« Prev 6. The General Picture of Jesus. Next »


The conception which we have formed of Jesus as a worker of wonders will affect to an important extent the picture of him which is formed as a whole. Here again it will not be forgotten that the Synoptics agree with Jn. in sketching it with a grandeur which raises Jesus to a marked extent above the standard of what is human. Yet they report that he also, like others, was baptized by John. In the Fourth Gospel we look in vain for this information. Here we find only the later report of the Baptist, that lie saw the Holy Spirit coming down upon Jesus from heaven like a dove; and even this is supposed to have happened, 26not for the sake of Jesus, but only of the Baptist the purpose being that by this sign which God had already announced to him, he might be able to recognise in the person who stood before him the Son of God whom he did not already know (i. 32-34).

In Jn. also the fact recorded by the Synoptics (Mt. iv. 1-11), that Jesus was tempted by the devil, is entirely omitted. And to this Evangelist the report in Mk. (x. 17 f.) and Lk., that Jesus, when a rich man said to him, “Good master, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” answered, “Why callest thou me good? None is good but God alone” would have been equally unacceptable. And yet without doubt this answer came from Jesus lips. How little any of those worshippers who noted down the records in the Gospels could have invented it is shown by Mt. In Mt. (xix. 16 f.) the rich man says, “Master, what good thing must I do in order to have eternal life?” And Jesus answers, “Why askest thou me concerning what is good? One is the good.” How in this passage does Jesus come to add the last four words? Should he not, since he was questioned about the good, have continued, “one thing is the good”? And this would have been the only appropriate reply, not only in view of what precedes, but also on account of what follows, for Jesus says later, “but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.” Thus it is in the keeping of the commandments, Jesus thinks, that that good thing consists about which he was asked. How does Mt. get the words, “one is the good”? Simply by having before him, when he wrote, the language of Mk. Here we have a practical example of the way in which Mt. deliberately tried so to change this language at the beginning as to make it inoffensive, while at the end, in spite of his purpose, he left unchanged a few words of it which reveal 27to us what has happened and how it arose. But by removing in this way the words of Jesus to the effect that he did not deserve to be called good, Mt. has only anticipated the Fourth Gospel in which Jesus exclaims triumphantly (viii. 46), “Which of you convicteth me of sin? “

In the Synoptics (Mk. xiv. 32-39) we are told that in the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus prayed insistently that the cup of death might pass from him. In Jn. we seek for this information in vain. The words about the cup, familiar to us from the Synoptics, are used by Jesus in Jn. also, but in the contrary sense, “the cup which the Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?” (xviii. 11). We find in a much earlier passage (xii. 27) the only thing that can be compared with the deep emotion of Jesus in Gethsemane. Several days before his death Jesus says here, “Now is my soul troubled, and what shall I say? “But no more unsuitable continuation could be imagined than the following words when they are mistranslated, “Father, deliver me from this hour.” How can the Jesus of the Fourth Gospel think of asking the Father in heaven to deliver him from death? He actually gives up his life of his own accord (x. 17 f.). The sentence can therefore only be meant as a question: “What ought I to say? Ought I to say, ‘Father, deliver me from this hour?’” This alone makes the following words also appropriate, “but for this cause came I unto this hour”; therefore I say, “Father, glorify thy name,” by letting me go to my death.22Marks of interrogation and other marks of inter-punctuation are not found in our ancient copies of the Bible. We must therefore supply them as best suits the sense.

Mk. (xv. 34) and Mt. at any rate have the saying of Jesus 28from the cross, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” In Jn., as well as in Lk., we fail to find it. And yet we may be quite certain that it was no more invented than the saying about the sign of Jonah. An indication of weakness in the Crucified Lord might be found in the saying in Jn. xix. 28, “I thirst,” which, in turn, is not found in the Synoptics. But the author has been careful at the outset to exclude this interpretation. He says expressly that Jesus spoke the word in order that a prophecy of the Old Testament (Ps. xxii. 16) might be fulfilled; we are not therefore meant to suppose that Jesus was really thirsty.

Furthermore, we read frequently in the Synoptics that Jesus prayed to his heavenly Father, and that he sought solitude for this purpose (e.g., Mk. i. 35). How Jn. thinks of Jesus as praying is clear when he is represented as standing before the open sepulchre of Lazarus (xi. 41 f.) and saying, “Father, I thank thee that thou heardest me. And I know that thou hearest me always; but because of the multitude which standeth around I said it, that they may believe that thou didst send me.” From this it appears that Jesus did not need to pray for his own sake, but only for that of the people; and this he even explains to God in a prayer. Here that power of his to do wonders, with which we started, is first revealed in its fullest light.

To this may now be added the continual examples of his omniscience. Nathanael, who has only just come to him, Jesus has already seen under the fig-tree before Philip called him to Jesus (i. 48). He did not trust himself to those who believed on him at the first Passover feast in Jerusalem, because he knew them all (ii. 24 f.). He was able to tell the woman of Samaria, that she had had five 29husbands, and that he whom she now had was not her husband, and she was obliged to admit on the strength of this that Jesus was a prophet (iv. 16-19). As regards Lazarus he received a message merely to the effect that he was sick. But Jesus knew that in the meantime he had died (xi. 3 f. 11-14; see p. 32). He knew “from the beginning” that Judas Iscariot would betray him (vi. 64; xiii. 18), In the Synoptics, on the other hand, we find him expressly declaring that (Mk. xiii. 32) “of that day,” that is to say, the day on which he would come down from heaven, in order to set up the Kingdom of God upon earth, “or of that hour knoweth no one, not even the angels in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father”—another of the sayings which, we may be sure, none of his worshippers has invented. Lk. omits it altogether; Mt. (according to what is probably the original text) omits at least the all-important words “neither the Son.”

We may add further the continual examples of that inviolability of his, which we have already referred to (above, p. 17): they wished to seize him, but he suffered no harm. It will have become clear in the meantime that the expression which occurs here, “he hid himself” (viii. 59; also xii. 36), certainly cannot mean that Jesus concealed himself, but only—as his dignity would require—that he made himself invisible in a miraculous way, because “his hour had not yet come.”

When, however, his hour came, he gave himself up of his own accord. Once more we read that the soldiers could do him no harm; at his words. “It is I” whom ye seek, they go back and fall to the ground (500, if not 1000, Roman soldiers). Judas, since it was dark, according to the Synoptics (Mk. xiv 44 f.) requires to point him out first by kissing his hand; in Jn. he does not need to do so, he stands 30idly by (xviii. 3-6). Jesus of his own accord, by dipping a morsel in the sop and giving it to Judas at the Last Supper, made the devil enter into him, and himself bade him hasten his evil deed (xiii. 26 f.) and of this again the Synoptics know nothing.

« Prev 6. The General Picture of Jesus. Next »
VIEWNAME is workSection