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4. Is JN.’S PURPOSE SIMPLY TO SUPPLEMENT AND CORRECT?

But why does Jn. differ so often from the Synoptics, if he was acquainted with their books? The most important attempt to explain this consists in saying that his purpose throughout his book is to supplement the story of his predecessors and, where in small matters this was inexact, to correct it. This theory therefore presupposes further that he was himself present at the events described, and was entitled to think that wherever he made additions and corrections he was justified in doing so. Whether this is confirmed is a question we shall soon have to investigate more closely. We leave it for the present and simply ask, Can this double purpose, which is ascribed to him, be discovered at all in his book? As regards this intention to make corrections, it is certainly not easy to recognise it, for the author nowhere says: the matter was not thus, but thus. If then he made corrections, he must have made them quite quietly out of respect for his predecessors.

We prefer, therefore, in the first instance, to consider the question: Does he wish merely to give facts which are supplementary? In the case of the narratives which are peculiar to him, this would be conceivable, as well as in the 53case of the expulsion of the dealers from the fore-court of the Temple, if such an event really took place at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. But in Jn. we find again a number of stories given by the Synoptics, in which the idea cannot possibly be that the events happened a second time, and not merely on one occasion as the Synoptics state. We need only mention the Feeding of the Five Thousand, the walking on the sea and the entrance into Jerusalem (vi. 1-15, 16-21; xii. 12-16). It might really be thought in the case of the second of these stories that the idea of correcting was the ruling purpose; Jn., in opposition to the story of the Synoptics which says that Jesus was taken into the boat in the middle of the sea, wishes, as an eye witness, to insist that this was not so, since Jesus crossed the lake from one shore to the other. But it is really hard to discover what correction he means to make in his description of the entry into Jerusalem, or, in particular, in that of the Feeding of the Five Thousand; and this is sufficient to show that the whole idea that Jn.’s purpose is always either to supplement or correct is untenable. If, on the other hand, certain concessions are made, and it is claimed that he only meant to do this now arid then, the whole explanation of the passages in which he differs from the Synoptics would have no value; for in the case of a considerable number of sections in his book the question why he introduced them would still be left unexplained.

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