« Prev 18. The Gospel not Used before 140. Next »


Of rather a different nature are the cases in which passages from the Fourth Gospel are merely cited without its being said who wrote them. As regards these, it can be shown that before the year 140 there is evidence of none to which we have strict right to appeal. Sayings and expressions which resemble some in this Gospel, are indeed found in Christian writings after about the year 100 not infrequently. But it is a very strange idea that this resemblance must always be accounted for by supposing that the writers had read the Fourth Gospel. Because the Gospel has first made us acquainted with these sayings and expressions, there is no need to suppose that the circum stances were the same as early as about the year 100. On the contrary, why may not the Fourth Evangelist have been acquainted with the writings in question? Or, to mention a suggestion which in many cases is more likely, the discourses of the travelling teachers of the times, of whom there were very many, may have given currency to a number of catchwords, phrases, and whole sentences, which became the common property of all more or less cultured Christians. No one could say where he first heard them. Any one who wrote a book made use of them without suspecting that the question from what other book he took them would ever be asked. It may be that the Fourth Evangelist availed himself of them, and stamped them with his own particular genius; and we of the present day may easily be misled into supposing that he must have been the first to coin them, and that all other writers who use them must have written subsequently.

It is particularly easy to think this when a whole 198sentence is in question, which contains in itself an independent and important thought. We have an example in Jn. xiv. 2, “in my Father’s house (that is to say, in heaven) are many mansions.” Those people of great age to whom Irenaeus often appeals, have handed down to him as a saying of Jesus the words, “in my Father’s domains are many mansions.” Besides this, we learn from Jn. alone (xiv. 2) that Jesus made this statement, and the conclusion is drawn that the “elders” also can only have become acquainted with it from the Gospel. And since they have been referred to by Irenaeus as people who speak not from a more recent age, but from their own recollection of the distant past, the Gospel must already have been in existence at a very early date. This is a typical example of the kind of proof it is not permissible to use. We refrain from reckoning with the possibility that Jesus may really have made the statement, and that the elders were just as likely as the Fourth Evangelist to have learned it orally. But in their case, as well as that of Jn., the belief may also have grown up erroneously that he made the statement. This assertion would then have been repeated, and so finally have found its way into the Fourth Gospel. It was certainly the kind of saying that was likely to have been passed on from mouth to mouth, for it contains the comforting assurance that after one’s death one might look forward with certainty to finding a refuge in heaven. Another indication that the saying became current in this way may be found in the fact that the versions in Jn. and Irenaeus are not word for word identical.

« Prev 18. The Gospel not Used before 140. Next »
VIEWNAME is workSection