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We are content, so far as concerns our present purpose, to accept the date assigned by the author of Supernatural Re• ligion 'to the first three books of the great work of Irenæus against Heresies, viz. 190 A.D. Within the space of one hundred years, then, after the composition of the fourth Gospel, as we allege, and almost immediately upon its first publication, according to the author of 'Supernatural Religion,' we find Irenæus not only appealing to the four Gospels as the unquestioned and universally accepted depositories of the earliest Christian traditions, and ascribing each Gospel to the author whose name it now bears, but also assigning reasons--and the more fanciful these reasons may be deemed, the stronger becomes the evidence which they afford for our present purposewhy there must be four Gospels, and only four, in which the original records of the Evangelical history were contained. Now, independently of the time at which he wrote, there are reasons which impart peculiar weight to the testimony of Irenæus on this subject. He is supposed to have been born at Smyrna, the seat of a church to which one of the Epistles contained in the Apocalypse was addressed, and in the vicinity of which the fourth Gospel is said to have been composed. And further, when Irenæus wrote his book on Heresies, he was no recent convert to Christianity. He had been brought up from his infancy in the Christian faith. He had had as · his teacher Polycarp, himself the disciple of St. John; and he relates how Polycarp used to speak of the sayings of those who had been eye-witnesses of the word of life. The following quotation will sufficiently elucidate the general nature of the testimony of Irenæus both to the Johannine authorship of the fourth Gospel, and also to the identity of that Gospel in the form in which we now possess it with that from which Irenæus quotes :

"And moreover John, the disciple of our Lord, by their teaching (i.e. the teaching of the Gnostics) indicated the first ogdoad, these being their very words: “John the disciple of the Lord, meaning to “ speak of the generation of all things, wherein the Father produced * them all, supposes a beginning, the first thing begotten of God; the

same whom he called both the only begotten Son, and God in “ whom the Father produced all as from seed, ... And thus he

speaks : In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God; He was in the beginning with God.

All things were made by Him, and without Him was not any thing made: that is to all Æons after him the Word was the Cause “ of Form and Birth.” . . . And he adds, and the Life was the light of man.'*

Library of the Fathers. St. Irenæus, pp. 27, 28. Oxford, 1872.

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After further reference to the first chapter of the fourth Gospel, and the quotation of the fourteenth verse of that chapter at length, Irenæus observes, in regard to the use made by the early Gnostics of this Gospel, Thou seest, dearly • beloved, their craft, which they that use deceive themselves, • dealing rudely with the Scriptures.'

It will be observed here that Irenæus who, as a native of the East and a bishop of one of the most flourishing Churches of the West, may be regarded as expressing the common faith of both, refers to the fourth Gospel in terms which leave no room for doubt that he possessed the same Gospel which we now possess, and that he regarded that Gospel as the genuine production of St. John. Nor is this all. Irenæus expressly ascribes to the disciples of Valentinus, whose errors it was his object to expose, the same belief which he himself held respecting the fourth Gospel. We may reasonably assume that the opinions of the disciples of Valentinus were, in the main, in accordance with those of their master. This inference, as regards the fourth Gospel, is confirmed by two considerations: (1) We have the express testimony of Clemens Alexandrinus to the fact that Valentinus professed to use the whole

instrument;' i.e. to accept the whole Evangelic teaching; and (2) The general resemblance between his system and the Logos doctrine of the fourth Gospel is so fully : 'mitted on all hands that it has even been alleged by its opponems that its author borrowed from the writings of Valentinus. It is not unfair, then, to assume that the acceptance of the fourth Gospel by the followers of Valentinus affords presumptive evidence of its acceptance by their teacher ; and, inasmuch as Valentinus flourished before the middle of the second century, we are thus brought within a generation of the lifetime of St. John himself.



Library of the Fathers. St. Irenæus, p. 29. Oxford, 1872. † It will suffice to refer by way of illustration to the fact, that two of the constituents of the ogdoad of Valentinus are the Word and the Life.

† For further evidence on this point the reader is referred to the able and learned work of the late Dean Mansel, entitled “Gnostic • Heresies,' pp. 176–178. The unfairness of Baur's arguments, in dealing with the testimony of Irenæus, is here exposed, as is also the fallacy of his conclusions. The writer, however, observes that the testimony

, of Valentinus to the fourth Gospel is no longer needed, inasmuch as in the work of Hippolytus against heresies, written at latest during the reign of Hadrian, we have a direct quotation from that Gospel us made by Basilides. (Ibid. p. 148.)

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Again, in the writings of Justin Martyr, which belong to the former half of the second century, we have another link connecting the age of Irenæus with that of the disciples of the Apostles themselves. Justin Martyr was of Greek descent, but bis family had been long settled in Flavia Neapolis, near the site of the ancient Sichem. During his earlier years he addicted himself to the study of various forms of Greek philosophy, but having become persuaded of the truth of Christianity, he devoted himself to the propagation of that faith which he had found to be alone 'sure and suited to the wants of man.'

When we consider the general scope and design of Justin's writings, coupled with the facts that the two Apologies were addressed to heathens, and that the dialogue was held with a Jew, we shall be prepared to find—as is actually the case—that the allusions to incidents recorded by the Synoptists are of much more frequent occurrence than to those which are recorded only in the fourth Gospel. We think, however, notwithstanding the confident denial of the author of Super

natural Religion,' that we shall be able to show that the allusions to the fourth Gospel are sufficiently clear and explicit to warrant the conclusions (1) that this Gospel was known to Justin; and (2) that it was acknowledged by him as an authentic record of the Evangelic history. We shall not now insist, though we fairly might do so, upon the source from which Justin obtained his account of the miracle of healing wrought upon the man who was born blind, of our Lord's retort on the Jews who accused Him of breaking the Sabbath, or, once more, his doctrine of the Incarnate Logos as propounded so fully in the dialogue with Trypho. We shall restrict our examination to one single passage, in which the allusion to the fourth Gospel appears to us too palpable to admit of reasonable doubt. It occurs in the ninety-fourth chapter of the dialogue with Trypho, and it is as follows: ‘Yet Hệ Himself (i.e. God)

in the desert caused a brazen serpent to be made by the same • Moses, and set up as a sign by which they who had been bitten *by the serpents were healed . . . for by this He taught a “mystery, signifying thereby that He would destroy the power

of the serpent . .. and proclaim to those who believe on Him 'who was typified by this sign (that is on Him who was cruci· fied), salvation from the wounds of the serpent.'*

This passage should be compared with one in the first Apology (c. 60) in which Justin, giving a somewhat free account of the same incident, states that Moses took brass and

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Library of the Fathers. Justin Martyr, p. 191. Oxford, 1861.


formed it into the shape of a cross; and said to the people, * If you look upon that figure, and believe (T10T=ÚNTE), you shall be saved in (or by) it.'

It is easy to assert that Justin's allusion is solely to Numbers xxi., and that there is no proof of his acquaintance with the account which the fourth Gospel contains of our Lord's conversation with Nicodemus. We think, however, that those who, without strong prepossession, will take the trouble to compare Justin's language with that of our Lord as recorded in St. John iii. 14-18, more especially the Tio Teúnte and the toisirotsúoursy of the one, with the rãs ó TIOTEUW * of the other; and again, the σωτηρίαν, the έσώζοντο and the εν αυτώ σωθήσεσθε of the one, with the ive owen Ei' aŭtoũ † of the other, will scarcely fail to arrive at a different conclusion from that which has been reached by the author of Supernatural Religion.' I

In regard to other ecclesiastical writers of the second century the following observations must suffice :

(1.) A passage assigned on good evidence to Melito of Sardis (about 170 A.D.) refers to the miracles wrought by our Lord during the three years after His baptism. It can hardly admit of doubt that the period here assigned to the duration of our Lord's. ministry rests upon the three Passovers of the fourth Gospel.

(2.) We find in a passage assigned to Claudius Apollinaris, the contemporary of Melito, an allusion to the piercing of our Lord's side, and to the water and blood which proceeded from it; and, in another passage by the same writer, there is an allusion to the apparent discrepancy in the Gospels as to the day of the Passion. The allusions in these passages to the fourth Gospel are too apparent to admit of question.

(3.) In a fragment assigned by Eusebius to Polycrates, bishop of Ephesus (about 190 A.D.), there is a reference to St. John as the disciple who · lay on the Lord's bosom.'

Concerning these and other testimonies of a yet earlier date to the existence and reception of the fourth Gospel, Professor Lightfoot writes thus :

'In every one of the writers, from Polycarp and Papias to Polycrates, we have observed phenomena which bear witness directly or indirectly, and with different degrees of distinctness, to its recognition.

† iii. 17. The perversion of our Lord's language to Nicodemus by the Peratics or Peratæ of Hippolytus, one of the Ophite sects, affords additional evidence of the reception of the fourth Gospel before the middle of the second century. See Bunsen's 'Hippolytus,' vol. i. pp. 36–38, and Dean Mansel's 'Gnostic Heresies,' p. 99.

* iii. 15,


It is quite possible for critical ingenuity to find a reason for discrediting each instance in turn. Au objector may urge in one case, that the writing itself is a forgery; in a second, that the particular passage is an interpolation; in a third, that the supposed quotation is the original, and the language of the Evangelist the copy , in a fourth, that the incident or saying was not deduced from this Gospel, but from some apocryphal work containing a parallel narrative. By a sufficient number of assumptions, which lie beyond the range of verification, the evidence may be set aside. But the early existence and recognition of the fourth Gospel is the one simple postulate which explains all the facts.'

But before we proceed to consider the nature and strength of the positive evidence which the fourth Gospel affords that it was written by an eye-witness, or the nature and force of the objections upon which alone the genuineness of any writing in favour of which so much of direct evidence may be adduced can be disputed, we shall do well to advert to the comparative merits of the two theories respecting the composition of the fourth Gospel between which we are summoned to decide.

Assuming the date commonly assigned by orthodox writers to the fourth Gospel, i.e. the close of the first century, we have no external hostile evidence which deserves the name, whether direct or indirect, to encounter. We have simply to account for the real or, as we maintain, the imaginary absence of any direct evidence in its favour for a period of about eighty years. This period, it must be remembered, was singularly barren in theological works, and indeed in literature of any description ; a period of which the writings most likely to refer directly to the fourth Gospel have, in part or in whole, perished; whilst the absence of specific allusions in those which remain is, in some cases, accounted for by the general design of the writers, or may be adduced, as Professor Lightfoot has conclusively proved, as positive evidence in favour of the genuineness of the fourth Gospel.*

On the other hand, if the date assigned by the author of Supernatural Religion' to the fourth Gospel, i.e. the last quarter of the second century, be accepted, we have to account

* It is well known that we are indebted to Eusebius for a large portion of the literary remains of this period. Now the object of Eusebius was to adduce evidence in favour of those books only the canonical authority of which was called in question. It follows, then, that the absence of specific allusions to the fourth Gospel in the citations made by Eusebius from the early ecclesiastical writers—so far from affording presumptive evidence, as the author of Supernatural Re·ligion' urges, against its genuineness—proves only that its authority was not disputed.


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