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are certain that the number of the Christians had vastly multiplied. In every part of the Roman Empire, in all places of consideration, and even in rural districts, Christian assemblies regularly met for worship. And in all these weekly meetings, the writings of the apostles were publicly read, as we learn from so early a writer as Justin Martyr.
Now we have to look at the Christian churches in the second century, and ask if it was possible for a history of Christ, falsely pretending to be from the pen of the apostle John, to be brought forward twenty, thirty, or forty years after his death, be introduced into all the churches east and west, taking its place everywhere in the public services of Sunday? Was there no one to ask where this new Gospel came from, and where it had lain concealed ? Was there no one of the many who had personally known John to expose the gigantic imposture, or even to raise a note of surprise at the unexpected appearance of so important a document of which they had never heard before ? How was the populous church at Ephesus brought to accept this work on the very spot where John had lived and died?
The difficulty, nay the moral impossibility, of supposing that this Gospel first saw the light in 160 or 140 or 120, or
of the dates which are assigned by the Tübingen critics, will be rendered apparent, if we candidly look at the subject. We have spoken of Irenaeus and of his testimony to the undisputed, undoubting reception, by all the churches, of the fourth Gospel. If this Gospel first appeared as late or later than 120, how does it happen that he had not learned the fact from the aged presbyters whom he had known in Asia Minor ? Irenaeus, before becoming bishop, was the colleague of Pothinus at Lyons, who perished as a martyr, having, as the letter of his church states, passed his ninetieth year. Here was a man whose active life extended back wellnigh to the very beginning of the century, who was born before John died. Supposing John's Gospel to have appeared as late as 120, the earliest date admitted by
any part of the sceptical school, Pothinus was then upwards of thirty years old. Did this man, who loved Christianity so well that he submitted to torture and death for its sake, never think to mention to Irenaeus an event of so great consequence as was this late discovery of a Life of the Lord from the pen of his most beloved disciple, and of its reception by the churches ? Polycrates, bishop of Ephesus, at the time of his controversy with Victor, describes himself as being “sixty five years of age in the Lord," as having “ conferred with the brethren throughout the world, and studied the whole of the sacred scriptures ;” as being also of a family, seven of whose members had held at Ephesus the office of bishop or presbyter. According to his statement, his own life began as early at least as the year 125, while through his family he was directly connected with the contemporaries of John. How is it that Polycrates appears to have known nothing about this late appearance of the wonderful Gospel which bore the name of John, but was the work of a great unknown? How is it that the family of Polycrates either knew nothing of so startling an event, or if they knew anything of it preserved an absolute silence ? Clement of Alexandria had sat at the feet of venerable teachers in different countries, of whom he says that they “ have lived by the blessing of God to our time, to lodge in our minds the seeds of the ancient and apostolic doctrine.” From none of these had he derived any information of that event, so remarkable, if we suppose it to have occurred - the sudden discovery of a gospel history by the Apostle John, of which the Christian world had not before heard. Justin says that in the churches there are many men and women of sixty and seventy years of age, who have been Christians from their youth; and he is speaking only of the unmarried class.
So at every preceding and subsequent moment in the first half of the second century, there were many old persons in every larger church whose memory went back far into the apostolic age. Now if the statement of Irenaeus and
Apol. I. 15.
his contemporaries as to the composition of the fourth Gospel by the Apostle John was false, and this work in reality saw the light not till long after his death, when some forger offered it for acceptance, how is it possible that there should be none either to investigate its origin when it first appeared, and none afterwards to correct the prevalent opinion concerning it?
There is no way for the sceptical critic to meet this positive argument, founded on the unanimous voice of tradition, and this negative argument ab silentio in refutation of his theory, unless he can prove that the Christians of the second century were so indifferent as to the origin of their scriptures that they received whatever might offer itself to their acceptance, provided the contents were agreeable to their doctrines and prepossessions. If there were few or none who were either inquisitive or competent to judge of the real claims of a book that professed to be an authentic and apostolic history of Christ, then an imposture of this mag. nitude might be successful, provided a person were found shrewd and unscrupulous enough to undertake it. But how stands the fact? The greater portion of the early Christians were undoubtedly from the poorer class. Even these must have been deeply interested in obtaining authentic accounts of that Master for whom they were offering up life itself. But they had among them trained, inquisitive scholars — men educated in the schools of philosophy. Justin Martyr and the Greek Apologists are not liable to the charge of illiteracy. It was a time when Christianity had to answer for itself, as well in treatises addressed to the public magistrate as before the civil tribunals. It is, moreover, a noteworthy fact that the writers bring to the scriptures the test of historical inquiry. They do not ask what book is doctrinally acceptable, but what book bears the stamp of an apostolic approval. Clement may bring forward a statement from an apocryphal Gospel of the Egyptians, but he is careful to warn the reader that it is not contained in the four Gospels which “ have been
handed down to us." Irenaeus and Tertullian insist only upon the historical evidence that the canonical scriptures are apostolic. Nothing but authentic tradition is of any weight with them on the question. All the knowledge we have relative to the formation of the New Testament canon goes to disprove the imputation of carelessness or incompetency brought against the Christians of the second century. There is proof that the four Gospels of our canon were distinguished, as having pre-eminent authority, from all other evangelical histories in the early part of the second century. All other narratives of the life of Christ, including those of the many writers of whom Luke speaks in the introduction to his Gospel, as well as those of subsequent authors, were discarded, and, if used at all, were explicitly treated as not endued with authority. Four, and only the four, in the time of Irenaeus and Tertullian, were regarded as apostolic and canonical. Lechler1 mentions an example from Eusebius illustrating the feeling of church teachers at that time. Serapion, who was bishop of Antioch about 190, found in circulation at Rhosse (Orossus), a town of Cilicia, an apocryphal gospel called the Gospel of Peter. He says in regard to it: “ We, brethren, receive Peter and the other apostles as Christ himself. But those writings which falsely go under their name, as we are well acquainted with them, we reject, and know also that we have not received such handed down to us.” This is one expression; but it falls in with the whole current of the evidence in relation to the temper of Irenaeus and his contemporaries.
Having thus surveyed the external proofs of the genuineness of John, we pass to consider the
INTERNAL EVIDENCE. 1. The fourth Gospel claims to be the work of the Apostle John; and the manner of this claim is a testimony to its truth. The author explicitly declares himself an eyewitness
i Studien u. Krit. 1856. 4. s. 871.
of the transactions recorded by him (i. 14. compared with 1 John i. 4, 14; John xix. 35; compare also xxi. 24). In the course of his narrative, one of the disciples, instead of being referred to by name, is characterized as that “disciple whom Jesus loved” (xiii. 23; xviii. 15; xix. 26 ; xx. 2 seq; xxi. 7). In the appendix to the Gospel (xxi. 24; compare v. 20) this disciple is declared to be its author. And we cannot well explain this circumlocution, except on the supposition that the author resorts to it in order to avoid the mention of his own name. Now, who of the disciples most intimate with Jesus is referred to under this description ? Not Peter; for Peter is not only repeatedly spoken of by his own name, but is expressly distinguished from the disciple in question (xiii. 24; xx. 2 seq.; xxi. 7; 20 seq.). Not James; for besides the proof derived from the universal supposition of the ancient church, that James was not the person denoted, we know that he was put to death early in the apostolic age, while we learn from John xxi. 23, which is otherwise confirmed, that the disciple in question must have reached an advanced age. If it be granted that the author, whoever he may have been, was one of the original disciples, James is excluded, because the Gospel was evidently written later than his death and out of Palestine. But if the disciple whom Jesus loved is not Peter or James, who can it be but John ? That the author would represent himself to be John, is also strongly suggested by his omitting to attach to the name of John (the Baptist) the usual appellation ó Battiotńs, especially when we observe that he is elsewhere careful, as in the case of Peter and of Judas, to designate precisely the person meant. Supposing the writer to be himself John the Evangelist, and moreover to have stood, as a disciple, in an intimate relation with the Baptist, we have a double reason for his omitting in the case of the latter this usual title.
The connection of the beloved disciple with Peter (xx. 2 seq.; xxi. 7; and also xviii. 15 seq., where the axlos maIntńs is none other than the beloved disciple) is another argument tending to show that John is meant; since we