose that "the unbegotten God" (agennêtos theos) did any of these things, for he has neither to come to any place, nor walks, but from his own place, wherever it may be, knows everything, although he has neither eyes nor ears. Therefore he could not talk with anyone, nor be seen by anyone, and none of the Patriarchs saw the Father at all, but they saw "him who was according to his will both his Son (being God) and the Angel, in that he ministered to his purpose, whom also he willed to be born man by the Virgin, who became fire when he spoke with Moses from the bush." [456:1] He refers throughout his writings to the various appearances of God to the Patriarchs, all of which he ascribes to the pre-existent Jesus, the Word, [456:2] and in the very next chapter, after alluding to some of these, he says: "He is called Angel because he came to men, since by him the decrees of the Father are announced to men … At other times he is also called Man and human being, because he appears clothed in these forms as the Father wills, and they call him Logos because he bears the communications of the Father to mankind." [456:3]

Justin, moreover, repeatedly refers to the fact that he was called Wisdom by Solomon, and quotes the passage we have indicated in Proverbs. In one place he says, in proof of his assertion that the God who appeared to Moses and the Patriarchs was distinguished from the Father, and was in fact the Word (ch. 66-70): "Another testimony I will give you, my friends, I said, from the Scriptures, that God begat before all of the creatures (pro tantôn tôn ktismatôn) a Beginning (archên), [456:4] a certain rational Power (dynamin logikên) out of himself, who is called by the Holy Spirit, now the Glory of the Lord, then the Son, again Wisdom, again Angel, again God, and again Lord and Logos," etc., and a little further on: "The Word of Wisdom will testify to me, who is himself this God begotten of the Father of the universe, being Word, and Wisdom, and Power (dynamis), and the Glory of the Begetter," etc., [456:5] and he quotes, from the Septuagint version, Proverbs 8:22-36, part of which we have given above. Elsewhere, indeed, (Ch. 129), he cites the passage a second time as evidence, with a similar context. Justin refers to it again in the next chapter, and the peculiarity of his terminology in all these passages, so markedly different from, and indeed opposed to, that of the fourth Gospel, will naturally strike the reader: "But this offspring (gennêma) being truly brought forth by the Father was with the Father before all created beings (pro pantôn tôn poiêmatôn), and the Father communes it with him, as the Logos declared through Solomon, that this same, who is called Wisdom by Solomon, had been begotten of God before all created beings (pro pantôn tôn poiêmatôn), both Beginning (archê) and Offspring (gennêma)," etc. [457:1] In another after quoting the words, "No man knoweth the Father but the Son, nor the Son but the Father, and they to whom the Son will reveal him," Justin continues: "Therefore he revealed to us all that we have by his grace understood out of the Scriptures, recognising him to be indeed the first-begotten (prôtotokos) of God and before all creatures (pro tantôn tôn ktismatôn) ... and calling him Son, we have understood that he proceeded from the Father by his power and will before all created beings (pro pantôn poiematôn) for in one form or another he is spoken of in the writings of the prophets as Wisdom," etc.; [457:2] and again, in two other places, he refers to the same fact. [457:3]

On further examination, we find on every side still stronger confirmation of the conclusion that Justin derived his Logos doctrine from the Old Testament and Philo, together with early New Testament writings. We have quoted several passages in which Justin details the various names of the Logos, and we may add one more. Referring to Ps. 72, which the Jews apply to Solomon, but which Justin maintains to be applicable to Christ, he says: "For Christ is King, and Priest, and God, and Lord, and Angel, and Man, and Captain, and Stone, and a Son born (paidion gennômenon), etc., as I prove by all of the Scriptures." [457:4] Now these representations, which are constantly repeated throughout Justin's writings, are quite opposed to the Spirit of the fourth Gospel; but are, on the other hand, equally common in the works of Philo, and many of them also to be found in the Philonian Epistle to the Hebrews. Taking the chief amongst them, we may briefly illustrate them. The Logos as King, Justin avowedly derives from Ps. 72, in which he finds that reference is made to the "Everlasting King, that is to say Christ." [457:5] We find this representation of the Logos throughout the writings of Philo. In one place already referred to, [457:6] but which we shall now more fully quote, he says: "For God as Shepherd and King governs according to Law and justice like a flock of sheep, the earth, and water, and air, and fire, and all the plants and living things that are in them, whether they be mortal or divine, as well as the course of heaven, and the periods of sun and moon, and the variations and harmonious revolutions of the other stars; having appointed his true Word (ton orthon autou Logon) his first-begotten Son (prôtogonon uion) to have the care of this sacred flock as the Vicegerent of a great King"; [458:1] and a little further on he says: "Very reasonably, therefore, he will assume the name of a King, being addressed as a Shepherd." [458:2] In another place Philo speaks of the "Logos of the Governor, and his creative and kingly power, for of these is the heaven and the whole world." [458:3]

Then if we take the second epithet, the Logos as Priest (iereus), which is quite foreign to the fourth Gospel, we find it repeated by Justin, as, for instance: "Christ the eternal Priest" (iereus); [458:4] and it is not only a favourite representation of Philo, but is almost the leading idea of the Epistle to the Hebrews, in connection with the episode of Melchisedec, in whom also both Philo [458:5] and Justin [458:6] recognise the Logos. In the Epistle to the Hebrews, 7:3, speaking of Melchisedec: "but likened to the Son of God, abideth a Priest for ever"; again in 4:14: "Seeing then that we have a great High Priest that is passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God," etc.; 9:11: "Christ having appeared a High Priest of the good things to come"; 12:21: "Thou art a Priest for ever." The passages are far too numerous to quote. [458:7] They are equally numerous in the writings of Philo. In one place already quoted [458:8] he says: "For there are, as it seems, two temples of God, one of which is this world, in which the High Priest is the Divine Word, his first-begotten Son" (Duo gar, hôs eoiken, iera theou, hen men hode ho kosmos, en hô kai archiereus, ho prôtogonos autou theios Logos). [458:9] Elsewhere, speaking of the period for the return of fugitives, the death of the high priest, which taken literally would embarrass him in his allegory, Philo says: "For we maintain the High Priest not to be a man, but the divine Word, who is without participation not only in voluntary but also in involuntary sins"; [458:10] and he goes on to speak of this priest as "the most sacred Word" (ho ierôtatos Logos). [459:1] Indeed, in many long passages he descants upon the "high priest Word" (ho archiereus Logos). [459:2]

Proceeding to the next representations of the Logos as "God and Lord," we meet with the idea everywhere. In Hebrews 1:8: "But regarding the Son he saith: Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever" (pros de ton uion ho thronos sou, ho Theos, eis ton aiôna tou aiônos), etc.; and again in the Epistle to the Philippians, 2:6: "Who (Jesus Christ), being in the form of God, deemed it not grasping to be equal with God" (hos en morphê theou huparchôn ouch harpagmon hêgêsato to einai isa theô), etc. [459:3] Philo, in the fragment preserved by Eusebius, to which we have already referred, [459:4] calls the Logos the Second God" (deuteros theos). [459:5] In another passage he has: "But he calls the most ancient God his present Logos," etc. (kalei de theon ton presbytaton autou nuni Logon); [459:6] and a little further on, speaking of the inability of men to look on the Father himself: "Thus they regard the image of God, his Angel Word, as himself" (outôs kai tên tou theou eikona, ton angelon autou Logon, hôs katanoousin). [459:7] Elsewhere discussing the possibility of God's swearing by himself, which he applies to the Logos, he says: "For in regard to us imperfect beings he will be a God, but in regard to wise and perfect beings the first. And yet Moses, in awe of the superiority of the unbegotten (agennêtou) God, says: 'And thou shalt swear by his name,' not by himself; for it is sufficient for the creature to receive assurance and testimony by the divine Word." [459:8]
 


< Previous section      Contents      Home      Top of Page      Next section >
HTML © 2002 -