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27. INTRODUCTION OF CONDITIONS OF A LATER PERIOD.

In proportion as it becomes less likely that this could have happened at the tomb of Jesus, the question becomes more pressing, Did it not happen in the later careers of the two disciples? We are reluctant to believe it, and yet it can hardly be otherwise: expression is here given to that later struggle for precedence between the two apostles. Peter excelled the beloved disciple by being bolder and observing more closely the details—of, we may now perhaps say without further ado, the life of Jesus; but in faith, that is to say, in the deeper understanding, the beloved disciple had the advantage.

If any one should still have any scruples about seeing here so bold an introduction of the conditions of a later period into the story of Jesus’ life, he will dismiss them, we should think, when he takes into consideration another passage of a similar kind. We refer to the words spoken by Jesus, iv. 35-38, on an occasion when there seemed to be a possibility of winning over the men belonging to the city of the woman of Samaria. The idea with which the author starts, that the fields (that is to say, the field of his operations among the Samaritans) are white already unto harvest, seems appropriate to the situation. But not a single word in the concluding sentence (iv. 38) is suitable. It is not true that, before the disciples, others laboured to win the Samaritans, or that the disciples themselves did so (cp. p. 13)—to say nothing of the idea that they afterwards entered into the labour of their predecessors. On the other hand, all these sentences are seen at once to be true, if we 135suppose that Jesus is here speaking of the Christian Mission, and in the way in which some one who was looking back upon the progress of this work during a number of decades would be obliged to speak of it. Then, and then only, is it appropriate to say that the one set of missionaries took the place of the other, and that the later only reaped what the earlier had sown (iv. 37 f.). Here then we can note clearly the careless way in which the author makes Jesus express views which could not have been formed until the much later period in which the author himself lived. But at the same time we can see further that such views do not apply to the Samaritans alone, nor even to them in a special sense, but to all the Gentiles. The author regards the Samaritans—who, as a matter of fact, were not recognised as fellow-countrymen by the Jews (iv. 9; Lk. xvii. 18)—simply as representatives of the whole Gentile world; it is in this that he finds the fields white already unto harvest.

Again, the strange metaphor by which Jesus represents himself as the door through which a rightful shepherd comes to his sheep (p. 36) can be understood if we seek the explanation in the circumstances of a later period. And we can easily do this if we follow the clue provided in 1 Jn. iv. 1-3. The shepherds and the robbers contrasted with them, stand for two classes of Christian teacher; the former acknowledge the true faith in Christ, the latter disavow it. Strictly speaking, then, not Jesus himself, but faith in him is the door by which a true teacher seeks admission to the members of the Christian communities, as compared with false teachers who seek to force an entrance into the communities without any such passport, and so in an unlawful way, and try to capture the leadership of them. In the lifetime of Jesus of course these two classes of teacher were not in existence; they did not arise until a 136much later period. In x. 8, it is true, Jesus says that all teachers who came forward before him were thieves and robbers; but this is an entirely new thought, and the interpretation of the adjoining verses (x. 1-7, 9, 10a) cannot be made to depend upon it. In these verses teachers who came forward before Jesus cannot be meant, simply because they could never have been in a position to use him as a door.

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