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§ 60. Import of the Title Son of God.

(1.) John’s Sense of the Title accordant with that of the other Evangelists.

We are indebted to John’s Gospel, more than to either of the others, 97for those expressions of Christ which relate especially to the indwelling within him of the Divine essence. It does not, however (as some suppose), follow from this that John, consciously or unconsciously, remodelled the discourses of Christ according to the Alexandrian theology. The fact may be explained on entirely other grounds, e. g., his more intimate connexion with Christ, and the peculiar profoundness of his mind; moreover, the discourses recorded by him are longer and more consecutively didactic and controversial than those given by the other Evangelists. The impartiality, too, with which he sets forth the pure humanity of Christ is sufficient to prove the groundlessness of such a reproach.

If we can only find individual expressions in the other Evangelists which involve the idea of the “Son of God” in John’s sense, we shall have proved satisfactorily that the latter was derived immediately from Christ himself. Now Matt., xi., 27, “No man knoweth the Son but the Father, neither knoweth any man the Father save the Son,” is just such a passage. It intimates precisely such a mysterious relation between the Father and the Son as John more fully sets forth as imparted to him by the revelation of Christ. So, also, the question propounded by Christ to the Pharisees, “What think ye of the Christ? whose Son is he?” could have had no other object than to lead them to conceive Messiah as the Son of God in a higher sense than they were accustomed to. Again, the heathen centurion (Matt., viii., 5), who deemed his roof unworthy of Christ, and begged him, without approaching his abode, to heal the sick servant by a word, certainly considered him as a superior being who had ministering spirits at command. He evidently did not form his idea of Christ from the common Jewish conceptions of the Messiah; on the contrary, his explanation (verse 9) of the impression which he had received (either from the accounts of others, or from personal observation of Christ’s person and labours) is perfectly in keeping with his character and notions while as yet a pagan.147147   The whole account bears the inimitable stamp of historical truth. But Christ (who always rejected any honours that were ascribed to him from erroneous views148148   Luke, xi., 21; xviii., 19.) not only did not correct the centurion, but held his faith up as a model.

In a word, the whole image of Christ presented in the synoptical Gospels exhibits a majesty far transcending human nature, and utterly irreconcilable with Ebionitish conceptions. A manifestation so extraordinary presupposes an inward essence such as that which John’s Gospel fully unfolds to us.

(2.) And confirmed by Paul’s.

Nor could the origin of Paul’s doctrine of the person of Christ be 98explained, unless Christ himself had given statements corresponding to those recorded in John’s Gospel. So, too, the various theological tendencies that developed themselves after the apostolic age presuppose a turn of thought intermediate between that especially exhibited in Matthew and that of Paul. Precisely such an intermediate point was occupied by John.149149   Lücke has justly remarked upon the difference between the classic, creative tendencies of the apostolic times, and the later imitations of them. The dividing line between the former and the latter is distinctly marked. The later developement of Christian doctrine presupposes the different apostolic types of doctrine, and among them that of John. It is, therefore, utterly unhistorical to seek the origin of such a Gospel as John’s in later Church developements (as some attempt to do). The latter are utterly destitute of the harmonious unity of Christian spiritual elements that distinguishes the former.

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