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CHAPTER XI.

THE FATE OF JESUS.

THE origin of the New Testament is the last important event in the history of the early days of Christianity, and at the same time that which most deeply influenced all successive centuries. It is most intimately bound up with the struggle against the Gnostics, because this implied the cessation of the original productive activity and the consecration of tradition, i.e., of the apostles and their writings. Its sources, however, are to be traced to far older fundamental presuppositions of Christianity.

Christianity was bound to obtain its New Testament, because Judaism had its Old Testament. Originating as it did from a book-religion and developing in the constant veneration of the sacred writings, it was inevitably destined itself to become a, book-religion in its turn. Jesus, it is true, wished to set His disciples free from the learning of the Scribes, and St Paul gave as his watchword: “Not 244 the letter but the Spirit.” The great mass of Christians, however, remained as incapable as before of conceiving religion without the sacred book, and the Pauline gnosis confirmed them in this tendency. One can never overestimate the power of such a tradition. Individuals can emancipate themselves from it, but not the community. Is not the fact that the whole of the Old Testament could become a Christian book very striking in itself? How many chapters, how many books, it contains which directly contradict Jesus and the Gospel! And yet the question whether it should be received or not was never even raised in the Church. It is of a text which must have sounded exceptionally strange to Christian ears, “I said, Ye are Gods,” that Jesus says (according to the Fourth Gospel), “The Scripture cannot be broken.” When people, however, have conceptions such as these of a book-religion so completely engrained in them from earliest infancy, it may confidently be predicted that they are certain sooner or later to obtain their own sacred writings. Thus ultimately the origin of the New Testament can be traced back to the consecration of the book of the law, Deuteronomy, under King Josiah. It was only a question of time when the veneration that was felt for the Old Testament should be extended to Christian writings as well.

But the origin of the New Testament was likewise necessitated by the circumstances of Christianity itself. St Paul, the founder of the science of the Church, is the father of the New Testament, although he himself certainly thought of nothing less than that. It was he who first clearly contrasted Christian 245 thought as revealed knowledge with all non-Christian thought as natural knowledge. Christian writings did not enter into his consideration here in the very remotest degree; but it is plain that a later generation could as easily ascribe Christian writings to the inspiration of the Spirit as St Paul ascribed glossolaly and prophecy. Here, too, we have the only justification for the separation of the New Testament, not from other Christian writings, but from the writings of other peoples and religions. The Christian Scriptures alone are the product of the Christian spirit—or ought to be, one thinks of the Apocalypse!—no other book is the fruit of this Spirit. The more foreign elements the Church took over in course of time from Judaism and Hellenism, the more important it was that it should possess in these writings of the earliest Christian age a constant standard for that which was Christian or in conformity with the Church. At the same time, of course, the argument from Scripture is subject to the same limitations as that from the theory of the Spirit in which it originates—both alike appeal exclusively to such as are Christians already; no one else can be convinced by them.

It was the struggle with the Gnostics and, generally speaking, certain definite conditions, which determined the selection of these Christian writings. The first decade of the second century seems to fulfil these conditions best. The fact that the writings which form the New Testament towards the end of the second century were already—with scarcely any exceptions in the possession of the ecclesiastical writers Ignatius, Polycarp and Papias, at the beginning 246 of the century, and that no others come under the same category, would appear to lead us inevitably to such a conclusion. This applies to the four Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles, the letters of St Paul with the Pastoral epistles, the First letter of St Peter, the First of St John, the Apocalypse. The Epistle of St Jude is too short to admit of our saying definitely that it was known to these writers. But the Second Epistle of St Peter shows us that it was well known at a time when apostolic writings were still manufactured. I expressly do not say that their writings formed the canon at this early date. The only fact that it is important here to establish is that teachers of the Church found edification and instruction in these writings and in none others, and made copious use of them. Our insight into the growth of the idea of the canon is unfortunately very much less clear than it would otherwise have been, owing to the fact that of Justin’s writings (dating from about the middle of the century) only apologies and no ecclesiastical tracts have been preserved. For in controversial writings intended for heathen or Jewish readers there was no place for any appeal to the authority of St Paul, and it is a mere chance that we obtain an accurate knowledge of the esteem in which the Apocalypse was held in the Church. The only facts that we can establish are that the Epistles of St Paul, the Gospel of St John, and the Acts, belong to the necessary presuppositions of Justin’s writings. We learn from a genuine fragment that he had a controversy with the Gnostics concerning a passage in St Paul in 1 Cor. xv. 50. It is probable, therefore, that 247 his statement as to the reading of the gospels together with the law and the prophets in the public services does not tell us—i.e., his heathen readers—everything. In addition to this we have the frequent use of the New Testament writings in the contemporaneous Gnostic schools, which certainly dates from a later time than that of the Church. All these considerations incline us to conclude that the decisive occurrences of the collection and selection of these writings out of the whole mass of Christian literature took place while the second century was still in its infancy.

Now if the New Testament as a whole dates from the beginning of the second century, its theology must in the main be the theology of this period. The theology of the New Testament is the theology of Catholicism, as it originates at the beginning of the second century. However much older the single writings may be, however much unwritten tradition those who collected and ordered the writings may have respected in addition, the body of writings as a whole must have corresponded to their thoughts and feelings. Here we have a fact which deserves notice even to-day. When the New Testament as a whole is our authority, then we are simply submitting to the judgment of the Church at the beginning of the second century. It is not the words of Jesus or the letters of St Paul which are then our final court of appeal, but the thoughts of the ecclesiastics who selected the words of Jesus and the letters of St Paul together with documents of a later date to form the canon of the Christian scriptures.

The New Testament is composed of two strata of 248 documents. The older includes the Synoptics, the genuine letters of St Paul, the Apocalypse; the later the Gospel of St John, the Acts, the Pastoral epistles, 1 Peter, 1 John. The two strata are to be conceived of in such a relation that the older writings are occasionally to be interpreted by the later, and occasionally they are obscured by them—that is the world-historic significance of the New Testament.

The writings of the older strata are our real authority for the history of the earliest Christian age—the world’s greatest possession for all time. A grand and savage freedom characterizes them all, though in varying degrees. What St Paul has left us has come down to us with the least change, a series of occasional letters called forth simply and solely by the needs of the moment, revealing the man just as he was, rough-hewn, without any artificial shaping or polishing. The letter to the Ephesians is the only one that here and there strikes one as not belonging to the series, but that which it shares in common with his other letters outweighs in importance the marks of a later age. If only Jesus could speak to us as directly as His apostle, how gladly we would surrender all the gospels! In the best of cases it is but a broken impression that we obtain of Him. We have lost the oldest written sources, the collection of logia from which Matthew and Luke derived their discourses, and much else besides. No writing of an eyewitness of Jesus has come down to us. Even St Mark’s narrative would have been incorporated by the first and third evangelists in their compilations and so deprived of its separate existence had they been able to do as they wished. In spite of the amputated 249 conclusion it is a great piece of good fortune that they did not succeed. Although entirely the product of the faith of the Church, it is the least ecclesiastical writing about Jesus. It describes the prophet, the worker of miracles, the Messiah, the Son of God, with such ardent enthusiasm, so heroic, so great, and yet so human, that ten years later it could not be tolerated. Matthew and Luke created the great ecclesiastical gospels; the former, more nearly allied to Jewish thought and speech, writes rather more legally and with ecclesiastical institutions in view, the latter for the Gentile Church; he is edifying, and would touch the feelings even at the cost of stern truth. The gospels of the infancy and the conclusions are characteristic of this later age. All that was missed in the life of Jesus was put into the mouth of the risen Lord: the mission to the Gentiles, baptism, the christianizing of the Old Testament. These two Gospels already mark the transition to the second group. Then, again, the Apocalypse is a book that stands by itself; it is a prophecy and a war-cry, and both are inspired by the Holy Ghost. It stands in the New Testament as the book of the Spirit, to which one pointed with pride in controversy with the Jews abandoned by God’s Spirit.

We must endeavour to realize what inconvenient problems were occasioned for the later age by the existence of these writings. In the first place, Jesus and St Paul by no means agreed together. In Jesus we have the promise of the kingdom of God and the call to do God’s will in order to enter into this kingdom. Such are the essential contents of the preaching of Jesus in all three Synoptists. The 250 person of Jesus is painted with ecclesiastical enthusiasm, but the preaching of Jesus is not ecclesiastical until we come to the conclusions. Nowhere do we find blessedness attached to Jesus alone, or faith in Him as the Messiah demanded by Himself. The whole groundwork of the synoptical tradition originates from a time when there was as yet no Church. The gospel of St Paul is of an entirely different nature: the heavenly Son of God who was crucified for our salvation and rose again, and the way to salvation, faith in the grace of God that was manifested in Him. How can these two be harmonized? And even if the Church decided to follow St Paul—and in all essential points it did follow his guidance—then it had some very hard knots to untie in his own person. He stands there in complete isolation, in eager contest with the emissaries from Jerusalem, not over-friendly to the twelve themselves, united to Jesus Himself by nothing but a vision. And his gospel is unusually severe and stern, hostile to the law, dangerous to morality itself when it proclaims the impossibility of the fulfilment of the law and the supremacy of the Spirit instead of the law. True, St Paul is a Churchman, but how free he is, how enthusiastic, how indifferent as to whether he creates lasting ecclesiastical organizations for later generations. The genuine historic Paul looks down like a giant from a steep and solitary height upon a race of dwarfs.

It is true that the early Christians scarcely realized these contradictions and problems as sharply as this. Had this been the case, then all the 251 writings of the second strata must of course have been conscious forgeries composed with the set purpose of effacing the picture of the first age by superimposing another. And then, too, we should have expected some reactionary movement to have been started long before Marcion stood forth as the enthusiastic champion of the older era. Such a supposition is unnecessary. The smoothing of rough corners and edges, the harmonizing of contradictions, the setting of Jesus and St Paul in an ecclesiastical framework, can be explained for the most part, without the assumption of any conscious intention, through the rapid development of catholic modes of thought in the second and third generation. We can realize this process very vividly when we examine the way in which the synoptic sources have been edited. It was a perfectly natural assumption for the later evangelists to suppose Jesus to have been really such as they depicted Him in their additions and corrections. They are entirely innocent of so wanton an act as the conscious adaptation of the historic picture of Christ to the imaginings of their own faith. On the contrary, they fancy that it is the earlier evangelists, who are their models, who have made mistakes and omissions which they correct, fully supposing themselves to be in the right. And then, too, we must not forget that this later age finds many points of contact—real or imaginary—in the old writings for its own favourite thoughts. Certain expressions and verses in St Mark which were intended in anything rather than a Pauline sense suggested to it quite naturally Pauline thoughts of the Son of God, of the atoning death of Jesus, of 252 universal salvation, of the necessity of faith. Before the Gospel of St John was written the Synoptists were read in a Johannine, that is, a Pauline sense. No very great power of imagination is needed in order to understand how this could be done, as three-fourths of the readers of the Bible still read it in exactly the same way, and the most popular devotional literature effectually prevents the possibility of any other method of interpretation. In reading the Sermon on the Mount faith in Jesus is simply taken as a natural presupposition. The sayings and parables of the forgiveness of sins through the love of God, our Heavenly Father, are interpreted with the tacit addition “for the sake of the blood of Jesus Christ.” So our readers of the Bible read the Gospels to-day, and so, too, the Christians read them at the end of the first century. Now just as Jesus was here interpreted in an ecclesiastical and Pauline sense, so St Paul had also to suffer his letters to be interpreted in an altogether different sense from that in which they were written. They were read as the letters of a talented ecclesiastic and preacher, whereas they had been written by a revolutionary and altogether original genius. This generation, which exalted the continuity of tradition into the canon of truth, had no understanding for his originality and independence, for his antithesis “of God and not of men.” They were disposed to cover up the disputes of Christians with each other under the mantle of love. So great was the change that had come over the whole ecclesiastical position, that as often as they read about the sharp antitheses of his theology they endeavoured to harmonize and to minimize them, 253 while edifying themselves with his polemics against the Jews, with his comforting words as to grace and faith, with his lofty morality and the inexhaustible treasures of practical ecclesiastical wisdom in his letters. All this was done before the Acts of the Apostles and the Pastoral epistles existed, just as it is done to-day on the basis of these writings. Nor can we fail to recognize the influence of the Gospels on the interpretation of St Paul. A positive relation to the law, a higher estimation of good works, are like wise discovered in St Paul, and he is imagined as an evangelist of the life of Jesus as well as of His death.

It is impossible to arrive at any fair estimate of the writings of the second strata unless we realize the entire change which had taken place in the thought of the Church, in which all Christians participated alike and which cannot be attributed to any single individual. The authors of the Gospel of St John and the Acts of the Apostles and the rest of these documents must still be allowed a considerable measure of original composition, even if the motives and presuppositions of their writings are to be found in the Christian atmosphere by which they were surrounded. It is only by taking this atmosphere into account that it becomes comprehensible that they dared to do what they did, and that they were met by understanding and approval in all quarters. But then it also becomes evident that their writings cease to be historical documents for Jesus and His gospel, or for St Paul, his character and his theology. They tell us what the growing Catholic Church thought about Jesus and St Paul. Further than that their historical reliability does not go.

254

The Gospel of St John exceeds all the rest of these writings in importance. The picture which it draws of Jesus had an all-powerful influence upon the Catholic Church, the Reformers, and even Schleiermacher and his successors. Nothing, however, is more opposed to the truth than to isolate it and to ascribe to it a solitary originality to which it makes no claim whatever itself. We have had to mention it in all the chapters of the sub-apostolic age, because it takes so prominent a part in all the struggles and efforts of the Church. It appears to belong to no particular age and to stand above and outside of history, but in spite of this appearance there is scarcely any other writing of the early Christian era which is more a child of its own time and which influences the life of the Church more directly. The author stands like a general on a lofty watch-tower. At his feet he beholds the hosts of the Jews, the Greeks, and in his own Christian camp the Gnostics. He forms a clear conception of the position of each of these, and issues plain decisive commands how each is to be met. He combines the conqueror’s enthusiasm with the unrelenting severity of the combatant.

It is to the Greeks that he is evidently the most favourably inclined. For them he gives the watchword of the Logos—in the prologue of the Gospel—which after having sought in vain for reception in the world incarnates itself in the person of Jesus Christ, whence it manifests the glory of God. It is true that he does not follow up this thought any longer. He does not as yet think of proving by the words and life of Jesus that the world’s reason here revealed itself. It is not the Logos but the Son of God, Jesus Christ, 255 who is the subject of his story. But yet he closes the public ministry of Jesus with the prophetic approach of the first Greeks and the Saviour’s outlook to the time when He should draw all men to Himself, whilst the prophecy of condemnation upon Israel for the hardening of their hearts should be fulfilled. In other places, too, he keeps the Gentile Church continually in view when he speaks of Jesus as the Saviour of the world, when he places the Gentile Church by the side of the Jewish, and makes the dying Jesus pray for all who shall hereafter come to the faith. His undisguised admiration of Jesus as the God whose mighty wonders everywhere reveal the mystery—God born of God—shows us how entirely he himself can look at things from the standpoint of Greek thought. This favourable disposition towards the Greeks does not, of course, extend to such as profess the religion of Polytheism. It is only for the Gentiles who have become Christians that John wishes to remove a stumbling-block. “Do not,” he would say, “be distressed by the fact that Jesus lived in Palestine. He is the Saviour of the world for you, for you quite especially.” Nor was it the apostles who first brought the Gospel to the Samaritans in contradiction, as some might think, to the practice of the Master Himself. It was none other than Jesus who began the mission to the Samaritans. Even before this the conclusions of St Matthew and St Luke were written with a view to enable the Gentile Christians to find comfort in the assurance that Jesus had thought of them definitely. But St John was the first to depict Jesus such as every Gentile Christian was bound to think of Him on the 256 basis of the Pauline universalism, and such as he pictured to himself even when he read the Synoptic Gospels, filling in their omissions quite as a matter of course. It is quite legitimate to speak here of a higher historical truth, as Jesus was bound by an inner necessity to become the Saviour of the world. But through the deification of Jesus His humanity is thrust on one side and threatens to become a mere phantom, and that is an ominously disturbing element. Even in St Mark the stories of the miracles inserted because of apologetic interests have produced a bizarre and fantastical picture. In St John all this is exaggerated beyond recognition. The connection between Jesus and ourselves is severed if Jesus need not die but can take again the life which He lays down. And the relation of Jesus to God is no longer a pattern for us, but rather acts as a deterrent when Jesus thanks God merely because of the multitude which stood around “that they may believe that Thou didst send Me”; and when we further consider what theological controversies and aberrations the testimony here borne to the divinity of Christ has produced in the course of centuries, we shall consider it nothing less than fatal that a Gospel of the New Testament should have been the perpetual cause of this.

The Jews are for St John the foe that is without. It is with them that the Church of his day engaged in a desperate struggle; it is they who are the cause of the greatest suffering. Hence his life of Jesus is almost entirely filled with controversy with the Jews. It even forces its way into the last discourses. And, furthermore, it is the Jews as a 257 people who are hostile to Christ, not the Pharisees, not the Scribes, but the people as a whole, in so far as they are not believing Jews. The controversy has reached such a pitch of hopeless embitterment that they scarcely take any very great pains any longer to understand each other. From the very first the Jews want to kill Jesus; but Jesus never hopes to win them over, and never seriously endeavours to convince them. Between Jesus and His people there ever stands the hatred between the Jews and Christians of the author’s own time. The first meeting in Jerusalem is very significant. As they behold the wonders of Jesus the faith of many Jews is awakened. But Jesus believed them not (did not trust Himself to them), because He knows all men; i.e., in the author’s sense, because He knew they were His future murderers. Jesus associates with them in accordance with His knowledge. He purposely speaks to them in enigmatic words which they cannot understand, and which reveal the spiritual chasm between them. Occasionally, too, He proffers proofs of His divine mission; but they are mostly such as already presuppose faith in Him, and thus they are of none effect. Finally, He declares to them to their face that they are neither the children of God nor the children of Abraham but the children of the devil, and that, solely because they do not believe in Him. Moreover, faith is an impossibility for them because of the decree of God. Only those whom the Father draweth to the Son, who are given to the Son, believe. But then this does not apply to the Jews, because the prophecy as to their hardness of heart must be fulfilled. This was the 258 reason why they could not believe. Besides this, to understand Jesus is impossible for them, because they have not the Spirit, cannot even receive Him. At bottom these three theories—descent from the devil, hardness of heart, want of the Spirit—are but three catchwords uttered in the course of the controversy between Jews and Christians and born of the same hatred. Another such catchword suggests immorality: He that cometh not to Jesus has to conceal his evil works from the light, he is wanting in the will to be good. Now if Jews and Christians are thus opposed to each other without any prospect of mutual understanding and reconciliation, it is clear that Jesus could not pray for the world—it would have been in vain—but only for Christians. The impression which this polemic produces is consistent from beginning to end. The importance which the author attaches to it is shown by the fact that he desired to depict Jesus above all else as the enemy of the Jews.

There is no doubt that he rendered the Church of his time a service by this appreciation. For his contemporaries the struggle with the Jews raged far more violently than the struggle with the heathen state. They read the Gospels, they desired to understand Jesus Himself in the light of this struggle. The entirely different polemic of Jesus against the Scribes and Pharisees justified them—so they imagined—in doing this. They understood the woe upon the hypocritical piety of the Pharisees as a curse upon their unbelief. One need but read in the dogmatic contrast wherever the Synoptists speak of the contrast between the religious relation and morality, 259 and the Jesus of the Synoptists, too, is an enemy of the Jews. Of course, the many traits of Jesus’ pitying, seeking love for His countrymen, the earnest endeavour to secure their conversion, His devotion to them even unto death, which all pointed in another direction, remained standing in the Synoptists. John never thought of removing them; what he wanted above all was to add and to explain, and the fundamental feature in his picture is an addition, his thesis that that which separates Jews from Christians is the belief in Jesus as the Son of God from heaven. But along with this addition, he placed by the side of the picture of heartfelt kindliness, childlikeness, and joy, another picture, in which hatred and implacability stand out against love; and as a true child of his age, he so distorted the human form of Jesus as to make a fanatic of Him, and hence, ever since, made it as easy for human hatred to be kindled at it as divine love. And quite apart from this unbending enmity, how great a loss there is in the way in which Jesus has been turned into a theologian by these endless controversial speeches, with their ambiguity, which purposely provokes misunderstanding, with their proofs and testimonies—above all, with their continual witness to the speaker Himself, upon which there follows in turn an argument as to the utility or inutility of such a witness, and a subtle proof of the value of this witness in particular. This is exactly the way in which Jesus would have spoken had He been a theologian at the end of the first century, and not He who He was in reality: the layman from Galilee who wished to free His disciples from the theologians and to make them children, 260 children of God, but who was also inspired by a love for His people so deep as to be altogether beyond the comprehensions of these later enemies of the Jews.

The foes within are in John’s eyes the heretical Gnostic teachers and their followers. The first epistle is entirely devoted to meet the danger from this quarter, but the Gospel, too, is affected by the consciousness of the same peril. The author, however, shows good taste in not suffering Jesus to speak of them anywhere, and in not drawing the picture of Jesus in an anti-gnostic spirit. He speaks of the incarnation of the Logos quite incidentally and without any polemical purpose, nor does he appear afterwards to be greatly concerned to defend this true human body of Christ against Gnostic docetism. Even in the accurate proofs that he offers of the death of Jesus and His resurrection-body, he is thinking of unbelieving Jews, not of unbelieving Christians. But, on the other hand, the last discourses of Jesus can only rightly be under stood when we conceive them to have been written with a view to guide the Church safely through the Gnostic troubles. This supposition does not deprive them of the wonderful power which they exercise, for the position which John occupies in his struggle against the Gnostics could with difficulty be surpassed. Jesus promises His disciples the Spirit of Truth, which is to protect them against the lying spirits who are mentioned in the first letter. Jesus admonishes them to recognize the marks of His discipleship, and the conditions of His fellowship in the keeping of the commandments and the love of 261the brethren; thereby He protects them against the selfishness of that mystical love of God of which the Gnostics boasted. Finally, Jesus sums up all His thoughts and wishes in the prayer for the unity of the Church, for the Gnostic desire for separation is the greatest danger which threatens the Church. All this is quite in the spirit of Christ. There can be no doubt of that. We can fancy that Jesus would have spoken thus had He been the founder of a Church, and had the first attempt at schism taken place in His time. Nevertheless, we do well to remember, as Protestants, that we owe our freedom to our having abandoned the Catholic idea of unity contained in the high priestly prayer. And the love which the Sermon on the Mount demands is far higher than the Christian love of the last discourses. It is not till we come to the First Epistle of St John that we realize the uncompromising character of the contest against the Gnostics. There the Catholics are contrasted with the Gnostics as the children of God by the side of the children of the devil. The counterpart of the great moral contrast is the dogmatic, the confession of Antichrist. The method pursued in the controversy is the same as that employed in the gospel against the Jews. There is no attempt at a compromise, nothing but the most outspoken condemnation. But here too it becomes manifest, beyond all possibility of doubt, that the disciple did not derive these feelings and this language from the Master, but, on the contrary, Jesus had to speak in accordance with John’s thoughts. Now, the Gnostics who are St John’s opponents are far from being the later celebrated Gnostic schools; they 262 are the forerunners of the Gnostic movement, such as Cerinthus. How wonderfully, then, did both gospel and epistle meet the needs of the Church which was just being involved more and more deeply in the Gnostic controversy.

As a tract for the times, touching upon every question of the day, and intended to define the position towards Jews, Gnostics, and Greeks, the Gospel of St John was welcome to the Church, and furthered its interests. If one would understand it in connection with all the moving forces of its age, one must forget the picture of the mystic and the philosopher, and call up before one’s mind the ecclesiastical champion. Even thus, however, its world-historic importance is but imperfectly accounted for. How could we thus ever understand the fact that it became the most important of the Gospels when the disputes with Jews and Gnostics had long ago died away?

The Fourth Gospel derived this importance, lasting long beyond the time of its birth, from its having bridged over the chasm between Jesus and St Paul, and from its having carried the Pauline Gospel back into the life and teaching of Jesus. It is only through this gospel that Paulinism attains to absolute dominion in the theology of the Church. By Paulinism, however, we do not here mean the Pauline doctrine of justification, or, generally speaking, the apostle’s anti-Jewish apologetic. The whole antithetical vocabulary—law, faith; law, grace; law, the Spirit—was abandoned by John as it had been by the whole Church of his day. For the controversy as to the law was now dead and buried, and Christians were 263 the more ready to forget St Paul’s arguments, as they only served to attract reproaches of libertinism and antinomianism. But this anti-Jewish apologetic only forms a very small part of the Pauline theology; it is nothing more than an application of the Pauline soteriology to the controversy regarding the law. The soteriology itself John grasped and expounded so forcibly and clearly, that one is compelled to assume that he had derived lasting impressions from the reading of St Paul’s letters. In John’s hands the soteriology is lightened of all the ballast of rabbinical conceptions, and is set forth in that grand simplicity which touches the hearts of all men—the simplicity with which Paul the missionary knew how to move his Gentile hearers. Like Paul, he begins with the pessimistic position, the radical corruption of mankind. The world is separated from God, given over to sin and the devil, to darkness and the destiny of death; it is a lost world of sinners. He does, it is true, incidentally endeavour to do justice to the powers that make for goodness outside the Church, when he calls Jesus the light which is bound to draw to itself all good and pure people. But these sentences start from other premises; nothing like them occurs elsewhere, nor can they break their way through the surrounding pessimism: Without me ye can do nothing; that which is born of flesh is flesh. Without the second birth there is no entrance into the kingdom of God. Into this lost world of darkness and of death, light and life enter in the person of Jesus. Far as the author diverges in his prologue from St Paul by spreading this manifestation of light over a whole series of 264 children of God before Christ, it is not long before he is once more in complete agreement with St Paul in the central importance which he attaches to the one historic fact Jesus Christ, in whose name they, too, all believed whom He made to be children of God in the ages before He came on earth. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Redeemer of the world, is for John as well as Paul the core and centre of Christianity. And, moreover, John’s Christology is Pauline in all its important features—the Son of God who was with God in heaven, and was sent by God upon earth, the Mediator of creation, the God of Revelation of the Old Testament, the Son of Man from heaven, as Paul, too, called Him. And the chief object of His coming into the world is the atonement by means of His death. From its very first line the Gospel centres upon Him, John the Baptist preaches the Lamb of God who is to bear the sins of the world. God so loved the world that He gave His only Son to save the world, or, as the first epistle completes the sentence, as a propitiation for our sins. Through His death Jesus has become objectively the propitiation for the sins of the whole world, and His blood cleanseth us from all sin. But here too the resurrection is immediately added to the death. Here we have the all-convincing proof that Jesus is the Redeemer, and can give eternal life itself to all who believe in Him. To this, the groundwork of the Pauline Christology, John adds his two modifications. By the side of the death of Jesus he assigns its due place to the life of Jesus, and he fills this life with the positive contents of the divine revelation. The former was the natural 265 thing for him to do as the writer of a gospel: even without John the life of Jesus would have come to its due rights through the existence of the Synoptic Gospels. Peculiar to him, and at the same time in harmony with St Paul, is the way in which this life of Jesus always points to the death and is filled from beginning to end with instruction as to the value of the death. In the second he endeavours to meet the Greeks, for whom the idea of revelation was of far greater importance than for the Jews, the people of God’s revelation from of old. Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life, He reveals the name of God to men, so His last prayer sums up His work. Hence follows the only important difference between the two Christologies: the picture of Christ in His glory instead of the picture of Jesus in His humiliation. The Jesus who would reveal God unto men and who would prove His Messiahship to the Jews, must manifest all the glory of God and of the Messiah, at any rate at certain definite periods of His activity. But once again John had no need to create this picture of the glorified Christ: he had it in the germ in the proof from miracles contained in the Synoptic Gospels, and needed but to develop it. But one is bound also to add that St John’s addition harmonizes very well with Pauline Christology, and that the latter thereby alone acquires its convincing force. In St Paul’s writings every psychological mediation is as yet wanting—the Son of God on the cross, the paradox, is to awaken faith by itself. It is John who is the first so to depict the Son of God in His life that we understand that God sent Him, and then having gained this assurance we are not shaken 266 in our faith even by the death on the cross. And then again, in spite of all Hellenization, in spite of all thoughts of revelation, the fundamental Pauline thought ever and ever again breaks through triumphantly—Jesus the Redeemer. To save the world God sent Him from heaven. He is the Lamb of the world that bears the sins of the world, the Water of Life, the Bread of Life, the good Shepherd who dies for His sheep, the resurrection and the life. He is also the Way and the Truth for men who know nothing of God, but He is above all the manifestation of the grace and love of God which lead from death unto everlasting life. The strength and the greatness of the Gospel of St John lie entirely in this description of Jesus the Redeemer, in the realization of the Pauline faith in the picture of the Gospel. The enthusiasm and gratitude of a disciple who found in Jesus’ life and full satisfaction are forever breaking through from the midst of hateful controversy and gloomy judgments of condemnation. Even the unrelenting bitterness with which he consigns the Jews to the devil is in his case the necessary converse of his devoted love to Jesus. The subject of his preaching, and of that which he puts into the mouth of Jesus, was at that time by no means something new. Every member of the Church believed that Jesus was the Redeemer of the world. But the manner of his preaching, the wonderful simplicity of his words, the continual return of the same burden, the exclusiveness and entireness of his love for the individual—that is peculiar to him: in this he has never had his equal.

Whoever, like Paul, has conceived of Jesus as the 267 Redeemer and Reconciler of the world, is also likely to follow Paul in his conception of redemption. For all that Paul teaches of the Spirit of God or of Christ, of faith and the sacraments, of the forgiveness of sins and the certainty of salvation, of predestination, one can find exact parallels in John, only that one feels the difference in the position of the Church, the approach of a new enemy, the Gnostics, in place of the old foe, the Judaizers, which effected a slight change in the point of view. Here, too, salvation comes through the gift of the Spirit, the birth from above. Here is the source of a new moral force—whosoever has the seed of God cannot sin—a new intellectual force, the power to comprehend the earthly and the heavenly, and to explain the secret of Christ and of His death from the sacred book of Revelation, and a new power of God’s love, the testimony that God dwells in us, that we are children of God and sure of eternal life. All this is the work of the Spirit of God, who is at the same time the Spirit of Christ. He proceeds from the Father; the Father sends Him, but He sends Him in Christ’s name, or the Son Himself sends Him from the Father. He will take of mine, for all that the Father hath is mine. Thus intentionally varying the expression, St John repeats St Paul’s view still more clearly, that the divine power which redeems us is Christ’s power and bound up with the Person of Jesus, that there are not two redemptions, the one from Christ, the other immediately from God, but the one Redemption in the communion of Christ.

But once again following St Paul, this salvation 268 by the Spirit is effected by certain means, and they are none other than those which St Paul knows: the Word, faith, the Church, the sacraments. The Word is the chief bond between Christ and Christians; it is the Word of God which Christ does not speak of Himself but of God, and that is why it brings divine power, the Holy Spirit, to men. Jesus’ words are Spirit and Life, words of everlasting life, words of cleansing power. John values the sacraments as highly as did the whole Church of his time, but the reason is in his case a higher one. It is the Word that is the channel for the power of salvation, and not the element. On man’s side faith is the necessary medium for the reception of the Spirit. In one place John calls it the work of God which God demands of men, but he does this in order to contrast it with the works which the Jews would do in order to obtain salvation. For him, too, faith is in reality no work, no effort of the human will. To believe means to be drawn to Christ, to be ready to receive Him. But just as here again he follows exactly in St Paul’s footsteps, so he gives to faith the same ecclesiastical turn: to believe is to confess that Jesus is the Messiah, that He is the Son of God in the flesh. And in the battle which the Church wages, it all depends upon this. John speaks of this faith with the enthusiasm of St Paul and of the author of the Acts. Everlasting happiness and all other benefits of the communion with God depend upon this faith alone. In his first letter, where he writes as a simple Christian to Christians, he assigns the first place to the forgiveness of sins and reconciliation with God. Like St Paul, St John tells us that they can be 269 obtained by looking at God’s love on the cross, and in the confident hope that Jesus is our advocate with God. Hence the name Paraclete, and hence the twofold application of this name to the Son and to the Spirit, for both are our representatives and our advocates with God. In the Gospel, where as an apologist he would win for Christ not only sinners but more especially the doers of God’s will, those that walk in the light, he sets forth the knowledge of God and everlasting life as the privilege of believers. He that believes has everlasting life; that is St John’s translation of St Paul’s preaching: he that believes will be saved. By everlasting life he by no means signifies a merely inward possession, as modern theologians commonly speak of present immortality. It is the life which lasts beyond death, the beginning of the risen life, upon which the resurrection of the body is bound to follow by an inner necessity. Like St Paul, St John knows of a double resurrection, the first at baptism and the other at the second coming, and the latter completes the former. So, too, he knows of an anticipation of the judgment of the world in this present life. And yet the future judgment remains as awful an event as ever. This judgment is accomplished in the advent of the Redeemer and in the division of men into such as suffer themselves to be redeemed and such as are lost. Here we have an exact parallel to St Paul’s doctrine of justification. Paul writes: “He that believes is justified, and is saved from the wrath that is to come.” John writes: “He that believes cometh not into condemnation, but hath everlasting life.” That is surely merely a difference of expression. As soon 270 as the question is put, How must Jesus have spoken in the sense of St Paul? the answer can only be, exactly as He speaks in St John.

St John agrees also with St Paul in never mentioning the Church in connection with his doctrine of salvation. He speaks of salvation as though each individual received it afresh and immediately at the hand of Jesus Christ. And yet he himself wished by no means to be understood in a mystical but in an ecclesiastical sense. The emphasis laid upon the Word is sufficient in itself to decide the point. Faith is kindled by the Word, but the Word does not come straight down from heaven, but through the preachers of the Church and the communion of the Church. We may draw the same conclusion, too, from the importance attached to the sacraments of the Church, with which salvation always appears to be very closely connected. But it is contained still more directly in the demand for faith; faith is the sign of the Christian Church. In St John’s time there are no believers outside the Church: “Extra Christum nulla salus” means and is intended to mean “Extra ecclesiam nulla salus.” The necessity for ecclesiastical communion is set forth by St John in the parable of the true vine so clearly that none of his readers could mistake his meaning. It is merely due to his feeling of fitness that he does not use the word Church when speaking of a time when it did not as yet exist. The parable of the vine and the branches has the same meaning as the Pauline parable of the head and the members, viz., that the Church has in Christ its centre of life, that each single individual derives all his strength by 271 remaining in vital contact with this centre. It reminds us still more plainly, however, of the prayer in the Jewish communion, which is preserved for us in the Didache: “We thank thee, our Father, for the Holy Vine of David thy servant.” The vine was for the Jews, just like the one loaf, a symbol of the Jewish Church, now scattered throughout the world but destined to be made one in the kingdom of God. Now, just as the Jews are branches of the vine of David, so are the Christians of the true Vine of Christ. When John therefore urges the importance, the necessity, of remaining in the vine, he is really calling upon the disciples to remain true to the word of Christ and to the communion of the Church, in contrast with the indifferent, nominal Christians and the Gnostic separatists. Hence Jesus’ last words to His disciples are the oft-repeated fervent prayer for the unity of the Church. In any case, what St John wishes is not to give individual pious souls instructions for mystic communion with God on high, but to keep the Church in a living connection with its head and founder. It was this alone that his age asked of him.

The mysticism which is clearly to be traced in the Gospel of St John is that of the sacraments. It is now referred to Jesus Himself. Even in Jesus’ lifetime, says the Fourth Gospel, men were baptized in His name, though Jesus Himself did not baptize. Without this baptism there is no new birth, no entrance into the kingdom of God. But the one baptism is to be sufficient. Jesus refuses to allow any repetition of the rite. And in the same way He is made to declare there can be no 272 everlasting life without participation in the Lord’s Supper. The Father is eternal life, the Son lives through the Father, the Christian lives through the Son when he eateth Him at the Lord’s Supper. This is, of course, not to be understood in a material sense; it is a question of spiritual food and spiritual drink, as St Paul calls it. Thus John adopted all Paul’s thoughts as to the means of salvation.

The Pauline soteriology is completed by the belief in predestination. St John makes Jesus proclaim this belief aloud to all men. He alone cometh to the faith whom the Father draweth to the Son and giveth to the Son. “It is not ye that have chosen Me; it is I who have chosen you,” says Jesus to the disciples, and so furnishes the predestinarian interpretation to the choice of the twelve in the Synoptic Gospels. But he that is chosen is absolutely certain of salvation. “Nobody can tear him from My hand, from My Father’s hand. Who can separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ?” Here, however, a difficult problem arises owing to the changed position of affairs. For St Paul all believers were chosen, and the Church was the fellowship of the chosen saints. Could John maintain this now that so many Christians were notoriously evil livers, and now that the Gnostic heresy had led so many believers astray? It is very significant that the character of the traitor Judas came to be of importance to him for the solution of this difficult question. Judas is one of the twelve whom Jesus called; he believes in Him, follows Him to the end, takes part in the Last Supper. And yet he is a devil. Jesus never chose him, but knew from the beginning the 273 sad end to which he would come. On several other occasions too John points out that Jews believed in Jesus even in His name whose faith was worth less, who were themselves the children of the devil. And then immediately afterwards he once more declares: “He that believeth hath everlasting life; no man can tear My sheep from My hand.” St John does not give us a homogeneous and clear solution of the problem. He does not appear to have found one as yet. He gives us the answer of the later Catholic Church: It depends upon whether you remain constant in the truth that you have once accepted, and whether the fruits of your life prove the reality of your faith. According to this it is a man’s relation to God, and not the divine decree, that decides. But he gives us as well the answer of all predestinarians: Judas was not chosen, and therefore he must needs be lost. In any case he has abandoned his confidence in the belief that the Church is the fellowship of the elect; and all those sentences which connect faith and everlasting life together, apparently without laying down any conditions, must be understood as limited by the declarations on this subject in the last discourses. But here again he was anticipated by St Paul, who urged those that stood without to believe, while those that were within were bidden to show forth love and to produce the fruits of the Spirit.

Now just as John here starts from St Paul’s doctrine of predestination and modifies it from the point of view of his own age and its requirements, so in other subjects too he occasionally adapts his Pauline basis to other thoughts and formulizations. 274 The masses had to be taught the faith of the Church, the heretics and their conception of Christianity had to be controverted: both these requirements imperatively demanded consideration. Hence the Johannine soteriology is far less enthusiastic than the Pauline. The author of the first epistle is very reticent as to the Spirit. In the Gospel, too, the Spirit is the teacher of truth, the guarantee of ecclesiastical orthodoxy. This can scarcely be the author’s whole meaning, but it is this that appears to him to be of especial importance just at present. On the other hand, he speaks of the commandments far more frequently and with far greater ardour than St Paul. He is thinking of the Sermon on the Mount, and, generally speaking, of the sayings of Jesus in the Synoptists. They are not simply the result of the Spirit’s agency. They have to be learnt and kept as authoritative. This is not opposed to St Paul’s teaching, for on one occasion he too designated the keeping of the commandments as the chiefest object in a Christian’s life, and yet it is altogether unlike his usual method. It would be a marvel if St John did not differ from St Paul in this point. And yet how nearly he approaches to him when he calls the keeping of the commandments the fruit of the fellowship with Christ. In St John we never really quit the great apostle’s mighty sphere of thought.

The whole of the Johannine theology is a natural development from the Pauline. It is Paulinism modified to meet the needs of the sub-apostolic age. Two important consequences follow from this.

There is no Johannine theology by the side of and independent of the Pauline. Luther already felt 275 this clearly, and he understood something of the matter. John and Paul are not two theological factors, but one. Were we to accept that St John formed his conception of Christianity either originally or directly from Jesus’ teaching, we should have to refuse St Paul all originality, for we should leave him scarcely a single independent thought. But it is St Paul that is original; St John is not. In St Paul’s letters we look, as through a window, into the factory where these great thoughts flash forth and are developed; in St John we see the beginning of their transformation and decay. Somebody must surely have first created the theory of the Spirit independently before his successor could break off the point of it by his theory of the Logos. There must first have been a preaching of the cross, and the cross alone, before a life of Jesus was written which pointed to this cross from the very first. And this reasoning applies to all the rest.

The question which now arises as to who this John was to whom the tradition (first to be traced in Irenaeus) ascribes these writings is, from a theological point of view, entirely valueless, and can only interest the antiquarian investigators of tradition. Ignatius, the only writer of the beginning of the second century who was well acquainted with Asia Minor, and of whom genuine writings have come down to us, only knows of the intercourse of the apostle Paul with the congregations of Asia Minor, although he has himself read the Johannine writings. It must, however, be admitted that this search for an apostolic author is occasioned by the Gospel itself, which claims to be written by a favourite 276 disciple who stood even nearer to Jesus than Peter, the chief authority in the Synoptists. It is only through him that Peter learns who the traitor is, and gets into the high priest’s court. He reaches the empty grave before Peter, and before Peter he recognizes the risen Lord. While Peter denies his Master, he remains faithful and stands beneath the cross and receives the dying Saviour’s last testament. And this is the most calamitous, the most painful point in the whole writing, which only hereby obtains some thing of the character of a mystification. For none of these ‘witnesses’ has the slightest historical probability. One must have a considerable dose of credulousness to believe the witness of the favourite disciple and the mother of Jesus under the cross, and the many touching farewell words in contradiction to the Synoptic report of the flight of all the disciples, of the Marys and Salome looking on from afar, and of Jesus’ single cry of anguish. The only fact that can be called historical is the attempt on the part of a number of the teachers of the Church—the ‘we’—to obtain acceptation for the new account which differed from the Synoptic in so many particulars. We cannot tell how they reconciled their action with their conscience. One thing is certain—they succeeded completely in their attempt.

The significance of the Fourth Gospel consists in the fact that it refers the teaching of St Paul back to Jesus Himself. This constitutes its value and its worthlessness, its force and its fatality. It is Jesus Himself who now tells us that everyone is lost without Him, that He is the only Redeemer and Reconciler for all nations and men. that faith in Him 277 alone brings us the knowledge of God and communion with God, forgiveness of sins, confidence in prayer, and certainty of everlasting life. But at the same time it is Jesus Himself who now tells us that the Church is the channel of this salvation, that without the Church there is no salvation, neither for Jews nor Greeks, that the Christian orthodox Church is the only road to blessedness. This is set forth with such simplicity and clearness that the simplest intelligence can grasp it, and with such glowing enthusiasm that even opponents are carried away by it. At the same time John now tells us that the Synoptic Gospels—to which his own is now added as a supplement—are to be interpreted in St Paul’s sense, and only in that sense. And thereby he covers up and conceals Jesus beneath St Paul and the Church. He makes the understanding of Jesus—the Jesus of history before the Church existed—impossible forever. It is no longer a question of the kingdom of God or of hell, of the doing of God’s will in strict self-discipline, of childlike love and childlike trust in God, but of faith and the confession of Jesus as the Son of God. The contrast, which is henceforth to move the world, and only too frequently with terrible results, is no longer between good and bad, but between believing and unbelieving. This transposition cannot be laid to the charge of any single individual, not to St John, not even to St Paul. It was inevitable as soon as the Christian community separated from the national Jewish Church and limited the claim to eternal life to those who shared the faith in Jesus. And the drawing together of this community, the foundation of the Church, followed from the feelings of gratitude and 278 enthusiasm of the disciples for all that they had received from Jesus, and was the necessary instrument in order to maintain the divine power of Jesus and to carry it forth into the world. We are everywhere met by necessary limitations to all the blessings and the benefits which we enjoy to this day. And yet this exclusiveness of the disciples was a Jewish inheritance, and not after the mind of Jesus. In any case, far from being a necessity, it was a downright misfortune that Jesus Himself was made to be the author of exclusiveness and fanaticism of faith as John depicted Him. For thereby that which is of real importance in the sight of God has been obscured, and Jesus' own redemptive power has been impaired by the very men who were the most powerful preachers of the Saviour Christ.

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