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Some Peculiarities of John's Gospel.
These have already been partly indicated in what has been said concerning its character, in the introduction, but there are a few features not yet noticed that can be most appropriately considered in an appendix.
1. John is the only one of the Evangelists who observes the chronological order of the events in the ministry of Christ. The earlier Gospels have been very appropriately styled “Synoptical,” nor are they careful in their synopsis to regard the order of events. They might be called memoranda, or “Memorabilia” of Christ, while John writes a systematic treatise with a definite object in view. Since they take no note of time, if we were left to them alone, we could not be certain that the Savior's ministry continued for more than a year, whereas John gives us data from whence we learn that it continued more than three. While he selects events, miracles and discourses, here and there, we may always be assured that they occur in the order of time. Thus the miracle of the water turned into wine is the “beginning of miracles;” the healing of the nobleman's son is the “second miracle that Jesus did” in Galilee.
2. The Synoptical Gospels confine themselves mostly to the Galilean ministry of our Lord. If John had never written we would only have references that would lead us to wonder, “How often” the Lord “would have gathered your children (those of Jerusalem) together, and ye would not.” But from John we learn of earnest and long continued work in the city of Jerusalem and Judea, sojourns of many months at the time, and such revelations of himself as left “no cloke for their sin.” We trace right in Jerusalem, the heart of Judaism, the inception, development and culmination of the hatred of Christ, beginning at the first passover after the Savior began his ministry, growing with each succeeding visit and the accompanying typical miracle, and at last, after the resurrection of Lazarus, crystalizing into the official resolve of the Sanhedrim to put him to death. 322
3. A difference in the style of the Savior's discourses, as reported by John and the other Evangelists, has been detected. It can hardly be supposed that any of the writers have reported verbatim. If that were true there would be no difference in their reports, but we find while there is a general agreement of the thought and often of the language, it is by no means true that the words are always the same. No believer doubts that the Spirit brought all things to remembrance, but not so as to make the writers machines. Their memories were strengthened, made accurate, and then they related what they remembered in their own words and style. While John has preserved to us the thoughts of Jesus, and in great part his very words, there can be no doubt but that his record is shaped by his own qualities of mind. It would be only natural that the style of report should change somewhat with the reporter, even if the substance of all the reports should be the same.
4. There is not a real parable in the whole of the Fourth Gospel, a fact partly accounted for by the principle that parables were delivered to unbelievers in the hope that thus a seed of truth might be received that would afterwards bring forth fruit, while the longest discourses of John are to the disciples, to whom Christ did not speak in parables. Nor does he give the sermon on the Mount, the Prayer taught the disciples, nor an account of the institution of the Lord's Supper, or of Christian Baptism, or of the Ascension of our Lord. At the same time he presents the spiritual significance of both baptism (chapter III.) and of the Supper (chapter VI.); nor does he give a list of the Twelve, though he often alludes to them; nor mention the prophecies of the fall of Jerusalem, probably because it had fallen before he wrote; nor use the word “church,” though he alludes to it under other designations. These differences, as well as others that might be noted, show that John wrote at a later date, and while not aiming to supply a supplemental Gospel, was not careful to state facts that could be clearly understood from what had been already written by the other Evangelists. Nor should we fail to note that he does not give a single instance of the Savior casting out demons, a fact easily explained when we bear in mind that the miracles narrated were chosen bemuse of their bearing on the object before the writer's mind. It has been inferred from this by some that John did not believe in demoniac possession, although it is plainly recognized by him on several occasions. We might just as well draw an argument from the fact that John gives no account of the healing of a leper, or of causing the dumb to speak.
5. Nor will any one study this “Crown of the Gospels” to the best purpose who loses sight of the fact that it was written for a specific purpose which the author himself has declared. Whatever heresies he may have sought to correct his great aim was to create faith that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God (20:31). The proposition that he sought to establish had two parts: (1) That he is the Christ of whom the Jewish prophets had spoken, and (2) That he is the Son of God, or God manifest in the flesh. This proposition is before him from beginning to end, and his selections from the words and acts of Christ all look toward the establishment of this double proposition. In support of it he arrays, (1) The witness of John; (2) The witness of the 323Jewish Scriptures; (3) The witness of seven typical miracles of Christ; (4) The witness of the Father; (5) The witness of his own words, words of him “who spake as never man spake;” (6) The witness of apostles, himself and others to his resurrection from the dead. Then he closes the direct record with these words: “Many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: But these are written that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you might have life through his name.”
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