« Prev 7. The Testimony of the Beloved Disciple. Next »


But what about the author’s own testimony? Does he not himself say that he is the Apostle? This is surely a curious question! When a matter is to be decided in other fields—when, for instance, the origin of extra-canonical books is in question, or a trial is being held—scant consideration indeed is paid to the personal testimony of the person involved; but here forsooth this is to be decisive, and all arguments against it, however plausible, are to be ignored. This is to take for granted—is it not?—what, strictly speaking, should first be proved, that a person whose book has been included in the Bible cannot have said anything incorrect.

But let us hear what this testimony is. The author nowhere refers to the name John as being his own. The superscription “Gospel according to John” is not due to him, but was first added when several Gospels were put together in one book.77The words are “Gospel according to John,” not “Gospel of John”; similarly, “Gospel according to Mt., according to Mk., according to Lk.” But this does not mean that such a gospel was written by another man with the help of communications from the person specially named. The word “Gospel” in these cases means, rather, “Account of the Life of Jesus,” and the superscription means therefore “the Gospel History as composed by Mt., Mk., Lk., or Jn.” Neither, however, does he ever refer 180to the Apostle John by this name. But he has him in mind when he says that after the arrest of Jesus, “Simon Peter and another disciple “followed him to the Palace of the High Priest (xviii. 15), and that “Peter and the other disciple “went to the grave of Jesus (xx. 1-10). Here he writes more fully (xx. 2), “Simon Peter, and that other disciple whom Jesus loved,” and the simple description, “one of the disciples whom Jesus loved,” is found already in xiii. 23, where it is said that at Jesus’ last supper he “reclined in Jesus bosom”; finally, we learn from xix. 26, that “the disciple whom he loved” stood with Jesus mother at the foot of the cross.

In this circumlocution we see, it is said, the delicate and sensitive way in which the Apostle John hinted that he was the author of the Gospel, without expressly saying so. In reality, if he did this, he would have shown himself to be an incredibly presumptuous person. Jesus surely loved all his disciples! If the author had said of himself, “the disciple whom Jesus specially loved,” we could not acquit him of presumption, even though this were really the case; but he says outright, “the disciple whom Jesus loved,” as if he loved him alone. It is not really doing the Apostle any honour to insist that he must have described himself in this way. On the other hand, it is quite easy to understand that one of his devoted admirers may have so described him. But if we examine further all that is told us about the beloved disciple—the story, in particular, of his race with 181Peter to the grave of Jesus is so incredible (p. 133 f.) that we cannot imagine it to have been committed to writing by an eyewitness. And so here again this “testimony” of the author to the effect that he is the Apostle becomes evidence, rather, that some one else was the author.

« Prev 7. The Testimony of the Beloved Disciple. Next »


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