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Reference: John, The Gospel According To


Well called "the Gospel of the incarnate God," "the Gospel of witness," that of the Father, that of Scripture, that of miracles, that of Jesus Himself. Written at Ephesus at the request of the Asiatic bishops to set forth more profoundly Christ's Divinity (Jerome, Prolegomena in Matthew). Ephesus, after Jerusalem's fall, A.D. 70, took a chief place in oriental Christendom. Containing a large Christian church, a synagogue of zealous Jews, and the most famous of pagan temples that of Artemis or Diana, it was a common meeting ground for widely diverse creeds. Philosophical speculation too had free scope in its xystus; here Cerinthus broached his doctrines, concocted at Alexandria. Its commercial position on the sea linking the East and West adapted it as an admirable center for the diffusion of gospel truth. John sets forth the positive truth which indirectly yet effectively counteracts Gnosticism, Ebionitism, and docetism. The Spirit has made his Gospel virtually supplementary to the other three. (See GOSPELS; JESUS CHRIST.)

Theirs is that of "Christ according to the flesh," his that of "Christ according to the Spirit." As he joined Christ early he records facts of His ministry in Galilee and Jerusalem, prior to those in the three synoptists. He writes with a specification of times and places, and a freshness, which mark an eye-witness (Joh 1:29,35,37-40; 2:1; 3:1; 4:40,43; 6:22; 13:1-11; 18:10-16; 19:26; 20:3-10,24-29). That the beloved disciple (called episteethios from his reclining on Jesus' breast) was the writer appears from Joh 19:25-27,35; 21:24; 1:14. Another undesigned propriety identifying him is, though naming John the Baptist 20 times he always omits "the Baptist," whereby the three synoptists distinguish him from John the evangelist.

PLACE AND TIME. His allusions in the peculiar terms of his prologue to the theosophic notions prevalent at Ephesus accord with that city being the place of his writing the Gospel. Ac 18:24 implies the connection between Alexandria, the headquarters of Gnosticism, and Ephesus. John 21 is an appendix written subsequently to Joh 20:30-31 (which at first completed the Gospel), perhaps after Peter's martyrdom. The Gospel cannot have been written at the same time and place as Revelation, the styles are so different, His mode of counting the hours as we do was Asiatic (see Townson, Harmony, 8:1, section 3), and accords with Ephesus being the place of writing. His not feeling it necessary to explain Jesus' prophecy that John should tarry until He came (John 21) shows that he wrote soon after the destruction of Jerusalem (A.D. 70), when that event was generally understood as being the Lord's coming, namely, in judgment upon the Jews.

In Joh 5:2 the sheep market with five porches is spoken of as still standing, perhaps spared as some other things for convenience by Titus (Josephus, B. J., 7:1, section 1). Testimonies of authenticity. If Joh 21:24-25 came from some Ephesian disciples this is the oldest testimony to it. 2Pe 1:14 alludes to (Joh 21:18) Christ's prophecy of Peter's crucifixion, taking for granted his readers' acquaintance with the Gospel, the strongest kind of testimony as being undesigned. Ignatius (his Epistle to the Romans), Polycarp (his Epistle to the Philippians), the Epistle to Diognetus, Justin Martyr (Apol. 1:61, Dialogue with Trypho 63,88), contain implied quotations of it; their not expressly quoting it is due to the prevalence of oral more than written teaching at first; while the inspired preachings of apostles were fresh in memory definite appeals to writings are less to be expected than in the following age. The general references of the former and the definite quotations of the latter are just what we might expect presuming the Gospel genuine.

Papias (Eusebius H. E. iii. 39) used the first epistle of John which is close akin to the Gospel. Tatian's Diatessaron opens," In the beginning was the Word"; he quotes this Gospel in Orat. contra Gentil. Thus, its currency A.D. 170 is proved. Theophihs of Antioch (Autol. 2) first expressly attributes it to John; he wrote a commentary on the four and a harmony (Jerome Alg. 53, Vir. Illust. 25). He and Tadan therefore, in the second century, considered the four the exclusively canonical standard. Irenaeus, a hearer of Polycarp, the disciple of John, argues for the propriety of the number four; his argument proves their long and universal acceptance by the church more conclusively than if it had been his aim to demonstrate it. The Alogi of Asia Minor were the only sect that rejected this Gospel, owing to their opposition to Montanus, whose heresies they thought were favored by it. The diversity of the scene and incidents of Christ's ministry in it, as compared with the three preceding Gospels, is just what we might expect if the author were acquainted with them.

For while as an independent witness he does not with formal design supplement them, yet he generally omits under the Spirit those particulars already handled by his predecessors. Excepting the crucifixion and resurrection, respecting which he gives new information, he has only two sections in common with the Synoptists (Joh 6:1-21; 12:1). He omits Christ's baptism, temptation, mission of the twelve, transfiguration (of which he was one of the three selected eye witnesses), the Lord's supper, and the agony in Gethsemane, yet incidental hints show his taking them for granted as known already (Joh 1:14,32; 13:2; 14:30; 18:1,11), which last refers to the very words of His prayer during the agony, recorded by the synoptists, an undesigned coincidence and so a proof of authenticity; Joh 14:30 is the link between the temptation (Lu 4:13) and His agony (Lu 22:40-53); Joh 11:1 assumes the reader's acquaintance with Mary and Martha, from Lu 10:38.

So Joh 4:43-44; 7:41, tacitly refer to the facts recorded in Mt 13:54; 2:23; 18:33 takes for granted the fact recorded in Lu 23:2. John 6, wherein he repeats the miraculous feeding of 5,000 recorded by the synoptists, is introduced to preface the discourse which John alone records. In John 12 the anointing by Mary is repeated for its connection with Judas' subsequent history. The objections to John's acquaintance with the synoptical Gospels are based on the presumption that in that case he was bound to slavishly supplement them and guard against the appearance of discrepancies between him and them.

But he was an independent witness, not formally designing to supplement; yet as knowing their Gospels he would mostly use materials heretofore not handled. As they presented Jesus' outer and popular life, so it remained that he should represent the deeper truths of His divine mission and Person. They met the church's first needs; he, its later wants. Luke's Gospel was written under Paul's superintendence at least 20 years before John's. Considering the intercourse between the Christian churches it is incredible that his Gospel should have been unknown at Ephesus, John's and previously Paul's scene of labours, and this to John a "pillar" of the church.

DESIGN. John, the last surviving apostle, would surely be consulted on the canonicity of New Testament Scriptures which by God's providence he lived to see completed. Theodore of Mopsuestia, 4th century (Catena Johann. Corder. Mill New Testament) says John did attest it. Clement Alex. (Eusebius, H. E. vi. 14) states on the authority of old presbyters (and the Muratorian Fragment, Ant. M. Aev. 3, confirms the statement) that John wrote at his friends' request to give Christ's "spiritual" aspect, the former Gospels already having given His "bodily" aspect. John, who leant on Jesus' breast, His closest intimate, was the fittest to set forth the deeper spiritual truths of the Son of God. Thus the "ye" (Joh 19:35; 20:31) will refer to John's "friends" primarily, the general church secondarily. To prove "that Jesus is the Christ the Son of God" is this Gospel's declared design, that men so "believing might have life through His name."

A continued polemic reference is not likely, considering John's contemplative and usually loving spirit. An incidental guarding of the truth against incipient heresies in that region certainly there i

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