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8. WHY DID JN. WRITE A GOSPEL?

But why did this person write a Gospel? We are sure that the question has long ago occurred to many of our readers. But what other kind of book should he have written? A treatise, or a letter like the First Epistle of Jn. as found in our Bible? What does this contain? Hardly anything but general maxims: we must love God, we must shun false teachers. Now the Gospel also contains such maxims: God is Spirit; a man must be born from above (iv. 24, iii. 3), and so forth. But Christianity does not purpose to be a system of Wisdom, based upon theory; it is a religion which appeals to Jesus. Therefore 243in a book which is to make an impression he must be represented as coming forward and saying: “a new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another;” “I am the Light of the world;” “I am the Bread of Life;” “I am the Resurrection and the Life” (xiii. 34; viii. 12; vi. 35; xi. 25). At Jesus hand the Christians, and with them the Fourth Evangelist, wished to receive no less than all that they thought themselves entitled to hope for. And, similarly, if all the blessings which still make Christianity precious to us at the present day were to be brought into the world of the Gentiles, it was of all things necessary that Jesus should be recognised by them; it was necessary therefore to record his acts, especially if the Gnostics introduced the danger of resolving his earthly life into a mere phantom existence (p. 150).

And it was necessary to be able to describe everything as being as sublime as possible. It would not do to stop short at the teaching of Paul, that Jesus laid aside his divine attributes before he came down from heaven. If he ever possessed them, he must actually reveal them, and reveal them just where they could be seen by human eyes—upon earth. This idea must necessarily have arisen sooner or later. The higher the god, the more powerful his help; and Gentiles, who hitherto had always turned from a god who was not sufficiently powerful to one who was supposed to be more so, would only address themselves to a powerful god. In fact, even if Jn. had refrained from writing a Gospel, another person would have written one in the same sense, and we should simply have to make our complaint elsewhere.

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