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The Problem of the Fourth Gospel



In the two preceding chapters, inquiry being kept strictly within the field of external evidence, it was provisionally decided that, in the first place, while the Fourth Gospel cannot be earlier than the latest of the Synoptics, there is apparently no valid reason which requires a date subsequent to the fourth decade of the second century; and next, that the case for the traditional authorship was by no means made out. A possibility may remain that 'in some way or other John son of Zebedee stands behind' the Gospel which bears John's name1. As it is we cannot but already feel that, be his relation to it what it may, he eludes discovery in the very region in which that Gospel is held to have originated; and that it is not at all unlikely that, with the lapse of time and for whatever reason a2, the distinctive title of Apostle attached itself to a John whom an earlier generation had been content to speak of as (together with other titles of distinction) a disciple of the Lord3.

We now pass from external to internal evidence. The first question which arises is this: what direct evidence relative to its authorship is afforded by our Gospel itself? As for the second, it is concerned with indirect evidence; we shall ask: what impressions does our Gospel convey with regard to the personality of its author?

1 Harnack, Chron. 1, p. 677.

2 According to Schmiedel (Evang. Briefe u. Offenb. des Joh. p. 7) the confusion arose—as in the case of Philip and Hierapolis—from claims advanced by the Church of Ephesus to have had an Apostle as its founder. Forbes (op. cit. p. 173) aptly remarks: 'Ephesus did not become a famous religious centre of apostolic renown, like Rome and Jerusalem, as would naturally have been the result in case an apostle from the Twelve had long resided there.'

3 Albeit the allusion is specifically to Polycrates, von Soden's pointed remark (Early Christ. Liter. p. 427) applies generally: 'Though so many titles of honour are . . . heaped upon this John, that of Apostle, the highest of all in those days, is not among them.'


The present chapter shall accordingly be divided into two main sections.

(i) Direct Evidence

We will remark at the outset that the question of the 'self-testimony' of our Gospel is approached, regarded and decided in ways which illustrate a wide diversity of view on the part of scholars. On the one hand it is resolutely maintained that 'the Fourth Gospel claims to be the work of an eye-witness of the life of Jesus'; that he who speaks in xix, 35 'can be none other than the Evangelist himself,' who, 'throughout constant in declining the use of an "I,"' vouches, as eye-witness, for the truth of what he relates, and gives it to be understood that his place was very near to Jesus; the disciple whom Jesus loved, he is identified with the nameless disciple of i, 37 ff., and with him who, acquainted, xviii, 15, with the High Priest, follows Jesus to the High Priest's Palace; it is said expressly of him, xxi, 24, that he penned the Gospel; as he is ever and again coupled with Peter, it is natural to look for him in the little group of intimates told of in the Synoptics; in the last analysis he is John the Apostle and son of Zebedee1. On the other hand it is contended that the Gospel's 'self -testimony' is exceedingly strange: the 'we beheld his glory' of the Prologue, i, 14, invites inquiry as to who it is that speaks; as with the other Gospels so here, the manner is objective and anonymous; with ch. xiii mysterious personage is brought on the scene who, thenceforth eclipsing Peter, is ever to the front; unlike Peter and the rest, he is steadfast at the Cross, and vouches for the reality of the death of Jesus; the meaning of xix, 35, is that he is the authority on whom the tradition of the Fourth Gospel rests; in the appears it appears that the question really is of two traditions, and that the one which points to this Beloved Disciple is to be deemed equal, if not superior, to that which is referred to Peter. It is irged further that the 'self-testimony' becomes utterly complicated

1 So, generally, Barth; Das Johannesevglm. pp. 5 ff. Cludius (Uransichten des Christenthums, p. 51) allowed that the rank of eye-witness is claimed by the Evangelist. Westcott (St John, pp. v-xxi), gradually narrowing down the choice, is decisive for the Apostle John. In like manner Cohu, op. cit. p. 419, note.


when, xxi, 24, the authority of the unnamed Beloved Disciple is confirmed by men who, writing in the first person, are themselves unknown—as if, forsooth, such testimony would be needed in the case of an actual Apostolic witness. The 'self-testimony' of the Gospel, it is added, raises more riddles than it solves; and, far from establishing the authenticity of the work, it arouses suspicion which merges in doubt1.

The situation is probably more complex than is suggested in the former quarter. Nor is there over-statement, in the second quarter, of what are certainly curious phenomena. Not only does 'the author (of the Gospel) nowhere give his name,' but the fact that 'he designates himself in mysterious hints2' enhances our perplexity.

But let our inquiry begin with the Prologue3 of the Gospel. In two places the first person plural is met with; and it is perhaps safe to infer that, inasmuch as the 'we' of v. 16 is accompanied by an 'all' (`ημεις παντες) the allusion there is to believers generally, whether eye-witnesses or not4. The case is somewhat different with v. 14; the question there is whether the 'we beheld' (εθεασαμεθα) implies physical sight or spiritual perception; and if the former alternative be adopted5 the allusion is naturally to persons who had actually seen Jesus. That granted, it certainly appears that the Evangelist expressly lays claim to be such an one himself;

1 Thus, in outline, Wernle, Quellen. pp. 12 ff.

2 Weizsäcker, Apos. Age, ii, p. 207. 'Aller Streit wäre geschlichtet, wenn der Verfasser sich in seinem Evglm. selbst nennte. Aber er thut es nicht.' So Lücke, Comment. über das Evglm. des Joh. i, p. 85. And thus A. R. Loman (Het Evan. van Joh. naar Oorsprong, Bestemming en Gebruik in de Oudheid, p. 17: 'Nergens zegt de auteur, of dat hij een der Apostelen is, of dat hij Johannes heet.'

3 Jn i, 1-18.

4 'Die ganze Christenheit,' Hengstenberg, Das Evglm. des heil. Joh. iii, pp. 396 f. O. Holtzmann (Das Johannesevglm. p. 198) writes: 'Die Gemeinde der Gotteskinder.'

5 'The original word in the N.T. is never used of mental vision,' Westcott, op. cit. p. xxv. to the same effect Sanday, op. cit. pp. 76 f. And thus Loisy, op. cit. p. 187: 'L'Évangeliste parle comme un temoin oculaire de la vie de Jésus.' The second alternative is preferred by int. al. W. Bauer, HBNT, II, ii, p. 15. And see Heitmüller, SNT, ii, pp. 733 f.; who comments at length on the phrase την δοξαν αυτου.


'by his use of the first person plural he associates himself with other eye-witnesses of Jesus' appearance on earth1.' It does not follow that he claims to be one of the Twelve; neither, we will add, is the fact established that he had actually been an eye-witness. On the contrary, he may have had resort to literary sanctions of the age of which more hereafter.

Whether he be the nameless disciple of i, 37 ff. or not, the Beloved Disciple stands full in view from xiii onwards; and inasmuch as he is found, xix, 26, at the Cross of Jesus, his presence is generally suspected in the crux of commentators, xix, 35: 'And he that hath seen hath borne witness, and his witness is true (αληθινη) and he (εκεινος) knoweth that he saith true (αληθη, things that are true), that ye also may believe.'

Is it really he, the Beloved Disciple, eye-witness, Evangelist, who speaks in the perplexing verse? A very natural inference would be that it comes from another and a later hand; from the pen of certain unknown personages who, for whatever reasons, are constrained to add their testimony to the credibility both of the narrator and of his report2? If he it really be, is he pointing to himself? If so, the method adopted by him is peculiar; if he means thereby to indicate his authorship he does so in strange fashion. Still more singular is it that, if he be thus mysteriously alluding to himself as both eye-witness and Evangelist, he, to all appearance, makes appeal for support to some third person whose identity is also veiled: 'He that hath seen hath borne witness (sc. the Evangelist), and his witness is true'; it is vouched by another authority: 'and that one (εκεινος) knoweth that he (sc. the Evangelist) saith things that are true.' And besides, questions are invited by the sentence with which the ambiguous verse ends: 'that ye also may believe.' Who are the 'ye'? Had need arisen to combat incredulity,

1 Wendt, op. cit. p. 207. Cf. 1 Jn i, 1 ff. Zahn (Einl. ii, p. 467) writes: 'Turning to the Prologue we at once come across, not indeed an "I," but a thrice repeated "we" which includes an "I," the "I" of the author.'

2 This raises the question, to be discussed later on, of the homogeneity or otherwise of the Fourth Gospel. It may be remarked here that the 'blood and water' of the preceding verse xix, 34, whatever the occurence, are, in this connexion, held to be symbolic of the Supper of the Lord and Baptism. Otherwise Kreyenbül, Das Evglm. der Wahrheit, ii, p. 663.


credulity, or to assert the authority of a Gospel which had not yet attained to general acceptance?

Taking the verse as it stands, it is not unreasonable to say of it that the intention is to place the reader in the presence of the Evangelist1. As for the puzzling allusion (εκεινος), opinions differ; upon the one hand it is affirmed that the term can be used by a speaker of himself and is often so used in this very Gospel2; the case is said to be one in which 'the author is simply turning back upon himself and protesting his own veracity3.' On the other hand a third person is discovered; yet here again opinions differ as to who he is, and conjecture has turned from any human guarantor to dwell on the risen and ascended Lord4. But however this may be, the author of the Gospel apparently figures in the verse; and, if so, the choice lies between two alternatives; either he is thus pointed to by others, or he adopts an oblique way of indicating himself. In the latter ease he claims to be an eye-witness; and, should he be but the secondary historian, he must be judged, not by modern standards, but by the literary sanctions of his own period.

A third perplexing passage now demands attention. By common consent ch. xxi is an Appendix5; whether vv. 1-23 come from the same pen as do the preceding chapters or not, there is no room for doubt that the two final verses (24, 25) are the addition of a later hand. Taken in connexion with vv. 1-23 they amount to an 'express assurance6' that 'the disciple which beareth witness of

1 Who, according to Wellhausen (Das. Evgm. Joh. p. 89), distinguishes himself from the eye-witness to whom he appeals and who is the Beloved Disciple.

2 A case in point is Jn ix, 37. Westcott, op. cit. p. xxv. And see Steitz, Über den Gebrauch des Pronom. εκεινος im vierten Evglm. See also Kreyenbühl, op. cit. i, p. 168: 'aus dem gesagten ergiebt sich . . . dass der Verfasser sich selber εκεινος nennen könne.'

3 Sanday, Criticism of the Fourth Gospel, p. 78.

4 Sanday, ibid.; Zahn, op. cit. ii, pp. 474 f.; W. Bauer, HBNT, II, ii, p. 177. See E. A. Abbott, Joh. Grammar, pp. 284 f.

5 With Jn xx, 30 f. a perfectly adequate conclusion is reached by the Gospel.

6 Wendt, op. cit. p. 213. The 'express assurance,' according to Hausleiter (Zwei Apos. Zeugen), of Andrew and Philip, who, on his theory, are the joint authors of Jn xxi.


these things and wrote these things1' was the disciple whom Jesus loved. Those who say so add: 'and we know (οιδαμεν) that his witness is true.' Then comes a change from the plural to the singular: were the 'many other things which Jesus did' to be 'written every one, I suppose (οιμαι) that even the world itself would not contain the books that should be written.' Thereupon the Appendix chapter reaches its abrupt close.

The second of the two verses is, as we have seen, explicitly referred by Origen to the Apostle John; and in any case one might naturally infer that the 'I' who speaks in it is, or claims to be, himself of the number of the eye-witnesses, for the manner of the allusion is such as to suggest personal knowledge rather than second-hand information. But his identity shall be left the enigma that it is2; the immediate question being far more nearly connected with the emphatic declaration of the preceding verse. Who are the speakers in it? Is it certain who the person is to whom they refer? How comes it that they are in a position to substantiate the accuracy of the narrative which they so positively assign to his pen? Why, again, is it that, on the assumption that they deem him no second-hand reporter but an eye-witness, both he and his Gospel should require their guarantee? It has indeed been suggested that their declaration in no way turns on the authorship of the Gospel but is concerned solely with the truth of the Gospel-contents3, yet the suggestion is hard to accept. To all appearance a three-fold assertion is contained in the verse;—the disciple referred to is a still living witness4; he is author of a work which has reached its conclusion in the verse antecedent to the statement; the 'we,' qualified to bear testimony, are themselves eye-witnesses.

1 Calmes (op. cit. p. 34) writes: 'selon nous, les mots και `ο γραψας ταυτα doivent s'entendre, non de tout l'Évangile, mais seulement des versets qui précèdent, où il est question de l'immortalité eventuelle du disciple bien-aimé.'

2 Holtzmann (HCNT, iv, p. 230), remarking on the non-Johannine word οιμαι, speaks of Apologetics led astray to think of Papias.

3 Baldensperger, Prolog. p. 110

4 Or, being dead, speaks in his book. 'L'emploi du présent ne prouve pas que le disciple vive encore; il rend temoignage actuellement par son livre,' Loisy, op. cit. p. 949.


Who are the 'we'? Of certain answer there is none whatever1. Refuge might be taken in the conjecture that they are Ephesian Elders2; yet so as to leave their date an open question.

To what personage do they refer? Obviously to the mysterious Beloved Disciple3; with their 'this is the disciple' they point back to the passage which immediately precedes their statement, and in it he figures. Is it quite so certain that he is one and the selfsame person as the Apostle John4? As is shown elsewhere, the identity is hard to establish5; for the moment assuming it, the situation is clear, the son of Zebedee is of course equated by the 'we' with the Beloved Disciple. Otherwise everything depends on whether the process of confusion between two distinct persons has been accomplished or not. In the former contingency they, the 'we,' mean (without saying it) John the Apostle, in the latter they are referring to him who is spoken of as a disciple of the Lord.

They are, anyhow they say that they are, in a position to render two-fold testimony; is it possible to take them at their word? If the Beloved Disciple be really the Apostle John and the Beloved Disciple-Apostle be really the Evangelist, yes; what if they, meaning the Apostle, do but reflect the unfounded opinion of a later day? The answer would again be in the affirmative were the Beloved Disciple, being other than the Apostle, really author of the Fourth Gospel; yet here again the case for his direct authorship may be hard to prove. Room must be made for the conjecture that, in view of circumstances held by them to justify their action, they give authoritative expression to beliefs current in their midst.

1 De Wette (op. cit. ii, p. 229) says of the 'unbekannter Urheber' (of v. 24) that he was 'einer der jüngern Zeitgenossen.' W. Bauer (HBNT, II, ii, p. 189; cf. Holtzmann, op. cit. p. 229) finds the allusion reminiscent of the tradition as given by Clem. Alex. and of the Muratorian Canon.

2 Hennell (op. cit. p. 105) instances the conjecture of Grotius that the 'we' points to the Church at Ephesus.

3 Alex. Schweizer, Das Evglm. Joh. pp. 59 f. And see p. 239; where Schweizer, remarking that he who appended ch. xxi declares the Evangelist to be a disciple and eye-witness, viz. the Beloved Disciple, whoever the latter was, adds: But is this true to fact?

4 Schwalb (Christus und die Evangelien, pp. 198 f.) is of opinion that the author of ch. xxi clearly differentiates the anonymous 'Lieblingsjünger' from the sons of Zebedee.

5 See Excursus II.


And well might it be asked: wherefore is it that one so positively stated to be eye-witness and Evangelist—and perhaps Apostle—should require the anonymous testimony to himself and his work? That zeal is manifested by the 'we' is clear enough; yet it is possible to urge that the line taken by them is not exactly calculated to advance their cause; but that, on the contrary, they go near to cast a slur on the very personage for whose credit they are so evidently concerned1. They have acted, shall it be admitted? in all good faith; the tentative conjecture shall follow that, in the said action, they were conscious of and responsive to a need of their day. Men had looked askance at our Gospel; and hence steps were taken by the 'we' to obviate objection and win acceptance for the treasured work.

A dilemma is proposed; either the Apostle John is the author of the Gospel, or it has been written by someone else who personates him. Thus when it is said: 'the author is either the eye-witness (and, with every probability, the son of Zebedee) or, with resort to artifice and mysterious hints, he poses as such . . . and good friends of his are prompt with their imprimatur for what is a sheer imposture; for they, knowing his testimony to be false, declare it to be true2.' Apart from the objectionable way of putting it, a false issue is raised by the second alternative in that it reads back modern standards into a remote past. What at the present day would be utterly indefensible was not simply condoned but recognized and sanctioned by the literary etiquette of the ancient world: 'it was characteristic of the spirit and custom of ancient historians and poets and especially those of the Bible, to live themselves into the modes of thought and expression of great men, and by imitating their thoughts and feelings, make themselves their organ3.' In other words, no blame attached in those days to writers

1 'Ein Zeuge, dessen Zeugnis selbst erst wieder bezeugt werden muss, kann nicht als eine sehr vertrauenswürdige Person erscheinen,' Schmiedel, Evglm. Briefe und Offenbarung des Joh. p. 15. And see Lützelberger, Die Kirchl. Tradition über den Apos. Joh. p. 188.

2 Barth, op. cit. p. 7. Cf. Lightfoot, Bibl. Essays, p. 80.

3 Kirkpatrick, Divine Library of O.T. pp. 40 f. See also Percy Gardner, Ephes. Gosp. pp. 92 ff.; von Soden, Early Christ. Lit. pp. 14 f.


who composed and put forth works in another's name1; neither they nor their readers would be conscious of enacted fraud. So with the unknown author of Ecclesiastes who veils his identity with the great name of Solomon; so with the author of the Second Petrine Epistle when he calls himself 'Simon Peter'; so with 'Ephesians' if, as is not altogether inconceivable, it originates from a disciple of Paul. Precisely so here; if the Fourth Evangelist be really one who, in his Gospel, makes himself 'organ' of the eyewitness (whoever the eye-witness may be) he is not necessarily the 'falsarius2.' The course adopted by him would have the literary sanctions of his period, and the 'we' who, xxi, 24, give their testimony are not necessarily so many confederates in a literary fraud.

Let us agree that, in the event of necessary preference for the alternative which disposes of the traditional authorship of the Fourth Gospel as altogether untenable, there can be, in view of old-world literary usages, no question of wanton accusation and of libelling the dead3.

The direct evidence of the Gospel has been surveyed. On the face of it, no doubt, it pleads for the conclusion that, whatever his identity, the author of the Gospel is an eye-witness, the Beloved Disciple. Yet with closer examination of the salient passages confidence passes over into doubt; and, as the case stands, it must be admitted that the Gospel does lay claim to Apostolic origin and authority in a way which is both singular and mysterious, and that its self-testimony raises more riddles than it solves4, Whether more light will be thrown on the problem by evidence of an indirect nature has yet to be seen.

With such indirect evidence our business now lies.

(ii) Indirect Evidence

As we pass from direct to indirect evidence the field to be explored widens; for, whereas in the former case our inquiry was

1 Schmiedel, op. cit. pp. 12 f.

2 Of the dilemma as propounded by De Wette, op. cit. ii, p. 229.

3 As Sanday suggests, op. cit. p. 81.

4 In the view of Scholten (Het Evan. naar Joh. p. 399) the Fourth Evangelist intended his Gospel to be accepted as by the Apostle John who is the Beloved Disciple.


concentrated on a group of but three passages, we now enter upon an examination of our Gospel as a whole. Nor shall we stop short there; on the contrary, it will become necessary to confront 'John' with the Synoptic Gospels, while an attempt must also be made to determine its relation to circumstance, event, or movement in the world of the period within which the date of its composition has been held to fall. We shall further have to address ourselves to the vexed question whether our Gospel be a unity or a composite work.

The issues, in short, are numerous; and the consideration of them will spread itself over many pages. But in the second section of the present chapter, our Gospel being taken as a whole, and by itself apart, the main questions are these: What impressions are conveyed by it as to the personality of the Evangelist? Does it vouch for the first-hand knowledge of an eye-witness? Or does it reveal the secondary historian who constructs his situations after the manner of his age?

Be the author who he may, there can be no doubt whatever that he addresses himself to a Gentile community or communities. It is not simply that he writes in Greek; for, quite apart from the fact that the New Testament as a whole is a Greek book1, precisely the same course is adopted by a writer whose addressees—if the superscription of his Epistle2 be taken literally—are specifically Jewish Christians. A decisive proof is that he is at pains to translate3 and is ready with his explanations4. He might, or he might, not, be resident in their midst.

Next comes the question of his nationality. Is he himself a Gentile? Such a contention has been raised, and not once or twice; an English pioneer of criticism satisfied himself that the Fourth Evangelist was 'no Apostle or any Jew5'; 'a sincere Christian . . . and a Greek': such was the verdict of a master of English prose6. It must be admitted that there is force in the argument7; for his

1 Deissman, New Light on the N.T. pp. 29 f.

2 1 Pet. ii, 1.

3 Jn i, 42; ix, 7; xx, 16.

4 Jn ii, 6; vi, 4; xix, 31, 40.

5 Evanson, op. cit. p. 226

6 Matthew Arnold, God and the Bible, p. 284.

7 Which Scott-Moncrieff (op. cit. p. 84) minimizes.


incessant allusions to 'the Jews' are so acrimonious1 and so objective2 in their nature as to suggest that he differentiates himself from their race. Yet there are counter-arguments which may be deemed strong enough to weigh down the balance on the other side, if it does not at once follow that he who records the Saying: 'Salvation is of the Jews3' was obviously himself of Jewish origin. Adverse voices are not silent; yet the general trend of scholarship is to allow and to affirm that he came from, originally belonged to, Jewish Christianity4. 'John, like Paul, was a Jew5'; 'there is nothing to preclude his Jewish birth, his style and methods of representation favour its admission6.'

And such is really the case. Looking to the diction of the Gospel, it is surely true to say that, penned for Gentile readers for whom Jewish terms and usages had to be translated and explained, it throughout reveals a distinctively Semitic mode of thought by its phraseology, its frequent Hebraisms, its comparatively limited vocabulary7. No doubt its author 'writes in a style which is peculiar but quite literary8'; there are nevertheless features which suggest that the foreign language acquired by him has not been so entirely mastered that its resources are fully at his command. That he breathes a Greek atmosphere is unquestionable; as unquestionable does it appear from the Hebraisms he indulges in that our Gospel comes from a Jewish hand9.

'The style of the narrative alone is conclusive as to its Jewish authorship10.' This point decided, the further question arises: Was

1 Scholten (Het Evan. naar Joh. p. 439) writes: 'Is het mogelijk om in zulk een oordeel over het wederstrevend Israël een geboren Jood te erkennen? Daar komt bij, dat de schrijver overal over de Joden spreckt als over eene vreemde natie.' To the same effect Schenkel, Das Charakterbild Jesu, p. 251. But see Schleiermacher, Einl. p. 337.

2 As an Englishman speaks of 'the Germans,' or 'the Danes.'

3 Jn iv, 22.

4 Weizsäcker, op. cit. ii, p. 218.

5 von Dobschütz, Christ. Life in the Prim. Church, p. 218; Probleme des Apos. Zeitalters, pp. 92 f.

6 Holtzmann, Das Evglm. des Joh. p. 16.

7 Barth, op. cit. pp. 7 f.

8 P. Gardner, Ephes. Gosp. p. 45. And see De Wette, Lehrbuch, ii, p. 213.

9 Thoma (Genesis des Evglm. Joh. p. 787) writes: 'Er hat mit der Muttermilch jüdische Denkart eingesogen.' And thus Herder (Von Gottes Sohn, der Welt Heiland, p. 275): 'er dachte Ebräisch und schrieb Griechish.'

10 Westcott, St John, p. vi. In the opinion of L¨cke (op. cit. p. 41 ff.) the style, albeit more Greek than Palestinian, reveals the born Jew who had long resided in Asia.


its author a Jew of Palestine? Did he belong, upon the other hand, to the Diaspora? Was he, that is, a Hellenistic Jew?

The point is not settled by the source of his quotations from the Old Testament; sometimes he quotes from the Greek Bible (LXX) while at other times he approximates more nearly to the Hebrew text1. Appeal might be made to his doctrine of the Logos, but at this stage of our inquiry it must be left an open question whence it was derived. What certainly appears probable is that his diction has closest affinity, not with the literature of Hellenistic Judaism, but with that of Palestinian learning2. An important consideration then is whether he himself be thoroughly familiar with the scenes and the circumstances of the country with which his narrative is primarily concerned. Does he so know his Palestine as to establish it that Palestine had actually been his birthplace and his home?

It is in matters such as this that a writer who, posing as an eye-witness, is altogether destitute of any real knowledge of locality and conditions, is almost certain to give himself away by confusion or mistake.

Speaking generally, the Fourth Evangelist is not open, to suspicion. It cannot be proved against him that, in respect at all events of localities, he is guilty of the slip or blunder which would betray his ignorance3, if research has as yet failed to identify one or other of the places specified in his report4. There may of course be 'some hidden and allegoric meaning' in his particularizations, and the point will come up again; yet 'every critic remarks in the

1 Scott-Moncrieff (op. cit. p. 76) inclines to 'the supposition that the Evangelist used some catena of Messianic quotations compiled, it may be, by different hands.'

2 See Credner, Einl. pp. 264 f.

3 Schmiedel, op. cit. p. 16. Otherwise Scholten (Het Evan. naar Joh. p. 431): 'De Evangelist is blijkbaar geen ooggetuige en van het tooneel der gebeurtenissen verwijdert.' With allusion to Jn i, 29, 35; ii. 1 ff. Cludius (op. cit. p. 64) asks: could the author so have written had he been a Palestinian Jew, and familiar with localities? And see his remarks on pp. 65 f. On p. 67 he writes: 'Die Mähre von Bethesda . . . verräth auch einen von Jerusalem fern lebenden Verfasser.'

4 'In most cases the difficulty resolves itself into our ignoarance of the local geography, not into the writer's,' Moffatt, op. cit. p. 548.


Gospel a number of details which do not seem in themselves important, but which give to the narrative an air, which is in fact somewhat delusive, of being a very exact narrative1.' 'Delusive' in a sense it may be, and perhaps it is; there is nevertheless an air of verisimilitude about certain details which goes far to convey an impression that they are traceable to actual personal reminiscence. Yet it might be too venturesome to say of such details one and all that, often irrelevant enough, they yet betray the vivid recollections of a narrator who never stays to ask whether a thing be trivial or not, but who is fain to describe scenes photographed on his mind—even side incidents2.

Whether the Fourth Evangelist, in any case no Gentile, be a Palestinian or a Hellenistic Jew, he is in a position to draw on his own personal acquaintance with the 'Holy Land3'; and in the second alternative (which is the less likely of the two) an inference might be that, although his temporary residence is there no longer, he had travelled up and down in it as having eyes to see and using them.

Yet it may not be so clear that his knowledge extends from geography to political and ecclesiastical organization. A charge here brought against him is that he has perpetrated a blunder than which none more glaring can be conceived4; in that, with his thrice-repeated and emphatic allusion to Caiaphas5, he assumes the Jewish High-priesthood to be an annual appointment when as a matter of fact the office was tenable for life6. 'Being high priest that year':—it must be confessed that the definitive phrase 'that year' gives the reader pause; and besides, it is not a little curious that the person referred to is so casually introduced when he is of such exalted rank7. If gross error there be—and the Evangelist be really a Jew—it is no satisfactory explanation which accounts for it by a long interval between the events narrated and

1 P. Gardner, op. cit. pp. 56 f.

2 Barth, op. cit. pp. 7 f.

3 'At any rate he is intimately acquainted,' says Cohu (op. cit. p. 474), 'with the Holy Land and especially Jerusalem.'

4 Schmiedel, op. cit. pp. 16 f.

5 Jn xi, 49, 51; xviii, 13; αρχιερευς ων του ενιαυτου εκεινου.

6 Heitmüller, SNT, ii, p. 808; W. Bauer, HBNT, II, ii, p. 115; Jülicher, Einl. p. 380.

7 `εις δε τις εξ αυτων Καιαφας.


the telling of them with the confused memories of extreme old age. Other explanations are, perhaps, more to the point; with his emphatic 'that year' the Evangelist really meant 'that fateful year,' the 'year of all years,' 'the acceptable year of the Lord1.' Perhaps it really was so; on the other hand there is force in the suggestion that he was simply accommodating himself to local usages, in respect of the Asiarchs, for the sake of Gentile readers on a foreign soil2. A contingency remains that the responsibility for the dubious statement is not attachable to himself3.

Let him have the benefit of the doubt. Another point must be raised; and it again turns on the exactitude or otherwise of the report of this Jew eye-witness as he claims, and is held, to be. The question ceases to be of narrative and is now concerned with discourse4.

It has been said5 of the Fourth Gospel that, rich in 'tender and unearthly beauty' it is suggestive of solemn cathedral voluntaries improvised upon the organ of human speech. Yet it is a just criticism which insists that the Evangelist's ideas, if sublime, are few; that they are continually reiterated in well-nigh identical form; that there is a poverty of vocabulary, a sameness in manner of presentment6: 'if the same great conceptions and ideas recur over and over again, the language becomes almost monotonous, colourless,—yes, almost poor7.' The admission is abundantly necessitated that precisely these features are ever and again illustrated in the speeches of the personages who play their respective parts in the wonderful drama of the Fourth Gospel story. It may be quite true that the characters are invested with an individuality of their own; it is equally true that, having played their part, they often vanish from the scene. Once more; is it quite the case that they pass out of sight as men of flesh and blood and not like

1 So Westcott, Lightfoot, and others. It is to beg the question when Scott-Moncrieff (op. cit. p. 89) writes: 'He does not say that he was the high priest of that year.'

2 Holtzmann, HCNT, iv, p. 160. Otherwise Clemen (Entstehung des Joh. Evglms. p. 216), who discovers an explanation in the allusion Lk. iii, 1 ff.

3 The question of interpolations is discussed in later chapters.

4 A subject which will come up again.

5 By Drummond.

6 von Soden, op. cit. p. 13.

7 Luthardt, op. cit. p. 19. But cf. Westcott, op. cit. pp. 1 f.


characters in some legendary tale1? Might it not rather be said of some of them that they 'appear in a strange twilight . . . they profess to be actual personalities, yet they live only the life of typical characters,' and that, as for the Evangelist, 'he loses the whole of his interest in both persons and situations as soon as they have served his doctrinal purpose2?' The question will come up again; let it be observed in this connexion that it is precisely when they begin to speak that the uniform note is perceptible. There is little if any variety in the manner of their discourse. Admittedly their language is Johannine. Or to put it thus: the Evangelist has 'fashioned a speech peculiar to his school,' and it is in that speech that all his characters discourse3.

Let it be observed at this point that the claim raised by the Evangelist (or advanced on his behalf) is not simply that of having been an eye-witness. The idea of an ear-witness is included in the claim. When it is said by (or of) him that 'his witness is true' the meaning undoubtedly is that, if his report be trustworthy in respect of things seen with his eyes, it is not one whit less trustworthy in the case of things heard with his ears.

Then this weighty consideration arises: no matter who the personages are, the speeches which the Evangelist purports to report are assuredly characterized by a remarkable sameness of style or tone. They, the said personages—each one with an individuality proper to himself—must surely have displayed their individuality in the manner of their discourse. They are certainly not found so to do; and the conclusion is unavoidable that the asserted ear-witness Evangelist is anything but a true witness if verity be contingent on exactness of report. The speeches must be, to some extent, constructed speeches. In any case the Evangelist has allowed himself a very free hand4.

1 Westcott, op. cit. pp. lxxi, lxxv; Barth, op. cit. p. 30.

2 von Soden, op. cit. pp. 390 ff. To the same effect Wrede, Charakter und Tendenz des Evglm. Joh. p. 21.

3 von Dobschütz, Christ. Life in the Prim. Ch. p. 222.

4 Treating of 'Die "subjective Form" der johan. Christusreden,' P. Ewald (NKZ, xix, 1908, p. 842) writes: 'Es gibt auch im täglichen Leben eine doppelte Art, Gehörtes zu bewahren und anderen zu vermitteln: Entweder indem man wirklich den Wortlaut durchaus festhält und anderen gegenüber reproduzirt, oder indem man allen Nachdruck auf den Gedankengehalt legt.' The latter method, it is added, is better calculated to convey the real significance of the spoken word, and it is that employed by the Fourth Evangelist.


To which it may be added that his own reflexions are sometimes so merged in reported conversation or discourse that it is no easy thing to decide who precisely the speaker is1. Sometimes the difficulty is less; thus, e.g., in the case of Jn iii, 16-22, 31-36; where we have in all likelihood the ponderings of the Evangelist rather than words assigned respectively to Jesus and the Baptist.

There is another important point. The professed, or alleged, eye- and ear-witness occasionally relates scene or incident in a manner strongly suggestive that no one is present but the persons immediately concerned, yet he appears to record what passed between them with the precision of an attentive listener to the spoken words2. That sources of information were at his command may be freely admitted; yet this is by no means a sufficient explanation, for, such sources granted, it must nevertheless be urged that they have been amplified by the Evangelist, and in terms of his own conceptions of what was likely to be said by the respective personages who figure in the narrative. But this is scarcely to go far enough; the conclusion is ever and again inevitable that the case, far from being one of an ear-witness's verbatim—or free yet sufficiently accurate—report, is actually of artificially constructed discourse. The position is well stated thus: 'few will deny that in this Gospel the prerogative of the ancient historian to place in the mouth of his characters discourses reflecting hfe own idea of what was suitable to the occasion, has been used to the limit3.'

1 'Zudem verschwimmen die ihm (Jesus) geliehenen Worte öfters mit den eigenen Reflexionen des Verfassers,' Reuss, Geschichte der heil. Schriften des N.T. p. 208. See also von Soden, op. cit. p. 412; Weizsäcker, op. cit. ii, p. 225.

2 Of this there are at least six striking instances: the night visit of Nicodemus, Jn iii, 1-16; the conversation with the woman of Samaria, Jn iv, 7-26; the scene laid in the palace of the Roman Governor, xviii, 33-xix, 14; the debate in the council, xi, 47 ff.; the Burial, xix, 38 ff.; the appearance to Mary Magdalene, xx, 11 f. See Alex. Schweizer, op. cit. pp. 241 ff.

3 Bacon, Introd. to N.T. p. 257. See also Percy Gardner, op. cit. p. 93; CBE, pp. 392 ff.


But to sum up; and, of course, provisionally.

It was said by an earlier critic1 that, while the external evidence for the authorship of the Fourth Gospel was unimportant, the internal evidence was so convincing that only a madman could reject it. As we have seen already, the internal evidence, where direct, is of such a nature that it raises more difficulties than it solves; looking to that indirect evidence which has just been rapidly surveyed, the case is somewhat different; nor is it altogether incredible that it should be maintained by a recent writer that 'everything in the Gospel points to a Jewish author who is an eye-witness of our Lord's Ministry, and a native of Palestine2.' There is nevertheless ground for hesitation; but at this stage of our inquiry it must suffice to say of the Evangelist that he writes with a view to Gentile readers and that it is a reasonable conjecture which locates his clientèle, not to say himself, in Asia Minor. He is evidently a Jew; possibly of the Diaspora, with far greater likelihood of Palestinian origin. There is little need to question his personal acquaintance (somewhat blurred, perhaps, with the lapse of time) with scenes and localities depicted in his Gospel, but it must be confessed that doubt is awakened whether he (if he it be) was equally conversant with the political situations and conditions which obtained in Palestine. Vivid are his descriptions; the question nevertheless arises whether the protraits drawn by him are invariably true to life. Sometimes, it may be, actually present when his characters engage in converse, and sometimes, as it would appear, by his own showing, not so present, he, in any case no shorthand reporter, makes them discourse in his own language. Nay more, he places his own reflexions in their lips. As we find him actually setting down what Jesus thought and felt, the temptation is strong to account him one whose relations with Jesus had

1 Gfrörer, Die heilige Sage. For some remarks on Gfrörer (who was far indeed from accepting the historicity of our Gospel) see Albert Schweitzer, Von Reimarus zu Wrede, pp. 160 ff.; Lützelberger, op. cit. p. 41.

2 Cohu, op. cit. p. 474. Practically the same thing was said by Schleiermacher (Hermeneutik, p. 224): 'Aber betrachten wir das Evglm. im ganzen, so werden wir urtheilen müssen, es sei das Bericht eines Augenzeugen.' John's Gospel, he says elsewhere (Einl. p. 318) is 'lauter Selbsterlebtes.' And thus Lange (op. cit. p. 24) 'Es (sc. our Gospel) beruht offenbar auf der persönlichen Erinnerung eines der frühsten Zeugen Jesu.'


been singularly close; anyhow we are disposed to agree that he was not so very far removed from the fountain-head of information1. What we find it hard to say is that his Gospel 'is a genuine Johannine work from the pen of the Apostle, who wrote from Ephesus2.'

Author of our Gospel3 the Beloved Disciple to whom it points may be; or, if not himself the author, then a main authority for that Gospel.

1 De Wette, op. cit. ii, p. 233: 'nicht zu weit enfernt von der ersten Quelle.'

2 Thus, confidently, Strachan, DCQ, i, p. 881. The position now adopted by him (The Fourth Gospel, its Significance and Environment, p. ix) indicates a change of view.

3 The main fabric of that Gospel. See chs. vii and viii.

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