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6. SECONDARY PURPOSE: RECOMMENDATION OF THE FOURTH GOSPEL.

We must now devote a few more words to the purpose of the Epistle. We have hitherto explained that the author is opposing the Gnostics, but if what we have just said be correct, this does not exhaust the matter; another purpose is to repeat in another form what is contained in the Gospel and so to confirm it. Is there any connection between this and the fact that in the earliest days after its publication it gained so little recognition (p. 199 f.)? In that case, the purpose of the Epistle would be the same as that which induced some one, as we have already found (p. 186 f.), to add the twenty-first chapter to the Gospel. And just as in the addition to the Gospel the ruling idea was to satisfy the requirement that the account of Peter should be more favourable, sq in the present case the work was carried out 212in such a way as to avoid those statements in the Gospel which differed too much from the ordinary faith of the Church. Here we may again wonder whether this may not have been done by the author of the Gospel himself, and whether he may not have written in this way, to set aside his original views of set purpose. But it is easier to suppose that one who belonged to the circle of his followers wrote it to give expression to his own view of the matter.

We should have to assume at the same time that he wished to be taken for the Evangelist. But, according to the ideas of the time, there would be as little harm in this as there was in the other case where the Evangelist (perhaps) wished to be taken for John the Apostle (pp. 183-185). We must not therefore regard it as being in the slightest degree deceitful when we are told at the beginning of his circular: “that which was from the beginning, that which we have heard, that which we have seen with our eyes, that which we beheld and our hands handled, concerning the Word of Life (that is to say, concerning Jesus) . . . declare we unto you also.” By taking up the pen in the name of the Evangelist, and yet writing in a rather different sense, the author served the great purpose of gaining recognition in the Church for the precious thoughts contained in the Fourth Gospel, knowing as he did how to remove all that was offensive; and it is quite possible that he helped in a real sense to achieve this purpose. He did not, however, fulfil in any way his opening promise (i. 1). There is not the least trace in his Epistle of anything that only an eye-witness of the Life of Jesus could know.

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