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9. NO DECEPTION IN WRITING UNDER PSEUDONYMS.

If what we have said indicates that it was not the Apostle, but another who wrote the passage which speaks of testifying to the blood and water, and at the same time wrote the whole Gospel, we do not of course know as yet whether he wishes to be regarded merely as the reporter of the testimony of a greater person, or whether he wishes it to appear that he himself is this greater person, this eye witness. Even one who at the outset does not hold the Biblical writers in particularly high esteem, will readily be inclined to find the second supposition unthinkable, be cause it would imply such an amount of dishonesty as there is no reason to ascribe to the Evangelist, whose style is simple and candid.

But, as regards this matter, people quite ignore the fact that in those days it was not considered wrong to compose a writing in the name of another person. Among the Greeks and Romans it was quite common for disciples to publish their works, not under their own name, but under that of their masters; and we can see in what light this was regarded, from the philosopher Iamblichus (about 300 A.D.), for example, who was one of the followers of Pythagoras. We know even at the present time of a list of sixty writings which have been fathered upon Pythagoras and other old masters amongst his successors; and Iamblichus expressly praises the later disciples of Pythagoras, because they have sacrificed their own fame and given all the glory to their masters.

As regards Christian writers, the story of the leader 184of a Church in Asia Minor, who published the history of Paul and Thecla in the second century under the name of the Apostle Paul, is specially instructive. When he was reproached for doing so, he replied that he did it out of love for Paul; and Tertullian, the Church writer and jurist at Carthage (about 200), who tells us about it, does not think of charging him with it as a sin, but only makes fun of him for his incapacity in the words: “as if his work could do anything to increase the fame of Paul.” The man was deposed, not however because he had been guilty of anything that we should call a forgery, but because he said in his book that Thecla came forward to teach in public and baptized herself by jumping into a ditch filled with water in view of death by wild beasts in the Circus. Both things were contrary to the regulations of the Church (on the first see 1 Cor. xiv. 34, “Let the women keep silence in the churches”). They were not allowed; but there was no offence in the publication of a writing in the name of another person.

This way of looking at the matter makes it very easy for us to understand how so many of the books of the New Testament were composed in the name of Paul, of Peter, of James, &c. And strange as it may appear, we must thoroughly accustom ourselves to it. To show that this suggests itself even to a quite orthodox theologian, we will quote an utterance by Professor Kahnis of Leipzig, who died in 1888. “If the fifth book of Moses is not by Moses, it is by an impostor, says Dr. Hengstenberg. To whom does Dr. Hengstenberg say this? Every one who has been to a classical school knows that there are a great number of writings in classical literature which are ascribed to persons with famous names, and that specialists do not think there was any deception in the practice.” As regards 185the Second Epistle of Peter, even very conservative theologians now admit that it was written one hundred and twenty or more years after Jesus’ death, although, in speaking of Jesus transfiguration, its author assures us, quite as if he were the Apostle Peter (i. 18): “and this voice we ourselves heard come out of heaven, when we were with him on the holy mount.” Why then should the same thing not have happened in the case of the Fourth Gospel?

Thus we need not shrink from crediting the author of the Fourth Gospel with the wish to have his book regarded as the work of the Apostle himself. We have, however, no absolutely definite ground for saying so. The matter remains obscure. And perhaps it was meant to remain obscure. The testimony we have been examining could, as a matter of fact, hardly have been framed in a more enigmatic way than in the terms, “and his witness is true, and he knoweth that he saith true.” It is possible therefore that the author, though he did not wish to say expressly that his book was the work of the Apostle, had no objection to people believing so. Even when he says in i. 14 “the Logos became flesh . . . and we beheld his glory”, it is not certain whether he means with our bodily eyes (which, in view of what we have said above, would not need to be regarded as a fraudulent assertion), or whether he wishes to imply that those who were not privileged to do this saw his glory with their spiritual vision by means of the stories of Jesus’ life, and of the blessings which proceeded from him even after his death.

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