THE result of our inquiry into the evidence for the fourth Gospel is sufficiently decided to render further examination unnecessary. We have seen that, for a century and a half after the events recorded in the work, there is not only no testimony connecting the fourth Gospel with the Apostle John, but no certain trace even of the existence of the Gospel. There has not been the slightest evidence in any of the writings of the Fathers which we have examined even of a tradition that the Apostle John had composed any evangelical work at all, and the claim advanced in favour of the Christian miracles to contemporaneous evidence of extraordinary force and veracity by undoubted eye-witnesses so completely falls to the ground that we might here well bring this part of our inquiry to a close. There are, however, so many peculiar circumstances connected with the fourth Gospel, both in regard to its authorship and to its relationship to the three Synoptics, which invite further attention, that we propose briefly to review some of them. We must carefully restrict ourselves to the limits of our inquiry, and resist any temptation to enter upon an exhaustive discussion of the problem presented by the fourth Gospel from a more general literary point of view.
The endeavour to obtain some positive, or at least negative, information regarding the author of the fourth Gospel is facilitated by the fact that several other works in the New Testament Canon are ascribed to him. These works present such marked and distinct characteristics that, apart from the fact that their number extends the range of evidence, they afford an unusual opportunity of testing the tradition which assigns them all to the Apostle John, by comparing the clear indications which they give of the idiosyncrasies of their author with the independent data which we possess regarding the history and character of the Apostle. It is asserted by the Church that John the son of Zebedee, one of the disciples of Jesus, is the composer of no less than five of our canonical writings, and it would be impossible to select any books of our New Testament presenting more distinct features, or more widely divergent views, than are to be found in the Apocalypse on the one hand, and the Gospel and three Epistles on the other. Whilst a strong family likeness exists between the Epistles and the Gospel, and they exhibit close analogies both in thought and language, the Apocalypse, on the contrary, is so different from them in language, in style, in religious views and terminology, that it is almost impossible to believe that the writer of the one could be the author of the other. The translators of our New Testament have laboured, and not in vain, to eliminate as far as possible all individuality of style and language, and to reduce the various books of which it is composed to one uniform smoothness of diction. It is, therefore, impossible for the mere English reader to appreciate the immense difference which exists between the harsh and Hebraistic Greek of the Apocalypse and the polished elegance of the fourth Gospel, and it is to be feared that the rarity of critical study has prevented any general recognition of the almost equally striking contrast of thought between the two works. The remarkable peculiarities which distinguish the Apocalypse and Gospel of John, however, were very early appreciated, and almost the first application of critical judgment to the canonical books of the New Testament is the argument of Dionysius, Bishop of Alexandria, about the middle of the third century, that the author of the fourth Gospel could not be the writer of the Book of Revelation. [511:1] The dogmatic predilections which at that time had begun to turn against the Apocalypse, the non-fulfilment of the prophecies of which disappointed and puzzled the early Church, led Dionysius to solve the difficulty by deciding in favour of the authenticity of the Gospel; but at least he recognised the dilemma which has since occupied so much of Biblical criticism.
It is not necessary to enter upon any exhaustive analysis of the Apocalypse and Gospel to demonstrate anew that both works cannot have emanated from the same mind. This has already been conclusively done by others. Some apologetic writers -- greatly influenced, no doubt, by the express declaration of the Church, and satisfied by analogies which could scarcely fail to exist between two works dealing with a similar theme -- together with a very few independent critics, have asserted the authenticity of both works. The great majority of critics, however, have fully admitted the impossibility of recognising a common source for the fourth Gospel and the Apocalypse of John. The critical question regarding the two works has, in fact, reduced itself to the dilemma which may be expressed as follows, in the words of Lücke: "Either the Gospel and the first Epistle are genuine writings of the Apostle John, and, in that case, the Apocalypse is no genuine work of that Apostle, or the inverse." [511:2] After an elaborate comparison of the two works, the same writer, who certainly will not be suspected of wilfully subversive criticism, resumes: "The difference between the language, way of expression, and mode of thought and doctrine of the Apocalypse and the rest of the Johannine writings, is so comprehensive and intense, so individual and so radical; the affinity and agreement, on the contrary, are so vague, and in details so fragmentary and uncertain (zurückweichend), that the Apostle John, if he really be the author of the Gospel and of the Epistle — which we here assume — cannot have composed the Apocalypse either before or after the Gospel and the Epistle. If all critical experience and rules in such literary questions are not deceptive, it is certain that the Evangelist and Apocalyptist are two different persons of the name of John," [512:1] etc.
De Wette, another conservative critic, speaks with equal decision. After an able comparison of the two works, he says: "From all this it follows (and in New Testament criticism no result is more certain) that the Apostle John, if he be the author of the fourth Gospel and of the Johannine Epistles, did not write the Apocalypse; or, if the Apocalypse be his work, that he is not the author of the other writings." [512:2] Ewald is equally positive: "Above all" he says, "we should err in tracing this work (the Gospel) to the Apostle if the Apocalypse of the New Testament were by him. That this much earlier writing cannot have been composed by the author of the latter is an axiom which I consider I have already (in 1826-28) so convincingly demonstrated that it would be superfluous now to return to it, especially as, since then, all men capable of forming a judgment are of the same opinion, and what has been brought forward by a few writers against it too clearly depends upon influences foreign to science." [512:3] We may, therefore, consider the point generally admitted, and proceed, very briefly, to discuss the question upon this basis.
The external evidence that the Apostle John wrote the Apocalypse is more ancient than that for the authorship of any book of the New Testament, excepting some of the Epistles of Paul, and this is admitted even by critics who ultimately deny the authenticity of the work. Passing over the very probable statement of Andrew of Caesarea, [512:4] that Papias recognised the Apocalypse as an inspired work, and the inference drawn from this fact that he referred it to the Apostle, we at once proceed to Justin Martyr, who affirms in the clearest and most positive manner the Apostolic origin of the work. He speaks to Tryphon of "a certain man whose name was John, one of the Apostles of Christ, who prophesied by a revelation made to him," of the millennium and subsequent general resurrection and judgment. [513:1] The statement of Justin is all the more important from the fact that he does not name any other writing of the New Testament, and that the Old Testament was still for him the only Holy Scripture. The genuineness of this testimony is not called in question by anyone. Eusebius states that Melito of Sardis wrote a work on the Apocalypse of John, [513:2] and Jerome mentions the treatise. [513:3] There can be no doubt that had Melito thrown the slightest doubt on the Apostolic origin of the Apocalypse, Eusebius, whose dogmatic views led him to depreciate that writing, would have referred to the fact. Eusebius also mentions that Apollonius, a Presbyter of Ephesus, quoted the Apocalypse against the Montanists, and there is reason to suppose that he did so as an Apostolic work. [513:4] Eusebius further states that Theophilus of Antioch made use of testimony from the Apocalypse of John; [513:5] but although, as Eusebius does not mention anything to the contrary, it is probable that Theophilus really recognised the book to be by John the Apostle, the uncritical haste of Eusebius renders his vague statement of little value. We do not think it worthwhile to quote the evidence of later writers. Although Irenaeus, who repeatedly assigns the Apocalypse to John, the disciple of the Lord, [513:6] is cited by Apologists as a very important witness, more especially from his intercourse with Polycarp, we do not attribute any value to his testimony, both from the late date at which he wrote and from the uncritical and credulous character of his mind. Although he appeals to the testimony of those "who saw John face to face" with regard to the number of the name of the Beast, his own utter ignorance of the interpretation shows how little information he can have derived from Polycarp. [513:7] The same remarks apply still more strongly to Tertullian, who most unhesitatingly assigns the Apocalypse to the Apostle John. [513:8] It would be useless more particularly to refer to later evidence, or quote even the decided testimony in its favour of Clement of Alexandria, [513:9] or Origen. [513:10]
The first doubt cast upon the authenticity of the Apocalypse occurs in the argument of Dionysius of Alexandria, one of the disciples of Origen, in the middle of the third century. He mentions that some had objected to the whole work as without sense or reason, and as displaying such dense ignorance that it was impossible that an Apostle, or even one in the Church, could have written it, and they assigned it to Cerinthus, who held the doctrine of the reign of Christ on earth. [514:1] These objections, it is obvious, are merely dogmatic, and do not affect to be historical. They are, in fact, a good illustration of the method by which the Canon was formed. If the doctrine of any writing met with the approval of the early Church, it was accepted with unhesitating faith, and its pretension to Apostolic origin was admitted as a natural consequence; but if, on the other hand, the doctrine of the writing was not clearly that of the community, it was rejected without further examination. It is an undeniable fact that not a single trace exists of the application of historical criticism to any book of the New Testament in the early ages of Christianity. The case of the Apocalypse is most intelligible: so long as the expectation and hope of a second advent and of a personal reign of the risen and glorified Christ, of the prevalence of which we have abundant testimony in the Pauline Epistles and other early works, continued to animate the Church, the Apocalypse which excited and fostered them was a popular volume; but as years passed away and the general longing of Christians, eagerly marking the signs of the times, was again and again disappointed, and the hope of a millennium began either to be abandoned or indefinitely postponed, the Apocalypse proportionately lost favour, or was regarded as an incomprehensible book misleading the world by illusory promises. Its history is that of a highly dogmatic treatise esteemed or contemned in proportion to the ebb and flow of opinion regarding the doctrines which it expresses.
The objections of Dionysius, resting first upon dogmatic grounds and his inability to understand the Apocalyptic utterances of the book, took the shape we have mentioned of a critical dilemma: the author of the Gospel could not at the same time be the author of the Apocalypse. Dogmatic predilection decided the question in favour of the apostolic origin of the fourth Gospel, and the reasoning by which that decision is arrived at has, therefore, no critical force or value. The fact still remains that Justin Martyr distinctly refers to the Apocalypse as the work of the Apostle John, and no similar testimony exists in support of the claims of the fourth Gospel.
As another most important point, we may mention that there is probably not another work of the New Testament the precise date of the composition of which, within a very few weeks, can so positively be affirmed. No result of criticism rests upon a more secure basis and is now more universally accepted by all competent critics than the fact that the Apocalypse was written in AD 68-69. The writer distinctly and repeatedly mentions his name: 1:1, "The revelation of Jesus Christ … unto his servant John"; 1:4, "John to the seven churches which are in Asia"; [515:1] and he states that the work was written in the island of Patmos, where he was "on account of the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus." [515:2] Ewald, who decides in the most arbitrary manner against the authenticity of the Apocalypse and in favour of the Johannine authorship of the Gospel, objects that the author, although he certainly calls himself John, does not assume to be an Apostle, but merely terms himself the servant (doulos) of Christ like other true Christians, and distinctly classes himself among the Prophets, [515:3] and not among the Apostles. [515:4] We find, however, that Paul, who was not apt to waive his claims to the Apostolate, was content to call himself "Paul, a servant (doulos) of Jesus Christ, called to be an Apostle," in writing to the Romans (1:1); and the superscription of the Epistle to the Philippians is: "Paul and Timothy, servants (douloi) of Christ Jesus." [515:5] There was, moreover, reason why the author of the Book of Revelation, a work the form of which was decidedly based upon that of Daniel and other Jewish Apocalyptic writings, should rather adopt the character of Prophet than the less suitable designation of Apostle upon such an occasion. It is clear that he counted fully upon being generally known under the simple designation of "John," and when we consider the unmistakable terms of authority with which he addresses the Seven Churches it is scarcely possible to deny that the writer either was the Apostle. or distinctly desired to assume his personality. It is not necessary for us here to enter into any discussion regarding the "Presbyter John," for it is generally admitted that even he could not have had at that time any position in Asia Minor which could have warranted such a tone. If the name of Apostle, therefore, be not directly assumed -- and it was not necessary to assume it -- the authority of one is undeniably inferred.
Ewald argues that, on the contrary, the author could not more clearly express that he was not one of the Twelve than when he imagines (Apoc., 21:14) the names of the "twelve apostles of the Lamb" shining upon the twelve foundation-stones of the wall of the future heavenly Jerusalem. He considers that no intelligent person could thus publicly glorify himself or anticipate the honour which God alone can bestow. "Can anyone seriously believe," he indignantly inquires, "that one of the Twelve, yea, that even he whom we know as the most delicate and refined amongst them, could have written this of himself?" [516:1] In the first place, we must remark that in this discussion it is not permissible to speak of our knowing John the Apostle as distinguished above all the rest of the Twelve for such qualities. Nowhere do we find such a representation of him except in the fourth Gospel, if even there, but, as we shall presently see, rather the contrary, and the fourth Gospel cannot here be received as evidence. We might point out that the symbolical representation of the heavenly Jerusalem is held to be practically objective, a revelation of things that "must shortly come to pass," and not a mere subjective sketch coloured according to the phantasy of the writer. Passing on, however, it must be apparent that the whole account of the heavenly city is typical, and that in basing its walls upon the Twelve he does not glorify himself personally, but simply gives its place to the idea which was symbolised when Jesus is represented as selecting twelve disciples, the number of the twelve tribes, upon whose preaching the spiritual city was to be built. The Jewish belief in a special preference of the Jews before all nations doubtless suggested this, and it forms a leading feature in the strong Hebraistic form of the writer's Christianity. The heavenly city is simply a glorified Jerusalem; the twelve Apostles, representatives of the twelve tribes, set apart for the regeneration of Israel, are the foundation- stones of the New City with its twelve tribes of Israel, [516:2] for whom the city is more particularly provided. For 144,000 of Israel are first scaled, 12,000 of each of the twelve tribes, before the Seer beholds the great multitude of all nations and tribes and peoples. [516:3] The whole description is a mere allegory characterised by the strongest Jewish dogmatism, and it is of singular value for the purpose of identifying the author.
Moreover, the apparent glorification of the Twelve is more than justified by the promise which Jesus is represented by the Synoptics [516:4] as making to them in person. When Peter, in the name of the Twelve, asks what is reserved for those who have forsaken all and followed him, Jesus replies "Verily I say unto you that ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of Man shall sit on the throne of his glory, ye also shall be set upon twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel." [516:5] Ewald himself, in his distribution of the materials of our existing first Synoptic to the supposed original sources, assigns this passage to the very oldest Gospel. [517:1] What impropriety is there, and what improbability, therefore, that an Apostle, in an apocalyptic allegory, should represent the names of the twelve Apostles as inscribed upon the twelve foundation-stones of the spiritual Jerusalem, as the names of the twelve tribes of Israel were inscribed upon the twelve gates of the city? On the contrary, it is probable under the circumstances that an Apostle should make such a representation, and, in view of the facts regarding the Apostle John himself which we have from the Synoptics, it is particularly in harmony with his character; and these characteristics directly tend to establish his identity with the author.
"How much less is it credible of the Apostle John," says Ewald elsewhere, pursuing the same argument, "who as a writer is so incomparably modest and delicate in feeling, and does not in a single one of the writings really emanating from him name himself as the author, or even proclaim his own praise." [517:2] This is merely sentimental assumption of facts, to which we shall hereafter allude; but, if the "incomparable modesty" of which he speaks really existed, nothing could more conclusively separate the author of the fourth Gospel from the son of Zebedee whom we know in the Synoptics, or more support the claims of the Apocalypse. In the first place, we must assert that, in writing a serious history of the life and teaching of Jesus, full of marvellous events and astounding doctrines, the omission of his name by an Apostle can not only not be recognised as genuine modesty, but must he condemned as culpable neglect. It is perfectly incredible that an Apostle could have written such a work without attaching his name as the guarantee of his intimate acquaintance with the events and statements he records. What would be thought of a historian who published a history without a single reference to recognised authorities, and yet who did not declare even his own name as some evidence of his truth? The fact is that the first two Synoptics bear no author's name because they are not the work of any one man, but the collected materials of many, the third Synoptic only pretends to be a compilation for private use; and the fourth Gospel bears no simple signature because it is neither the work of an Apostle, nor of an eye-witness of the events and hearer of the teaching it records.
If it be considered incredible that an Apostle could, even in an Allegory, represent the names of the Twelve as written on the foundation-stones of the New Jerusalem, and the incomparable modesty and delicacy of feeling of the assumed author of the fourth Gospel be contrasted with it so much to the disadvantage of the writer of the Apocalypse, we ask whether this reference to the collective Twelve can be considered at all on a par with the self-glorification of the disguised author of the Gospel, who, not content with the simple indication of himself as John, a servant of Jesus Christ, and sharing distinction equally with the rest of the Twelve, assumes to himself alone a pre-eminence in the favour and affection of his Master, as well as a distinction amongst his fellow disciples, of which we first hear from himself, and which is anything but corroborated by the three Synoptics? The supposed author of the fourth Gospel, it is true, does not plainly mention his name, but he distinguishes himself as "the disciple whom Jesus loved," and represents himself as "leaning on Jesus' breast at supper." [518:1] This distinction assumed for himself, and this preference over the other disciples in the love of him whom he represents as God, is much greater self-glorification than that of the author of the Apocalypse. We shall presently see how far Ewald is right in saying, moreover, that the author does not clearly indicate the person for whom, at least, he desires to be mistaken.
We must conclude that these objections have no weight, and that there is no internal evidence against the supposition that the "John" who announces himself as the author of the Apocalypse was the Apostle. On the contrary, the tone of authority adopted throughout, and the evident certainty that his identity would everywhere be recognised, denote a position in the Church which no other person of the name of John could well have held at the time when the Apocalypse was written. The external evidence, therefore, which indicates the Apostle John as the author of the Apocalypse is quite in harmony with the internal testimony of the book itself. We have already pointed out the strong colouring of Judaism in the views of the writer. Its imagery is thoroughly Jewish, and its allegorical representations are entirely based upon Jewish traditions and hopes. The heavenly City is a New Jerusalem; its twelve gates are dedicated to the twelve tribes of Israel; God and the Lamb are the Temple of it; and the sealed of the twelve tribes have the precedence over the nations, and stand with the Lamb on Mount Zion (14:1) having his name and his Father's written on their foreheads. The language in which the book is written is the most Hebraistic Greek of the New Testament, as its contents are the most deeply tinged with Judaism. If, finally, we seek for some traces of the character of the writer, we see in every page the impress of an impetuous fiery spirit, whose symbol is the Eagle, breathing forth vengeance against the enemies of the Messiah and impatient till it be accomplished, and the whole of the visions of the Apocalypse proceed to the accompaniment of the rolling thunders of God's wrath.
We may now turn to examine such historical data as exist regarding John the son of Zebedee, and to inquire whether they accord better with the character and opinions of the author of the Apocalypse or of the Evangelist. John and his brother James are represented by the Synoptics as being the sons of Zebedee and Salome. They were fishermen on the sea of Galilee, and at the call of Jesus they left their ship and their father and followed him. [519:1] Their fiery and impetuous character led Jesus to give them the surname of Boanêrges, "Sons of thunder," [519:2] an epithet justified by several incidents which are related regarding them. Upon one occasion, John sees one casting out devils in his master's name, and in an intolerant spirit forbids him because he did not follow them, for which he is rebuked by Jesus. [519:3] Another time, when the inhabitants of a Samaritan village would not receive them, John and James angrily turn to Jesus and say: "Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elijah did?" [519:4] A remarkable episode will have presented itself already to the mind of every reader, which the second synoptic Gospel narrates as follows: Mark 10:35, "And James and John the sons of Zebedee come unto him saying unto him: Teacher, we would that thou shouldest do for us whatsoever we shall ask thee. 36. And he said unto them: What would ye that I should do for you? 37. They said unto him: Grant that we may sit, one on thy right hand, and the other on thy left hand in thy glory. 38. But Jesus said to them: Ye know not what ye ask: can ye drink the cup that I drink? or be baptised with the baptism that I am baptised with? 39. And they said unto him: We can. And Jesus said unto them: The cup that I drink ye shall drink; and with the baptism that I am baptised withal shall ye be baptised: 40. But to sit on my right hand or on my left hand is not mine to give, but for whom it has been prepared. 41. And when the ten heard it they began to be much displeased with James and John." It is difficult to say whether the effrontery and selfishness of the request, or the assurance with which the brethren assert their power to emulate the Master, is more striking in this scene. Apparently, the grossness of the proceeding already began to be felt when our first Gospel was edited, for it represents the request as made by the mother of James and John; but that is a very slight decrease of the offence, inasmuch as the brethren are obviously consenting, if not inciting, parties to the prayer, and utter their "We can" with the same absence of "incomparable modesty." [520:1] After the death of Jesus, John remained in Jerusalem, [520:2] and chiefly confined his ministry to the city and its neighbourhood. [520:3] The account which Hegesippus gives of James the brother of Jesus who was appointed overseer of the Church in Jerusalem will not be forgotten, [520:4] and we refer to it merely in illustration of primitive Christianity. However mythical elements are worked up into the narrative, one point is undoubted fact, that the Christians of that community were but a sect of Judaism, merely superadding to Mosaic doctrines belief in the actual advent of the Messiah whom Moses and the prophets had foretold; and we find, in the Acts of the Apostles, Peter and John represented as "going up into the Temple at the hour of prayer," [520:5] like other Jews. In the Epistle of Paul to the Galatians we have most valuable evidence with regard to the Apostle John. Paul found him still in Jerusalem on the occasion of the visit referred to in that letter, about AD 50-53. We need not quote at length the important passage, Gal. 2:1 f., but the fact is undeniable, and stands upon stronger evidence than almost any other particular regarding the early Church, being distinctly and directly stated by Paul himself: that the three "pillar" Apostles representing the Church there were James, Peter, and John. Peter is markedly termed the Apostle of the circumcision, and the differences between him and Paul are evidence of the opposition of their views. James and John are clearly represented as sharing the views of Peter, and, whilst Paul finally agrees with them that he is to go to the Gentiles, the three styloi elect to continue their ministry to the circumcision. [520:6] Here is John, therefore, clearly devoted to the Apostleship of the circumcision as opposed to Paul, whose views, as we gather from the whole of Paul's account, were little more than tolerated by the styloi. Before leaving New Testament data, we may here point out the statement in the Acts of the Apostles that Peter and John were known to be "unlettered and ignorant men" [520:7] (anthrôpoi agrammatoi kai idiôtai). Later tradition mentions one or two circumstances regarding John to which we may briefly refer. Irenaeus states: "There are those who heard him (Polycarp) say that John, the disciple of the Lord, going to bathe at Ephesus and perceiving Cerinthus within, rushed forth from the bath-house without bathing, but crying out: 'Let us fly lest the bath-house fall down: Cerinthus, the enemy of the truth, being within it' … So great was the care which the Apostles and their disciples took not to hold even verbal intercourse with any of the corrupters of the truth,"[521:1] etc. Polycrates, who was Bishop of Ephesus about the beginning of the third century, states that the Apostle John wore the mitre and petalon of the high priest (hos egenêthê iereus to petalon pephorêkôs), [521:2] a tradition which agrees with the Jewish tendencies of the Apostle of the circumcision as Paul describes him. [521:3]
Now, if we compare these data regarding John the son of Zebedee with the character of John, the author of the Apocalypse, as we trace it in the work itself, it is impossible not to be struck by the singular agreement. The Hebraistic Greek and abrupt inelegant diction are natural to the unlettered fisherman of Galilee, and the fierce and intolerant spirit which pervades the book is precisely that which formerly forbade the working of miracles, even in the name of the Master, by any not of the immediate circle of Jesus, and which desired to consume an inhospitable village with fire from heaven. [521:4] The Judaistic form of Christianity which is represented throughout the Apocalypse, and the Jewish elements which enter so largely into its whole composition, are precisely those which we might expect from John the Apostle of the circumcision, and the associate of James and of Peter in the very centre of Judaism. Parts of the Apocalypse, indeed, derive a new significance when we remember the opposition which the Apostle of the Gentiles met with from the Apostles of the circumcision, as plainly declared by Paul in his Epistle to the Galatians 2:1 f., and apparent in other parts of his writings.
We have already seen the scarcely disguised attack which is made on Paul in the Clementine Homilies under the name of Simon the Magician, the Apostle Peter following him from city to city for the purpose of denouncing and refuting his teaching. There can be no doubt that the animosity against Paul which was felt by the Ebionitic party, to which John as well as Peter belonged, was extreme, and when the novelty of the doctrine of justification by faith alone, taught by him, is considered, it is very comprehensible. In the Apocalypse we find undeniable traces of it which accord with what Paul himself says, and with the undoubted tradition of the early Church. Not only is Paul silently excluded from the number of the Apostles, which might be intelligible when the typical nature of the number twelve is considered, but allusion is undoubtedly made to him in the Epistles to the Churches. It is clear that Paul is referred to in the address to the Church of Ephesus: "And thou didst try them which say that they are Apostles and are not, and didst find them false"; [522:1] and also in the words to the Church of Smyrna: "But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to cast a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols," [522:2] etc., as well as elsewhere. Without dwelling on this point, however, we think it must be apparent to every unprejudiced person that the Apocalypse singularly corresponds in every respect -- language, construction, and thought -- with what we are told of the character of the Apostle John by the Synoptic Gospels and by tradition, and that the internal evidence, therefore, accords with the external in attributing the composition of the Apocalypse to that Apostle. We may without hesitation affirm, at least, that with the exception of one or two of the Epistles of Paul there is no work of the New Testament which is supported by such close evidence.
We need not discuss the tradition as to the residence of the Apostle John in Asia Minor, regarding which much might be said. Those who accept the authenticity of the Apocalypse of course admit its composition in the neighbourhood of Ephesus, [522:3] and see in this the confirmation of the widespread tradition that the Apostle spent a considerable period of the latter part of his life in that city. We may merely mention, in passing, that a historical basis for the tradition has occasionally been disputed, and has latterly again been denied by some able critics. The evidence for this, as for everything else connected with the early ages of Christianity, is extremely unsatisfactory. Nor need we trouble ourselves with the dispute as to the Presbyter John, to whom many ascribe the composition, on the one hand, of the Apocalypse, and, on the other, of the Gospel, according as they finally accept the one or the other alternative of the critical dilemma which we have explained.
If we proceed to compare the character of the Apostle John, as we have it depicted in the Synoptics and other writings to which we have referred, with that of the author of the fourth Gospel, and to contrast the peculiarities of both, we have a very different result. Instead of the Hebraistic Greek and harsh diction which might be expected from the unlettered and ignorant fisherman of Galilee, we find, in the fourth Gospel, the purest and least Hebraistic Greek of any of the Gospels (some parts of the third Synoptic, perhaps, alone excepted), and a refinement and beauty of composition whose charm has captivated the world, and in too many cases prevented the calm exercise of judgment. Instead of the fierce and intolerant temper of the Son of thunder, we find a spirit breathing forth nothing but gentleness and love. Instead of the Judaistic Christianity of the Apostle of Circumcision who merely tolerates Paul, we find a mind which has so completely detached itself from Judaism that the writer makes the very appellation of "Jew" equivalent to that of an enemy of the truth. Not only are the customs and feasts of the Jews disregarded and spoken of as observances of a people with whom the writer has no concern, but he anticipates the day when neither on Mount Gerizim nor yet at Jerusalem men shall worship the Father, but when it shall be recognised that the only true worship is that which is offered in spirit and in truth. Faith in Jesus Christ and the merits of his death is the only way by which man can attain to eternal life, and the Mosaic Law is practically abolished. We venture to assert that, taking the portrait of John the son of Zebedee, which is drawn in the Synoptics and the Epistle of Paul to the Galatians, supplemented by later tradition, to which we have referred, and comparing it with that of the writer of the fourth Gospel, no unprejudiced mind can fail to recognise that there are not two features alike.
It is the misfortune of this case that the beauty of the Gospel under trial has too frequently influenced the decision of the judges, and men who have, in other matters, exhibited sound critical judgment, in this abandon themselves to sheer sentimentality, and indulge in rhapsodies when reasons would be more appropriate. Bearing in mind that we have given the whole of the data regarding John the son of Zebedee furnished by New Testament writings -- excluding merely the fourth Gospel itself, which, of course, cannot at present be received in evidence -- as well as the only traditional information possessing, from its date and character, any appreciable value, it will become apparent that every argument which proceeds on the assumption that John was the beloved disciple, and possessed of characteristics quite different from those we meet with in the writings to which we have referred, is worthless and a mere petitio principii. We can, therefore, appreciate the state of the case when, for instance, we find an able man like Credner commencing his inquiry as to who was the author of the fourth Gospel with such words as the following: "Were we entirely without historical data regarding the author of the fourth Gospel, who is not named in the writing itself, we should still, from internal grounds in the Gospel itself -- from the nature of the language, from the freshness and perspicacity of the narrative, from the exactness and precision of the statements, from the peculiar manner of the mention of the Baptist and of the sons of Zebedee, from the love and fervour rising to ecstasy which the writer manifests towards Jesus, from the irresistible charm which is poured out over the whole ideally- composed evangelical history, from the philosophical considerations with which the Gospel begins - be led to the result: that the author of such a Gospel can only be a native of Palestine, can only be a direct eye-witness, can only be an Apostle, can only be a favourite of Jesus, can only be that John whom Jesus held captivated to himself by the whole heavenly spell of his teaching, that John who rested on the bosom of Jesus, stood beneath his cross, and whose later residence in a city like Ephesus proves that philosophical speculation not merely attracted him, but that he also knew how to maintain his place amongst philosophically cultivated Greeks." [524:1] It is almost impossible to proceed further in building up theory on baseless assumption; but we shall hereafter see that he is kept in countenance by Ewald, who outstrips him in the boldness and minuteness of his conjectures. We must now more carefully examine the details of the case.
The language in which the Gospel is written, as we have already mentioned, is much less Hebraic than that of the other Gospels, with the exception of parts of the Gospel according to Luke, and its Hebraisms are not on the whole greater than was almost invariably the case with Hellenistic Greek; but its composition is distinguished by peculiar smoothness, grace, and beauty, and in this respect it is assigned the first rank among the Gospels. It may be remarked that the connection which Credner finds between the language and the Apostle John arises out of the supposition that long residence in Ephesus had enabled him to acquire that facility of composition in the Greek language which is one of its characteristics. Ewald, who exaggerates the Hebraism of the work, resorts nevertheless to the conjecture, which we shall hereafter more fully consider, that the Gospel was written from dictation by young friends of John in Ephesus, who put the aged Apostle's thoughts, in many places, into purer Greek as they wrote them down. [524:2] The arbitrary nature of such an explanation, adopted in one shape or another by many apologists, requires no remark; but we shall at every turn meet with similar assumptions advanced to overcome difficulties. Now, although there is no certain information as to the time when, if ever, the Apostle removed into Asia Minor, it is at least pretty certain that he did not leave Palestine before AD 60. [525:1] We find him still at Jerusalem about AD 50-53, when Paul went thither, and he had not at that time any intention of leaving; but, on the contrary, his dedication of himself to the ministry of the circumcision is distinctly mentioned by the Apostle. [525:2] The "unlettered and ignorant" fisherman of Galilee, therefore, had obviously attained an age when habits of thought and expression have become fixed, and when a new language cannot without great difficulty be acquired. If we consider the Apocalypse to be his work, we find positive evidence of such markedly different thought and language actually existing when the Apostle must have been between sixty and seventy years of age, that it is quite impossible to conceive that he could have subsequently acquired the language and mental characteristics of the fourth Gospel. It would be perfectly absurd, so far as language goes, to find in the fourth Gospel the slightest indication of the Apostle John, of whose language we have no information except from the Apocalypse, a composition which, if accepted as written by the Apostle, would at once exclude all consideration of the Gospel as his work.
There are many circumstances, however, which seem clearly to indicate that the author of the fourth Gospel was neither a native of Palestine nor a Jew, and to some of these we must briefly refer. The philosophical statements with which the Gospel commences, it will be admitted, are anything but characteristic of the Son of thunder, the ignorant and unlearned fisherman of Galilee who, to a comparatively advanced period of life, continued preaching in his native country to his brethren of the circumcision. Attempts have been made to trace the Logos doctrine of the fourth Gospel to the purely Hebraic source of the Old Testament, but every impartial mind must perceive that here there is no direct and simple transformation of the theory of Wisdom of the Proverbs and Old Testament Apocrypha, and no mere development of the later Memra of the Targums, but a very advanced application to Christianity of Alexandrian philosophy, with which we have become familiar through the writings of Philo, to which reference has so frequently been made. It is quite true that a decided step beyond the doctrine of Philo is made when the Logos is represented as sarx egeneto in the person of Jesus; but this argument is equally applicable to the Jewish doctrine of Wisdom, and that step had already been taken before the composition of the Gospel. In the Alexandrian philosophy everything was prepared for the final application of the doctrine, and nothing is more clear than the fact that the writer of the fourth Gospel was well acquainted with the teaching of the Alexandrian school, from which he derived his philosophy, and its elaborate and systematic application to Jesus alone indicates a late development of Christian doctrine, which we maintain could not have been attained by the Judaistic son of Zebedee. [526:1]
We have already on several occasions referred to the attitude which the writer of the fourth Gospel assumes towards the Jews. Apart from the fact that he places Christianity generally in strong antagonism to Judaism, as light to darkness, truth to a lie, and presents the doctrine of a hypostatic Trinity in the most developed form to be found in the New Testament, in striking contrast to the three Synoptics, and in contradiction to Hebrew Monotheism, he writes at all times, as one who not only is not a Jew himself, but has nothing to do with their laws and customs. He speaks everywhere of the feasts "of the Jews," "the passover of the Jews," "the manner of the purifying of the Jews," "the Jews' feast of tabernacles," "as the manner of the Jews is to bury," "the Jews' preparation day," and so on. [526:2] The Law of Moses is spoken of as "your law," "their law," as of a people with which the writer was not connected. [526:3] Moreover, the Jews are represented as continually in virulent opposition to Jesus, and seeking to kill him; and the word "Jew" is the unfailing indication of the enemies of the truth, and the Persecutors of the Christ. [526:4] The Jews are not once spoken of as the favoured people of God, but they are denounced as "children of the devil," who is "the father of lies and a murderer from the beginning." [526:5] The author makes Caiaphas and the chief priests and Pharisees speak of the Jewish people not as ho laos, but as to ethnos, the term employed by the Jews to designate the Gentiles. [526:6] We need scarcely point out that the Jesus of the fourth Gospel is no longer of the race of David, but the Son of God. The expectation of the Jews that the Messiah should be of the seed of David is entirely set aside, and the genealogies of the first and third Synoptics tracing his descent are not only ignored, but the whole idea absolutely excluded.
Then the writer calls Annas the high priest, although at the same time Caiaphas is represented as holding that office. [527:1] The expression which he uses is: "Caiaphas being the high priest that year" (archiereus ôn tou eniautou ekeinou). This statement, made more than once, indicates the belief that the office was merely annual, which is erroneous. Josephus states with regard to Caiaphas that he was high priest for ten years, from AD 25-36. [527:2] Ewald and others argue that the expression "that year" refers to the year in which the death of Jesus, so memorable to the writer, took place, and that it does not exclude the possibility of his having been high priest for successive years also. [527:3] This explanation, however, is quite arbitrary and insufficient, and this is shown by the additional error in representing Annas as also high priest at the same time. The Synoptists know nothing of the preliminary examination before Annas, and the reason given by the writer of the fourth Gospel why the soldiers first took Jesus to Annas: "for he was father-in-law to Caiaphas, who was high priest that same year," [527:4] is inadmissible. The assertion is a clear mistake, and it probably originated in a stranger, writing of facts and institutions with which he was not well acquainted, being misled by an error equally committed by the author of the third Gospel and of the Acts of the Apostles. In Luke 3:2 the word of God is said to come to John the Baptist, "in the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas" (epi archiereôs Anna kai Kaiapha); and again, in Acts 4:6, Annas is spoken of as the high priest when Peter and John healed the lame man at the gate of the Temple which was called "Beautiful," and Caiaphas is mentioned immediately after: "And Annas the high priest, and Caiaphas, and John, and Alexander and as many as were of the kindred of the high priest." Such statements, erroneous in themselves and not understood by the author of the fourth Gospel, may have led to the confusion in the narrative. Annas had previously been high priest, as we know from Josephus, [528:1] but nothing is more certain than the fact that the title was not continued after the office was resigned; and Ishmael, Eleazar, and Simon, who succeeded Annas and separated his term of office from that of Caiaphas, did not subsequently bear the title. The narrative is a mistake, and such an error could not have been committed by a native of Palestine, and much less by an acquaintance of the high priest. [528:2]
There are also several geographical errors committed which denote a foreigner. In 1:28 the writer speaks of a "Bethany beyond Jordan, where John was baptising." The substitution of "Bethabara," mentioned by Origen, which has erroneously crept into the vulgar text, is, of course, repudiated by critics, "Bethany" standing in all the older codices. The alteration was evidently proposed to obviate the difficulty that, even in Origen's time, there did not exist any trace of a Bethany beyond Jordan in Peraea. The place could not be the Bethany near Jerusalem, and it is supposed that the writer either mistook its position or, inventing a second Bethany, which he described as "beyond Jordan," displayed an ignorance of the locality improbable either in a Jew or a Palestinian. [528:3]
Again, in 3:23, the writer says that "John was baptising in Aenon, near to Salim, because there was much water there." This Aenon, near to Salim, was in Judaea, as is clearly stated in the previous verse. The place, however, was quite unknown even in the third century, and the nearest locality which could be indicated as possible was in the north of Samaria, and, therefore, differed from the statements in 3:22, 4:3. [529:1] Aenon signifies "springs," and the question arises whether the writer of the fourth Gospel, not knowing the real meaning of the word, did not simply mistake it for the name of a place. [529:2] In any case, there seems to be here another error into which the author of the fourth Gospel, had he been the Apostle John, could not have fallen.
The account of the miracle of the pool of Bethesda is a remarkable one for many reasons. The words which most pointedly relate the miraculous phenomena characterising the pool are rejected by many critics as an interpolation. In the following extract we put them in italics: (5:3) "In these (five porches) lay a multitude of the sick, halt, withered, waiting for the moving of the water. 4. For an angel went down at certain seasons into the pool and was troubling the water: he, therefore, who first went in after the troubling of the water was made whole of whatsoever disease he had." We maintain, however, that the obnoxious passage is no spurious interpolation, but that there is ample evidence, external and internal, to substantiate its claim to a place in the text. It is true that the whole passage is omitted by the Sinaitic and Vatican Codices, and by C; that A1, L, 18, and others, omit the last phrase of verse 3, and that D, 33, which contain that phrase, omit the whole of verse 4, together with 157, 314 and some other MSS.; that in many codices in which the passage is found it is marked by an asterisk or obelus, and that it presents considerable variation in readings. It is also true that it is omitted by Cureton's Syriac, by the Thebaic, and by most of the Memphitic versions. But, on the other hand, it exists in the Alexandrian Codex, C3, E, F, G, H, I, K, L, M, U, V, G, D, and other MSS., [529:3] and it forms part of the Peschito, Jerusalem Syriac, Vulgate, Watkin's Memphitic, Aethiopic, and Armenian versions. More important still is the fact that it existed in the ancient Latin version of Tertullian, who refers to the passage; [530:1] and it is quoted by Didymus, Chrysostom, Cyril, Ambrose, Theophylact, Euthymius, and other Fathers. Its presence in the Alexandrian Codex alone might not compensate for the omission of the passage by the Sinaitic and Vatican Codices and C, D; but when the Alexandrian MS. is supported by the version used by Tertullian, which is a couple of centuries older than any of the other authorities, as well as by the Peschito, not to mention other codices, the balance of external evidence is distinctly in its favour.
The internal evidence is altogether on the side of the authenticity of the passage. It is true that there are a considerable number of hapax legomena in the few lines: ekdechesthai, kinêsis, parachê, nosêma, katechesthai, and perhaps dêpote; but it must be remembered that the phenomena described are exceptional, and may well explain exceptional phraseology. On the other band, hugiês is specially a Johannine word, used 5:4 and six times more in the fourth Gospel, but only five times in the rest of the New Testament; and hugiês with ginesthai occurs in 5:4, 6, 9, 14, and with poieian in 5:11, 15, 7:23, and nowhere else. Parassein also may be indicated as employed in v. 4, 7, and five times more in other parts of the Gospel, and only eleven times in the rest of the New Testament; and the use of tarachê in 5:4 is thus perhaps naturally accounted for. The context, however, forbids the removal of this passage. It is in the highest degree improbable that verse 3 could have ended with "withered" (xêrôn); and although many critics wish to retain the last phrase in verse 3, in order to explain verse 7, this only shows the necessity, without justifying the arbitrary maintenance of these words; whilst verse 4, which is still better attested, is excluded to get rid of the inconvenient angel. It is evident that the expression, "when the water was troubled" (hotan tarachthê to hudôr), of the undoubted verse 7 is unintelligible without the explanation that the angel "was troubling the water" (etarasse to hudôr) of verse 4, and also that the statement of verse 7, "but while I am coming, another goeth down before me" (en ho de erchomai egô, allos pro emou katabainei), absolutely requires the account: "he, therefore, who first went in, etc." (ho oun prôtos embas k.t.l.) of verse 4. The argument that the interpolation was made to explain the statement in verse 7 is untenable, for that statement necessarily presupposes the account in the verses under discussion, and cannot be severed from it. Even if the information that the water was "troubled" at certain seasons only could have been dispensed with, it is obvious that the explanation of the condition of healing, given in verse 4, is indispensable to the appreciation of the lame man's complaint in verse 7, for without knowing that priority was essential the reason for the protracted waiting is inconceivable. It is also argued that the passage about the angel may have been interpolated to bring out the presence of supernatural agency; but it is much more reasonable to believe that attempts have been made to omit these verses, of which there is such ancient attestation, in order to eliminate an embarrassing excess of supernatural agency, and get rid of the difficulty presented by the fact, for which even Tertullian [531:1] endeavoured to account, that the supposed pool had ceased to exhibit any miraculous phenomena. This natural explanation is illustrated by the alacrity with which Apologists at the present day abandon the obnoxious passage. [531:2] The combined force of the external and internal evidence cannot, we think, be fairly resisted. [531:3]
Now, not only is the pool of Bethesda totally unknown at the present day, but, although possessed of such miraculous properties, it was not known even to Josephus, or any other writer of that time. It is inconceivable that, were the narrative genuine, the phenomena could have been unknown and unmentioned by the Jewish historian. [531:4] There is here evidently the narrative neither of an Apostle nor of an eye-witness.
Another very significant mistake occurs in the account of the conversation with the Samaritan woman, which is said to have taken place (4:5) near "a city of Samaria which is called Sychar." It is evident that there was no such place -- and apologetic ingenuity is severely taxed to explain the difficulty. The common conjecture has been that the town of Sichem is intended, but this is rightly rejected by Delitzsch [532:1] and Ewald. [532:2] Credner, [532:3] not unsupported by others, and borne out in particular by the theory of Ewald, conjectures that Sychar is a corruption of Sichem, introduced into the Gospel by a Greek secretary to whom this part of the Gospel was dictated, and who mistook the Apostle's pronunciation of the final syllable. We constantly meet with this elastic explanation of difficulties in the Gospel, but its mere enunciation displays at once the reality of the difficulties and the imaginary nature of the explanation. Hengstenberg adopts the view, and presses it with pious earnestness, that the term is a mere nickname for the city of Sichem, and that, by so slight a change in the pronunciation, the Apostle called the place a city of Lies -- a play upon words which he does not consider unworthy. [532:4] The only support which this latter theory can secure from internal evidence is to be derived from the fact that the whole discourse with the woman is ideal. Hengstenberg [532:5] conjectures that the five husbands of the woman are typical of the Gods of the five nations with which the King of Assyria peopled Samaria, 2 Kings 17:24-41, and which they worshipped instead of the God of Israel; and as the actual God of the Samaritans was not recognised as the true God by the Jews, nor their worship of him on Mount Gerizim held to be valid, he considers that under the name of the City of Sychar their whole religion, past and present, was denounced as a lie. There can be little doubt that the episode is allegorical, but such a defence of the geographical error, the reality of which is everywhere felt, whilst it is quite insufficient on the one hand, effectually destroys the historical character of the Gospel on the other. The inferences from all of the foregoing examples are strengthened by the fact that, in the quotations from the Old Testament, the fourth Gospel in the main follows the Septuagint version, or shows its influence, and nowhere can be shown directly to translate from the Hebrew.
These instances might be multiplied, but we must proceed to examine more closely the indications given in the Gospel as to the identity of its author. We need not point out that the writer nowhere clearly states who he is, nor mentions his name; but expressions are frequently used which evidently show the desire that a particular person should be understood. He generally calls himself "the other disciple," or "the disciple whom Jesus loved." [533:1] It is universally understood that he represents himself as having previously been a disciple of John the Baptist (1:35 f.), and also that he is "the other disciple" who was acquainted with the high priest (18:15, 16), if not an actual relative, as Ewald and others assert. [533:2] The assumption that the disciple thus indicated is John rests principally on the fact that, whilst the author mentions the other Apostles, he seems studiously to avoid directly naming John, and also that he never distinguishes John the Baptist by the appellation hô Baptistês, whilst he carefully distinguishes the two disciples of the name of Judas, and always speaks of the Apostle Peter as "Simon Peter," or "Peter," but rarely as "Simon" only. Without pausing to consider the slightness of this evidence, it is obvious that, supposing the disciple indicated to be John the son of Zebedee, the fourth Gospel gives a representation of him quite different from the Synoptics and other writings. In the fourth Gospel (1:35 f.) the calling of the Apostle is described in a peculiar manner. John (the Baptist) is standing with two of his disciples, and points out Jesus to them as "the Lamb of God," whereupon the two disciples follow Jesus, and, finding out where he lives, abide with him that day and subsequently attach themselves to his person. In verse 40 it is stated: "One of the two which heard John speak, and followed him, was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother." We are left to imagine who was the other, and the answer of critics is, John. Now, the "calling" of John is related in a totally different manner in the Synoptics - Jesus, walking by the Sea of Galilee, sees "two brethren, Simon called Peter and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishers, and he saith unto them: Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. And they straightway left their nets and followed him. And when he had gone from thence, he saw other two brethren, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the ship with Zebedee their father mending their nets; and he called them. And they immediately left the ship and their father and followed him." [533:3] These accounts are in complete contradiction to each other, and both cannot be true. We see, from the first introduction of "the other disciple" on the scene, in the fourth Gospel, the evident design to give him the precedence before Peter and the rest of the Apostles. We have above given the account of the first two Synoptists of the calling of Peter, according to which he is the first of the disciples who is selected, and he is directly invited by Jesus to follow him and become, with his brother Andrew, "fishers of men." James and John are not called till later in the day, and without the record of any special address. In the third Gospel the calling of Peter is introduced with still more important details. Jesus enters the boat of Simon and bids him push out into the lake and let down his net, and the miraculous draught of fishes is taken: "When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus's knees saying: Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord. For he was astonished, and all that were with him, at the draught of fishes which they had taken." The calling of the sons of Zebedee becomes even less important here, for the account simply continues: "And so were also James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon." Jesus then addresses his invitation to Simon, and the account concludes: "And when they had brought their boats to land, they forsook all, and followed him." [534:1] In the fourth Gospel the calling of the two disciples of John is first narrated, as we have seen, and the first call of Peter is from his brother Andrew, and not from Jesus himself. "He (Andrew) first findeth his own brother Simon, and saith unto him: We have found the Messias (which is, being interpreted, Christ), and he brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked on him and said: Thou art Simon, the son of Jonas; [534:2] thou shalt be called Cephas (which is, by interpretation, Peter." [534:3] This explanation of the manner in which the cognomen Peter is given, we need not point out, is likewise contradictory to the Synoptics, and betrays the same purpose of suppressing the prominence of Peter.
The fourth Gospel states that "the other disciple," who is declared to be John, the author of the Gospel, was known to the high priest, another trait amongst many others elevating him above the son of Zebedee as he is depicted elsewhere in the New Testament. The account which the fourth Gospel gives of the trial of Jesus is in very many important particulars at variance with that of the Synoptics. We need only mention here the point that the latter know nothing of the preliminary examination by Annas. We shall not discuss the question as to where the denial of Peter is represented as taking place in the fourth Gospel, but may merely say that no other disciple but Peter is mentioned in the Synoptics as having followed Jesus; and Peter enters without difficulty into the high priest's palace. [535:1] In the fourth Gospel, Peter is made to wait without at the door until John, who is a friend of the high priest and freely enters, obtains permission for Peter to go in - another instance of the precedence which is systematically given to John. The Synoptics do not in this particular case give any support to the statement in the fourth Gospel, and certainly in nothing that is said of John elsewhere do they render his acquaintance with the high priest in the least degree probable. It is, on the contrary, improbable in the extreme that the young fisherman of Galilee, who shows very little enlightenment in the anecdotes told of him in the Synoptics, and who is described as an "unlettered and ignorant" man in the Acts of the Apostles, could have any acquaintance with the high priest. Ewald, who on the strength of the word gnôstos, [535:2] at once elevates him into a relation of the high priest, sees in the statement of Polycrates that late in life he wore the priestly petalon -- a confirmation of the supposition that he was of the high priest's race and family. [535:3] The evident Judaistic tendency which made John wear the priestly mitre may distinguish him as author of the Apocalypse, but it is fatal to the theory which makes him author of the fourth Gospel, in which there is so complete a severance from Judaism.
A much more important point is the designation of the author of the fourth Gospel, who is identified with the Apostle John, as "the disciple whom Jesus loved." It is scarcely too much to say that this suggestive appellation alone has done more than any arguments to ensure the recognition of the work, and to overcome doubts as to its authenticity. Religious sentimentality, evoked by the influence of this tender epithet, has been blind to historical incongruities, and has been willing to accept, with little question, from the "beloved disciple" a portrait of Jesus totally unlike that of the Synoptics, and to elevate the dogmatic mysticism and artificial discourses of the one over the pure morality and simple eloquence of the other. It is impossible to reflect seriously upon this representation of the relations between one of the disciples and Jesus without the conviction that every record of the life of the great Teacher must have borne distinct traces of the preference, and that the disciple so honoured must have attracted the notice of every early writer acquainted with the facts. If we seek for any evidence, however, that John was distinguished with such special affection -- that he lay on the breast of Jesus at supper -- that even the Apostle Peter recognised his superior intimacy and influence, [536:1] and that he received at the foot of the cross the care of his mother from the dying Jesus, [536:2] we seek in vain. The Synoptic Gospels, which minutely record the details of the last supper and of the crucifixion, so far from reporting any such circumstances or such distinction of John, do not even mention his name; and Peter everywhere has precedence before the sons of Zebedee. Almost the only occasions upon which any prominence is given to them are episodes in which they incur the Master's displeasure, and the cognomen of "Sons of thunder" has certainly no suggestion in it of special affection, nor of personal qualities likely to attract the great Teacher. The selfish ambition of the brothers who desire to sit on thrones on his right and on his left, and the intolerant temper which would have called down fire from heaven to consume a Samaritan village, much rather contradict than support the representation of the fourth Gospel. Upon one occasion indeed, Jesus, in rebuking them, adds: "Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of." [536:3] It is perfectly undeniable that John nowhere has any such position accorded to him in the Synoptics as this designation in the fourth Gospel implies. In the lists of the disciples he is always put in the fourth place, [536:4] and in the first two Gospels his only distinguishing designation is that of "the brother of James," or one of the sons of Zebedee. The Apostle Peter, in all of the Synoptics, is the leader of the disciples. He it is who alone is represented as the mouthpiece of the Twelve, or as holding conversation with Jesus; and the only occasions on which the sons of Zebedee address Jesus are those to which we have referred, upon which his displeasure was incurred. The angel who appears to the women after the resurrection desires them to tell his disciples "and Peter" that Jesus will meet them in Galilee; [536:5] but there is no message for any "disciple whom he loved." If Peter, James, and John accompany the Master to the Mount of Transfiguration, and are witnesses of his agony in the garden, regarding which, however, the fourth Gospel is totally silent, the two brethren remain in the background, and Peter alone acts a prominent part. If we turn to the Epistles of Paul, we do not find a single trace of acquaintance with the fact that Jesus honoured John with any special affection, and the opportunity of referring to such a distinction was not wanting when he writes to the Galatians of his visit to the "Pillar" Apostles in Jerusalem. Here again we find no prominence given to John, but the contrary, his name still being mentioned last and without any special comment. In none of the Pauline or other Epistles is there any allusion, however distant, to any disciple whom Jesus specially loved. The Apocalypse, which, if any book of the New Testament can be traced to him, must be ascribed to the Apostle John, makes no claim to such a distinction. In none of the Apocryphal Gospels is there the slightest indication of knowledge of the fact, and, if we come to the Fathers even, it is a striking circumstance that there is not a trace of it in any early work, and not the most remote indication of any independent tradition that Jesus distinguished John, or any other individual disciple, with peculiar friendship. The Roman Clement, in referring to the example of the Apostles, only mentions Peter and Paul. [537:1] Polycarp, who is described as a disciple of the Apostle John, apparently knows nothing of his having been especially loved by Jesus. Pseudo-Ignatius does not refer to him at all in the Syriac Epistles, or in either version of the seven Epistles. [537:2] Papias, in describing his interest in bearing what the Apostles said, gives John no prominence: "I inquired minutely after the words of the Presbyters: What Andrew or what Peter said, or what Philip or what Thomas or James, or what John or Matthew, or what any other of the disciples of the Lord, and what Aristion and the Presbyter John, the disciples of the Lord, say," [537:3] etc.
As a fact, it is undenied and undeniable that the representation
of John, or of any other disciple, as specially beloved by Jesus is
limited solely and entirely to the fourth Gospel, and that there is
not even a trace of independent tradition to support the claim;
whilst, on the other hand, the total silence of the earlier Gospels
and of the other New Testament writings on the point, and indeed
their data of a positive and unmistakable character oppose rather
than support the correctness of the later and mere personal
assertion. Those who abandon sober criticism, and indulge in
sentimental rhapsodies on the impossibility of the author of the
fourth Gospel being any other than "the disciple whom Jesus loved,"
strangely ignore the fact that we have no reason whatever, except
the assurance of the author himself, to believe that Jesus
specially loved any disciple, and much less John, the son of
Zebedee. Indeed, the statements of the fourth Gospel itself on the
subject are so indirect and intentionally vague that it is not
absolutely clear what disciple is indicated as
"the beloved," and it has even been maintained that not John the
son of Zebedee, but Andrew the brother of Simon Peter, was "the
disciple whom Jesus loved," and consequently the supposed author of
the fourth Gospel. [538:1]