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And now what shall we say respecting the life of Jesus? What do we certainly know on this subject?
This question has been much discussed in our days. It is well known that several learned men have, quite recently, written works on the life of Jesus, purporting to prove that he whom Christianity claims as our Saviour did not really live the life that the gospels record of him. These works, which have been very freely circulated, have found a large number of readers. It may be that there are some points not yet fully understood, but this at least is undeniable, that the 44tendency of the works referred to is to rob the Saviour of his divine character.
But perhaps it will be said that the Deity of Christ is not an essential element of Christianity. Does there not remain to us its sublime system of morals, even though Christ were not the Son of God? To reason in this way seems to us to imply either that we have no idea at all of what Christianity is, or, which comes to the same thing, that we have an essentially wrong idea. Christianity does not, strictly speaking, rest on the moral teaching of Jesus, however sublime that is, but it rests on his person only. It is on the person of Christ that the church is founded; this is its corner-stone; it is on this the doctrines which Jesus and his apostles taught, rest as the foundation truth of all. And if we are in error in believing in the person of Christ as taught us in the gospels, then the church herself is in error, and must be given up as a deception.
The link then which unites the church to the person of Christ is so close, that to determine the nature of that Person, is to her the vital question of all. The Christian world is 45perfectly sure that it is so, and I need appeal to no other fact than her anxiety to know all that can be known of the life of Jesus, since the nature of his person can only be known through his life.
All the world knows that our gospels are nothing else than biographies of Christ. We must also frankly admit that we have no other source of information with respect to the life of Jesus than the sacred writings. In fact, whatever the early ages of the church report to us concerning the person of Christ from any independent source is either derived from the gospels, or is made up of a few insignificant details of no value in themselves, and sometimes drawn from hostile sources. These are the only sources from which opponents of the life of Christ, of his miraculous ministry and his divine character, draw their attacks on the credibility of the four gospels.
But it will then be said, How has it been possible to impugn the credibility of the gospels—of these books which St. Matthew and St. John, the immediate disciples and apostles of the Lord, and St. Mark and St. Luke, 46the friends and companions of the apostles, have written?
It is in this way: by denying that the gospels were written by the authors whose names they bear. And if you ask me, in the next place, why it is that so much stress is laid on this point, I will answer, that the testimony of direct eye-witnesses, like John and Matthew, or of men intimately connected with these eye-witnesses, like Mark. and Luke, are entitled for this very reason, to be believed, and their writings to be received as trustworthy. The credibility of a writer clearly depends on the interval of time which lies between him and the events which he describes. The farther the narrator is removed from the facts which he lays before us, the more his claims to credibility are reduced in value. When a considerable space of time intervenes, the writer can only report to us what he has heard from intermediary witnesses, or read of in writers who are perhaps undeserving of credit. Now the opponents of our gospels endeavor to assign them to writers of this class who were not in a position to give a really credible testimony; to 47writers who only composed their narratives long after the time when Christ lived, by putting together all the loose reports which circulated about his person and work. It is in this way that they undermine the credit of the gospels, by detaching them completely from the evangelists whose names they bear.
This would certainly be a most effectual way of overturning the dignity and authority of the gospels.
There is another plan even more likely to effect the same end, and which they have not failed to have recourse to. There are men who call themselves enlightened who think that common sense is quite superior to Divine revelation, and who pretend to explain the miracles of Scripture, either by the imperfect ideas of these times, or by a certain prejudiced theory of the Old Testament, or by a sort of accommodation, according to which Jesus adapted his words and deeds to meet the hopes of the Jews, and so passed himself off among them as something greater than he really was.
This exaltation of common sense is not without its attractions for men of the world. 48It is easily understood, and so, little by little, it has become our modern form of unbelief. Men have withdrawn themselves from God and Christianity, and it must be confessed that many of these empty and sonorous phrases about liberty and dignity of man have contributed not a little to this result. “Do not believe,” they will tell you, “that man is born in sin and needs to be redeemed. He has a nature which is free, and which has only to be elevated to all that is beautiful and good, in order that he may properly enjoy life.” Once admit this, and it is easy to see that this kind of unbelief will soon make way with the gospels, as well as the rest of the Scriptures. It will despise them as the expressions of an antiquated and bygone state of feeling, and will shake them off as cumbrous chains, as soon as it can.
The volume which appeared in Paris in 1863 and which has since made such a stir in the world, La Vie de Jésus, by M. Renan, is one of the fruits of this unbelief. This work has nothing in common with those that loyally and honestly inquire into the facts of the case. It is written on most arbitrary 49principles of its own, and is nothing else than a caricature of history from beginning to end. Can we suppose, for instance, that M. Renan seriously believes his own theory, that St. John wrote his gospel because his Vanity was offended, either through jealousy of St. Peter or hatred of Judas? Or, when he accounts for the interest of the wife of Pilate in Jesus in these terms, that “she had possibly seen the fair young Galilean from some window of the palace which opened on the temple court. Or perhaps she saw him in a dream, and the blood of the innocent young man who was about to be condemned gave her the nightmare.” Again, when he attempts to explain the resurrection of Lazarus by a deception of this same Lazarus, which was afterwards found out by Jesus, and by an act of extravagance of his sisters, which is excusable on account of their fanaticism. “Lazarus,” M. Renan says, “yet pale with sickness, had himself wrapped up in grave-clothes, and laid in the family sepulchre.”
These examples, which we could easily add to if we did not wish to avoid giving our readers unnecessary pain, seem to us sufficient 50to give our readers an idea of M. Renan’s book; and since, in spite of all its frivolity, its historical inconsistency, and its tasteless disfigurement of facts, this production has made, even in Germany, such an impression, is it not plain, that alas! even among us, infidelity is widely diffused?—partly produced by, and partly the cause, in return, of our ignorance of the history of the Bible.
For this book of Renan’s, German learning is in a certain sense responsible. The manner of handling the Bible which we have described already, and which consists in setting common sense above revelation, took its rise on the soil of Germany. M. Renan sets out with this principle, and there are not wanting learned men in Germany who endeavor to give it completeness, by supplying it with the scientific base which it wants. This leads us, quite naturally, to speak of the direct attacks against the authenticity and apostolic authority of the gospels, though, as far as this French work is concerned, it is written in too thin and superficial a style to be of much account one way or the other, and 51would certainly not have much effect in shaking any thinking person in his belief in the gospel, or cause him, without further inquiry, to give up the traditional view, that the gospels really came from the writers to whom the church refers them.
To know what we are to believe in this matter, we must carefully examine the proofs which our adversaries bring forward. The chief points in their case are the assertions which they make, and pretend to support by history of the second century—that the gospels did not see the light till after the end of the apostolic age. To support this point, they appeal to the testimony of the most ancient church literature. They maintain that the Christian writings composed immediately after the apostles do not show any trace of acquaintance with the gospels which we possess, and especially with that of St. John, and they conclude that the gospels could not, consequently, have been in existence.
If this assertion of theirs is well-founded—if there exists such a Christian literature as they speak of, that is, a series of works written between the end of the first century and 52the middle of the second, and if we do not find in these writings any reference to our gospels, then I should admit that the faith of the church, which teaches that the gospels were written during the second half of the first century, would be seriously compromised. Against such an assertion as this we could only raise one objection: we should ask if the nature and extent of the literature absolutely and inevitably required that it should refer to and quote the gospels, and whether we should be entitled, from its silence on the subject of the gospels, to claim such an inference as this?—for it is conceivable that many excellent things might have been written on the subject without any direct reference to the gospels. But what could they say if the direct contrary were clearly proved? I mean, if we were to find in works written a little after the apostolic age, direct quotations from the gospels; or if we see them treated with the greatest respect, or perhaps even already treated as canonical and sacred writings? In this case, it would be beyond doubt that our gospels were really composed in the apostolic age—53a conclusion which our opponents resist and deny with all their might.
The writer of this pamphlet, in common with many other impartial critics, is firmly convinced that a conscientious examination of the question proves precisely the very opposite to that which the adversaries of the gospel affirm; and this is especially true of the gospel of St. John, the most important of the four. To throw light on this important question, we must enter without delay on this inquiry, and ascertain as clearly as possible whether the most primitive Christian literature bears any testimony for or against our evangelists.
To do this, let us transport ourselves back to the last half of the second century, and inquire how the Christian church of that day thought of the four evangelical narratives.
The first thing which strikes us is, that in all parts of the church the four evangelists were treated as a part of holy Scripture. The church fathers of that age, belonging to many different countries, have written works in which they are very frequently quoted, and 51are always treated as sacred and apostolic writings.
At Lyons, where the first Christian church in Gaul was founded, the bishop Irenæus wrote, at the end of the second century, a great work on those early gnostic heresies, which arbitrarily attempted to overturn the doctrine of the church; and in combating these errors, he made a general use of the gospels. The number of the passages which he refers to is about four hundred; and the direct quotations from St. John alone exceed eighty.
We may say as much for the energetic and learned Tertullian, who lived at Carthage about the end of the second century. His numerous writings contain several hundred passages taken from the gospels; two hundred of these, at least, taken from St. John.
It is the same with Clement, the celebrated teacher of the catechetical school of Alexandria, in Egypt, who also lived about the end of the second century.
Add to these three testimonies a catalogue which bears the name of Muratori, its discoverer, and which enumerates the books of the 55New Testament which from the first were considered canonical and sacred. This catalogue was written a little after the age of Pius II.—A. D. 142-157—about A. D. 170, and probably in Rome itself; and at the head of the list it places our four gospels. It is true that the first lines of this fragment, which refer to Matthew and Mark, have perished, but immediately after the blank the name of Luke appears as the third, and that of John as the fourth; so that, even in this remote age, we find even the order in which our evangelists follow each other thus early attested to—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
Let us quote two other witnesses, one of whom carries us back to an antiquity even more remote. We here refer to the two most ancient versions made of the New Testament. One of these translations is into Syriac, and is called the Peschito; the other, in Latin, is known by the name of the Italic; and both assign the first place to the four evangelists. The canonical authority of these four gospel narratives must have been completely recognized and established in the mother church before they would have been translated into 56the dialect of the daughter churches, Syriac and Latin.
When are we to say that this took place? The Syriac version, which carries us as far east as to the banks of the Euphrates, is generally assigned to the end of the second century, and not without good reasons, though we have not any positive proof to offer. The Latin version had acquired, even before this period, a certain public authority. Thus the Latin translator of the great work of Irenæus, written in Greek, which we assign to the end of the second century—Tertullian, in fact, copies this translator in the quotations which he makes from Irenæus—and Tertullian also, at the end of the same century, follow the Italic version. The estimation in which the Latin version of the gospel was then held necessarily supposes that this translation must have been made some ten or twenty years at least before this. It is then a well-established fact that already, between A. D. 150 and 200, not only were the gospels translated into Latin and Syriac, but also that their number was defined to be four only, neither more nor less; and this remarkable 57fact is well calculated to throw light on the question of their true age and origin. We shall return to this farther on.
Let us pause here to consider again these two great church teachers, Irenæus and Tertullian. Their testimony is decisive; and no one, even among those who deny the authenticity of St. John, is able to question it. We have here only to inquire whether their testimony is to be limited to the time only when they wrote; that is to say, whether it proves nothing more than the high consideration in which the evangelists were held at the time when they wrote. In his refutation of these false teachers, Irenæus not only refers to the four gospels with perfect confidence and with the most literal exactness, but he even remarks that there are necessarily four, neither more nor less; and in proof of this he adduces comparisons from the four quarters of the world, the four principal winds, and the four figures of the cherubim. He says that the four evangelists are the four columns of the church, which is extended over the whole world, and sees in this number four a peculiar appointment of the Creator of the 58world. I ask then, is such a statement consistent with the assertion that the four gospels first became of authority about the time of Irenæus, and that Christians then set up a fourth and later gospel, that of St. John, besides the other three older gospels? Are we not indeed constrained to admit that their authority was already then ancient and established, and that their number four was a. matter already so undisputed that the bishop Irenæus could justify and explain it in his own peculiar way, as we have just now seen? Irenæus died in the second year of the third century; but in his youth he had sat at the feet of the aged Polycarp; and Polycarp, in his turn, had been a disciple of the evangelist St. John, and had conversed with other eyewitnesses of the gospel narrative. Irenæus, in speaking of his own personal recollections, gives us Polycarp’s own account of that which he had heard from the lips of St. John and other disciples of our Lord, and expressly adds that all these words agree with Scripture. But let us hear his own words, as contained in a letter to Florinus:
“When I was yet a child, I saw thee at 59Smyrna in Asia Minor, at Polycarp’s house, where thou wert distinguished at court, and obtained the regard of the bishop. I can more distinctly recollect things which happened then than others more recent; for events which happened in infancy seem to grow with the mind, and to become part of ourselves; so that I can recall the very place where Polycarp used to sit and teach, his manner of speech, his mode of life, his appearance, the style of his address to the people, his frequent references to St. John and to others who had seen our Lord; how he used to repeat from memory their discourses, which he had heard from them concerning our Lord, his miracles and mode of teaching, and how, being instructed himself by those who were eye-witnesses of the word, there was in all that he said a strict agreement with the Scriptures.”
This is the account which Irenæus himself gives of his connection with Polycarp, and of the truths which he had learned from him. Who will now venture to question whether this father had ever heard a word from Polycarp about the gospel of St. John? The 60time when Irenæus, then a young man, was known to Polycarp, who died a martyr at Smyrna about A. D. 165, could not have been later than A. D. 150; yet they would have us believe that Irenæus had not then heard a word from his master Polycarp about the gospel of St. John, when he so often recalls the discourses of this apostle. Any testimony of Polycarp in favor of the gospel refers us back to the evangelist himself; for Polycarp, in speaking to Irenæus of this gospel as a work of his master St. John, must have learned from the lips of the apostle himself whether he was its author or not. There is nothing more damaging to these doubters of the authenticity of St. John’s gospel than this testimony of Polycarp; and there is no getting rid of this difficulty, unless by setting aside the genuineness of the testimony itself. This fact also becomes more striking if we consider it under another aspect. What I mean is this: those who deny the authenticity of St. John’s gospel say that this gospel only appeared about A. D. 150, and that Polycarp never mentioned the gospel as such to Irenæus. But in this case, can we suppose 61that Irenæus would have believed in the authenticity of this gospel; a work that professed to be the most precious legacy of St. John to the Christian church, as the narrative of an eye-witness and an intimate friend of the Redeemer, and a gospel whose independent character, as regards the other three, seemed to take away something from their authority? The very fact that such a work of St. John had never once been mentioned to him by Polycarp would have at once convinced Irenæus that it was an audacious imposture. And are we to believe that Irenæus would produce such a forgery as this with which to reply to these false teachers, who themselves falsified Scripture, and appealed to apocryphal writings as if they were genuine and inspired? And are we further to suppose that he would have linked such a writing up with the other three gospels, to combine what he calls a quadruple or four-sided gospel? What a tissue of contradictions; or rather, to use the right word, of absurdities.
These arguments, as we have just stated them, are not new; they are at least found in 62Irenæus. They have been stated before, but they have scarcely ever received the consideration which they deserve. For our part, we think serious and reflecting men quite right in attaching more weight to these historic proofs of Irenæus, derived from Polycarp in favor of the authenticity of St. John’s gospel than to those scruples and negations of learned men of our day, who are smitten with a strange passion for doubt.
We say as much for Tertullian and his testimony. This man, who from an advocate of paganism became a powerful defender of the Christian truth, takes such a scrupulous view of the origin and worth of the four evangelists that he will allow to Mark and Luke, as apostolic men, that is, as companions and assistants of the apostles, a certain subordinate place, while he upholds the full authority of John and of Matthew, on account of their character of real apostles, chosen by the Lord himself. In his work against Marcion, (book 4, chap. 5,) Tertullian lays down the principle by which we should decide on the truth of the articles of the Christian faith, and especially of that most important one of all, 63the authenticity of the apostolic writings. For this, he makes the value of a testimony to depend on its antiquity, and decides that we are to hold that to be true for us which was held to be true in former ages. This appeal to antiquity leads us back to the apostles’ day, and in deciding what is the authenticity of any writing which claims to be apostolic, we must refer to those churches which were planted by the apostles. I ask, then, is it creditable in any degree that this man, so sagacious, could have acted hastily and uncritically in accepting the credibility and authenticity of the four evangelists? The passages I have referred to are taken from his celebrated reply to Marcion, who, on his own authority, and in conformity with his own heretical tastes, had attacked the sacred text. Of the four gospels, Marcion had completely rejected three; and the fourth, that of St. Luke, he had modified and mutilated according to his own caprice. Tertullian, in his reply, formally appeals to the testimony of the apostolic churches in favor of the four gospels. Is such a challenge as this, in the mouth of such a man as Tertullian, 64to be passed by as of no weight. When he wrote his reply to Marcion, the apostle St. John had been dead only about a century. The church of Ephesus, among whom the apostle St. John had so long lived, and in which city he died, had surely time to decide the question, once for all, whether the gospel of St. John was authentic or not. It was not difficult to find out what was the judgment of the apostolic church on this question. Moreover, we must not forget that in Tertullian we have not merely a man of erudition, occupied in laying down learned theses; but a man of serious mind, to whom a question like this was one on which his faith, and with it the salvation of his soul, depended. Is it, then, likely that such a man would have given easy credence to writings like these, which concern the fundamental doctrines of Christianity—writings which distinctly claimed to be apostolic, and at which the wisdom of the world in which he had been educated professed to be offended? Now, as Tertullian asserts in express terms, that in defending the apostolic origin of the four evangelists he rests his case upon the 65testimony of the apostolic churches, we must be incorrigible skeptics to suspect any longer that he had not thoroughly examined for himself into the origin of these gospels.
We maintain, then, that the attestations of Irenæus and Tertullian have a weight and a worth beyond the mere range of their own age. These attestations carry us up to the first four witnesses, and the evidence which they depose is in favor of these primitive times. This is the conclusion which we think we are warranted in drawing; and it is best established, not only by those more ancient witnesses above referred to and given by the writer of the list of books in the New Testament known as the Muratori catalogue, as well as the author of the Italic version, but also by the consent of the church and the uncontradicted records of the earliest times prior to those of Irenæus and Tertullian.
My reader has doubtless heard of those works called “Harmonies of the Gospels,” in which the four narratives are moulded and fused into one. They sought in this way to produce a complete picture of our Lord’s life, by supplementing the narrative of the one 66gospel by details supplied from another, and especially by interpolating the discourse of St. John between those of the other evangelists, so as to trace out in this way, step by step, the three years of the Lord’s ministry. As early as A. D. 170, two learned men undertook works of this kind. One of these was Theophilus, bishop of Antioch, in Syria; and the other Tatian, a disciple of the great divine and martyr Justin. These two books are lost; but Jerome, in the fourth century, gives us some account of that of Theophilus, which he calls a combination of the four gospels into one; and Eusebius and Theodoret, in the fourth and fifth centuries, speak of that of Tatian in the same way. Tatian had given his the name of Diatessaron, that is, the gospel according to four. These two writers produced other works, which are still extant, and in which there are undoubted quotations from St. John’s gospel, not to speak of the other three. But these Harmonies, which have not come down to us, are of much higher value than mere isolated quotations, and furnish a proof that at the time when they were first attempted the four gospels 67were regarded as a single work, in which the variety of the narratives, which sometimes amounts to a real difference, was plainly perceptible. Hence a desire arose to draw out of these differences a higher unity, and combine them as one harmonious whole. These two attempts to write a “Harmony” were made soon after the middle of the second century, whence we may certainly conclude that the gospels themselves were generally recognized and received as such for at least a long time previous.
We here pass by other testimonies, in order to say a few words on the letters of Ignatius and Polycarp, the disciples of the apostle, which carry us up to an age as early as the beginning of the second century. When the holy Ignatius, whom his master, St. John, had consecrated bishop of Ephesus, was led as a martyr to Rome, between A. D. 107 and 115, he wrote several letters while on his journey to Rome, of which we have two versions, one shorter and the other longer. We shall here refer only to the shorter, which is enough for our purpose, since its genuineness is now generally admitted. These letters 68 contain several passages drawn more or less directly from St. Matthew and St. John. Ignatius thus writes in his letter to the Romans:
“I desire the bread of God, the bread of heaven, the bread of life, which is the flesh of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. And I desire the drink of God, the blood of Jesus Christ, who is undying love and eternal life.” These words recall the sixth chapter of St. John, where it is said, “I am the bread which came down from heaven. I am the bread of life. I am the living bread. The bread that I shall give is my flesh. He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood hath eternal life.” Verses 41, 48, 54.
In the same letter, Ignatius writes, “What would a man be profited if he should gain the whole world and lose his own soul?”—words literally found in Matt. 16:26.
Let us quote another passage of his letter to the church of Smyrna, where it is said of Jesus that he was baptized by John, in order that he might fulfil all righteousness, and which exactly recalls Matt. 3:15.
The short letter of Polycarp, written a little 69after the death of Ignatius, about A. D. 115, bears reference, in the same way, to certain passages of St. Matthew. So when we read, “We desire to pray to God, who sees all, that he may not lead us into temptation, for the Lord has said that the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” See Matt. 6:13 and 26:41.
Though we do not wish to give to these references a decisive value, and though they do not exclude all doubt as to their applicability to our gospels, and more particularly to that of St. John, they nevertheless undoubtedly bear traces of such a reference; and we have thus an additional proof to offer, that our gospels were in use at the commencement of the second century.
It is certainly a fact well deserving of attention, that we find in the epistle of Polycarp a certain trace of the use of the first epistle of St. John. Polycarp writes thus: “Whosoever confesses not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is antichrist.” Now we read these words in the first epistle of St. John 4:3: “Every spirit that confesses not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, is not of God; and this is that spirit of antichrist.”70
This passage of the epistle of John, as cited by Polycarp, about A. D. 115, is of very great importance, since, in fact, the ideas and style in this epistle and in the gospel of St. John are so like that we are compelled to refer them to the same writer. To recognize the epistle we must also recognize the gospel. The testimony of Polycarp, if we bear in mind the close relationship in which he stood to the apostle, is, as we have seen above, of such weight that there is no room left to contradict or attack the authenticity of writings supported in this way. To get rid of this testimony, writers of the skeptical school have made use of the following argument: “It is not absolutely necessary to take these words of Polycarp as a quotation from St. John. They may have been sentiments which were current in the church, and which John may have gathered up, as well as Polycarp, without pretending to have first originated them.” A partisan of this school has had recourse to another means to evade the difficulty: “Can we not reverse the argument, and say that it is the author of the so-called epistles of John who quotes Polycarp?” 71A man must have some courage to start such an extraordinary theory as this; but there are learned men capable even of this. And even if this does not succeed, they have one expedient yet, which they do not fail to use as the last resort of all. They will say that the letter is not Polycarp’s at all. It is true that Irenæus, his disciple, believed in its genuineness; but what matters that? One has always some good reasons with which to back up an audacious assertion, and to shake and overthrow, if possible, a truth which is firmly established. I cannot, however, help saying to any one who shudders at these antichristian attempts, that they are as weak as they are worthless, and my reader will soon see that it is so.
Let us now turn to one of the most worthy of Polycarp’s contemporaries—I refer to Justin Martyr, who already had been highly esteemed as a writer, before his martyrdom in Rome—about A. D. 166—had made his memory precious to the church. Two of his works are taken up with a defence of Christianity. He presented these Apologies to the emperor, the first in A. D. 139, the second in A. D. 161. 72One can easily see from these dates, and especially from the earlier of the two, that it is important to know whether Justin supports the use and authority of our gospels. It is well established that he made use of the first three, that of Matthew in particular; and this fact is beyond the reach of the attacks of doubt. This is the very reason why skeptics say all the more obstinately that he does not make use of St. John. We, on the contrary, without hesitation, assert the very opposite. In several passages of Justin, we cannot fail to recognize an echo of that special sentence of St. John, “The Word was made flesh.” The reply which Justin puts in the mouth of John the Baptist, when interrogated by the messenger of the Sanhedrin, “I am not the Christ, but the voice of one crying,” is nothing but a citation of a passage of St. John 1:20-23. The apostle cites the words of Zechariah—chap. 12:10—in such a way as they are found nowhere else; and as Justin uses the quotation in the same way, it is clear that he has borrowed them from St. John.
We also read in Justin’s first Apology, A. D. 139, “Christ has said, Except ye are born 73again, ye cannot enter into the kingdom of God; but that it is impossible that those who are once born should enter a second time into their mother’s womb and be born is clear to every one.” There has been much dispute as to the meaning of this passage. For our part, we take the view that Justin was referring to John 3 and to our Lord’s discourse with Nicodemus: “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” That this passage of St. John occurred to Justin’s mind is, in my judgment, indubitable on this account, that he adds in the same loose way in which he is in the habit of quoting the Old Testament, certain other words of our Lord, which, in the text of St. John, are as follows: “ How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?” If we are justified in assuming the use of the gospel of St. John by Justin, then the supposition that the gospel was only written about A. D. 150, and is consequently unauthentic, is proved to be an unwarranted assumption.
We can also show, in another way, that 74Justin proves that the authenticity of this gospel was well established in his clay. We will only refer to one. He tells us in the same apology, written A. D. 139, that the memoirs of the apostles, called evangelists, were read after the prophets every Lord’s day in the assemblies of the Christians. Here we have to remark that the gospels are placed side by side with the prophets. This undoubtedly places the gospels in the ranks of canonical books, the same as the prophets were regarded in the Jewish synagogue. But who in the world would ever think that at the time of Justin the church used any other gospels than those which we now know of, and which, within a few years of the time, were heard of throughout the whole Christian world? Indeed, it contradicts all that we know of the rise and origin of the canon to suppose that at first, and up to Justin Martyr’s time, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, only, had been accepted as canonical, and that John’s gospel was brought in afterwards.75
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