« Prev 28. Precise Statements of Time in Jn. Next »

28. PRECISE STATEMENTS OF TIME IN JN.

The last thing which is made to tell in favour of the accuracy and fidelity of the Fourth Gospel consists of a number of passages in which the day, and even the hour, in which something happened is stated much more carefully than in the Synoptics. Thus i. 29, 35, 43; vi. 22; xii. 12 commence “on the following day”; ii. 1 “on the third day”; in i. 39 it is four o’clock in the afternoon when the two first disciples, Andrew and one who is unnamed, join Jesus; in iv. 6 it is twelve o’clock midday, when Jesus sits by Jacob’s well in Samaria. The inhabitants of the town of Sychar having invited him to stay with them, he remains two days (iv. 40, 43).

If these passages were shown to any one before he knew the rest of the contents of the Fourth Gospel, he would certainly form the opinion that the author must have been a companion of Jesus and deserves to be absolutely trusted even down to the smallest details. But after what has been said in the preceding paragraphs, it is no longer possible to think this. We have actually found that after Jn. has made a statement which is equally precise in form, namely, that Jesus baptised (iii. 22, 26), a few verses later (iv. 2) he himself withdraws it (p. 55 f.). And what is it that 137happens on each occasion “on the following day”? In i. 29, 35 f. the Baptist is said to have declared Jesus to be the Lamb of God which will take away the sins of the world; in i. 35-42 Andrew and an unnamed disciple are said to have been the first to become disciples of Jesus, and after them Simon, Andrew’s brother, and he is said to have received from Jesus at once, without having given any further proof of his fidelity, the name of honour, Peter, that is to say, “rock.” All this is diametrically opposed to the account of the Synoptics (p. 79 f.; Mk. i. 16-20), and has no likelihood in itself; in fact, if the Baptist had already called Jesus the Lamb of God, and Andrew (i. 41) had described him as the Saviour, it is quite impossible that Jesus should not have been recognised to be the Saviour until a relatively late date (see p. 33). But what is the use of the precise statement, that a matter happened “on the following day,” if it cannot have happened at all?

The only further question that we can ask is, how can Jn. have come to make such precise statements of time? And to this no other answer is possible but that he wished by this device to indicate more clearly the progress made in his story, or intended the words to introduce another important suggestion. When in chap. i. he has arrived at a new stage in the increase in the number of Jesus’ disciples, he says that a new day is beginning. We cannot really be surprised at this in a man who is so little concerned about literal accuracy. It helps to make his story decidedly more vivid and impressive; and it is actually his purpose to paint pictures which will make an impression (see pp. 55 f. and 96 f.). The question whether the statements about Jesus journeys to the feasts (p. 9 f.) have arisen in the same way, or were actually “delivered” to Jn., we must leave undecided.

138

The hours of the day in i. 39, iv. 6, which we mentioned above, may perhaps have a hidden meaning. If we cannot define it, it does not in the least follow that we have before us the account of an eye-witness. We have quite clearly a hidden meaning of the kind in vi. 4, when we are told that at the time of the feeding of the five thousand “the feast of the Passover was near.” The discourses which follow are an explanation of the Supper (see p. 98). No one, however, could have known this, since the Supper does not take place in Jn., and in the Synoptics not until a year later. It must, therefore, have been hinted at in a hidden, though intelligible, way. With this, however, agrees the statement, that the Passover was near; for it was at a Passover festival that Jesus celebrated the Supper with his disciples. If this be correct, there would no longer be any occasion to consider seriously the idea that Jesus’ ministry lasted for two years; for this is based entirely upon the statement about this feast of the Passover (p. 9 f .). But the idea also that it began shortly before a (preceding) feast of the Passover is simply founded on the fact that the expulsion of the dealers from the fore-court of the Temple, which Jn . transfers from the end to the beginning of the public work of Jesus, according to the account of the Synoptics happened at a Passover feast. The short space of two days, for which, according to iv. 40, 43, Jesus accepted the invitation to stay in the Samaritan town agrees with the time beyond which in the second century a travelling preacher was not allowed to stay as a guest and receive board.

« Prev 28. Precise Statements of Time in Jn. Next »
Please login or register to save highlights and make annotations
Corrections disabled for this book
Proofing disabled for this book
Printer-friendly version





Advertisements



| Define | Popups: Login | Register | Prev Next | Help |