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Bible Commentaries

International Critical Commentary NTInternational Critical

- John

by S.R. Driver, A.A. Plummer and C.A. Briggs








Volumes I & II






Copyright © T&T Clark Ltd

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of T&T Clark Ltd.

ISBN 0 567 05024 6

British Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data

A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library



DR. Bernard’s many friends will be glad at last to have his Commentary. Fortunately he had completed the manuscript of both volumes before his visible presence was taken from us in August 1927, so that I have been responsible only for seeing it through the Press. Dr. L. C. Purser saw the proofs as far as Chapter XIX., but I have been through the whole, trying to gather up the fragments that remained. The Indices have been prepared by the Rev. R. M. Boyd, Rector of Shinrone I would thank him gratefully for his help, but he needs no thanks.


Dublin, October 1928.



The evangelist has been designated throughout as Jn., to distinguish him from John the son of Zebedee as well as from John the Baptist. This abbreviation is not intended to imply that he must be identified with John the presbyter, although the editor regards this as highly probable;1 but it is convenient to have a brief designation which stands for the writer of the Gospel, without prejudging his personality. A few other abbreviations that have been adopted are the following:

D.B. Hastings’ Dictionary of the Bible, 5 vols. (1898-1904).

D.B.2 Smith’s Dictionary of the Bible, 3 vols., 2nd ed. (1893).

D.C.G. Hastings’ Dictionary of Christ and the Gospels, 2 vols. (1906).

Diat. E. A. Abbott’s Diatessarica, including his Johannine Vocabulary and Johannine Grammar, Parts I.-X. (1900-1915).

E.B. Cheyne’s Encyclopædia Biblica, 4 vols. (1899-1903).

E.R.E. Hastings’ Encyclopædia of Religion and Ethics, 12 vols. (1908-1921).

J.T.S. Journal of Theological Studies (1900-1926).

Moulton-Milligan Vocabulary of the Greek Testament, illustrated from the papyri, by J. H. Moulton and G. Milligan (1914- ). This is being completed by Dr. Milligan; it is indispensable.





(i) Authorities for the Text.

(ii) Dislocations of the Text.

(iii) The Structure of the Gospel.

(I) Authorities for the Text

Full accounts of the manuscript material available for the text will be found in Gregory’s Prolegomena (1894), in his Textkritik (1902, 1909), and in von Soden’s Die Schriften des neuen Testaments (1902). During the last twenty-five years several additional manuscripts and versions of first rate value have come to light. Only a few of the more important authorities for the Gospel, in whole or in part, are named here, von Soden’s notation being placed in brackets, and the century to which each MS. is ascribed being given in Roman numerals. No attempt has been made in these volumes to print an apparatus criticus. Tischendorf’s (1872) is still the most useful, von Soden’s (1913) being constructed on the basis of a new classification of textual authorities, which has not commanded general acceptance. Westcott and Hort’s Notes on Select Readings (1884) are indispensable, although their doctrine of the inferiority of the “Western Text” is now regarded as too strongly stated. A. Souter’s brief critical apparatus is valuable, and his table of MS. authorities admirably clear (Nov. Test. Græce, Oxford).


The earliest extant remains of Gospel manuscripts in Greek were written in Egypt on papyrus. Of these some of the most interesting were found at Oxyrhynchus, and have been published by Drs. Grenfell and Hunt. A few contain fragments of the Fourth Gospel. They are generally in the form of a book or codex, and not in the form of rolls of papyrus. Most of those mentioned here present a text similar to that of B:

Pap. Oxyrh. 208 (von Soden, ε 02) and 1781 form fragments of the same MS., the oldest extant text of Jn. (sæ. iii), and are at the British Museum. They give in a mutilated form John 1:23-41, John 16:14-30, John 20:11-25. This MS. was a codex, made up of a single quire of some twenty-five sheets. See p. xxix.

Pap. Oxyrh. 1228, Glasgow, iii. This has a good text of Joh 15:25-31

Pap. Oxyrh. 847, British Museum, iv, contains John 2:11-22.

Pap. Oxyrh. 1780, British Museum, iv, contains John 8:14-21.

Pap. Oxyrh. 1596, British Museum, iv, contains John 6:8-12. Joh 6:17-22.

There are many other papyrus fragments, some of early date; the above are mentioned as specimens of the available material.


Information as to most of these will be found in the textbooks. We give brief references for those which have been recently brought to light:

B Vaticanus (δ 1). Rome. Cent. iv.

א Sinaiticus (δ 2). Leningrad. iv.

A Alexandrinus (δ 4). British Museum. v. Cc. 6:50-8:52 are missing.

C Ephræmi (δ 3). Paris. v. Palimpsest. Contains considerable fragments of Jn.

D Bezæ (δ 5). Cambridge. v-vi. Græco-Latin. Cc. 18:14-20:13 are missing in the Greek text, and the gap has been filled by a ninth-century scribe (Dsupp).

T Borgianus (ε 5). Rome. v. Græco-Sahidic. Contains cc. 6:28-67, 7:6-8:31.

Tb Muralt (ε 31). Leningrad. vi. Contains cc. 1:25-42, Song of Solomon 2:9-14, 4:34-50.

Tw (ε 35). British Museum. vi. Græco-Sahidic. Contains cc. 3:5-4:49 with a few gaps. For a collation by Crum and Kenyon, cf. J.T.S. April 1900, p. 415 f. See on 3:18, 4:6.

W Freer (ε 014). Washington. iv-vi. Discovered in Egypt in 1906. The Gospels are in the order Mt., Jn., Lk., Mk. Collation in The Washington MS. of the Four Gospels, by H. A. Sanders (1912).

N Purpureus Petropolitanus (ε 19). Dispersed through the libraries of Leningrad, Patmos, Rome, Vienna, and British Museum. vi. Some pages are missing. Edited by H. S. Cronin in Cambridge Texts and Studies (1899).

L Regius (ε 56). Paris. viii. Cc. 15:2-20, 21:15-25 are missing.

Θ Koridethi (ε 050). Tiflis. viii-ix. Discovered at Koridethi, in Russian territory, and edited by Beermann & Gregory (Leipzig, 1913). The text is akin to that of fam. 13, fam. 1, and the cursives 28, 565, 700. See Lake and Blake in Harvard Theol. Review (July 1923) and Streeter, The Four Gospels. Cf. also J.T.S. Oct. 1915, April and July 1925.

Γ (ε 70) Oxford and Leningrad. ix-x. Contains Song of Solomon 1:1-13, 8:3-15:24, 19:6 to end.

Δ Sangallensis (ε 76). St. Gall. ix-x. Græco-Latin.

Secondary uncials are not specified here; nor has reference been made to two fragmentary palimpsest uncials of the fifth century, at Leningrad and the British Museum respectively (von Soden’s ε 1 and ε 3).


Of the vast mass of minuscules, only a few need be mentioned.

The following are notable: 33 (δ 48), Paris, ix-x, perhaps the best of all the cursives, akin to BDL at many points; 28 (ε 168), Paris, xi; 157 (ε 207), Rome, xii; 565 (ε 93), Leningrad, ix-x; 700 (ε 133), London, xi, ed. Hoskier (under the numeration 604).

The twelve cursives numbered 13, 69, 124, 230, 346, 543, 788, 826, 828, 983, 1689, 1709, are descended from a lost common ancestor. Salmon directed Ferrar’s attention to 13, 69, 124, 346; and Ferrar began a collation, which was completed and published by T. K. Abbott in 1877.1 The group may be cited as fam. 13. See above on Θ, and for the position of 7:52-8:11 in this group, see note on the Pericope.

Nos. 1, 118, 131, 209 are also akin to each other and to Θ, and may be cited as fam. 1 (see K. Lake, Cod. 1 and its Allies, 1902).

Ancient Versions

The Old Latin MSS. are cited under the letters a, b, e, f, ff2, etc., Jerome’s Vulgate being vg. The relative value of the African and European texts of the O.L. is too intricate for discussion here.

The Old Syriac version probably goes back to Tatian’s Diatessaron, and in any case to sæc. iii sub init. We have it in two MSS.; Syr. sin. of sæc. iv, discovered at Mt. Sinai in 1892, and Syr. cur. of sæc. v, edited by Cureton in 1858, both being accessible in Burkitt’s indispensable Evangelion da Mepharreshê (1904).1 The Peshitta or Syriac vulgate is of sæc. v.

The Coptic vss. have been fully edited in the Sahidic and Bohairic texts by G. Homer (1901-1924). The Sahidic generally follows אB, but has a Western element.

The oldest MS. of Jn. in this version (sæc. iv) was discovered in 1913 and edited by Sir H. Thompson in 1924. By him it is called Q, and it is now in the Bible Society’s House in London. It is in codex form, made up of twenty-five sheets of papyrus, folded together so as to make a single quire (cf. p. xiv above). It has a good text like אB, and omits the Pericope de adultera.

The text printed in this volume is similar to that followed by Westcott and Hort, and by Bernhard Weiss, although not identical with either. It is convenient to indicate here the more important instances in which the reading that has been adopted after due consideration of the evidence (of the manuscripts and of the context alike) differs from that accepted by most recent critics. At 1:41, 19:29, 20:17 readings have been suggested or adopted which have very little manuscript authority (if any), but which must be judged on their own merits as emendations. Other weakly attested readings are accepted at 10:29, 11:42, 12:9, 17:11, 18:1. And at 9:4, 14:4, 14, 16:22 reasons have been given for following the textus receptus rather than its modern rivals. In each case, the variants have been examined in the notes in loc.

(II) Dislocations of the Text

There are some passages in the Fourth Gospel which present difficulties in their traditional context; and critical opinion has, during the last half-century, been favourable, on the whole, to the conclusion that, whether by accidental transposition of pages of the original, or by perverse editorial revision, they have been removed from their proper position.


Of such instances of dislocation of the text, perhaps the strongest case can be made for the transposition of Song of Solomon 5:0 and 6. The first modern critic to urge that the order of these chapters should be interchanged was Canon J. P. Norris,1 and his suggestion has been accepted by many scholars.

The words of 6:1, “After these things (μετὰ ταῦτα) Jesus went away to the other side of the sea of Galilee,” are oddly chosen if a journey from Jerusalem is in the author’s mind, which must be the case if the events of c. 6 are consecutive to those of c. 5. To know which is the “other” side of the lake, we must know the point of departure. In 6:22 πέραν τῆς θαλάσσης means the eastern side, in 6:25 the western side; just as in Mark 5:1 the same phrase means the eastern side, and in 5:21 the western side. No doubt, for one who followed the ordinary road from Jerusalem northward, the “other” side would be either the northern or the eastern coast. But a journey from Jerusalem through Samaria and Lower Galilee, which extended either round the northern end of, or across, the lake to the neighbourhood of Bethsaida Julias, would be described very elliptically by the sentence, “He went away to the other side of the sea.” On the other hand, the phrase is quite natural if we suppose Him to start from Capernaum, i.e. if we treat c. 6 as following immediately on c. 4. Then all is clear. The nobleman’s son at Capernaum has been healed by Jesus (4:54), who is in the neighbourhood, that is, near the western shore of the lake; and the next thing recorded is that “after these things Jesus went away to the other side” (i.e. the north-eastern shore) of the lake, where, it is added, “a great multitude followed Him because they beheld the signs which He did on them that were sick.” Among the more noteworthy of these was the “second sign” in Galilee, i.e. the healing of the nobleman’s son.

Again, the opening words of c. 7, “After these things Jesus walked in Galilee, for He would not walk in Judæa, because the Jews sought to kill Him,” do not follow naturally upon c. 6. The whole of c. 6 is occupied with Galilæan discourse and miracle; why, then, should the fact that “He walked in Galilee” be emphasised at 7:1? And no hint has been given in c. 6 that “the Jews” were so indignant at His words that they sought to kill Him. On the other hand, the words of 7:1 come naturally in succession to the narrative of c. 5 (but see below, p. xix), which contains the controversy of the Jews consequent on the healing of the impotent man on the Sabbath, after which it is expressly said that the Jews sought to kill Jesus (5:18). A retirement from Jerusalem to Galilee was quite natural then; but it was only for a short time, and He went back to Jerusalem to resume His ministry there at the Feast of Tabernacles (7:10). That no very long interval of time elapsed between the controversies of c. 7 and those of c. 5 is shown by the allusion in 7:21 to the healing of 5:5. We cannot interpolate between these two points a long ministry in Galilee.

The narrative proceeds smoothly if we adopt the order, c. 4 (Samaria and Galilee), c. 6 (Galilee), c. 5 (Jerusalem, a period to which we must assign, as we shall see, 7:15-24; see p. xix), c. 7:1-9 (a retirement to Galilee), c. 7:10-14, 25-52 (another visit to Jerusalem).

It should be added that, if the traditional order of cc. 4-7 be followed, there is a difficulty in identifying the Feast mentioned at 5:1; the Passover, Pentecost, Dedication, Tabernacles, Purim, being advocated in turn by various expositors. But if we place c. 5 after c. 6, the identification is obvious. It is the Feast of the Passover, which has been mentioned at 6:4 as “at hand.”

Of independent evidence for this transposition of Song of Solomon 5:0 and 6, there is none that can be relied on.

Irenæus, e.g., a very early commentator on the Fourth Gospel, regards the feast of 5:1 as the Passover, and does not mention the feast of 6:4. But, nevertheless, he takes Song of Solomon 5:0 and 6 in their traditional order, and places the Feeding of the Five Thousand after the Healing of the Man at Bethesda (Hæer. ii. xxii. 3).

Origen, too, has a phrase which, if it stood by itself, would favour the view that Song of Solomon 5:0 and 7 are consecutive. When commenting on c. 4, he says (p. 250) that the feast of 5:1 was not likely to be the Passover, because “shortly afterwards it is stated” (μετʼ ὀλίγα ἐπιφέρεται) ὅτι ἦν ἐγγὺς ἡ ἑορτὴ τῶν Ἰουδαίων, ἡ σκηνοπηγία (7:2). In other words, he says that 7:2 comes “shortly after” 5:1, a quite reasonable statement if c. 6 precedes c. 5, but hardly defensible if c. 6, with its seventy-one verses, separates c. 5 from c. 7. However, in the same commentary (pp. 268, 280), he clearly takes c. 5 as following on c. 4 in the traditional order.

Tatian’s distribution of Johannine material in his Diatessaron is remarkable. He does not scruple to disturb the Johannine order of incidents, as we have them in the traditional text; and, in particular, he adopts the order cc. 6, 4:4-45, Song of Solomon 6:5, Song of Solomon 6:7. He was probably led to this by internal evidence; but it is possible (although not likely) that he may be following the authority of texts or documents no longer accessible to us. In any case, the evidence of the Diatessaron provides a corroboration, ualeat quantum, of the conclusion that Song of Solomon 5:0 and 6 are not now in their right order.


A second case of “dislocation” of the original text of Jn. has already been mentioned (p. xviii). If we remove the section 7:15-24 from its traditional position, and append it to c. 5, we shall find not only that its language is more appropriate as the conclusion of c. 5, but that 7:25f. follows most naturally upon 7:14.

The allusion to the γπάμματα of Moses (5:47) provokes the question “How does this one know γράμματα” (7:15) i.e. the writings of the Law with their interpretation. But there is nothing in 7:14 which suggests any such query, for nothing has been said in 7:14 as to the learned nature of the teaching which Jesus is giving. The more natural sequel to 7:14 Isaiah 7:25, where the citizens of Jerusalem express surprise that such a teacher should be an object of suspicion to the rulers.

Again in 7:19 the question, “Why seek ye to kill me?” is very abrupt, and is hardly consistent at this point with the favourable reception from the people of which 7:12 tells. But it is quite in place if the section 7:15-24 is a continuation of the controversy of c. 5; one of the consequences was that the Jews had sought to kill Jesus (5:18). Indeed, the themes of 7:15-24 are throughout the same as in c. 5; and at 7:16, 17 Jesus defends Himself, exactly as at 5:30, by explaining that His doctrine was not His own, but given Him by the Father, whose will He came to do.

Again at 7:18 He reverts to what has been said at 5:41, 44, about the untrustworthiness of those who seek only their own glory. At 7:22 He turns against themselves their appeal to Moses as the exponent of the Law, as He had done at 5:46.

And at 7:23 He makes a direct reference to the cure of the impotent man at Bethesda (5:9), which, because it was wrought on a Sabbath day, was the beginning of their quarrel with Him. It is very difficult to interpret 7:23 if we suppose it to refer to something which had happened months before; it is evidently present to the minds of His interlocutors, whose feelings as aroused by it He describes in the present tense, θαυμάζετε … χολᾶτε (7:21, 23). And, finally, the mention of “just judgment” at 7:24 brings us back to 5:30.

It is possible that the transference of the section 7:15-24 from its true position was due to the mistake of a copyist, who took the words “Is not this He whom they seek to kill?” in 7:25 as requiring 7:19 in the immediate context, forgetting that 5:18, 7:1 are both equally apposite.

But, however that may be, that a dislocation of the text is here apparent has been accepted by Wendt,1 Bacon,2 Moffatt,3 Paul,4 and many other critics.


We proceed next to consider the difficulties presented by the traditional order of cc. 13, 14, 15, 16, 17; and some reasons will be given for the conclusion that the order adopted in this commentary, viz. 13:1-30, 15, 16, 13:31-38, 14, 17, more nearly represents the intention of the original writer.

It is plain that “Arise, let us go hence,” at the end of c. 14 is awkward in this position, if the teachings of cc. 15, 16 follow immediately. This suggests that cc. 15, 16 should precede c. 14; and then 14:31 would be the last word of the discourse delivered in the upper room, c. 17 (the high-priestly prayer) being offered as the Lord with the Eleven stood up before they left the house for Gethsemane. Again, “I will no longer talk much with you” (14:30) is followed by two chapters of further discourse, in the traditional order of the text, whereas it would be a natural phrase, if the discourse were reaching its end, and 14:25-31 were the final paragraph of farewell.

There are several sayings in c. 16 which suggest that it should come before c. 14. Thus Jesus says (16:5), “None of you ask where I am going.” But Peter asked this very question (13:36), and Thomas implied that he would like to know the answer (14:5). These queries more naturally come after 16:5 than before it.

Another point emerges on comparison of 16:32 with Mark 14:27. Both of these passages tell how Jesus warned the Eleven that they would shortly be put to a severe test of faithfulness, in which they would fail. “All ye shall be made to stumble: for it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered abroad” (Mark 14:27). “The hour is come when ye shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave me alone” (John 16:32). Now Mk. places the confident assurance of Peter, and the sad prediction of his denial, immediately after this. We should expect the same sequence in Jn.; and we find it very nearly, if 13:31-38 is placed after 16:33, for the incident of Peter’s boast and rebuke is narrated in 13:35-38. Again, 14:19 seems to come more naturally after 16:16f. than before these verses in which the disciples express bewilderment at the enigmatic saying, “A little while and ye behold me not,” etc. The language of 16:17 suggests that this saying was new to the hearers, whereas it occurs with an explanation in 14:19 (cf. 13:33). See also on 14:19 for the priority of the verse 16:10.

We now turn to c. 15. The allegory of the Vine in the traditional text begins abruptly, nor is there any sequence with what precedes in the last verses of c. 14. But, as we have shown elsewhere,1 if we place c. 15 immediately after 13:30, the point in the narrative at which the Eucharist was instituted, we find a complete explanation of the sacramental thoughts which appear in 15:1-8. And there are other clues which point to the sequence of 15:1f. with 13:30.

Thus the unfruitful branch of 15:2 has an obvious allusion to Judas, who has just gone away to his act of treachery, if c. 15 follows 13:30 directly. The words ὑμεῖς καθαροί ἐστε of 15:3 become more forcible the nearer they are brought to ὑμεῖς καθαροί ἐστε,�

To this argument, the evidence of Tatian’s Diatessaron gives corroboration. For, whatever his reason may have been, Tatian rearranges the text of John 12:0. His order is, John 12:19-36a, then verses from Mt., Lk., John 12:42-50, verses from Lk., John 12:36-41. He differs from the conclusion which we have reached as to vv. 42, 43; but either he noticed that 12:36b-41 could not stand in the text in the position in which we find them, or (less probably) he was following manuscripts which placed these verses in the order that we have adopted as the true one.2


Mention must be made here of a rearrangement of the text in c. 18 which has been adopted by many good critics, but which is not followed in the present commentary.

In 1893 F. Spitta,3 taking the view that ὁ�

Part II. (Song of Solomon 5:7, Song of Solomon 5:8-12) has to do with the Jerusalem ministry of Jesus, and extends over a second year.

Part III. (cc. 13-20) is wholly concerned with the Passion and Resurrection.

More at length, the structure may be exhibited as follows:


This (1:1-18) is primarily a Hymn on the Logos, interspersed with explanatory comments by the evangelist.


1:19-51 The ministry of John the Baptist, and the call of the first disciples of Jesus

2:1-12 Ministry at Cana of Galilee (the first “sign”).

2:13-25 Cleansing of the Temple (Jerusalem: Passover)

3:1-15 Discourse with Nicodemus on the New Birth

3:16-21, 31-36 Evangelist’s commentary thereon.

3:22-30 Ministry in Judæa.

4:1-42 Samaria and the woman of Sychar.

4:43-54 Return to Galilee.

Healing of the nobleman’s son.

6:1-15 Feeding of the Five Thousand.

6:16-25 Return to Capernaum.

6:26-60 Discourses on the Bread of Life.

6:60-71 Perplexity of disciples, and the defection of many.

Only the Twelve stand fast.


5:1-9 Cure of impotent man (Jerusalem: Passover).

5:10-19 Argument about Sabbath observance.

5:20-29 The relation of the Son to the Father.

5:30-40 The threefold witness to Jesus’ claims.

5:41-47, 7:15-24 Argument with the Jewish doctors.

7:1-9 Retirement to Galilee.

7:10-14, 25-36 Teaching of Jesus in the Temple (Jerusalem: Feast of Tabernacles) arouses hostility.

7:37-52 His appeal to the people: intervention of Nicodemus.

8:12-59 His claim to be the Light of the World: indignation of the Pharisees.

9:1-41 Cure of blind man: his confession of Christ:

condemnation of the Pharisees.

10:19-21 Consequent diversity of opinion about Jesus.

10:22-29, 1-6 The Feast of the Dedication: Discourse about the Jews’ unbelief: other shepherds are false guides.

10:7-18 Jesus claims to be the Door of the sheep and the Good Shepherd.

10:30-42 Jesus is accused of blasphemy, and retires beyond Jordan.

11:1-57 The raising of Lazarus (Bethany): another brief retirement.

12:1-11 The supper at Bethany.

12:12-22 The triumphal entry to Jerusalem: the Greek inquirers.

12:23-36a Announcement of His Passion: His agony of spirit: perplexity of the bystanders.

12:44-50 A last warning: a last appeal to those who rejected Him.

12:36b-43 Evangelist’s commentary on Jewish unbelief as foreordained in prophecy.


13:1-20 The Last Supper; the Feet-washing; its spiritual lesson.

13:21-30 Jesus foretells His betrayal: Judas departs.

13:31a, 15, 16 The Last Discourses.

13:31b-38, 14 The Last Discourses.

17:1-26 The Last Prayer.

18:1-14 Jesus arrested and brought to Annas.

18:15-18 Peter’s first denial.

18:19-24 Examination before Annas: Jesus sent on to Caiaphas.

18:25-27 Peter’s second and third denials.

18:28-40 Jesus accused before Pilate; His first examination by Pilate, who fails to secure His release.

19:1-7 The scourging and mockery: Pilate fails again to save Jesus.

19:8-16 His second examination by Pilate, who fails a third time to save Him, and pronounces sentence.

19:17-24 The Crucifixion: the soldiers.

19:25-30 Three sayings of Jesus from the Cross.

19:31-42 The piercing of His side: His burial.

20:1-10 The sepulchre found empty.

20:11-18 Appearance of the Risen Lord to Mary Magdalene.

20:19-23 His first appearance to the disciples: their commission.

20:24-29 The incredulity of Thomas dispelled at His second appearance to them.

20:30, 31 Colophon: scope and purpose of the Gospel.


21:1-17 Appearance of the Risen Christ by the Sea of Galilee.

21:18-23 Prediction of Peter’s martyrdom: a misunderstood saying about John.

21:24, 25 Concluding notes of authentication.

The concluding sentences in each of these sections are noteworthy, as indicating the careful planning of the narrative.

The last words of the Prologue are a summary of the theme of the Gospel, viz. the Manifestation of the Father through His Son (1:18).

Part I. is mainly occupied with the Ministry of the first year, which was largely in Galilee. Its happy progress is recorded, but this ends with the defection of many disciples (6:66). Here is the first suggestion of failure.

Part II. tells of the Ministry at Jerusalem, the success of which would be fundamental, and of the fierce opposition which it provoked. Its climax is the final rejection of Jesus by the Jews, upon which the evangelist comments in a few sombre words (12:36b-43).

Part III. narrates the Passion, which seemed the end, and the Resurrection, which was really the victorious beginning. The final words explain the purpose of the writing of the Gospel which is now concluded (20:30, 31).

The authentication at the end of the Appendix (21:24, 25) has its own special significance. For the Appendix, see on 21:1f.


It is generally recognised that the story of the adulterous woman (7:53-8:11) is not Johannine, and that it was interpolated by scribes at an early date. This is discussed in the note on the Pericope. There are three or four other passages which suggest a hand other than that of Jn., and are probably due to editorial revision, being added after the Gospel was finished, perhaps before it was issued to the Church. Thus 4:1, 2 is a passage which has been rewritten for the sake of clearness, but the style is not that of Jn. So 6:23 is an explanatory non-Johannine gloss. The verse 5:4 is rejected by modern editors from the text as insufficiently attested, but linguistic evidence alone would mark it as non-Johannine. 11:2 is undoubtedly an explanatory or parenthetical comment, but it is possible that it is added by Jn., although there are non-Johannine touches of style: cf. 11:5. There is also some doubt about the comment at 12:16, which reads as if it was not due to the original evangelist, but to some one who had the Synoptic, rather than the Johannine, story in his mind at this point.


These non-Johannine glosses must not be confused with the comments which Jn. makes, as he proceeds, on his narrative, and on the words which he records. These appear not only in the body of the Gospel, but in the Prologue (cf. p. 145; see on 1:6f, 12, 15) and in the Appendix (21:19). At 2:21, 7:39, 12:33, 17:3 Jn. offers an explanation of words of Jesus which he thinks may be misunderstood, and at 6:61, 64 he calls attention to a point that may be missed. He points out a misunderstanding on the part of the Jews (7:22, 8:27) and of the disciples (11:13). He notes that certain words of the Jews correspond with what Jesus had said about His death (18:32; cf. 4:44). He ascribes motives to Judas (12:6) and to the rulers (12:43). He gives brief elucidations, such as could be needed only by those to whom the details would be new (4:9, 6:71; cf. 2:24, 7:5). He pauses to note the irony of Caiaphas’ unconscious prophecy (11:51). His general habit, however, is to pass over without comment (see on 1:45) any obvious mistake or misapprehension as to the Person of Christ. These mistakes his readers will correct for themselves, while they need help in regard to obscure sayings.

The special interest of the concluding paragraph of Part II. has already been noticed (p. xxxiii). Here the evangelist ends the narrative of the ministry of Jesus at Jerusalem and His rejection there, by quoting, as part of his own comment, several verses from the O.T. which show how Jewish unbelief had been foreordained in prophecy (12:36b-43).

1 See p. 68.

J.T.S. Journal of Theological Studies (1900-1926).

B Vaticanus (δ 1). Rome. Cent. iv.

D Bezæ (δ 5). Cambridge. v-vi. Græco-Latin. Cc. 18:14-20:13 are missing in the Greek text, and the gap has been filled by a ninth-century scribe (Dsupp).

L Regius (ε 56). Paris. viii. Cc. 15:2-20 21:15-25 are missing.

1 Cf. also Rendel Harris, The Ferrar Group (1900).

Θ̠Koridethi (ε 050). Tiflis. vii-ix. Discovered at Koridethi, in Russian territory, and edited by Beermann & Gregory (Leipzig, 1913). The text is akin to that of fam. 13, fam. 1, and the cursives 28, 565, 700 See Lake and Blake in Harvard Theol. Review (July 1923) and Streeter, The Four Gospels. Cf. also J.T.S. Oct. 1915, April and July 1925.

1 For harmonistic rearrangements of the text in Syr. sin., cf. p. xxvi.

אԠSinaiticus (δ 2). Leningrad. iv.

1 In the Journal of Philology, 1871, p. 107. Norris added later that the suggestion had been made by a fourteenth-century writer, Ludolphus de Saxonia.

1 Gospel according to St. John, p. 85.

2 The Fourth Gospel, p. 499.

3 Introd. to N. T., p. 554.

4 Hibbert Journal, April 1909.

1 See on 15:1; and cf. p. clxxiii. f.

2 See, further, note on 15:10.

1 Westcott (Introd. cxxxi) finds, indeed, a “progress” in the teaching about the Paraclete, taking the chapters in the usual order; but he takes no account of the difference between the Paraclete of Christ in 15:26, 16:7 and the Paraclete of the Church in 16:13, 14:16, 26.

2 See also Bacon, Fourth Gospel, p. 500.

3 See, for the various hypotheses as to the place of cc. 15, 16, Moffatt, Introd. to Lit. of N.T., p. 556.

1 Gospel according to St. John, p. 104.

2 Hibbert Journal, April 1909.

Diat. E. A. Abbott’s Diatessarica, including his Johannine Vocabulary and Johannine Grammar, Parts I.-X. (1900-1915).

1 Introd. to N.T., p. 553 n.

2 Disarrangements, etc., pp. 25-31.

3 Expositor, viii. ix. 422.

4 The Beloved Disciple, pp. 20, 84.

5 For this transposition, see Cadoux, J.T.S., July 1919, p. 317.

6 Moffatt has adopted this order is his New Translation of the N.T.

1 Cf. Wendt, l.c. p. 96, and Moffatt, l.c. p. 556.

2 Cf. Bacon, The Fourth Gospel, p. 509, and Moffatt, Introd. to the N.T., p. 556.

3 Gesch. und Lit. d. Urchristenthums, 1893, p. 158.

1 Philology of the Gospels, 1898, p. 59.

2 C. H. Turner (J.T.S., Oct. 1900, p. 141) suggested that the O. L. codex e, from which the leaf between 18:12 and 18:25b has been cut, might have supported Syr. sin.; but cf. Burkitt in Ev. da Mepharr., ii. 316 contra.

3 Cf. Wendt, Fourth Gospel, p. 164, and see also Schmiedel (E.B. 4580), who takes the view adopted in this commentary that no readjustment of the text is necessary.

1 See Moffatt, Introd. to N.T., p. 39.

2 See especially F. J. Paul (Hibbert Journal, April 1909), A. C. Clark (Primitive Text of the Gospels and Acts, 1914), and J. M. Thompson (Expositor, viii. ix. 421 f., 1915).

1 If v. 4 were included, we should have 3795 letters.

2 Codex א is probably derived from a MS. having 11 letters to the line (H. S. Cronin, J.T.S., 1912, p. 563); and the same may be true of B (Clark, Primitive Text, etc., p. 33),

3 Thompson also finds traces of a unit of 208 letters; Clark, on the other hand, attaches special significance to a unit of 160 to 167 letters.

4 See Oxyrhynchus Papyri, vol. ii. (1899), and vol. xv. (1922).

1 The unit of about 750 letters appears again in Jn.’s account of the Cleansing of the Temple, viz. 2:14-22 =764 letters. Reasons have been given (on 2:13) for the opinion that this section is also out of place, but we cannot be sure that Jn. did not deliberately place the Cleansing of the Temple at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, and it has accordingly been left in its traditional position. It would remove some difficulties to place 2:14-22 after 12:19, but new difficulties would arise. E.g., the Jews’ question τί σημεῖον δεικνύεις ἡμῖν; (2:18) would not be suitable after the Raising of Lazarus



(i) John the Apostle was the Beloved Disciple.

(ii) John the Apostle did not suffer Death by Martyrdom.

(iii) John the Apostle and John the Presbyter.

(iv) The Muratorian Fragment and the Latin Prefaces on the Authorship of the Gospel.

(v) The Gospel and the Johannine Epistles were written by John the Presbyter.

(vi) The Apocalypse is not by John the Presbyter, but probably by John the Apostle.

(vii) Summary of Argument as to Authorship.

(viii) Early Citations of the Fourth Gospel.

(I) John the Apostle Was the Beloved Disciple

The notices of John by name are infrequent in the N.T. He was, apparently, the younger of the two sons of Zebedee, the proprietor of a fishing-boat on the Lake of Galilee and a man of sufficient substance to employ servants (Mark 1:19, Mark 1:20). His mother, Salome, was a sister of the Virgin Mary (see on 19:35, 2:12), so that John was a maternal cousin of Jesus. With his brother James, he obeyed the call of Jesus to follow Him as a disciple (Mark 1:20); and it is probable that he had been attracted to His company at an even earlier period (see on John 1:40). In the earliest list of the Twelve (Mark 3:17) James and John 1:0 are given the next place after Peter, but that is only due to the order in which they appear in Peter’s reminiscences. Peter, James, and John are specially associated with Jesus three times in the Synoptic narrative (Mark 5:37, Mark 9:2, Mark 14:33), these incidents disclosing their intimacy with Him. In the last week of His ministry they are found, with Andrew, questioning Him privately (Mark 13:3).

John was rebuked for his uncompromising temper of exclusiveness (Mark 9:38, Luke 9:49), a story which agrees with the report of Irenæus that John would not stay under the same roof as the heretic Cerinthus (Hær. iii. 3, 4). Lk. (9:54) adds another illustration of his intolerance, James and John being desirous of invoking the Divine vengeance on those who would not receive their Master hospitably. Finally, the two brothers aroused the indignation of the other apostles by asking that when Messiah’s kingdom was established they should be given the two principal places of honour as His viziers (Mark 10:35; cf. Matthew 20:20, where it is their mother Salome that makes the request). It is clear that they regarded themselves as in no way inferior to Peter; nor is he represented as specially aggrieved by their claim; nor, again, does Jesus in His reply suggest that they were not entitled to the chief place among the Twelve (cf. note on 13:23). But He declares that earthly precedence is reversed in His Kingdom, only asking of James and John if they are able to drink His cup and be baptized with His baptism. They assure Him that they can, and He tells them that so it shall be (Mark 10:39).

James is generally mentioned before John, but in Luke 8:51, Luke 9:28, Acts 1:13, the order is Peter, John, James. Lk. specially associates Peter with John. He notes (Luke 22:8) that it was Peter and John who were entrusted with the preparation for the Last Supper. In Acts 3:1, Acts 3:11, Acts 3:4:13, Peter and John together bear the brunt of Jewish hostility; and, again, these two are selected by the apostles as delegates to confirm the Samaritans (Acts 8:14). As early as the year 55, Paul mentions Peter and John, with James the Lord’s brother, as the pillars of the Church at Jerusalem (Galatians 2:9). Peter is always represented as the spokesman, but John shares with him the responsibilities which leadership brings.

John is represented in Acts 4:13 as being, like Peter,�

John the son of Zebedee is not mentioned by name in the Fourth Gospel, and “the sons of Zebedee” collectively appear only in the Appendix (21:2). Having regard to the important position given to John by the Synoptists, it would be strange if he were ignored by the Fourth Evangelist. As has been said above, he may be indicated at 1:35 (where see note); and we now inquire if any disciple is mentioned by Jn., without being named, who is specially associated with Peter, as John is by Luke.

An unnamed disciple is mentioned (18:15) as having, in company with Peter, followed Jesus after His arrest; being known to the high priest, he was admitted to the inner court, while Peter had to stay outside. This might have been John the son of Zebedee, but there is no real evidence that it was one of the Twelve (see note on 18:15).

In three passages, however, an unnamed friend of Peter is described as “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” First, the Beloved Disciple has a place next Jesus at the Last Supper, and Peter beckons to him to discover the name of the traitor. This must have been one of the Twelve1 (see on 13:23), and so his identification with John the son of Zebedee is suggested.

Secondly, Peter and “the other disciple whom Jesus loved,” run together to the sepulchre which Mary Magdalene had reported to be empty (20:2f.). The Beloved Disciple’s eagerness to be first at the tomb, his hesitation to enter it when it was reached, and his “belief” when he saw that it was empty, are graphically described.

Thirdly, the two disciples whose fates are contrasted in 21:15-23 are, again, Peter and ὁ μαθητὴς ὃν ἠγάπα ὁ Ἰησοῦς; and the latter is, apparently, a fisherman, as we know John the son of Zebedee to have been. The narrative of the Appendix helps the identification in another way. The “Beloved Disciple” must be one of the seven persons indicated in 21:2, and among these the sons of Zebedee are expressly included. James is excluded, for the tradition of v. 23 could not have arisen in regard to him (Acts 12:2), so that if the Beloved Disciple were not John the apostle, he must be either Thomas, Nathanael, or one of the two innominati (see on 21:2 for the possibilities).

Now the constant tradition of the early Church was that the name of the Beloved Disciple was John. Irenæus (Hær. iii. 1, 1) and Polycrates (see p. 1. below) are explicit about this. So are the second-century Acts of John �

This tradition has, however, been challenged; and some critics have put forward the theory that John the apostle, the son of Zebedee, died as a martyr early in his apostolic career,3 while a different person, viz. John the Beloved Disciple, lived to be an old man, and died peacefully at Ephesus. In a seventhor eighth-century Epitome of the History of Philip of Side (fl. circa 450) the statement is found that “Papias in the second book says that John the Divine and James his brother were killed by the Jews.” A ninth-century writer, George the Sinner, reproduces part of this, and claims the fact that both of the sons of Zebedee met a violent death as a fulfilment of the Lord’s prediction, Mark 10:39. For this story there is, however, no other authority than the epitomiser of Philip of Side, while, since the second century, the Christian Church has always accepted the statement of Irenæus that John died a natural death.

The problem as to the death of John the apostle is so important in view of the inferences which have been drawn from it, that the method adopted by the epitomiser of Philip of Side, and also his trustworthiness, must be examined in detail, however tedious.


The series of extracts from ecclesiastical histories,1 one of which is here in question, are headed by the rubric: “A collection of different narratives, from the birth of our Lord according to the flesh, beginning from the first book (λόγου) of the ecclesiastical history of Eusebius.” The collection falls into seven sections, all of which borrow matter from Eusebius, but in one or two instances make use of tradition not found in that author’s extant works. The sixth of these sections is concerned with Papias, and is printed in full in Lightfoot’s Apostolic Fathers, p. 518. Much of the collection is in Eusebius; and it must be borne in mind that the Epitomiser does not profess to quote Papias at first hand. He only gives a summary (like a series of notes) of what he found in Philip of Side, who may or may not have had direct access to the writings of Papias. We shall describe him throughout as the Epitomiser, leaving it an open question (as we must) whether he correctly represents Philip of Side or not.

(a) The Epitomiser begins: “Papias, bishop of Hierapolis, who was a hearer of John the Divine and a companion of Polycarp, wrote five books (λόγους) of Oracles of the Lord.”1 The description of Papias as�

As in (a) the title ὁ θεολόγος has been added by the Epitomiser (or by Philip); it could not have been used by Papias. The statement then is that “John and James his brother were killed by Jews.” Now James the son of Zebedee was not killed by Jews, but by Herod (Acts 12:2), and Christian historians have never laid the guilt of his death upon the Jews. It is impossible to believe that Papias had any different tradition on the subject. Again, if Papias said that John the son of Zebedee was killed by Jews, we should have expected that in the Epitome incredulity would have been indicated. The Epitomiser believed (see p. xxxix above) that John wrote the Apocalypse, but this would have been impossible had John suffered martyrdom at the hands of the Jews. Nevertheless, the Epitomiser adds no adverse comment upon the belief with which he seems to credit Papias here, as he does in paragraph (b). This statement, then, both in regard to John and to James, provokes the suspicion that it is a misrepresentation or corruption of what Papias said.

I have shown elsewhere1 that the clue to the corruption is found in Jerome’s version of the Chronicle of Eusebius; “Jacobus, frater domini quem omnes Justum appellabant a Judaeis lapidibus opprimitur.” If we compare this with the Armenian version and also with the Greek history of Syncellus which is based on Eusebius, we find that the Greek text of the Chronicle at this point was: ὁ�

A third, and minor, plea in support of the theory that John the apostle died a martyr’s death is based on a statement quoted by Clement of Alexandria (Strom. iv. 9) from the commentary of Heracleon on Luke 12:8f. Schmiedel observes that Heracleon, while expressly mentioning Matthew, Philip, Thomas, and Levi among many who did not suffer death by martyrdom, does not mention John the apostle, who would have been entitled to the first place had Heracleon known of his peaceful end.2 But this is to misunderstand Heracleon, who is combating the extravagant claims sometimes made on behalf of “confessors.” We must distinguish, he says, those who have been called to make public confession of their faith before a magistrate from those who have only made their Christian confession in peaceful ways of life. For instance, we must place Matthew, Philip, Thomas, etc., in the latter category. Heracleon does not claim these apostles as “confessors with the voice.” And he does not put John the apostle among them, because he inherited the general Christian tradition that John had made confession and had been exiled to Patmos διὰ τὴν μαρτυρίαν Ἰησοῦ (Revelation 1:9). Whether Heracleon were right or wrong as to the fortunes of the apostles whom he names is not to the point. But, on his view, it is certain that he could not have excluded John from those who bore public witness to their faith. The example of John would not have served his purpose on any view of the apostle’s end. I submit that Schmiedel’s argument based on Heracle on must be set aside.


Lastly, the idea that Mark 10:39, Mark 10:40 contains a prediction of John’s death by violence rests upon a forgetfulness of the context and a misunderstanding of the words employed. (1) None of the apostles believed at the time that Jesus was going to die, and the affirmation of James and John that they could drink His cup and be baptized with His baptism did not contemplate death for themselves any more than for Him. He knew this, and knew, too, that a prediction of violent death for them both was a prediction which they could not have understood. (2) The present tenses πίνω, βαπτίζομαι, do not point to what was still in the future for Jesus, but to that ministry of sorrow which had already begun for Him. (3) To “drink the cup” is a familiar O.T. metaphor, often descriptive of accepting tribulation appointed by God (Psalms 11:6, Psalms 75:8, Isaiah 51:17, Jeremiah 25:15). It always involves pain, but not necessarily a violent death. (4) βαπτίζεσθαι means here “to be overwhelmed” as it were with a flood of calamity, the verb being used thus Isaiah 21:4 (LXX), Psalms 69:2 (Symmachus), and Psalms 9:15,Psalms 9:1 For the image of an afflicted saint being overwhelmed with tides of misfortune (which do not always end in death), cf. Psalms 32:6, Psalms 42:7, Psalms 69:14, Psalms 88:7. (5) βάπτισμα βαπτίζομαι is a literal Greek rendering of an Aramaic expression meaning “I am being overwhelmed,” i.e. by the deep waters of God’s appointment (cf. Luke 12:50). (6) To suppose that βάπτισμα βαπτίζομαι carries allusion to a “baptism of blood” is an anachronism suggested by the patristic notion that death by martyrdom was like baptism, in that it too brought remission of sins. This idea is found nowhere in the N.T. (7) Origen, even while struggling to relate Mark 10:39, Mark 10:40 to a “baptism of blood,” regards John’s banishment to Patmos and James’ execution by Herod as equally fulfilments of Christ’s saying that they would drink His cup and be baptized with His baptism.2 (8) The plain meaning of Mark 10:39, Mark 10:40 is that they should both endure tribulation and pain even as He was enduring it; and so it came to pass.3

(III) John the Apostle and John the Presbyter

In the preceding section (II) of this chapter we have reached the conclusion that the evidence alleged in favour of the martyrdom of John the apostle by Jews is worthless. We continue to follow the tradition of the second century, that he died in extreme old age at Ephesus, where he was buried. The first allusion to his long life is found in the Appendix to the Fourth Gospel (John 21:21-24), a passage which is harmonious with the earliest tradition.

There is no doubt as to the belief of the second century, which was followed by all Christendom, that John the apostle was the author of the Fourth Gospel, at any rate in the sense that his apostolic witness was behind it. Papias, Irenæus, Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Hippolytus, Tertullian, and others are clear as to this, as we shall see; and most of them ascribed to John the apostle the authorship of the Apocalypse and of the Johannine Epistles as well. We shall examine in detail the evidence of Irenæus, Polycrates, and Papias, as much depends on the precise words which they use. We shall find ourselves compelled by Papias to recognise the existence of two Johns, both of whom lived at Ephesus at the end of the first century; although the literature of the second century, outside Papias, betrays no knowledge of that.

The evidence of second-century writers cannot be interpreted until we have apprehended the meanings which they attach to the words apostle, presbyter, disciple. Most of our evidence as to this terminology must come from Irenæus, as little is extant of the writings of Papias and Polycrates, while Justin has not much to tell about John.


The term “apostles” stands primarily for the Twelve, Paul also being an apostle (cf. Justin, Dial. 81, Irenæus, Hær. iii. 13, 1, iv. 21. 1). As in Acts 1:22, 1 Corinthians 9:1, the essential condition is that an “apostle” has “seen the Lord,” and can therefore give his testimony at first hand. Clement of Alexandria speaks of Barnabas as an�

As in Acts 15:4, Acts 15:22, the distinction between�

The term “the Lord’s disciples” is used sometimes, as it is still, in the widest sense. Those who leave all and follow Jesus are thus described by Irenæus (iv. 8. 3), while the phrase discipuli Christi is used more generally still (v. 22. 1). But the term is also applied in a stricter sense to those who were among the first disciples, a circle including, but wider than, that of the Twelve. Thus Irenæus in one place distinguishes the “apostles” from the “disciples of the Lord.” Commenting on Acts 4:24f. he says, αὗται φωναὶ τῆς ἐκκλησίας … αὗται φωναὶ τῶν�

We must collect now what Irenæus says about John (as distinct from John the Baptist). The title “the disciple of the Lord” in the singular is applied by Irenæus to no one but John; and he speaks a dozen times of “John the disciple of the Lord.” E.g. this is the designation of the author of the Prologue to the Gospel (i. 8. 5, ii. 2. 5, iii. 11. 1. 3), as of the author of the Gospel itself (ii. 22. 3, iii. 16. 5), John 2:23 and 20:31 being quoted. Irenæus is explicit about this (iii. 1. 1): Ἰωάννης ὁ μαθητὴς τοῦ κυρίου ὁ καὶ ἐπὶ τὸ στῆθος αὐτοῦ�

Finally, for Irenæus, John was an apostle. Having cited the language of the Prologue, which he ascribes to John, he notes: ὅτι δὲ οὐ περὶ τῶν συζυγιῶν αὐτῶν ὁ�

Polycrates, however, has something more to say of John, who is mentioned immediately after Philip:1 Ἰωάννης ὁ ἐπὶ τὸ στῆθος τοῦ κυρίου�John 13:25, viz.�

By Polycrates John is called μάρτυς. We have already examined and set aside the idea that John the apostle came to his death by martyrdom at the hands of the Jews in early days (p. xxxviii f.). But Polycrates cannot mean that John the apostle was μάρτυς in this sense, for, if that were so, he would have had no connexion with the Church of Ephesus, and he could not have been cited as one of the great lights of the Church in Asia Minor. And if it be suggested that Polycrates has here in mind some other John, it must be rejoined that no one with that name is known to the tradition of the first or second century (or even later) as having come to a violent end at Ephesus because of his Christian profession.

Further, had Polycrates meant to describe the John to whom he refers as having ended his life by martyrdom, the fact that he was μάρτυς would have been mentioned last, after his career as διδάσκαλος had been noted. In the cases of Polycarp and the rest, ἐπίσκοπος καὶ μάρτυς is the description of their Christian course. They were bishops before they were martyrs, and to have written μάρτυς καὶ ἐπίσκοπος would have been both clumsy and ambiguous.

It is clear, then, that μάρτυς as applied to John of Ephesus by Polycrates must mean “witness” or “confessor” rather than “martyr.” We have already referred to the description of John in later literature as a “martyr,” the idea going back to Revelation 1:9 (see p. xliv). But the famous person to whom Polycrates refers, viz. the Beloved Disciple, is specially noted in the Fourth Gospel for his μαρτυρία. “This is the disciple which beareth witness (μαρτυρίαν) of these things … and we know that his witness is true” (John 21:24). It was because of the value of his μαρτυρία that the recollections of John were regarded with such veneration, and were certified as authentic by the Ephesian Church when the Fourth Gospel was first published. He was the witness to whom solemn appeal is also made at John 19:35 (cf. 3 John 1:12). To the Ephesian Church, where this Gospel was first put forth, John the Beloved Disciple, as the final authority for the facts which it records, was pre-eminently μάρτυς after a fashion that no other Ephesian Christian could ever be.

Polycrates also calls John of Ephesus διδάσκαλος. This is a title which might fitly be used of any Christian teacher.1 But it is perhaps significant that the second-century Acts of John have preserved this title as applied to John the apostle.2 In § 37 Andronicus is made to say of him, ὁπόταν ὁ διδάσκαλος Θέλῃ, τότε πορευθῶμεν (cf. also § 73). It does not appear that any other apostle is described in the apocryphal Acta, or elsewhere, as ὁ διδάσκαλος, “the Teacher,” par excellence.3

Like Irenæus, Polycrates does not suggest that there were two eminent Christian leaders called John in Ephesus at the end of the first century. Had there been a second John of such wide reputation that his name and position were known and respected at Rome, we should have expected the bishop of Ephesus to include him also among the “great lights,” whom he mentions in his letter to Pope Victor. It does not follow, however, that Polycrates had never heard of a second John. That might be true of Irenæus, but the traditions of the see of Ephesus could not have been unknown to its bishop. All that can be inferred from the language of Polycrates is that, if there were at Ephesus in the first century a John other than John the Beloved Disciple, he was not adduced as an authority on the Paschal controversy.

An argument based on silence is generally precarious. In this instance, Polycrates does not mention at all the name of Claudius Apollinaris of Hierapolis, who took an active part at Laodicea in supporting the Quartodeciman practice, about the year 165, and wrote on the subject. It could not be argued that Polycrates did not know of him, although it is not clear why he does not name him as one of the “great lights” of Asia.1 Equally, we must not infer that he did not know of a second John, whose existence, as we shall see, Papias had mentioned (p. liii) half a century before.

So, too, Polycrates does not speak (at least in the extant fragment) of John the Beloved Disciple as the actual writer of the Fourth Gospel. It is remarkable that Polycrates does not adduce as a notable honour to Asia Minor the fact that the Fourth Gospel was produced there; but, again, no argument built on omissions of this kind can be conclusive. To the fact, however, we shall return presently.


Papias, who was bishop of Hierapolis in Phrygia, was born about a.d. 70, and died about 146, being thus of the generation preceding Irenæus. A fragment of his λογίων κυριακῶν ἐζηγήσεις tells of the sources from which he gathered information as to Christian origins: “I shall not hesitate to add whatever at any time I learnt well from the presbyters (παρὰ τῶν πρεσβυτέρων καλῶς ἔμαθον). … If I met anywhere with any one who had been a follower of the presbyters, I used to inquire2 what the presbyters had told (τοῦς τῶν πρεσβυτέρων�

Eusebius (iii. 39. 7) reports that “Papias says that he was himself a hearer of Aristion and the presbyter John.” This does not appear from the passage cited, and Eusebius seems to have been uncertain about it, for he adds: “At least (γοῦν) he mentions them frequently by name, and gives their traditions in his writings” (cf. iii. 39. 7, 14). That is a different matter, and there is nothing to discredit it. Of the John who is mentioned first by Papias, along with Peter and the rest, Eusebius says that Papias clearly identified him with the evangelist; and he adds later in the chapter (iii. 39. 17) that Papias had “used testimonies” from the first Epistle of John 2:0

Eusebius is, in our view, right in holding that Papias distinguished the apostle John from “the presbyter John.” For the sayings of the first John, Papias apparently had to make inquiry at a time when John had passed away; but for the sayings of the second John he was able to inquire while John was yet alive. In both cases his informants were the followers of the presbyters who had succeeded the apostles. It is implied that the apostle John died before the presbyter John. Probably the former lived to a great age, as Irenæus implies (cf. p. xlviii); but that a yet younger disciple of Jesus, who may only have been a child during his Master’s public ministry, outlived the aged apostle is in no way improbable.

Another passage from the ἐξηγήσεις of Papias, quoted by Eusebius (H.E. iii. 39. 15) begins with the words καὶ τοῦτο ὁ πρεσβύτερος ἔλεγε κτλ. Here the context in Eusebius shows that ὁ πρεσβύτερος is none other than John the presbyter, some of whose traditions Papias had received. That is, the designation ὁ πρεσβύτερος is treated as sufficiently identifying John the presbyter, although his name is not given. To this we shall return (see p. lxiii).

We conclude that Papias knew of the presbyter John, as distinguished from his older namesake, the apostle John 1:0


No writer for a hundred years after Papias seems to have supported the tradition that more than one John had to be reckoned with. Dionysius of Alexandria (250 a.d.) distinguished two Johns, but he reached this conclusion on critical grounds, as a modern scholar would do. Observing that the style of the Apocalypse differs from that of the Gospel and Epistles,2 he claimed the apostle John as the author only of the latter, while the other John (whom he does not call the πρεσβύτερος) was held by him to be the seer of the Revelation 3:0 In confirmation of this he says that he had heard of two monuments at Ephesus, each bearing the name of John. Eusebius takes up this idea from Dionysius, and mentions it4 as corroborating the existence of two Johns which he had noted in the work of Papias.

It will be convenient at this point to summarise what is said about John by other writers before the time of Dionysius. For none of them is there a Johannine problem.

Clement of Alexandria (fl. 190-200) does not mention a second John. As to the son of Zebedee, he is unambiguous. The apostle John, “when on the tyrant’s death he returned to Ephesus from the isle of Patmos, went away to the neighbouring districts to appoint bishops to set in order whole churches and to ordain” (Quis diues saluetur, § 42). As to the composition of the gospels, Eusebius preserves (H.E. vi. 14. 7) a tradition recorded by: Clement: “Last of all, John, perceiving that the external facts (τὰ σωματικά) had been made plain in the gospels, being urged by his friends and inspired by the Spirit, composed a spiritual gospel.” This he cites (Pæd. i. 6. 38) as the “Gospel according to John,” and quotes as well the Apocalypse (Strom. vi. 13) and Epistle I. (Strom. iv. 16) as the work of John.

Origen (fl. 210-250), who was Clement’s pupil, says that John the Beloved Disciple wrote both Gospel and Apocalypse (Comm. 438, Eus. H.E. vi. 25. 9), and in another place expressly ascribes the Apocalypse to John the son of Zebedee (Comm. 16). He notes (Eus. l.c.) that, while John wrote the first Epistle, it is not universally admitted that he wrote the second and third. He tells elsewhere that the emperor (probably Domitian) banished John to Patmos.1

The Gnostic Acta Iohannis (second century) in like manner speak of John as an apostle and the brother of James (§ 88), also as the Beloved Disciple (§ 89); these Acta tell of John’s residence at Ephesus (§ 18), and use language which betrays knowledge of the Fourth Gospel (§§ 97, 98).

In the West, the tradition is the same. On the Chair of Hippolytus (fl. 190-230) both the Gospel and Apocalypse are ascribed to John, whom Hippolytus describes (ed. Lagarde, p. 17) as at once�

The famous Muratorian Fragment1 on the Canon of the N.T. is part of a book produced at Rome about the year 170, perhaps written by Hippolytus. The fragment is in Latin, but Lightfoot held that probably it had originally been written in Greek.2 It preserves a remarkable story about the composition of the Fourth Gospel. John, ex discipulis, wrote the Fourth Gospel. At the instigation of his fellow-disciples and bishops to write, he bade them fast with him for three days, in order that they should relate to each other afterwards whatever revelation they had received. It was revealed to the apostle Andrew that, with the revision of all (recognoscentibus cunctis), John should describe all things in his own name. “… What wonder is it that John brings forward details with so much emphasis in his epistles …,” 1 John 1:1 being then cited. “For so he professes that he was not only a spectator (uisorem), but also a hearer (auditorem), and moreover a writer (scriptorem) of all the wonders of the Lord in order.” Later on, the Fragment mentions among the canonical epistles two of John (superscripti Johannis duas). The author also names the Apocalypses of John and Peter as received by him, although some were unwilling that they should be read in church.

The circumstantial story about the composition of the Fourth Gospel cannot be historically exact. That the apostle Andrew (and apparently the other apostles as well) lived up to the time when the Gospel was produced is inconsistent with all the evidence on the subject. But that others besides the apostle John were concerned in the publication of the Gospel at Ephesus is probable, and, as we shall see, is a tradition that appears elsewhere. The sentence, “ut recognoscentibus cunctis Iohannes suo nomine cuncta describeret,” does not give the whole credit of authorship to John, whose name, nevertheless, the Gospel bore from the time of its issue. That John was not only uisor and auditor, but actually scriptor, might be taken to lay stress on his being the penman, as well as the witness, of what is narrated. But, as we have urged in the note on John 21:24, γράψας in that passage does not necessarily mean more than “dictated to a scribe.”


Mention must next be made of the well-known Latin Preface to the Vulgate text of John 1:0 Here tradition again reproduces the belief that Johannes euangelista unus ex discipulis dei wrote the Gospel in Asia after the Apocalypse had been written in Patmos, and his death is thus described: “Hic est Johannes qui sciens superuenisse diem recessus sui, conuocatis discipulis suis in Epheso, per multa signorum experimenta promens Christum, descendens in defossum sepulturae locum facta oratione positus est ad patres suos, tam extraneus a dolore mortis quam a corruptione carnis inuenitur alienus.” This goes back to the second-century Acts of John, where it is told at greater length (§§ 111-115). The legend that John’s body did not taste corruption, but that the earth used to tremble over his grave as if he were breathing, is mentioned by Augustine (in John 21:0) as held by some.

In this Preface (and the corresponding prefaces to the Synoptic Gospels) Corssen2 has found traces of Monarchianism. The phrase discipulus dei for discipulus domini is significant; and special stress is laid on the virginity of John. The Preface, as originally written, implies that St. John’s Gospel came next after St. Matthew’s in the accepted order of the books; i.e. that the order was Mt., Jn., Lk., Mk.

Here, the expression “conuocatis discipulis suis in Epheso” is to be noted, for although this is not directly connected by the author with the composition of the Gospel, as is the similar phrase in the Muratorianum, both go back to some early tradition based on, or interpretative of, John 21:24. Corssen ascribes these Monarchian Prefaces to the first quarter of the third century.


More important than the Monarchian Prefaces just mentioned, is another Latin Preface to Jn., found in a tenth-century Bible at Toledo,1 which contains the following passage:

“The apostle John, whom the Lord Jesus loved most, last of all wrote this Gospel, at the request of the bishops of Asia, against Cerinthus and other heretics, and specially against the new dogma of the Ebionites, who say that Christ did not exist before He was born of Mary.” Another reason is added for the writing of the Gospel, viz., that the evangelist wished to supply information, lacking in the Synoptic Gospels, as to the first two years of the public ministry of Jesus.

This is found in substance in Jerome’s de uirr. illustr. § 9, but the Codex Toletanus gives the earlier form. The phrase postulantibus Asiæ episcopis recalls the Muratorian tradition.

But the writer goes on: “This Gospel, it is manifest, was written after the Apocalypse, and was given to the churches in Asia by John while he was yet in the body (adhuc in corpore constituto); as Papias, bishop of Hierapolis, a disciple of John and dear to him, related in his Exoterica, at the end of the five books,2 viz., he who wrote this Gospel at John’s dictation (Johanne subdictante).”

This paragraph is also found in a ninth-century Vatican codex.3 It was apparently translated from the Greek; e.g. adhuc in corpore constituto is a rendering of ἔτι ἐν τῷ σώματι καθεστῶτος, as Lightfoot pointed out. That it goes back to an original of the third or fourth century is a reasonable inference. Burkitt holds that we have in the Toletan Preface the earliest known form of the tradition that the Fourth Gospel was dictated by the aged apostle to a disciple.4

The idea that Papias was the disciple who wrote the Gospel at John’s dictation must be rejected, although it is found at a much later date in a Greek Catena, in the form Ἰωάννης ὑπηγόρευσε τὸ εὐαγγέλιον τῷ ἑαυτοῦ μαθητῇ Παπίᾳ.5 Corssen suggested that there is some confusion between Papas and Prochorus, as in the fifth-century Acta (quite distinct from the second-century Gnostic Acta). Prochorus, a disciple of John, claims that John dictated1 the Gospel to him at Patmos not long before his death at Ephesus, adding that fair parchment had to be obtained that a fair copy might be made (εἰς καθαρογραφίαν τοῦ ἁγίου εὐαγγελίου).2

No one accepts this as historical, whether it applies to Papias (see p. lviii) or Prochorus. But we note once more the widely current tradition that the Gospel was not written by John’s own hand, but that it was dictated to a disciple. We have already seen that the Muratorianum has the curious clause that the Gospel was ultimately to be produced in the name of John (suo nomine), others apparently having had some share in its production. Further, the expression of the Toletan Preface that the Gospel datum est ecclesiis in Asia recalls the careful phrase of Irenæus, ἐξέδωκε τὸ εὐαγγέλιον ἐν Ἐφέσῳ, to which attention has already been drawn.3 The writer of the Preface, like Irenæus, was satisfied that the ultimate author of the Gospel was John the apostle, the Beloved Disciple; and he also, again like Irenæus, regards Papias as a hearer of John, while he exaggerates this by calling him a carus discipulus (if indeed the text is not corrupt). The language of Irenæus as to John’s authorship of the Gospel, while it is more definite than that of Polycrates, who will only say that John was the μάρτυς behind it (p. l), suggests something less than that John wrote it with his own hand, and is entirely consistent with the view that a disciple had a share in the writing of it out. The apostle John was ultimately responsible for it, εξζέδωκε τὸ εὐαγγελιον: but it may have been written by another’s pen.

This last conclusion is supported, so far, by direct statements of Christian tradition and by some phrases of Polycrates and Irenæus. But, as we have seen (p. li), there are traces in the Gospel itself of the writer as distinct from the person whose testimony is behind the narrative. John 19:35 and 21:24 (see notes in loc.) clearly distinguish the writer from the witness. The language, in particular, of 19:35 is emphatic as to this. The evangelist appeals to the testimony of an eye-witness, and he does not suggest at all that he himself saw the incident which he describes. We are, then, in a position to examine the Epistles and the Apocalypse with a view to determine, first, if they are all written by the same hand; and secondly, if there is any hint of the person whom Papias calls John the presbyter having a share in the authorship of any of these books.

(V) The Gospel and the Johannine Epistles Were Written by John the Presbyter


The Church has been accustomed to describe 1 Jn. as a “general” or “catholic” epistle, its appeal being applicable to all Christians alike. It does not mention any individuals, nor does it allude to any historical incident, except the supreme event of the Incarnation. This epistle, however, seems to have been intended in the first instance for the edification of a group of Christians or of Churches, with whom the writer was associated so intimately that he could call them “my little children.” He speaks of himself as one who had been a personal witness of the life of Jesus (1:1, 2); and this, apart from his long Christian experience, gave him a claim to write with authority on the Christian life. He was one of those whom the next generation described as a μαθητὴς τοῦ κυρίου.

This Epistle is so closely allied with the Fourth Gospel, alike in its doctrine and its phraseology, that internal evidence confirms the traditional belief that it is written by the same hand that wrote the Gospel.1

The two works proceed from the same theological environment, and (omitting the narrative portions of the Gospel) deal with the same themes. The doctrines of Eternal Life, of the mutual indwelling of God and man, of Christian believers as the children of God, begotten with a spiritual begetting, of the Love of God and love of the brethren, of the Son of God as come in the flesh, are specially characteristic of both books. In both, Jesus is the “Saviour of the world” and the “Only begotten Son” of God.

The opening sentences of 1 Jn. form a prologue to the Epistle, similar in several respects to the prologue to the Gospel. Thus we have in 1 John 1:1-3, ὃ ἦν�John 1:4 (where see note).�John 15:27, where see note), but to the eternal and prehistoric origins of that life (as at John 8:44; cf. 1 John 2:13, 1 John 2:14, 1 John 2:3:8). Here, again, we go back to ἐν�John 1:1). ἐθεασάμεθα is the verb used (John 1:14) of actual bodily seeing, and ἐφανερώθη is the right word for the manifestation on earth of the Life of the Word (see on John 1:4). “That which was in being eternally, that which we have seen with our own eyes and touched with our own hands of the Word of Life, the Life which was made manifest in the flesh—that we declare to you.”1

In this preface, the writer of the Epistle, while he does not offer any personal witness as to the historical incidents of the ministry of Jesus, claims to have seen Him in the flesh, just as the writer of the Prologue to the Gospel does: ἐθεασάμεθα τὴν δόξαν αὐτοῦ (1:14, where see note). The use of the first person plur. for testimony to the broad facts of Christian experience appears both in the Gospel (1:14, 3:11, where see note) and in the Epistle (1 John 4:14); while m the body of the Epistle, the personal relation of the writer to his correspondents is shown by the frequent use of “I,” as contrasted with “you.”

The number of verbal coincidences between the Gospel and Epistle is very large. Lists have been printed by Holtzmann, and also by R. Law,2 and need not be reproduced here. The similarity extends to grammar as well as to choice of words and of phrases; cf., e.g., the elliptic use of�John 9:3, 1 John 2:19), the emphatic use of πᾶς ὁ with a pres. part. (John 3:16, 1 John 3:4, 1 John 3:6, 1 John 3:10), the collective use of πᾶν ὅ (John 6:37, 1 John 5:4). ἐκεῖνος is used sometimes of Christ as the main subject of the sentence, as it is in the Gospel (see on 1:8). The constr. πιστεύειν εἰς (see on 1:12), frequent in the Gospel, is found also in 1 John 5:10, 1 John 5:13. There are, indeed, some differences, especially in the use of particles. οὖν, so frequently expressing historical transition in the Gospel (see on 1:22), does not appear in the Epistle, which is not a narrative. δέ, which is found 212 times in the Gospel, very often in dialogue, is only used 8 times in the Epistle.3 But, on the whole, the linguistic similarities are far more striking than the divergences.

The Epistle probably is a little later in date than the Gospel, the characteristic doctrines of which reappear occasionally in a slightly modified form. In both books the spiritual presence of Christ with His people is taught, as in both Eternal Life is at once a present reality and a future hope.1 In both, again, judgment is a present fact, as well as a κρίσις of the future, which was its significance for Judaism (cf. John 5:28, John 5:29). But the Epistle (4:17) lays more stress on the judgment of the future than the Gospel does; to the writer in his later work it seems as if Antichrist has come already (4:3), and that “the last hour” is at hand (2:18, 22). In the Gospel (cf. 14:3) as well as in the Epistle (2:28), the Parousia or Second Coming of the Lord is contemplated; but there is a difference of emphasis.

In the Epistle, the controversies with Judaism, with which the narrative of the Gospel has much to do, have dropped out of sight; and Gnosticism, only hinted at in the earlier work, has come into full view as the most formidable opponent of the Christian religion (1 John 4:2). The necessities of the case prompt a fuller (although not a deeper) treatment of sin and of the atoning and cleansing efficacy of the Passion of Christ than is found in the Gospel. Cf. 1 John 1:8, 1 John 3:4-9, 1 John 4:10 with John 1:29, John 8:24, John 16:8. It is implied, but not asserted, in the Gospel (14:16) that Jesus is the first Paraclete, the Spirit being “another” whom He will send; but Jesus is explicitly described only in 1 John 2:1 as our Paraclete or Advocate with God.

The doctrine of the mutual indwelling of God and man, again, appears in a slightly different form in the Gospel and in the Epistle. In the Gospel the disciple abides in Christ, and Christ in him (6:56, 15:4f); but in the Epistle he who has faith in Christ abides in God and God in him (4:15, 16). “The Gospel is Christocentric, the Epistle Theocentric.”2 In the former Christ’s own teaching about His Person is reproduced; in the latter its practical significance for the children of God is expounded.

We have elsewhere3 called attention to the verbal citation by Polycarp of 1 John 4:2, 1 John 4:4 and to the statement of Eusebius that Papias “used testimonies from this Epistle.”4 The evidence of its acceptance by Irenæus, the Epistle to Diognetus, the Epistle of the Churches of Lyons and Vienne, and Clement of Alexandria, is as clear as is that for the Gospel.


The two short letters, 2 Jn. and 3 Jn., which might each have covered a single sheet of papyrus, are private letters of exhortation; 3 Jn. being addressed to one Gaius, and 2 Jn. either to a Christian lady of position or to a particular Church. Origen mentions that they were not accepted by all, and Eusebius says that some placed them among the�

That they were written by the same hand that wrote the First Epistle has been often disputed, both in ancient and modern times. But the internal evidence which the three Epistles present of a common author is strong. Thus emphasis is laid on�3 John 1:8, 3 John 1:12) and on “walking in the truth” (2 John 1:4, 3 John 1:3, 3 John 1:4); on�2 John 1:3, 3 John 1:6), which is the love of the brethren, after the “new commandment” of Christ (2 John 1:5, 3 John 1:5); on “abiding” in the teaching of Christ (2 John 1:9; cf. John 8:31); on the joy of Christian disciples being fulfilled (2 John 1:12; cf. 1 John 1:4); on the value of μαρτυρία (3 John 1:12); on the confessing that Jesus Christ came in the flesh, as opposed to the doctrine of Antichrist (2 John 1:7, 1 John 4:2, 1 John 4:3); on sin forbidding the vision of God (3 John 1:11, 1 John 3:6). These are all doctrines and precepts characteristically Johannine.

There are also in 2 and 3 Jn. turns of phrase which recall both Gospel and First Epistle. Cf. 2 John 1:9 Θεὸν οὐκ ἔχει with 1 John 5:12 ὁ ἔχων τὸν υἱόν: 3 John 1:12 οἶδας ὅτι ἡ μαρτυρία ἡμῶν�John 21:24: 3 John 1:12 καὶ ἡμεῖς δὲ μαρτυροῦμεν with John 15:27 καὶ ὑμεῖς δὲ μαρτυρεῖτε. Charles calls attention to the use of μή with the participle, which is found in Jn. (11 times), 1 Jn. (8), 2 Jn. (2), 3 Jn. (1), although never in the Revelation 1:0

We hold that the cumulative evidence thus available from the style and diction of two short letters sufficiently proves that they are written by the same hand that wrote the Gospel and the First Epistle.

We next observe that the writer of 2 and 3 Jn. describes himself to his correspondents as ὁ πρεσβύτεπος, as if that were a description of his personality which would identify him without question. He is the Presbyter, although there were, no doubt, many other presbyters in the Christian community. Now, as we have already pointed out, πρεσβύτερος is never used (for 1 Peter 5:1 is not really an exception) of one of the Twelve.2 And, further, 3 Jn. shows that a certain Diotrephes had actually repudiated the writer’s authority. This would have been strange indeed if the writer had been recognised as one of the original apostles. But the writer has a distinctive title; he is The Presbyter, ὁ πρεσβύτερος, a title which is only found elsewhere in its use by Papias as descriptive of “John the Presbyter, the disciple of the Lord.”1. We thus go back for the authorship of 2 and 3 Jn. to the conclusion which Jerome mentions2 as held by some in his day, viz. that they were written by John the presbyter.


The author of 2 and 3 Jn. is also the author of 1 Jn.; and we have already observed that this longer Epistle was written by one who claims to have been in the company of Jesus when on earth, i.e. that he heard and saw and touched Him.3 This corroborates our identification of “the Presbyter” of 2, 3 Jn. with John the presbyter, who was a disciple of Jesus—that is, who belonged to the outer circles of disciples although not one of the Twelve.4

Hence we conclude that, since as to style and diction and theological standpoint, the Gospel is not to be distinguished from the First Epistle, John the presbyter was the writer and editor of the Fourth Gospel, although he derived his narrative material from John the son of Zebedee.5 John the presbyter, in short, is the evangelist, as distinct from John the apostle, who was the witness to whose testimony the evangelist appeals (19:35, 21:24). To the mind of the early Church at Ephesus, it was the evidence for the words and deeds of Jesus’ life and death that was the important matter; and for this they had the testimony of the last of the apostles. The language of Polycrates6 and of Irenæus,7 not to speak of the widespread tradition that the Gospel was not written by the apostle’s own hand, but was dictated to a disciple, is consonant with the conclusion that has emerged from an examination of the style of the several Johannine books.

(VI) The Apocalypse is Not by John the Presbyter, But Probably by John the Apostle

An examination of the style and diction of the Fourth Gospel shows that it is not from the same hand that wrote the Apocalypse, while it markedly resembles in these respects the Johannine Epistles, and especially the First Epistle.

The vocabulary of Jn. is small. In the Johannine writings only 990 words are used altogether, and in the Gospel only 919. The Apocalyptist has an even scantier vocabulary of 866 words. Only 441 words are common to both writers; i.e. Jn. has 545 words not used by the Apocalyptist, while the Apocalyptist has 425 not used by Jn.

Among Jn.’s 990 words, there are 84 exclusively Johannine, i.e. not occurring elsewhere in the N.T.; 74 of these are found in the Gospel only, viz.:

ἀγγέλλειν, ἁλιεύειν,�

The subject-matter of the Apocalypse naturally calls for a vocabulary distinct from that of either the Gospel or the Epistles; and reasons may be found for some obvious differences. Thus the Apocalyse treats much of sorrow and warfare, and accordingly it has πάσχειν, πόλεμος, πένθος, ὑπομονή, which Jn. does not use; on the other hand, Jn. has ἐλπίς, χαρά, which are not mentioned in Apoc. Again, the words εἰκών, μυστήριον, νοῦς, σιγή, σοφία, which the Apoc. uses, are studiously avoided by Jn., probably because of their place in Gnostic doctrine, and the same may be said of his avoidance of the mystical numbers seven2 and ten, both of which appear in the Apoc. Perhaps Jn. avoids πίστις (only in 1 John 5:4, four times in Apoc.) for a similar reason, while he uses πιστεύειν a hundred times (see on 1:7). γνῶσις is used by neither author.

Other divergences, however, are not susceptible of such an explanation. The variety of use of�3 John 1:1), while the Apoc. has it a dozen times. δύναμις, θαῦμα, ἰσχύς, κράτος, used in the Apoc., do not appear in Jn., although we might have expected to find them in his report of the Gospel miracles. The Apoc. has�

With the use of prepositions, adverbs, and connecting particles, Jn. is more at home than is the Apocalyptist. None of the following appears in Apoc.: ὑπέρ (16 times in Jn.),�

The proper names Ἰησοῦς and Ἰωάνης are always anarthrous in Apoc.; whereas the usage is different in Jn. (see on 1:29, 50). The Apoc. never uses the possessive pronouns ἡμέτερος (twice in Jn.), ὑμέτερος (3), σός (6), ἴδιος (15), while ἐμός, which is used by Jn. forty times, appears only in Revelation 2:20.

More remarkable than any differences in diction are the differences in the constructions used by Jn. and the Apocalyptist. The grammar of the Apocalypse has been thoroughly studied by Charles, who brings out its Hebraic character.1 Its Greek is unique in its solecisms, and points to a certain awkwardness in using the Greek language on the part of its author, who thinks in Hebrew or Aramaic throughout. The Greek of the Apocalypse has none of the idiomatic subtleties which meet us in the Fourth Gospel2 (see, e.g., note on 3:8).

It was held by some critics in the nineteenth century that the Apocalypse was written in the time of Nero; and thus a period of perhaps twenty years intervened between it and the issue of the Fourth Gospel. Here, it was supposed, we may find time for a fuller mastery of Greek style being acquired by the author of the Apocalypse, before he wrote the Gospel. However, the Neronic date of the Apocalypse is now abandoned by most scholars, who have reverted to the traditional date in the reign of Domitian; so that we cannot reckon on any long interval between the issue of the two books.1 The differences between the Greek of Gospel and Revelation are so marked that we cannot account for them by the assumption that the common author altered his style so fundamentally in a short period.

Reference must here be made to Dr. Burney’s theory that the Fourth Gospel was of Aramaic origin, and that its Greek is only translation-Greek, betraving its Aramaic base at every point.2 Despite the established facts that behind the Fourth Gospel there was a Jewish mind, and that an undertone of Semitic ways of thought and speech may be discerned in its language (see further, p. lxxxi), Burney’s view has not been generally accepted by scholars. Many passages that have been cited by him and others as Aramaic in form are quite defensible as Greek; see, e.g., on 3:29, 7:21, 8:56, 10:12. See also the notes on 1:10, 50, 7:38, 10:29, 12:40. Classical parallels can be produced3 for the diction in 4:7, 8:25, 9:21, 36, 14:23, 16:8, 27, 17:2, 19:5, 20:19 (see notes in loc.), which show that Jn’.s Greek in these places is not the Greek of a mere translator. At 3:34, 10:11, 24 it is true that a precise Greek parallel cannot be cited, but even at these points an Aramaic origin is not suggested, nor can Jn.’s Greek be challenged. Another difficulty in the way of accepting Burney’s theory is the identity of style between the Gospel and the First Epistle. The latter is, admittedly, an original Greek letter, and its author is not to be distinguished from the writer of the Fourth Gospel (see p. lxi).

To return to the Apocalypse. There are, indeed, some similarities in language as in thought with the Gospel.

Both authors, e.g., quote Zechariah 12:10 with ἐξεκέντησαν, which is not the LXX rendering (see on John 19:37). But this only proves the common use of a prevalent translation of the Masoretic text. οἵτινες ἐξεκέντησαν in Revelation 1:7 does not refer to the piercing of the Lord’s side, which is mentioned only by Jn., but to those who crucified Him. The phrase τηρεῖν τὸν λόγον or τηρεῖν τὰς ἐντολάς is frequent both in Jn. and in Apoc. (cf. Revelation 3:8, Revelation 3:10, Revelation 3:22:7, Revelation 3:9, Revelation 3:12:7, Revelation 3:14:12, and see on John 8:51, John 14:15). Cf. also ὁ διψῶν ἐρχέσθω (Revelation 22:17) with John 7:37, where see note. The verb νικᾶν, “to overcome,” is applied to Christ both in Jn. and in Apoc., but nowhere else in the N.T. (see on John 16:33). Both writers express the same idea when they speak of Christ as ὁ�John 1:29), or τὸ�Revelation 5:6 passim). The phrase ἐγώ εἰμι introducing great utterances of Christ is also used, in both Apoc. and the Fourth Gospel, in the same way.1

Apart from verbal correspondences of this kind, the Christology of Apoc. has marked resemblances to that of the Fourth Gospel. That Christ is Judge (Revelation 6:16), that He was pre-existent (Revelation 1:17, Revelation 3:14), and that He had divine knowledge of men’s hearts and thoughts (Revelation 2:23) are thoughts familiar to Jn. And that the abiding of God with man is a permanent issue of Christ’s work is a specially Johannine dogma (cf. Revelation 3:20, Revelation 21:3 with John 14:23). The application of the mysterious title “the Word of God” to Christ in Revelation 19:13 prepares the reader for the more explicit Logos doctrine of the Prologue to the Gospel.2

These similarities3 cannot outweigh the differences which compel us to recognise that the Gospel and the Apocalypse proceed from different hands; but they point to some contact between the two writers. The simplest explanation is that the writer of the Fourth Gospel had sat at the feet of the Apocalyptist as a disciple. If the Apocalypist was John the son of Zebedee (a view which seems to the present writer to be reasonable4), then from a new angle we reach the conclusion that John the son of Zebedee is the “witness” behind the Fourth Gospel, which was, however, written by a younger disciple of Christ.

(VII) Summary of Argument as to Authorship

1. John the apostle was the Beloved Disciple (p. xxxvii). He did not suffer a martyr’s death (p. xxxviii f.), but lived to extreme old age in Ephesus (p. xlviii).

2. The tradition that John the apostle was himself the actual writer of both Gospel and Apocalypse must be rejected because of the far-reaching difference of style between the two books (p. lxv).

3. The theory that John the apostle was the sole author of the Gospel is not established by its general recognition (p. lix) in the second and following centuries as “the Gospel according to St. John.” That may unhesitatingly be accepted, in the sense that John was behind it, and that it represents faithfully his picture of Jesus Christ, and reproduces His teaching. It was this that the early Church deemed to be of importance, and not any literary problem as to the method by which the reminiscences of John the apostle came to be recorded. The reason why the Second Gospel was regarded as authoritative was because it reproduced the witness of Peter, and not because it was known to have been compiled by Mark. The ground of its authority was belief in its apostolic origin, as Papias tells us.1 This it was which was claimed for the Fourth Gospel by the elders of the Church at Ephesus (21:24), where, as Irenæus says (p. xlvii), it was first published, and this it was which gave it authority. There could be no higher testimony than that of John the Beloved Disciple. But that he wrote it with his own hand is not asserted by the second-century Fathers; and the only traditions that remain as to the manner of its composition (pp. 56 ff.) reveal that John was not regarded as the sole author by those who accepted his Gospel as canonical.

4. Further, the internal evidence of the Gospel indicates that the writer was a distinct person from the “witness” to whom he appeals. The certificate of authentication in 21:24 is written by the same person who wrote the Gospel as a whole, for the style is identical with the style of Jn. throughout. No doubt it is the certificate not of the evangelist avowedly, but of the elders of the Church; nevertheless it is written for them by him, and the writer is distinct from the Beloved Disciple whose witness is certified as true. And the language of 19:35 (where see note) is even more conclusive, as distinguishing between the evangelist and his authority.

5. We shall see that the evangelist not only sometimes corrects the statements of the Synoptists (p. xcvii f.), but that he occasionally adopts the actual words used by Mk. and Lk. (p. xcvi f.). Now that he ventures to correct anything told in the earlier Gospels, shows that he is relying on an authority that cannot be gainsaid. Jn. depends on the Beloved Disciple, and is careful to reproduce his corrections of the current evangelical tradition. On the other hand, he is thoroughly familiar with the phrases in which Mk. and Lk. embody that tradition, and he does not scruple on occasion to make them his own. This is quite natural on the part of one who is telling a story as to the details of which he has not personal knowledge, although Jn. was, in a sense, μαθητὴς τοῦ κυρίου (p. lii). He follows his authorities verbally, for such was the literary habit of the time. But it is improbable that the aged apostle, John the son of Zebedee, would have fallen back on the words of others when he could have used words of his own. This is specially improbable when we remember that John was not slow to correct when necessary what Mk. and Lk. had recorded. An examination of the relation to the Synoptics of the Fourth Gospel thus reveals the presence of two persons concerned in the production of the latter, viz. the apostle who was an original authority, and the evangelist who put the reminiscences of his teacher into shape.1

6. The actual writer (as distinct from the “witness”) of the Fourth Gospel is also the writer of the Johannine Epistles. This is not only shown by identity of style (p. 62 f.), but is confirmed by Church tradition.

7. The name of the writer cannot be given with as complete confidence. But, if the writer, like the Beloved Disciple, had the name “John,” a very common name among Jews, we may find here a plausible explanation for some confusion of him in later times with his greater namesake. There is, indeed, no likelihood that Irenæus associates any John except John the apostle with the Fourth Gospel (p. xlix); or that the Christian writers of the second and third centuries had any special curiosity as to the name of the writer who compiled the Gospel on the apostle’s authority (p. lxiv). But the fact that master and disciple had the same name might readily lead to a forgetfulness of the distinct personality of the lesser man.

8. The Second and Third Epistles attributed to “John” claim to be written by one who calls himself ὁ πρεσβύτερος (p. lxiii), which at once suggests John the presbyter of whom Papias tells us (p. lii).

9. The writer of Epp. II. III. was, however, also the author of Ephesians 1:0. and of the Fourth Gospel (p. lxiii); and thus we reach the final inference that the Fourth Gospel was written by John the presbyter from the reminiscences and the teaching of John the apostle (p. lxiv).

No claim can be made for absolute certainty in the solution of so intricate a problem as the authorship of the “Gospel according to St. John.” There are many links in the chain of argument, and each must be tested separately. In this short summary an attempt has been made to bring out the main points at issue, which have been examined in detail in the preceding sections.

(VIII) Early Citations of the Fourth Gospel

The date of the Epistle of Barnabas is uncertain. Lightfoot tentatively placed it between 70 and 79 a.d. In any case it is of too early a date to make it possible for Barnabas to have quoted the Johannine writings. In the notes on 2:19, 3:14, 6:51 we have suggested, however, that Barnabas may refer to sayings of Jesus which were traditionally handed down, and which were afterwards definitely ascribed to Him in the Fourth Gospel. For other phrases of Barnabas which elucidate in some slight degree passages in Jn., see on 8:12, 16:32, 19:23, 28, 21:18, 19.

Ignatius, bishop of Antioch, suffered martyrdom between the years 110 and 118. His Epistles to the churches of Asia Minor and of Rome are deeply impressed with the doctrine of Jesus Christ as having come in the flesh (as opposed to the prevalent Docetism) which is characteristic of the Fourth Gospel (and the first Epistle), and also with the Pauline conception of the redemptive efficacy of the Passion. The idea of canonical books of the N.T., as distinct from the O.T., had not been formulated or accepted by the Church at the early date when Ignatius wrote; and he never quotes directly or avowedly from the Gospels or the Apostolic Epistles.1 He moved in the circles where the Johannine presentation of Christianity first found explicit expression; and this may account, in part, for the remarkable likeness of his thought and religious diction to the writings of Jn. It does not follow that in the Ignatian Epistles there is any conscious literary obligation to the Fourth Gospel, although this is possible. But it is in accordance with all probabilities, that Ignatius had read this famous book which had been produced with the imprimatur of the Church at Ephesus a quarter of a century before he wrote to the Christians of that place. He uses several Johannine phrases after a fashion which is difficult to explain if they are no more than reflexions of current Christian teaching. See, e.g., the notes on John 1:18, John 1:3:8, John 1:4:13, John 1:5:19, John 1:6:27, John 1:32, 53, John 1:7:38, John 1:8:29, John 1:10:7, John 1:9, John 1:30, John 1:12:3, John 1:31, John 1:13:3, John 1:20, John 1:15:8, John 1:19, John 1:17:21, John 1:20:20, where the Ignatian parallels are cited.2

In the Antiochene Acts of Martyrdom (end of fourth century), Ignatius is styled ὁ τοῦ�

Polycarp of Smyrna (born about 70 a.d. and died a martyr’s death in 155 or 156)2 was a disciple of John (see p. xlviii). There is no chronological difficulty in this. If, as is possible, John lived until 100 a.d., although 95 is more probable, then Polycarp would have been thirty years old at the time of his death; he may indeed have been appointed bishop by John, as Tertullian states (de Præscr. 32). There is no reason to doubt that he had some intercourse in his young days with the old apostle. In his Epistle to the Philippians (§ 7) 1 John 4:2-4 is quoted almost verbatim, ὃς ἂν μὴ ὁμολογῃ Ἰησοῦν Χριστὸν ἐν σαρκὶ ἐληλυθέναι�John 15:16 with § 12.

A Christian Apocalypse, called The Rest of the Words of Baruch, contains a clear reference to John 1:9 (see note in loc.). If Rendel Harris is right in dating this Apocalypse about the year 136 a.d., we have here one of the earliest of all extant citations of the Fourth Gospel.

We have already examined (p. liv) the relation of Papias (d. 146 a.d.) to John the presbyter and John the apostle; but it should be noted here that Eusebius tells that Papias quoted the First Johannine Epistle (H.E. iii. xxxix. 17), and his recognition of this as authoritative involves also the recognition of the Gospel.

Basilides, a Gnostic teacher of Alexandria, flourished in the reign of Hadrian (i.e. 117-138 a.d.; cf. Clem. Alex. Strom. vii. 17). In an abstract of a work by Basilides, found in Hippolytus (Ref. vii. 22), the words of John 1:9 are quoted verbally. “This, says he, is what is called in the Gospels ἦν τὸ φῶς τὸ�John 2:4 (Ref. vii. 27). If Hippolytus is quoting here the work of Basilides himself,1 as distinct from books written by members of his school, the citation of 1:9 seems to prove not only Basilides’ use of Jn., but his acceptance of it as among “the Gospels” generally recognised. This may be a too bold inference, but the attention paid to the Fourth Gospel by Gnostic teachers of the middle of the second century shows that at an early date, certainly before 150 a.d., it was reckoned by them to be a Christian book of special significance.

The earliest commentary upon the Fourth Gospel, of which we have any considerable remains, was that of the Gnostic Heracleon, who wrote towards the end of the second century.2 His endeavour was to find support for the doctrinal system of Valentinus, as he understood it, in the Fourth Gospel, which he regarded as authoritative Scripture. In his extant fragments the name of the author of the Gospel does not expressly appear; but it is implied in the comment of Heracleon on John 1:18, which he says proceeds not from the Baptist but from the Disciple (οὐκ�

Moreover, the Fourth Gospel was accepted and used by some, at least, of the Valentinian heretics against whom Irenæus directed his polemic (Hær. iii. 11. 7). It is even probable that Valentinus, himself recognised its authority, as is indicated by Tertullian when he contrasts Valentinus with Marcion, as one who did not, like Marcion, mutilate the Gospels, but used the “entire instrument.”4 The acceptance of the Fourth Gospel by many Gnostics as well as Catholics creates a strong presumption that it had been given to the public as an authoritative work at a time before controversy had arisen between Christian heretic and Christian orthodox. And this pushes the date back to a period before the time of Basilides. There is nothing, then, extraordinary in the fact that Basilides quoted the Fourth Gospel, as the simplest interpretation of the words of Hippolytus assures us that he did.

Of other Gnostic writings produced not later than 150 a.d. the fragmentary Gospel of Peter and the Acts of John disclose clear traces of the Johannine tradition.

Pseudo-Peter (§ 5) suggests 18:6 (see note); he agrees (§ 2) with Jn. as to the relation of the Crucifixion to the first day of unleavened bread (19:31); he refers to the nails by which the hands of Jesus, the feet not being mentioned, were fastened to the Cross (§ 6; cf. 20:20); he tells (§ 4) of the crurifragium, in a confused manner (cf. 19:33); and the end of the fragment reports the departure of some disciples, after the Passover solemnities were over, to the Sea of Galilee for fishing, apparently being about to introduce the narrative of John 21:0. These points of the apocryphal writer are not derived from the Synoptists. See also on 19:23, 28, 41.1

The latter part of the Acts of John tells of John as reclining on the Lord’s breast, when at a meal (§ 89; cf. 13:23). In these Acts (§ 97) the Crucifixion is on Friday at the sixth hour (cf. 19:14), and allusion is made to the piercing of the Lord’s side (§ 97 λόγχαις νύσσομαι καὶ καλάμοις, and § 101 νυγέντα; cf. 19:34 and note thereon). In the Gnostic hymn (§ 95), Christ claims to be both Door and Way: θύρα εἰμί σοι κρούοντί με. Ἀμὴν ὁδός εἰμί σοι παροδίτῃ (see on 10:9, 14:6). The Fourth Gospel is distorted, but that it was known to the writer of these Acts is certain.

It is true that some persons in the second century rejected the Fourth Gospel as authoritative. Irenæus mentions some who would not accept the promise of the Paraclete, and so “do not admit that form [of the Spirit], which is according to John’s Gospel” (Hær. iii. 11, 9). Epiphanius in his account of heretical systems (probably based in a confused way upon Hippolytus) mentions people to whom he gives the nickname of Alogi, because they rejected the Logos doctrine of John; “they receive neither the Gospel of John nor the Apocalypse,” which they ascribed to the heretic Cerinthus.2 Whether these persons were few or many, they held (according to Epiphanius) that the Fourth Gospel was of the first century, as Cerinthus was a contemporary of John 3:0 It is probable from what Epiphanius adds, that they are to be identified with the impugners of the Fourth Gospel mentioned by Irenæus. We are not, however, concerned here with the history of the N.T. Canon, but only with the time of the appearance of the Gospel “according to St. John”; and this cannot be placed at a later date than the end of the first century.

Justin Martyr wrote his Apologies and Dialogue with Trypho about 145-150 a.d. He mentions John the apostle once, and then as the seer of the Apocalypse: “A certain man among us (παρʼ ἡμῖν), by name John, one of the apostles of Christ, prophesied in a revelation �Revelation 20:4-6 (Dial. 81; cf. Dial. 45). This Dialogue, according to Eusebius,1 is the record of a controversy held by Justin with Trypho at Ephesus; § 1 places Justin at Ephesus soon after the Barcochba revolt, or about the year 136. When writing then of John the apostle as παρʼ ἡμῖν, he is writing of one who was at Ephesus forty years before, and of whose influence and personality he must have been fully informed.

It is noteworthy that Justin does not speak of John the apostle as the writer of the Gospel, only the Apocalypse being specially mentioned as his work. This may be taken in connexion with the carefully chosen language used by Irenæus, when speaking of the relation of John to the Fourth Gospel and its publication at Ephesus.2 It is possible that Justin was aware of the tradition which associated another personality with that of John the apostle in the composition of the Gospel.

However that may be, Justin’s doctrinal system is dependent as a whole upon the Fourth Gospel, and especially on the Prologue. He was undoubtedly familiar with its general teaching. His books being apologetic (for Roman use) and controversial (with the Jews) rather than exegetical or hortatory, we could not expect him to cite verbatim and as authoritative the books of the N.T., after the fashion of Irenæus in the next generation. None the less, the traces of his acquaintance with the text of the Fourth Gospel are apparent.3

A conclusive passage is Apol. 61. Justin is explaining how converts are “new made through Christ.” They are brought where there is water; and “after the same fashion of regeneration �John 3:3-5 (see note in loc.). Again, in Dial. 88, οὐκ εἰμὶ ὁ Χριστός,�John 1:23 and not from the Synoptists1 (see note in loc.). The allusion in Dial. 69 to Christ’s cure of those blind from birth (ἐκ γενετῆς), and the lame and deaf, presupposes 9:1 (where see note). Attempts to get rid of these allusions to the Fourth Gospel are unreasonable. See also notes on John 4:14, John 4:12:49, John 4:16:13, John 4:18:37, John 4:19:13, John 4:24, John 4:20:19, John 4:21, where other parallels from Justin are given. With 1 John 3:1 may be compared Dial. 123.

Justin, then, used the Fourth Gospel a little before 150 a.d.; and at one point (Apol. 61) quotes it as authoritative for a saying of Jesus.

The “Diatessaron” of Tatian sufficiently shows the co-equal authority of Jn. with that of the Synoptists, when his Harmony was composed. Tatian was born about 110 a.d., and had been in intimate relationship with Justin at Rome. His acceptance of the Fourth Gospel would, almost by itself, suggest that Justin took the same view of its importance and its authority.

The Shepherd of Hermas was written at Rome about 140 a.d., or perhaps at an earlier date.2 The allegorist’s allusions to Scripture are few, as might be expected from the nature of his book. He speaks (Sim. ix. 12. 5) of baptism as a condition of entrance into the kingdom of God, a doctrine which recalls John 3:5 (where see note). His allusion to Christ as the Gate3 (ἡ πύλη, Sim. ix. 12), through which those who are to be saved enter into the kingdom of God, is reminiscent of the teaching of John 10:9. He speaks of the law (τὸν νόμον) which Christ received from the Father (Sim. v. 6. 3); this is Johannine in its thought (cf. 10:18). The phrase ὁ κύριος�1 John 2:27. These are suggestions of the prevalence of Johannine teaching at Rome in the middle of the second century; but no more definite proof is forthcoming of the acquaintance of Hermas with the text of the Fourth Gospel.

The Epistle to Diognetus is dated about 150 a.d. by Lightfoot.4 In 10:2, 3 he speaks of God’s love for men (ὁ γὰρ θεὸς τοὺς�John 3:16, 1 John 4:9, 1 John 4:19 are reproduced here. In 6:3 the thought that Christians are in the world, but not of the world, and that therefore the world hates them, is an echo from John 17:11, John 17:14. The writer of the Epistle is not writing for Christians or for Jews, but for heathen, so that he never quotes expressly from either O.T. or N.T. But that he is acquainted with the Johannine writings is hardly doubtful. See on 16:29.

A document, purporting to report conversations of the Risen Jesus with His disciples, and entitled Epistula Apostolorum,1 has recently been edited from Coptic and Ethiopic versions by Schmidt, who holds that it was written in Asia Minor about 160-170 a.d. It is anti-Docetic in tone, and attaches much weight to the Fourth Gospel, John being named first when the apostles are (very confusedly) enumerated. There are several allusions to Jn.; e.g. the Miracle at Cana is mentioned (c. 5 [16]); at c. 11 [24] there is a curious note about the test offered to Thomas (John 20:20, John 20:27), with which Peter and Andrew are associated; in c. 18 (29) the “new commandment” of John 13:34 is mentioned; and in c. 29 (40) John 20:29 is quoted precisely. For other Johannine reminiscences cf. cc. 33, 39. The Fourth Gospel was very familiar to the author of this imaginative work.

The Didache seems to be indebted for some of its phrases to John 6:12, John 11:52, John 17:11 (see notes in loc.). This would be very important if the early date once ascribed to this interesting manual could be taken as established. But I am not prepared to make this assumption or to claim that the Didache was composed in its present form earlier than the third century.2

For the use of the Fourth Gospel, or at any rate of its characteristic phraseology, by the second-century Odes of Solomon, see p. cxlvi below.

The Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs present some parallels to Johannine language; see on 1:9, 3:19, 4:22, 5:41, 15:26. But Christian interpolations abound in the Testaments, the base of which is Jewish, and 15:26 (the most striking parallel) may be one of these. Charles would treat the language of 1:9 as dependent upon the Testaments;3 but this is hardly probable (see note in loc.). We cannot safely assume that the Testaments in their present form were in existence before the time of Origen.

The use made of the Fourth Gospel by Christian writers before 1751 enables us, therefore, to fix the time of its appearance within narrow limits. It is hardly earlier than 90 a.d., and cannot be later than 125. Probably the year 95 is the nearest approximation to its date that can be made.

1 Mk. (3:17) adds that Jesus gave them the title βοανηργές, which he interprets “sons of thunder.” But no Aramaic word has been suggested, corresponding to βοανηργές, which could mean υἱοὶ βροντῆς, and the title remains obscure (cf. D.C.G. i. 216).

1 Cf. contra, Sanday (Criticism of Fourth Gospel, p. 98), and Swete (J.T.S., July 1916, p. 374).

1 So also is Lazarus, of whom it is said three tomes that Jesus loved him (John 11:3, John 11:5, John 11:36). He was suggested as possibly the beloved disciple by W. K. Fleming, Guardian, 19th Dec. 1906, but he must be ruled out.

2 The theory that the Beloved Disciple is an ideal figure, and not a man of flesh and blood, has been put forward by a few critics, e.g. Réville: “Il apparait comme un être irrél … le disciple idéal qui est sur le sein du Christ, comme le Christ est sur le sein de Dieu,” quoted by Latimer-Jackson. The Problem of the Fourth Gospel, p. 155. But to dismiss the vivid notices of the Beloved Disciple on this way is a desperate expedient of exegesis.

3 This view is favoured by Schwartz, Wellhausen, Schmiedel (E.B. 2509), Moffatt (Introd. p. 602), Bacon (Fourth Gospel, p. 132), Burkitt (Gospel History and Transmission, p. 252), Charles (Revelation, i. p. xlv), and others. It is rejected by Lightfoot (Essays on Supernatural Religion, p. 212), Drummond (Character and Authorship, etc., p. 228), Zahn (Forsch. vi. 147), Chapman (John the Presbyter, p. 95), Harnack (Chronol. i. 665 f.), Loofs, Clemen, Armitage Robinson (Historical Character of St. John’s Gospel, p. 64). I have discussed the problem at some length in Studia Sacra, p. 260 f.

1 Printed from the Oxford Cod. Barocc. 142 by De Boor in Texte und Untersuchungen, v. 2 (1888).

1 The Papias memoranda in the Epitome have been analysed also by Dom Chapman, John the Presbyter, p. 95 with whose general conclusion, that they are mainly derived from Ensebius, I agree.

2 See p. lii for this passage.

3 Cf. p. liv.

1 Philip’s contemporary, Socrates, says of him that he was a laborious student who had amassed many books, but that his history was useless, being both loose and inexact, especially in regard to chronology (Socrates, Eccl. Hist., vii. 27). This agrees well with the mistakes and omissions that are to be observed in the fragments of the Epitome (including those about Papias) which have been printed by De Boor. Either Philip or his epitomiser was a blunderer.

1 Studia Sacra, p. 271 f.

2 So it is restored in Migne’s text; cf. also Schoene’s edition of the Chronicle, 2. p. 154.

3 Cf. Lightfoot, Apostolic Fathers, pp. 522, 523.

4 Eusebius describes the Five Books of Papias as συγγράμματα (iii. 39, 1).

5 This was first pointed out by W. Lockton (Theology, Aug. 1922, p. 81).

1 ἐν τῷ δευτέρῳ λόγῳ is also the phrase used by George the Sinner (p. xxxviii), but he is merely copying the Epitome of Philip of Side.

2 Supernatural Religion, p. 212. He is referring to the passage in George the Sinner, but the suggestion is applicable also to De Boor’s fragment.

3 Cf. Studia Sacra, p. 273.

4 Theol. Literaturzeitung, 1909, Numbers 1:0.

5 Printed by Wright in the Journal of Sacred Literature for 1866. Cf. Studia Sacra, p. 278.

1 De Persecutione, 23 (cf. Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, vol. xiii. p. 401).

2 See Migne, Part. Gr., xlvi. cols. 789, 725, 729.

3 Cf. Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, vol. vii. p. 149.

1 For a fuller discussion, I may refer to Studia Sacra, pp. 275 ff. The argument has been accepted by Harnack (Theol. Literaturzeitung, 1909, p. 11), by J. A. Robinson (Hist. Character of St. John’s Gospel, p. 69 f.), and others.

2 E.B. 2511.

1 See Field, Hexapla, in loc.

2 Comm. in Matt. tom, xvi. 6.

3 I have treated Mark 10:39, Mark 10:40 more fully in J.T.S., Apr. 1927.

1 See p. lix below.

1 See, for details, Lipsius in Dict. Chr. Biogr., iii. 253 f.

2 Cf. Eusebius (H.E. iii. 31, v. 24).

3 Apparently the Asian Quartodecimans celebrated Easter on Nisan 14 (the day of the Jewish Passover), irrespective of the day of the week, while the Western Church had the celebration on the Sunday, irrespective of the day of the month. But the arguments by which the Quartodecimans supported their practice are not very clear. If it was because they celebrated, in particular, the Institution of the Eucharist, and held that this was at a Passover meal, of which Jesus partook, then they would seem to follow the Synoptic chronology (see p. cvi). If, however, the stress was laid on Jesus being Himself the true Paschal Lamb, they relied on the Fourth Gospel. But the probability is that what was intended by all Christians on Easter Day was to commemorate the Redemption of Christ generally, which included the Last Supper, the Crucifixion, and the Resurrection alike. No conclusive argument for or against their reliance on the Fourth Gospel can be built on their practice as to the day of the month. See Stanton, The Gospels as Historical Documents, i. pp. 173-197, for an admirable account of the matter.

4 Polycrates has been thought to have confused Philip the apostle with Philip the evangelist, but of this there is neither evidence nor probability.

1 Not as a less important person than Philip, but because he came to Asia Minor later than Philip.

1 Jülicher (Introd. to N.T., p. 406) explains “Witness” and “Teacher” as allusive respectively to the Apocalypse and the Epistles.

2 The fifth-century Acta Joannis, ascribed to Prochorus, give the same title: ὁ διδάσκαλος ἡμῶν (p. 164 ed. Zahn; cf. PP. 152, 159).

3 For the statement of Polycrates that the Beloved Disciple wore the priestly frontlet, see Additional Note on John 18:15.

1 It is possible that Apollinaris was alive at the time of writing, and that Polycrates only cites the authority of those who had passed away.

2 The Syriac translation (ed. Wright and M ’Lean, 1898) has “Neither did I compare,” which makes havoc of the sense.

3 It was probably from traditions of this kind that the story of the adulterous woman was derived.

1 Bacon, The Fourth Gospel, p. 112, would emend of οἱ τοῦ κυρίου μαθηταί here to οἱ τούτων μαθηταί. Larfeld (Die beiden Johan. von Ephesus) would read of οἱ τοῦ Ἰωάννου μαθηταί. But the emendations are unnecessary when the general usage of the phrase “the disciples of the Lord” has been apprehended. See above, p. xlvii.

2 See p. lxxii.

1 The distinction has often been challenged, e.g. by Zahn (Einleit., ii. 217 f.), Salmon (Dict. Christ. Biogr., iii. 401), Chapman (John the Presbyter, p. 28 f.), and Lawlor (Hermathena, 1922, p. 205 f.).

2 Cf. p. lxv below.

3 Eusebius, H.E. vii. 25.

4 H.E. iii. 39. 6.

1 Comm. in Matt. tom. xvi. 6.

1 Printed in Routh, Reliq. Sacr., i. 394, in Westcott, Canon of N.T., p. 523, and elsewhere.

2 Lightfoot, Clement, ii. 408.

1 See Wordsworth-White, Nov. Test. Lat., p. 485.

2 See his essay in Texte und Untersuchungen, xvi. (1896).

1 See Wordsworth-White, l.c. p. 490, and cf. Burkitt, Two Lectures on the Gospels, p. 90 f.

2 In Exotericis suis, id est in extremis quinque libris. Lightfoot (Supernat. Religion, p. 213) proposed to read exegeticis and externis, and a similar emendation is given by Corssen (exegeticis, extraneis), l.c. p. 114.

3 Quoted by Wordsworth-White, l.c. p. 491.

4 L.c. p. 94.

5 Cf. Corssen, l.c. p. 116, and Burkitt, l.c. p. 68.

1 A frontispiece to Jn. in Cod. 1 (twelfth cent.) represents John dictating to Prochorus the Deacon.

2 Zahn, Acta Ioannis, p. 154 f.

3 Cf. p. xlvii.

1 Holtzmann and Pfleiderer do not accept this. But the unity of authorship is upheld by the majority of critics, e.g. Jülicher, Wrede, Harnack, E. A. Abbott, as well as by more conservative scholars. Dionysius of Alexandria was the first to argue the matter, and the reasons which he produced for the unity of authorship are still con. vincing (Eus. H.E. vii. 25).

1 For a trenchant criticism of Westcott’s exegesis of 1 John 1:1, see R. Law, The Tests of Life, pp. 43, 354.

2 L.c. pp. 341 ff. See also Brooke, The Epp. of St. John (pp. 2 ff.).

3 Cf. Law, l.c. pp. 346 ff., for some divergences of style; and see Moffatt, Introd., p. 590 f.

1 See p. clx.

2 Cf. Law, l.c. p. 355.

3 P. lxxii.

4 P. liii.

1 See Charles, Revelation, i. p. xxxiv, for other minute points of grammar which support the view that the Gospel and all three Epistles are from the same hand.

2 See p. xlvii above.

1 See p. lii above

2 De uirr. ill. 9.

3 P. lx.

4 P. xlvii.

5 This is, substantially, the view of Harnack: “That in some way, John, the son of Zebedee, is behind the Fourth Gospel must be admitted, and hence our Gospel is to be considered as a Gospel of John the presbyter, according to John the son of Zebedee” (Chronol., i. 677).

6 P. i

7 P. xlvii.

1 The words�

2 Hær. Leviticus 2:3.

3 See above, p. xlix.

1 H. E. iv. 18. 6.

2 Cf. p. xlvii.

3 The details are discussed at length in Ezra Abbot’s The Fourth Gospel, pp. 25-48 (ed. 1880).

1 Cf. p. c.

2 See Lightfoot, Apostolic Fathers, p. 294.

3 The doctrine of Christ as the Gate (ἠ πύλη) appears also in Clem. 48, a document which is contemporary with Jn., but is independent of the Johannine writings.

4 It breaks off in c. 10, and cc. 11, 12 are by a different, probably a later, hand. Cf. Lightfoot, Apostolic Fathers, p. 488; and see on 16:29, 17:3.

1 Epistula Apostolorum, ed. C. Schmidt (Texte und Untersuchungen, 1919).

2 For the problems presented by the Didache, see C. Bigg, The Doctrine of the Twelve Apostles, and J. A. Robinson, Barnabas, Hermas, and the Didache (especially pp. 93-95).

3 See Charles, Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, p. lxxxv.



(i) The Evangelist was a Jew.

(ii) The Literary Method of the Evangelist is not that of Allegory.

(iii) The Idea of “Witness” is prominent.

(iv) Philo and the Fourth Gospel.

(I) The Evangelist Was a Jew

Reference is made elsewhere2 to Burney’s explanation of the style of the Fourth Gospel, viz. that it was translated into Greek from an Aramaic original. This explanation has not commanded the general assent of scholars; but that there is an undertone of Semitic ways of thought and speech behind the Gospel can hardly be gainsaid. The evangelist, in our view, is dependent for many of his facts upon the aged disciple, John the son of Zebedee, who was a Jew of Palestine, and whose native speech was Aramaic. It is natural that the record, however carefully edited, of such a disciple’s reminiscences, should bear traces of his nationality. More than this, however, can be said. We observe the Semitic undertone, not only in the narrative, but in the evangelist’s comments upon it. The style, e.g., of such passages3 as 3:16-21, 31-36 or 12:36b-43 is unmistakably Semitic; and, speaking generally, one cannot distinguish, by any features of internal evidence, those parts of the Gospel narrative which plainly rest upon the report of an eye-witness, and those which may be referred to the evangelist, whom we identify with the writer of the Johannine epistles.4

The evangelist prefers to string together independent sentences by the use of “and,” rather than to use subordinate clauses. That is, he likes the form of writing which the grammarians call parataxis. This is not unknown in Greek, but one accustomed to listen to conversations in Aramaic would be more likely to employ parataxis than a Greek writer ignorant of Aramaic or Hebrew. This appears in the Prologue and in 3:16-21 (to which reference has already been made), as well as in Jn.’s reports of a discourse.1 The Oriental trick of repetition of what has been said before, generally in a slightly altered form, is very common in the Fourth Gospel (see on 3:16). It is because of these frequent repetitions of the same doctrinal statement that the style of Jn. has been described as “monotonous.” A good illustration of repetitions in an Oriental report of a conversation is found at 16:16-19, where it will be noticed that the thrice-repeated, “A little while … and again a little while” adds to the vividness of the impression produced.

It has been thought by some2 that there is a tendency in the Fourth Gospel to reproduce O.T. testimonia in a form recalling the Hebrew text rather than the LXX version. If the actual author were a Jew of Palestine, this is perhaps what we might expect, and at certain points Jn. seems to give a free rendering of the Hebrew; see, e.g., the notes on 1:23, 6:45, 12:15, 40, 13:18. On the other hand, the LXX (as distinct from the Hebrew) is behind the citations at 2:17, 12:38, 17:17, 19:24. The quotation at 19:37 is probably derived from some current version other than the LXX. No inference can be drawn from the form of the O.T. text cited 6:31, 7:42, 8:17, 10:34, 12:13, 34, 15:25, 19:28, 36. The evidence, taken as a whole, hardly proves that the evangelist was more familiar with the Hebrew O.T. than he was with the LXX; although a knowledge of the Hebrew as well as of the LXX seems to be behind the Gospel quotations.3

The tendency of Jn. to reproduce Aramaic names of persons and places, and to interpret them for Greek readers, has often been remarked, e.g. Messiah (Jn. being the only evangelist who gives this Hebrew or Aramaic title, 1:41, 4:25), Kephas (1:42), Thomas (20:24, 21:2); the title Rabbi (1:38), Rabboni (20:16); Golgotha (19:17); Gabbatha, only at 19:13; Bethesda or Bethzatha, only at 5:2; Siloam (9:7). But too much may be made of this. Mk. (15:22) interprets Golgotha, as Jn. does, and even cites Aramaic sentences (Mark 5:41, Mark 15:34) Mk. also uses both the titles Rabbi and Rabboni (9:5 etc., l0:51). Mt. (1:23) interprets the Hebrew Immanuel. Even Lk. gives the Greek meaning of the names Barnahas and Elymas in Acts 4:36, Acts 13:8, although he does not interpret Aramaic names in his Gospel. All that we can say is that Jn. relies on Palestinian tradition, or on a Palestinian Jew (if he had not been himself in Palestine, which is quite possible) for his native names, and he finds it convenient (as Mk., Mt., and Lk. do on occasion) to interpret them for Greek readers. But we must not infer that his knowledge of Aramaic went very far, or that he was a native speaker.

Jn.’s familiarity with the topography of Jerusalem is, however, more noteworthy. The Synoptists know of Bethany, the Temple, the Proetorium of Pilate, and the place Golgotha with its sinister interpretation. Jn., however, has more intimate knowledge of the Holy City than the Synoptists display. He is aware how far from Jerusalem is the village of Bethany (11:18); he knows not only the Temple, but Solomon’s Porch (10:23); not only the Prætorium, but Gabbatha or the Pavement (19:13); he does not mention Gethsemane by name, but he knows its situation “beyond the brook Kidron, where was a garden” (see on 18:2); he alone mentions the Pool of Siloam, and knows why it was called Siloam (see on 9:7); also the Pool of Bethesda or Bethzatha, of which he (quite unnecessarily) says that it had five porches and was ἐπὶ τῇ προβατικῇ (see on 5:2). The Synoptists do not tell of the visits to Jerusalem at which the men were healed at Bethesda and Siloam, so that they have no necessity to use these placenames. But in his account of the Passion Jn.’s knowledge of the various localities at Jerusalem appears to be more detailed than that of Lk. or even of Mk.

Jn. gives geographical notes with equal confidence, when he has need to mention places outside Judæa. “Cana of Galilee” (2:1, 21:2); “Ænon near to Salim” (3:23); “Bethany beyond Jordan” (Jn. being specially careful to distinguish it from the other Bethany, which he knows: see on 1:28); “the city called Ephraim,” in the country near the wilderness (11:54), are obscure places, which, however, have been identified to a reasonable degree of probability. But that their situation should have been expressly indicated by Jn. shows that he is not depending upon vague general knowledge, such as an occasional pilgrim or tourist might pick up. It is interesting that his one site as to which it is not easy to speak with confidence is Sychar, which he says was near the traditional Well of Jacob (see on 4:6). The indication of the Sea of Galilee as “of Tiberias” is probably due to an editor other than Jn. (see on 6:1, 21:1).

These topographical allusions, taken together, point to the reliance of the evangelist on evidence given him at first hand and incidentally in conversation, unless we might suppose that he himself had personal knowledge of the places to which he refers. The latter explanation is inevitable for those who hold that the evangelist was, himself, John the son of Zebedee; but the allusions in question are sufficiently explained if we take the view that John the apostle is the “witness” behind the evangelist’s record,1 but not the actual writer of the Fourth Gospel.

The frequent explanatory allusions of the evangelist to the manners and customs of “the Jews” have been supposed by some to indicate that he was not himself a Jew. “He speaks as if they and their usages belonged to another race from himself,” is the comment of Matthew Arnold.2 The “feasts of the Jews” (6:4, 5:1, 7:2), “the purifying of the Jews” (2:6), “the chief priests of the Jews” (19:21), “the custom of the Jews” (19:40), “the Preparation of the Jews” (19:42), are thus designated. But Paul did not separate himself from his own people when he wrote of “the Jews” (1 Thessalonians 2:14-16, 2 Corinthians 11:24); nor does the evangelist when he thus invites the attention of his Greek readers to Jewish observances unfamiliar to them. Indeed, Jn. shows an intimate knowledge of these matters. He alludes several times to the Jewish regulations about ceremonial purification (3:25, 11:55, 18:28, 19:31), upon which the Pharisees laid much stress (Mark 7:4). He gives details, as to spices being used at burials, not found in the Synoptists (19:40). His use of the word τεταρταῖς is significant (see on 11:39). Again, he knows the time of year at which the Jews celebrated the feast of the Dedication, which was not one of the great obligatory festivals of Judaism (10:22). The strongest proof, however, that a Jew is behind the Fourth Gospel, whether as “witness” or as author, is the familiarity which it displays with Jewish doctrine current in the first century, as well as with Rabbinical methods of argument.

The universal claim which the evangelist makes for the gospel of Jesus is preceded by what is for him fundamental, viz. that Jesus is the Messiah (20:31). This thesis is continually present, while we might antecedently have expected that it would be kept in the background by one who had reached the more profound doctrine of Jesus as the Logos of God. Yet that Jesus is the Christ was for Jn., as it was for Paul, the essential germ of the fuller belief that He was the Saviour of the world. Jn. was well acquainted with Jewish popular beliefs as to the form of the Messianic expectation (1:19, 20).1 He knew that it was expected that Messiah would be a worker of miracles, for the Jews expected this of any Divine messenger (2:18, 2:23, 3:2, 9:17; cf. 1 Corinthians 1:22); and that the miracles would be of specially convincing character (7:31, 10:25; cf. 6:15). Again, 7:27 alludes to the current idea that Messiah, when He appeared, would emerge suddenly from obscurity. The note on 12:34 shows that the eternal reign of Messiah was not unfamiliar to Jewish thought. The Messiah was expected to have prophetic powers (1:48, 4:25, 29). Little is known of the Samaritans’ doctrine as to Messiah, but Jn. is aware that they looked for Him (4:25). He recalls also not only their feud with the Jews (which was doubtless well known) but their veneration for their special sanctuary on Mount Gerizim (4:20).

The evangelist moves with ease in his reports of the controversies about Sabbath observance, and the emphasis placed upon it by the Pharisees (5:10, 9:16). He knows not only that it was much debated at Jerusalem, but also that the casuistry of the Rabbinical schools had dealt with it (7:23). So, too, he is aware of the contempt of the native Jew for the Jew of the Dispersion (7:35); he knows the accepted Jewish doctrine that no human being can ascend to heaven (3:13); he gives the Jewish title “the prince of this world” to the Evil One (12:31, 14:30, 16:11); he knows of the Rabbinical superstition as to the merit gained by searching the Scriptures for fantastic arguments (5:39); and he makes allusion to the visiting of the father’s sins upon his children (9:2).2 He knows that in Rabbinical arguments a claim to originality would damage the case of him who put it forward (7:16); and he knows the Rabbinical rules about evidence, and the inconsequence of bearing witness about oneself (5:31, 8:13). Finally, the polemic described in cc: 5, 7, 8, 9 is thoroughly characteristic of Jewish controversies and quite unlike a Greek dispute. The argument placed in the mouth of our Lord at 10:34, depending as it does on nice verbal points, is of special interest in this connexion.3

These considerations, it is submitted, show that not only the witness from whom the evangelist derived much of his material, but the evangelist himself, had special knowledge of Palestine during the ministry of Jesus.

(II) The Literary Method of the Evangelist is Not that of Allegory

A view of the Fourth Gospel which has many advocates is that “the book’s method and form are prevailingly allegorical … its truth depends not on the actual accuracy of the symbolising appearances, but on the truth of the ideas and experiences thus symbolised”1 Such a sentence raises a question of grave importance, viz. Did Jn. intend to write history? This question takes precedence of any inquiry into the historical trustworthiness of his Gospel. We must come to some conclusion, in the first place, as to what he meant to do. His Gospel is a “spiritual” gospel (as Clement of Alexandria called it); no one challenges its spiritual value. He wrote to convince his readers that “Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God” (20:31). In the endeavour to do this, did he permit himself to bring out spiritual lessons by portraying scenes which he knew were not historical? Is not spiritual truth, for him, more important than historical truth? And, therefore, is not the allegorical method of interpretation the key to the secrets of the Fourth Gospel?

Before these questions can be answered, we must have a clear conception of what is meant by the “allegorical method,” and we must distinguish between allegorical interpretation and teaching by parable.


In many literatures attempts have been made to allegorise the statements of a notable book, i.e. to find a hidden meaning in incidents which were originally set down as having actually taken place, or in conversations which were narrated as historical. Thus the Stoics allegorised Homer, in the interests of Greek religion, to vindicate the character of the gods. Sometimes, again, allegorical interpretations were placed upon sacred books, not because what was narrated was believed to be unhistorical, but because the interpreters found in a book divinely inspired a spiritual meaning underlying the literal narrative. To seek for the spiritual meaning of history is an exercise with special attractiveness for men who believe that history is controlled by Divine Providence.

Thus, when Paul says that the story of Abraham, Sarah, and Hagar contains an “allegory” (Galatians 4:24), he does not suggest that it was not a true historical record of what had happened in the olden time; he means that the history symbolised a spiritual lesson (cf. also 1 Corinthians 10:1-11). In like manner, Philo sought a spiritual meaning behind the narratives of the O.T., of many of which, however, he rejected the literal truth. He treated the O.T. as the allegorising Greeks treated Homer. Philo is, in truth, the father of the allegorical interpretation of the O.T., which occupied so large a place in patristic exegesis, and which has always appealed to those who feel the charm of poetry. The incidents, names, and even the numbers of the Jewish Scriptures had for him a mystical significance, in which their true value resided, and by which their divine inspiration was most readily established. Because the O.T. was divine, it was natural to seek a deeper meaning in its every phrase than was apparent to a superficial reader.

The Christian fathers inherited this Jewish tradition of the allegorical interpretation of the O.T., but it was first applied to the N.T. by the Gnostics, with whose doctrine of a secret gnosis it was congruous. The aged Simeon taking Jesus in his arms and giving thanks was a type of the Demiurge who on the arrival of the Saviour gave thanks.1 That Jesus was twelve years old when He discoursed with the doctors in the temple was an indication of the Duodecad of the Æons.2 And the healing of the woman afflicted with an issue of blood for twelve years in like manner typified the healing of the twelfth Æon.3 These allegorisings of the Synoptic Gospels are denounced as blasphemous by Irenæus, and Tertullian afterwards took the same line. But in the next generation the allegorical interpretation of the N.T. was adopted by teachers of influence such as Clement of Alexandria and Origen; and it has ever since been favoured by Christian expositors of high repute, from Cyril of Alexandria and Augustine down to our own time. Most of those, however, who have found a mystical meaning in Gospel incidents or Gospel conversations have been firmly persuaded, nevertheless, that these incidents and con versations were historical. They allegorised history, but they did not challenge its literal truth.

Origen went a little further than this. He explains that, as man consists of body, soul, and spirit, so there are generally three senses in Scripture, the corporeal, the moral, and the spiritual.1 But occasionally, although not often, the corporeal or literal meaning is lacking, and this applies to the N.T. as well as to the O.T. “Non solum in ueteri testamento occidens litera deprehenditur: est et in nouo testamento litera quae occidat eum, qui non spiritualiter, quae dicuntur, aduerterit.”2 This applies primarily to the interpretation of precepts, e.g. Luke 10:4, “salute no man by the way,” but it may also be applied to incidents. Even the Gospels, Origen says, do not contain everywhere a pure history, but have things interwoven according to the literal sense, which yet did not happen.3 He only gives one example, viz. the story of our Lord’s Temptation, which (he points out) could not literally be true, for you could not see all the kingdoms of the earth from one mountain in Judaea. Thus Origen leaves it open to an interpreter not only to find a spiritual meaning beneath the letter of a Gospel story, but also to reject the literal meaning, if it is manifestly absurd or impossible. But it is plain that he would only have admitted this plea in rare cases,4 such as the story of the Temptation where the language used is figurative; like all his contemporaries he would have repudiated the suggestion that the miracle stories are only parables of edification, although they are pregnant with spiritual truths (see on 2:10).


It is now to be observed that none of the early masters of the allegorical method, whether Jewish or Christian, invented an incident or constructed a number, in order to teach a spiritual lesson. Just because they deemed the Scriptures to be divinely inspired, they were sure that they must be edifying in every phrase; and if the plain meaning of the words was not edifying, they sought edification beneath the surface. Indeed, the Gnostics always looked for a meaning that was not plain or obvious. But none of these allegorical interpreters composed fictitious narratives for the purpose of moral or spiritual instruction. That is a quite legitimate method of teaching, as it is a method of extraordinary power. The Fables of Æsop were, frankly, constructed to convey moral lessons. Our Lord gave to this method the sanction of His own authority, for He habitually taught by parables, “earthly stories with a heavenly meaning”; and His example has been followed by Christian teachers in every age, from the Shepherd of Hermas in the second century to the Pilgrim’s Progress in the seventeenth. But the allegorical interpreter and the author of parables follow distinct paths, and are not to be confused, the one with the other.

It is one thing to spiritualise history; it is quite another to put forth as history a narrative which is not based on fact. Neither Philo nor any of the Alexandrines adopted the latter course; i.e. they never wrote books of which the literal meaning was not the intended meaning. The allegorists would have been the first to admit that a spiritual sense, underlying the literal sense, was not claimed by them for their own writings. Neither Philo, nor Clement, nor Origen, were writers of parables.

Nor did the Gnostics compose books in the form of parable. For them the highest knowledge of spiritual things was not for the vulgar; it was only to the elect that the true γνῶσις was accessible. Accordingly, they applied the method of allegorical interpretation to the N.T., in order to draw out the deeper meaning (as they supposed) of the Gospels. They also rewrote some N.T. narratives in the interests of Gnostic doctrine, a notable example of this being the Gospel of Peter, which tells the story of the Passion from the Docetic point of view. Other Gnostic books are filled with alleged revelations to the Apostles, or to the Virgin Mary, these revelations, of course, supporting Gnostic tenets. But their books are not written in the form of history which requires to be spiritualised before its purport can be determined.


We have now seen that the phrase “allegorical method” requires careful definition. Many writers of the apostolic and sub-apostolic age were drawn to “allegorise” the narratives of the O.T., and some to apply a like operation to the N.T. But that is not to say that they themselves wrote in the form of parable, viz. that their own writings have an inner meaning which is not apparent on the surface.

Thus the Fourth Evangelist saw a Christian meaning in O.T. sayings and customs (e.g. 13:18, 19:24, 36); in that sense, he was an allegorist as Paul was. But it does not follow that his Gospel was intended by him to be treated as the Gnostics treated the O.T., viz. that its literal meaning should be discarded, and its spiritual teaching alone remembered. Indeed, the significance of Jn. to his contemporaries was that he was steadily opposed to Gnosticism of every type. He insists that Jesus Christ came in the flesh (1 John 4:2); it is the very spirit of antichrist to explain this away or to spiritualise it. That the Word became flesh is his starting-point. He lays special stress on the true humanity of Jesus (e.g. 4:6, 11:35, 19:28, 34). His purpose and his method alike are wholly inconsistent with the view that his narrative is a congeries of parables. So little inclination has he for the parabolic method, that he is the only evangelist who reports no parables of Christ. Whether we accept Jn.’s Gospel as historically trustworthy or no, it was written that his readers might accept as facts, and not only as symbols, the incidents which he records.1


Those who find symbol rather than fact in the Fourth Gospel have called special attention to the numbers which occur in the course of the narrative; and what has been said above about the allegorical method in general may fitly be illustrated by one or two examples of the way in which it has been applied to Scripture numbers, both by Jews and Christians.

Philo finds esoteric meanings in the statement (Genesis 5:23) that Enoch’s age was 365 years; just as he finds in Genesis 6:3, which gives the average age of patriarchal man as 120 years, “a divine and sacred number.”2 The Christian fathers take the same line. Barnabas (§ 9) finds in the number of Abraham’s servants, viz. 318 (Genesis 14:14, Genesis 17:23), a prophecy of the Crucifixion. So does Clement of Alexandria (Strom. vi. 11), who proceeds in the same passage to take over from Philo the idea that 120 in Genesis 6:3 is a mystery, explaining that 1+2+3+ … 15=120, while 15 is a specially significant number, because the moon at 15 days is full.

The later fathers inherited this doctrine of the mystical value of numbers, and some of them applied it to the Fourth Gospel. The 153 fishes of John 21:11 provide scope for much ingenious speculation. Thus Augustine (Enarr. in Ps., 49. § 9) tells us that 1+2+3+ … 17 =153, while 17 is formed by adding the two sacred numbers, 10 for the Law and 7 for the Spirit. It is no more likely that Jn. intended this, than that the author of Genesis 6:3 intended the like comment to be made upon his text. See, for other examples, on 1:32, 2:20, 19:23.

Numerical coincidences such as these are supposed by their discoverers to reveal the significance of Johannine numbers, which are believed to have an esoteric meaning. It remains, however, for some one to show that books were really written in this way. Can any parallel be produced to support the theory that the numbers in Jn. (38, 46, 153, etc.) were constructed by him to provoke his readers, in pursuit of the true gnosis, to discover what he meant? “The idea,” said Hatch, “that ancient literature consists of riddles which it is the business of modern literature to solve has passed for ever away.”1 The idea still survives, and in unexpected quarters, but it is certainly not applicable to the Fourth Gospel, in which not gnosis but pistis is the supreme aim of the writer. The true inheritors of Gnostic methods of interpretation are the commentators who find in the “Gospel according to St. John” a hidden purpose and an esoteric meaning. Jn. was not an allegorist; that rôle has been assumed by his critics, who teach that his Gospel is written in the form of a parable, of which the literal meaning was not meant by him to be the true meaning.


Something must be added about the alleged adoption by Jn. of a sevenfold arrangement in his work.

The number seven appears in religious or mystical literature in many parts of the world,2 as well as in folk-lore. Its significance may go back to the periods of seven days which correspond to the moon’s phases, for it is thus that the choice of a week as a definite unit of time probably originated. In the O.T., besides the use of seven as expressing an exact number, a use which is inevitable in all narrative, it sometimes indicates merely a round number (e.g. sevenfold vengeance, Genesis 4:15, Psalms 79:12, or sevenfold restitution, Proverbs 6:31), and it occasionally serves to indicate completeness (e.g. the seven nations of Deuteronomy 7:1 or the seven withes of Judges 16:7), and specially as a feature of ceremonial or ritual observance (e.g. seven bowings to the earth, Genesis 33:3, or the blowing of seven trumpets round the walls of Jericho, Joshua 6:4, or Balaam’s seven altars, Numbers 23:1, or the seven beasts of each kind for a sin-offering, 2 Chronicles 29:21). Seven is a number that is common in stories (e.g. the seven cattle of Pharaoh’s dream, Genesis 41:2, or the woman who married seven husbands, Mark 12:20). It appears in Apocalyptic (e.g. the seven weeks of Daniel 9:25, or the seven mountains in the Book of Enoch), as the Hebdomad, or seven planetary powers, plays a part in Gnostic systems. Some have thought that the sevenfold repetition of the Name of Yahweh in Psa_92 is deliberately devised by the poet so as to make it suitable as a “Psalm for the Sabbath day.”

Similar uses of the number seven are found in Christian literature, early and late, sacred and secular. The mediæval idea of seven deadly sins may go back to Proverbs 6:16, or to that of possession by seven evil spirits (Luke 8:2, Luke 11:26). That there are seven gifts of the Spirit goes back to the LXX, which has added to the six gifts of Isaiah 11:2 a seventh, no doubt with the idea of seven as a mystical number. The Seven Sleepers of Ephesus illustrate Christian folk-lore.

The number of deacons was fixed at seven (Acts 6:5, Acts 21:8), and this may have been deliberate. There is not much in Lk. which calls attention to this number; but he, with Mt., reproduces from Q the command to forgive seven times (Luke 17:4), and the parable of the seven evil spirits (Luke 11:24). Both Mt. and Lk. follow Mk.’s story of the woman with seven husbands. Mt., however, shows a partiality for sevenfold grouping. He has seven parables in c. 13, and the seven woes are gathered in c. 23. This indicates deliberate arrangement, such as does not appear in Mk., Lk. Mt. follows Mk. in telling of the feeding of the four thousand with seven loaves (Mark 8:5).

In the Apocalypse, the tendency of the seer to dwell on the number seven is inherited from previous apocalyptic literature, and is unmistakable, ἑπτά occurring over fifty times.

Here is a marked contrast to the Fourth Gospel, where ἑπτά does not occur at all, and ἕβδομος only once (4:52). It has been thought by some that Jn. avoids ἑπτά deliberately,1 because of its abuse in Gnostic literature. That may be the case. But it has also been suggested2 that the arrangement of the Gospel betrays a deliberate sevenfold grouping, although it is skilfully concealed. We shall examine presently (p. xci) the sevenfold witness to Jesus which may be discovered in the Gospel; but it is not clear that these forms of μαρτυρία are meant to be, significantly, seven in number, neither more nor less. And similar difficulties beset other attempts to find an intentional sevenfold arrangement.

The sevenfold repetition, in c. 6 (see on 6:33) or in the Farewell Discourses, of solemn refrains (see on 15:11) is striking when it is discovered, but it is not clear that the number seven is intended thus to convey any special meaning, or that it was present to the writer’s mind. Exegetes have often commented on the seven Similitudes by which Jesus describes Himself in the Fourth Gospel, beginning with ἐγώ εἰμι (6:35, 8:12, 10:7, 11, 11:25, 15:1, 14:6). But with these must be associated ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ μαρτυρῶν περὶ ἐμαυτοῦ (8:18), which brings the number of these Divine Pronouncements up to eight.3

Or, again, the number of the “seven signs” of Jesus which are recorded in the Fourth Gospel has been sometimes thought to imply deliberate arrangement. But, as we have shown on another page,1 the wonderful works called σημεῖα by Jn. are only five in number, although a sixth might be included by way of inference. To Jn. the incident of the Storm on the Lake is not a σημεῖον at all (see on 6:17f.).

Indeed, if Jn. attached mystical importance to the number seven, and dealt in allegory, as some suppose, we should have expected him to select for record the story in which the multitudes were miraculously fed with seven loaves and seven basketsful of fragments remained over, rather than that in which the loaves are but five (6:9). Both of the miracles of feeding are recorded by Mk. (6:35f., 8:1f.), whose Gospel was known to, and used by, Joh_2Joh_2 If he were an allegorist, the seven loaves would have presented a mystical meaning, which the five loaves do not offer.

The conclusion seems to be that Jn. did not set any special value on the number seven; it is not prominent in Jn. as in Mt. The intentional presence of the number seven in the narrative and the structure of the Fourth Gospel is not proved. He does not deal in allegory, but in facts.

The view that is taken in this commentary on the Fourth Gospel is that, primarily, the evangelist intended to present narratives of fact, of the truth of which he himself was fully persuaded. He is not only a historian, but he is an interpreter of history, as is shown not only by his comments on his narrative as he proceeds,3 but also by his selection and arrangement of his materials so as to persuade his readers most effectively of his main thesis (20:30). That he is insistent upon the importance of “witness,” μαρτυρία, in relation to matters of fact, must next be shown to be part of his historical method.

(III) The Idea of “Witness” Is Prominent

The narrative of the Fourth Evangelist is, to a considerable extent, a narrative of controversy. He relates more fully than the Synoptists the story of the hostility with which the claims of Jesus were greeted at Jerusalem; and he recalls the “evidences” (as a modern writer would call them) or the “witness” to which Jesus pointed as justifying and explaining His claims. “Witness” is a necessary correlative of intelligent belief.

But there is another, and a more far-reaching reason for the prevalence of the idea of μαρτυρία in Jn. It is due to the circumstances in which the Fourth Gospel was produced, and to the purpose of the evangelist in writing it.4 The book was not written in the earliest days of the Church’s life, when terms of allegiance to the Church’s Master were still unformulated, and when the disciples in the first flush of enthusiasm and devotion had hardly asked themselves what was the intellectual basis of the faith in which they had found strength. The clear definitions of Christian theology had not yet been elicited by the growth of error and of misunderstanding which had to be repressed. But by the end of the first century in intellectual centres such as the Greek cities of Asia Minor, it became imperative that the false gnosis should be expelled by the true, and that the faith in Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God, should be justified to thinking men.1 On what evidence did this wonderful faith rest itself? So men asked, and an answer had to be given. It is natural that the Gospel which originated under such conditions should lay emphasis on the “witnesses” to which the early preachers and Jesus Himself had appealed. The author is conscious, as he writes, that the facts which he narrates will be scrutinised by keen critics, and that his interpretation of them may be challenged.

1. He begins, then, as the Synoptists did, with the witness of John the Baptist, upon which he lingers, however, longer than they. The Forerunner came εἰς μαρτυρίαν (1:7, 3:26, 5:33). He bore witness that He who was coming was the Pre-existent One (1:15), while he himself was only the herald (1:19f.; cf. 3:28). When Jesus came, John bore witness that he saw the Spirit descending upon Him (1:32), and that this was the appointed token that He was the Son of God (1:34).

2. Of other human witnesses, who may be summoned to give their testimony, Jn. mentions:

(a) The Samaritan woman, whose witness did not go further than her own limited experience would justify, and was therefore all the more impressive—τῆς γυναικὸς μαρτυρούσης ὅτι Εἶπέν μοι πάτα ἃ ἐποίησα (4:39).

(b) Similar to the Samaritan woman’s witness is that of the blind man whose sight was restored (9:15f.), although the word μαρτυρία does not occur in this story.

(c) The multitude who had seen the raising of Lazarus bore witness to the fact—ἐμαρτύρει ὁ ὄχλος (12:17).

(d) The Twelve, whose authority rested on the intimacy of personal companionship—ὑμεῖς δὲ μαρτυρεῖτε ὅτι�

(e) The eye-witness of the Passion, i.e. the Beloved Disciple, on whom Jn. depends for his facts—ὁ ἑωρακὼς. μεμαρτύρηκεν (19:35, where see note); whose testimony was regarded as unimpeachable by those who published the Gospel—οἴδαμεν ὅτι�

3. The witness of the Old Testament Scriptures to Christ is appealed to as explicit—ἐκεῖναί εἰσιν αἱ μαρτυροῦσαι περὶ ἐμοῦ (5:39).

4. The works which Jesus did are His witness—τὰ ἔργα … μαρτυρεῖ περὶ ἐμοῦ ὅτι ὁ πατήρ με�

5. These works were “given Him by His Father” to do; and Jesus speaks of the witness of the Father to His claims—ὁ πέμψας με πατὴρ, ἐκεῖνος μεμαρτύρηκεν περὶ ἐμοῦ (5:37; cf. 5:32, 8:18).

6. The witness of Jesus to Himself. Such self-witness in the case of man does not, indeed, carry conviction (5:31); it is only when the Person giving it is conscious of His origin in the bosom of Deity that it can fitly be brought forward—κἂν ἐγὼ μαρτυρῶ περὶ ἐμαυτοῦ,�

7. Lastly, we have the witness of the Spirit. When the visible presence of the Christ has been withdrawn, so that men can no longer be drawn to Him by His own witness, by the compelling attraction of a Divine Personality incarnate in human nature, then—ὁ παράκλητος … τὸ πνεῦμα τῆς�Acts 5:32).

There is, therefore, if it is profitable so to regard it, a presentation of a sevenfold witness in the Fourth Gospel. It would, however, be easy so to co-ordinate the various passages in which the idea of μαρτυρία emerges that the number might be reduced or enlarged; and it is precarious and may be misleading to lay stress in this connexion on the number 7.1

In the First Johannine Epistle the “witness” is explicitly set out as threefold (1 John 5:7f.), that of the Spirit, the Water, and the Blood; i.e. primarily (1) the Descent of the Spirit upon Jesus at His baptism (cf. John 1:33), (2) His visible baptism with water, (3) His Passion and Death; and secondarily (1) the internal witness of the Spirit which is perpetually testifying of Jesus, (2) the baptism by which believers are incorporated in Him,2 and (3) the Atonement of His Cross in which they find deliverance. Thus the historical witness yields place to the moral; the “witness of God” is greater than the “witness of man” (1 John 5:9). The “witness of God” is that God gave eternal life to us in Christ (1 John 5:11; cf. John 17:3), of which we are assured not on historical grounds only, but also on those of present spiritual experience—ὁ πιστεύων εἰς τὸν υἱὸν τοῦ θεοῦ ἔχει τὴν μαρτυρίαν ἐν αὐτῷ (1 John 5:10).

(IV) Philo and the Fourth Gospel

Philo of Alexandria (b. 20 b.c., d. 49 a.d.) set himself to reconcile Hebraism and Hellenism, and to that end his aim throughout his voluminous writings was to expound the spiritual and philosophical meaning latent in the O.T. literature. His influence was far-reaching among Alexandrian Jews, and the teaching at Ephesus of the learned Alexandrian Apollos (Acts 18:24) was probably not carried on without occasional reference to Philo and his theological speculations. In any case, we should expect to find among educated people at Ephesus some acquaintance with Philo’s doctrine of the λόγος, as well as with his interpretations of Hebrew Scripture.

A comparison of the thoughts of Philo with those of the Fourth Gospel shows that in many instances Philo provides useful illustrations of Johannine doctrine, which might be expected a priori in so far as both writers deal with similar topics. But that there is any literary dependence of the Fourth Gospel upon the earlier writer has not been fully proved, although there is no reason to doubt that Jn. might have used the language of Philo on occasion when it suited his purpose.

Thus the doctrine that genuine worship must be of the spirit appears in Philo, as well as in John 4:23 (see note). The mystical saying that the Son cannot do anything except what He sees the Father doing recalls Philo’s language about the πρεσβύτατος υἱός who imitates the ways of the Father (see on 5:19). Philo contrasts the�1 John 2:15, “If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in Him,” is remarkably like the following:�1

These are close and remarkable Philonic parallels, and they suggest that Jn. was acquainted with Philo’s works. Some will regard them as establishing a real literary dependence of the Fourth Gospel upon Philo, but this cannot be regarded as certain. A large number of illustrative passages from Philo have been cited in the notes, but they can be used only as illustrations, not as sources which the evangelist uses. See on 1:5, 9, 16. 38, 50, 51, 3:14, 19, 4:10, 42, 5:32, 8:12, 32, 11:51, 14:6, 15:2, 26, 19:3, 23, 31.

For Philo’s doctrine of the Λόγος, see below, p. cxl.

2 P. lxvii.

3 P. xxiii.

4 P. lxx.

1 Cf. 5:39, 40, 17:8, 10, 11.

2 E.g. Lightfoot, Biblical Essays, p. 136 f.; and Burney, Aramaic Origin, etc., p. 114 f.

3 It is possible that many of Jn.’s O.T. citations are taken from a volume of Testimonia compiled in Greek for Christian use.

1 Cf. p. lxix.

2 God and the Bible, p. 142. Lord Charnwood’s comment is more penetrating: “In style and mind he is an intense Jew. His very anger with his own race is that of a Jew. No Gentile, though he might dislike Jews, would have shown it in the same way; he would have felt, e.g., no interest in shifting more blame on to the Jewish Sanhedrim off the shoulders of Pilate” (According to St. John, p. 52).

1 Cf. p. cxlviii.

2 See Sanday, Criticism of the Fourth Gospel, p. 135.

3 Many Talmudic and Rabbinical parallels to the Fourth Gospel have been collected by Schlatter (Die Sprache und Heimat des vierten Evangelisten), who specially quotes Midrashim of the second century. “Most remarkable,” wrote the Rabbinical scholar Dr. Abrahams, “has been the cumulative strength of the arguments adduced by Jewish writers favourable to the authenticity of the discourses in the Fourth Gospel, especially in relation to the circumstances under which they are reported to have been spoken” (Cambridge Biblical Essays, p. 181).

1 Von Hügel in Ency. Brit., xv. p. 455 (in his article on the Gospel).

1 Irenœus, Hær. 1. viii. 4.

2 Iren. l.c. 1. iii. 2.

3 Iren. l.c. 1. iii. 3.

1 de princ. iv. II.

2 Hom. in Levit. vii. 5.

3 οὐδὲ τούτων πάντη ἄκρατον τὴν ἱστορίαν τῶν προσυφασμένων κατὰ τὸ τωματικὸν ἐχόντων, μὴ γεγενημένων (de princ. iv. 16).

4 Cf. de princ. iv. 19.

1 See below, p. xc, on the value attached to “witness” by Jn.

2 Quæst. in Gen. i. 83 f.

1 Hibbert Lectures for 1888, p. 84.

2 Cf. E.B. 3436.

1 See p. lxv.

2 Cf. Abbott, Diat. 2625. 6.

3 See p. cxviii.

1 P. clxxvii.

2 Cf. p. xcvi.

3 P. xxxiv.

4 See on 1:14.

1 So in the Pauline Epp. it is not until we reach the latest phase of his teaching that we come upon the assertion ἡ μαρτυρία αὕτη ἐστὶν�Titus 1:13). Generally, in Paul, the verb μαρτυρεῖν bears the sense of painful testifying, rather than of bringing forward evidence to prove something that is in dispute.

1 See p. lxxxix above.

2 Cf. John 3:5.

1 Fragm. ex Joh. Damasc., Sacr. Parall., p. 370 B.

Bernard, J. H. (1929). A critical and exegetical commentary on the Gospel according to St. John. Paged continuously. (A. H. McNeile, Ed.) (1:lxxviii-xciv). New York: C. Scribner' Sons. See p. lxxii f. for notices of Jn. in Christian books written between the time of Irenæus, whose testimony is explicit, and 250 a.d.. CHAPTER IV


(i) The Use made by Jn. of the Synoptists.

(ii) The Chronology of Jn. and of the Synoptists.

(iii) The Words of Jesus in Jn. and in the Synoptists.

(I) The Use Made by Jn. of the Synoptists

At some points the Fourth Gospel reproduces a more primitive tradition of the Ministry of Jesus than is to be found in the Synoptists. Jn.’s word for the chosen followers of Jesus is μαθηταί, which doubtless goes back to the earliest period; he does not use the term apostles (see on 2:2, 13:16). His account of the way in which disciples, both of the inner and outer circles, used to address Jesus, has every mark of historical truth (see on 1:38, 4:1). Again, Jn.’s allusions to the Baptism of Jesus (see on 1:32) seem to go back to a more primitive (and probably a better authenticated) tradition than those followed in the Synoptic Gospels; and the same may be said of his narrative of the Storm on the Lake (see on 6:16f.). These are illustrations of the contemporary authority behind much that is recorded in the Fourth Gospel; it is the “Gospel according to St. John,” relying in many instances on the reminiscences of the Beloved Disciple.

That the Fourth Gospel was written at a time when the general Synoptic tradition was familiar to Christians does not need proof. To the evangelist, the writer of the book, the outline of the Gospel story was already well known, and he assumes previous knowledge of it on the part of his readers. “The Twelve” are mentioned without any previous indication that twelve companions had been specially chosen by Jesus (6:67; cf. 6:13). It is for him a sufficient account of Andrew to say that he was the brother of Peter (1:40), of whom everybody knew. Every one knew, again, of the fact that John the Baptist had been imprisoned; it is alluded to only as marking the time of his ministry near Salim, viz. before his imprisonment (3:24). Jn. does not attempt to tell over again the story that has already been told to Christian disciples from the beginning. He omits much that is present in the Marcan tradition, e.g. the Transfiguration; or that was found in that common source of Mk., Lk., Mt., now generally described as Q, e.g. the Temptation, the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord’s Prayer. In Part I. of the Gospel, at any rate, the scene of which is largely laid in Galilee, we might expect to meet with publicans, lepers, and demoniacs, or to read of the preaching of repentance or forgiveness, as in the Synoptic Gospels. But Jn. introduces none of these people and neither of these topics (cf., however, 20:23).

Yet Jn. does not avoid the Synoptic stories altogether. He has, e.g., the Cleansing of the Temple1 (2:13f.), the Healing of the Nobleman’s Son (4:46f.), the Feeding of the Five Thousand (6:1f.), the Storm on the Lake (6:16f.), while he treats these and other incidents in his own manner.

All this is self-evident. And since the time of Eusebius, at any rate, it has been recognised that Jn. knew the general story which we now have in the Synoptists. Eusebius,2 indeed, accepts a tradition of his day that Jn. wrote his Gospel in order that he might supply what was lacking in the earlier narratives, especially in regard to the beginnings of the ministry of Jesus. This does not give us the only or main purpose of the composition of the Fourth Gospel; but that Jn. wrote with a knowledge of what had previously been written about the Life of Jesus is, a priori, probable.

We have now to ask, Had Jn. ever seen the Synoptic Gospels in their present form? Is there any trace of his having used Mk., Lk., or Mt.? Does he reproduce phrases which are found in any of the earlier Gospels? Such questions may be approached quite dispassionately. The study of the Synoptic problem, which has now been continued for a century, has resulted in a general acceptance of the conclusion that both Lk. and Mt. used Mk. in addition to a source now lost, which is commonly described as Q. The words of Mk. were adopted in many instances both by Lk. and by Mt., sometimes without change and sometimes with corrections, which in the judgment of the later evangelists improved the style or made for accuracy. It is possible that Jn. (i.e. the evangelist, not John the Beloved Disciple) may have used the Synoptists in like manner. It would have been quite consistent with the literary habits of the time if he occasionally borrowed a sentence from his predecessors. There will, then, be nothing to surprise if we find in Jn. not only traditions which he shared with earlier evangelists, as well as with the whole Church of his day, but also traces of the actual incorporation in his text of descriptive phrases from the Synoptic Gospels, or from their sources.

It will be convenient to state briefly at this point that the conclusions which have been adopted in this commentary1 are (a) that Jn. almost certainly uses Mk.; (b) that most probably he uses Lk., or perhaps we should say uses Q; and (c) that there is no good evidence that he used Mt. at all, or was aware of the Matthæan tradition as distinct from that of Mk. (see nevertheless 6:3, 16:4, 20:17 for passages with some similarity to Mt.). It is, indeed, possible that the “Gospel according to St. Matthew” is in its present form the latest of the four canonical Gospels; but upon this I do not enter here.


1. The most remarkable agreements in language between Jn. and Mk. occur in the narratives of the Anointing at Bethany (John 12:1-8, Mark 14:3-9). These narratives, and also that of Luke 7:36-49, have been compared and examined in the Additional Note on John 12:1-8. Here we note only the verbal coincidences:

John 12:3: μύρου νάρδου πιστικῆς πολυτίμου reproduces Mark 14:3 μύρου νάρδου πιστικῆς πολυτελοῦς, the word πιστικῆς being both uncommon and obscure.

John 12:5: διὰ τί τοῦτο τὸ μύρον οὐκ ἐπράθη τριακοσίων δηναρίων καὶ ἐδόθη πτωχοῖς; reproduces Mark 14:5 ἠδύνατο γὰρ τοῦτο τὸ μύρον πραθῆναι ἐπάνω δηναρίων τριακοσίων καὶ δοθῆναι τοῖς πτωχοῖς.

John 12:7: ἄφες αὐτήν, ἵνα εἰς τὴν ἡμέραν τοῦ ἐνταφιασμοῦ μου τηρήσῃ αὐτό recalls Mark 14:6, Mark 14:8 ἄφετε αὐτήν· … προέλαβεν μυρίσαι τὸ σῶμά μου εἰς τὸν ἐνταφιαμόν.

John 12:8: τοὺς πτωχοὺς γὰρ πάντοτε ἔχετε μεθʼ ἑαυτῶν, ἐμὲ δὲ οὐ πάντοτε ἔχετε reproduces Mark 14:7 πάντοτε γὰρ τοὺς πτωχοὺς ἔχετε μεθʼ ἑαυτῶν … ἐμὲ δὲ οὐ πάντοτε ἔχετε.

These verbal coincidences are so close that they cannot reasonably be explained by reference to a common oral tradition being the source of the story in Jn. as in Mk. And the care with which Jn. has amplified and corrected in the course of his narrative certain statements of Mk. (see notes on John 12:1-8) shows that where he follows Mk. verbally, he does so deliberately. See below.

2. A second example of the reproduction of Mk’.s words by Jn. appears in the story of the cure of the impotent man at Bethesda.

The command ἔγειρε ἆρον τὸν κράββατόν σου καὶ περιπάτει (John 5:8) is repeated from Mark 2:9 ἔγειραι καὶ ἆρον τὸν κράββατόν σου καὶ περιπάτει. So, too, the result εὐθέως ἐγένετο ὑγιὴς ὁ ἄνθρωπος, καὶ ἦρεν τὸν κράββατον αὐτοῦ καὶ περιεπάτει (John 5:9) recalls Mark 2:12 ἠγέρθη καὶ εὐθὺς ἄρας τὸν κράββατον ἐξῆλθεν ἔμπροσθεν πάντων. No doubt the narratives describe two quite distinct incidents; although, on the other hand, it may be contended that the words urging the paralytic of Mk. and the impotent man of Jn. to make a special effort would probably be similar in both instances. Yet, as Streeter points out,1 Jesus must be supposed to have spoken in Aramaic, and that the Greek version of what He said in one case should be so close to an independent version of what He said in the other (both including the vulgar word κράββατον, which is not used in the parallels Matthew 9:0, Luke 5:0) is unlikely. And there is also a close verbal similarity (see on 5:9) in the reports of the man going off immediately carrying his pallet. It is more likely that Jn. here avails himself of words used by Mk. in describing a somewhat similar scene than that these verbal coincidences should be accidental. This, be it observed, is not an instance of Jn.’s correction of Mk., but of his use of Mk.’s vocabulary.

3. The Johannine stories of the Feeding of the Five Thousand and of the Storm on the Lake (6:1-21) recall the words used in Mark 6:30-52 at some points. The detail διακοσίων δηναρίων ἄρτοι, which does not appear in Mt., Lk., is verbally identical in John 6:7, Mark 6:37; the verb�John 6:10, is also used in Mark 6:40, but not in Mt., Lk.; the χόρτος of John 6:10 is reproduced from Mark 6:39 (so Matthew 14:19), but is not in Lk.; the pronouncement ἐγώ εἰμι, μὴ φοβεῖσθε (John 6:20) is identical with Mark 6:50 (followed by Matthew 14:27). Lk. does not tell of the Storm on the Lake. These verbal similarities between Jn. and Mk. are the more remarkable by reason of the tendency in Jn’.s narrative to correct Mk.’s report at other points.

Thus the sacramental suggestiveness of Jesus lifting up His eyes to heaven and breaking the bread in blessing (Mark 6:41, Matthew 14:19, Luke 9:16) does not appear in Jn. (see on 6:11), and the omission is probably deliberate. So, too, Jn. avoids the word πληρωμα (see on 6:12) which Mk. has at 6:43. And he retells the Marcan story of the Storm on the Lake in such a way that he removes any suggestion of the miraculous walking on the sea (see on 6:16), while he retains some of Mk.’s words.

That Jn. knew these Marcan narratives, but adopted their phraseology only after scrutiny and correction, seems to be the most probable explanation.

4. In regard to the order in which the incidents at the Last Supper are narrated, there is remarkable agreement between Jn. and Mk., as contrasted with the divergent order suggested by Lk. This is discussed in the note on 13:4. It does not follow that Jn. is using the text of Mk. in c. 13, but that both adopt the same order of events recommends it as most probably historical.

5. Peter’s three denials of his Master are described in Jn., as in Mk., as having happened while he was waiting in the courtyard of the high priest while the preliminary examination of Jesus was proceeding; and both Jn. (18:18, 25) and Mk. (14:54, 67) mention twice that Peter was warming himself (θερμαινόμενος) during his parley with the slaves and the police. Perhaps Jn. here follows Mk., while he departs from the Marcan story in other particulars (see on 13:38, 18:18, 25, 27). When the first examination of Jesus by Pilate has taken place, the question βούλεσθε οὖν�Mark 15:9, but not of Mt., Lk. There is thus a probability that John 18:0 goes back at some points to Mark 14:15; but this is not certain.

6. The account of the mock coronation of Jesus by Pilate’s soldiers and of His investment with a purple robe (John 19:2) is similar in several phrases to the Synoptic narratives, and suggests Matthew 27:28, Matthew 27:29 and Luke 23:11 as well as Mark 15:17. But having regard to the differences as well as the agreements it is not proved that Jn. is conscious either of Mt. or of Lk. at this point, while it is probable that he is using the text of Mk. (see for details on John 19:2).

7. The passage 12:27f. shows traces of the language of Mk., and in a less degree of Lk. (see notes in loc.). It would be rash to conclude that Jn. is here reproducing, consciously or unconsciously, phrases from the earlier Gospels; for he seems to be following an independent tradition as to the words which the Synoptists ascribe to Jesus at Gethsemane. But the verbal similarities are striking.

8. The verse 20:17 (see note in loc.) seems to indicate the adoption by Jn. of words ascribed to the Risen Lord in Matthew 28:10, where they were probably derived from the lost conclusion of Mk. Jn. here is aware of, but corrects, the Marcan tradition.


1. A comparison of John 12:3 (see Additional Note on the Anointing at Bethany) with Luke 7:38 shows that Jn., for whatever reason, tells the story of the anointing at Bethany in terms of the Lucan narrative. The words ἐξέμαξεν ταῖς θριξὶν αὐτῆς τοῦς πόδας αὐτοῦ, which are common to both narratives, disclose not only a traditional, but a literary, relation between them. That Jn. is using words which he derived either from Lk. directly, or from Q (the source of Lk.’s narrative), is difficult to gainsay.1

2. The prediction by Jesus of Peter’s denial and of the cock-crowing in John 13:38 is verbally very close to Luke 22:34, while it is conspicuously different from Mark 14:30. But the prefatory�

3. Joh 19:41 ἐν τῷ κήπῳ μνημεῖον καινόν, ἐν ᾧ οὐδέπω οὐδεὶς ἦν τεθειμένος. recalls Luke 23:53 ἐν μνήματι λαξευτῷ οὗ οὐκ ἦν οὐδεὶς οὔπω κείμενος. That the tomb had not been used before is not told by Mk., nor by Mt., who, however, adds the word καινόν to Mk.’s statement. The verbal similarity between Lk. and Jn. suggests that Jn. is here using Lk., substituting οὐδέπω for οὔπω (see on 19:41, 20:9).

4. Jn. agrees more nearly with Lk. than with Mk., Mt., in his account of the Resurrection, both evangelists recording appearances of the Risen Lord in Jerusalem (see on 20:1). The mention, e.g., of two angels at the tomb (20:12) is another form of Lk.’s tradition (Luke 24:4). In two other instances (John 20:12, John 20:19, John 20:20), Jn,’s language recalls two passages in Lk.’s text (Luke 24:12, Luke 24:36), which are treated by Hort as “Western non-interpolations,” and as inserted by scribes in Lk. from John 2:0 It is not certain that Hort’s view can be pressed, and it may be that Jn. is here correcting and adapting Lucan texts (see on 20:5, 19). The relation between John 12:47 and the Western text of Luke 9:55 is not easy to explain, but here, again, Jn. may be correcting Lk.

From a survey of these passages, we conclude that, although Jn. does not use Lk. as frequently as he uses Mk., he was nevertheless acquainted with the Third Gospel as well as with the Second.


Several sayings of Jesus recorded by the Synoptists, whether derived from the Marcan tradition or from Q, also appear in Jn. in a different context. It is probable that many of His sayings were repeated by Him more than once. See notes on 12:25, 13:16, 20, 15:20, 21. In none of these cases, however, is the form of expression in Jn. identical with that in Mk., Lk., or Mt., while the matter of the precept or aphorism or warning remains the same. It is possible that ἐγείρεσθε ἄγωμεν of 14:31 was taken from Mark 14:42, where the same words appear. But Jn. places them in a somewhat different context, which may represent a more accurate tradition than that of Mk. (see on 14:31). In any case, that this brief command is reproduced in the same terms by both evangelists is not sufficient to establish a literary dependence of Jn. upon Mk. at this point.


The Fourth Gospel, like that of Mk., begins with the preliminary ministry of John the Baptist, as ordained in the Divine counsels to prepare for the greater ministry that was to follow. Jn.’s account of the Baptist’s proclamation of Jesus, which he represents as explicit and unqualified, is marked by vivid details derived apparently from a contemporary witness; while at the same time the language used reproduces phrases already familiar from the Synoptic narratives.

(a) Jn. describes the Baptist as a man “sent from God” (1:6; cf. 3:28). This is implied in the quotation of Malachi 3:1 in Mark 1:2 and Q (Matthew 11:10, Luke 7:27). Mark 1:2 was probably present to the writer of John 1:6; or we may say that Malachi 3:1 was a familiar text from its presence in Christian testimonia.

(b) To the Baptist is applied Isaiah 40:3 by Mk., Mt., Lk., but John 1:23 represents him as claiming the prophecy for one of himself.

(c) Jn.’s proclamation of the Coming One is found in similar, but not identical, terms in Jn., Mk., Mt., Lk.

John 1:15, John 1:30: ὁ ὀπίσω μου ἐρχόμενος ἔμπροσθέν μου γέγονεν, ὅτι πρῶτός μου ἦν.

John 1:27: ὁ ὀπίσω μου ἐρχόμενος, οὗ οὐκ εἰμὶ ἐγὼ ἄξιος ἵνα λύσω αὐτοῦ τὸν ἱμάντα τοῦ ὑποδήματος.

Mark 1:7: ἔρχεται ὁ ἰσχυρότερός μου ὀπίσω μου, οὗ οὐκ εἰμὶ ἱκανὸς κύψας λῦσαι τὸν ἱμάντα τῶν ὑποδημάτων αὐτοῦ.

Matthew 3:11: ὁ δὲ ὀπίσω μου ἐρχόμενος ἰσχυρότερός μου ἐστίν, οὗ οὐκ εἰμι ἱκανὸς τὰ ὑποδήματα βαστάσαι.

Luke 3:16: ἔρχεται δὲ ὁ ἰσχυρότερός μου, οὗ οὐκ εἰμὶ ἱκανὸς λῦσαι τὸν ἱμάντα τῶν ὑποδημάτων αὐτοῦ.

Cf. Acts 13:25: ἔρχεται μετʼ ἐμὲ οὗ οὐκ εἰμὶ ἄξιος τὸ ὑπόδημα τῶν ποδῶν λῦσαι.

It is clear that John 1:15 (see note) puts into fresh words the Synoptic phrase ὁ ἰσχυρότερός μου, which is also found in Justin (Tryph. 49, 88). Jn. has ἄξιος for the Synoptic ἱκανός, but ἄξιος is the adj. used in Acts 13:25 (see note on John 1:27). Mk. is alone in adding κύψας, stooping down to unloose the thong of the sandal. Mt. has the different image of carrying the sandals or shoes (see on John 1:27), but it is remarkable that Justin (Tryph. 49, 88) also has βαστάσαι for λῦσαι. Jn. characteristically adds ἐγώ for emphasis before ἄξιος. Also ἵνα λύσω is the constr. with ἵνα which he favours rather than λῦσαι (see on John 1:7). He agrees with Mk., Lk. in the constr. οὗ … αὐτοῦ.

When these variations are examined, it becomes doubtful whether it can be claimed that Jn. here follows Mk. rather than Lk. Perhaps the true inference is that Jn. and Mk. are following Q at this point, as was suggested by Salmon.1

(d) Jn. differs from the Synoptists in some details as to the Baptism of Jesus; e.g. he omits any mention of the heavens being opened, or of the Voice from heaven (see on 12:28). In particular, the sight of the dove descending on Jesus at His baptism is, for Jn., no spiritual vision seen only by Jesus (cf. Mark 1:10), but was perceived by the Baptist with his bodily eyes (see on 1:32), and was acclaimed by him as a Divine sign that Jesus was the expected Messiah. This was the beginning and the foundation of that “witness” of the Baptist on which stress is laid throughout the Gospel (cf. 10:41).2

(e) Neither in Mk. nor Lk. is it expressly stated that the Baptist recognised Jesus as the Messiah, when He presented Himself for baptism, although this is indicated in Matthew 3:14. And the clearness of the Baptist’s perception that Jesus was the Coming One, as indicated by Jn. (1:26, 29, 33), has been thought by some to be inconsistent with the Synoptic presentation of John’s ministry, and in particular with John’s hesitation as to the Messiahship of Jesus at a later stage, which was described in Q (Matthew 11:2f., Luke 7:19). Such hesitation is, however, not incompatible with a previous outburst of enthusiastic conviction, as every student of psychology will recognise. And, apart from such considerations, the Synoptic tradition of the discomfiture of the ecclesiastical authorities by the simple question, “The baptism of John, was it from heaven?” (Mark 11:30, Luke 20:5, Matthew 21:25) proves decisively that the Baptist had definitely proclaimed Jesus as the Expected One. “Why then did ye not believe him?” There would have been no force in this retort, if it had not been common knowledge that the witness of the Baptist to the Divine authority of Jesus had been express.1 It is exactly this which John 1:26f. implies, as also Matthew 3:14, although it is not stated explicitly in Mark 1:0 or Luke 3:0. The announcement of the Baptist’s conviction in the startling words, “Behold the Lamb of God,” probably marks a later rendering of the Christian doctrine of Redemption (see on 1:29); but for the fact that the Baptist recognised in Jesus the expected Christ, the Synoptists are (implicitly) witnesses as well as Jn.

(II) The Chronology of Jn. And of the Synoptists

The Fourth Gospel seems to have been constructed on a rough chronological plan more precise than appears in the Synoptists. Jn. does not attempt to tell the Life of Jesus in full; and he warns his readers about this (21:25). He only describes selected incidents: perhaps because they have a special bearing on his chosen thesis (20:31); perhaps too because of these he is able to write with special authority, or can correct what has been written by earlier evangelists.

There is no such thing as a chronological scheme, properly speaking, in the Synoptic Gospels, although Lk. (1:1) recognises the value of orderly presentation of facts (cf. also Luke 3:1, Luke 3:2). But Jn. likes to tell of things in historical sequence. His report of the opening week of the public ministry of Jesus distinguishes five distinct days at least on which something happened (cf. 1:29, 39, 43, 2:1, and see on 1:19). “The morrow” (6:22, 12:12), “six days” (12:1) “two days” (4:43, 11:6), “four days” (11:7), “not many days” (2:12), “after eight days” (20:26) exhibit not only his anxiety to mark the sequence of events, but the confidence with which he indicates their order. Jn. is especially careful to mention the visits of Jesus to Jerusalem for the national feasts; and his statements on this head, which are characteristic of the Fourth Gospel, must be examined both in regard to their precision and their intrinsic probability.

1. The three great festivals of the Jews were Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles. All male Jews above the age of twelve years were under obligation to attend these at Jerusalem; and it would have been out of keeping with a reputation for piety for any one to absent himself. There was no similar obligation to be present at the Feast of the Dedication or the Feast of Purim, although even at these Jews were accustomed to assemble from all quarters. According to Jn., Jesus followed the national custom as to the attendance at feasts, of which the following are mentioned:

(1) The Passover of the year 27 (2:13). This was held at the beginning of the sacred year, about the time of the spring equinox, on 14th Nisan.

(2) The Passover of the year 28 (5:1), which is mentioned as near at hand in the earlier passage (6:4). (See above, p. xvii, on the transposition of Song of Solomon 5:0 and 6).

(3) The Feast of Tabernacles of the same year, i.e. 28 a.d. (7:2). This was the most important of all the national festivals, and began on 15 Tishri (about the month of October). Jn. takes special note of what Jesus said on the last day of this feast (7:37) as well as during the middle of the celebration (7:14).

(4) The Feast of Dedication of the same year, i.e. 25 Chislev (December, 28 a.d.). This was attended by Jesus (see 10:22).

(5) The Passover of the year 29 a.d., at the time of the Passion (11:55, 12:1).

These records, if the order of the traditional text is trustworthy, prove that the public ministry of Jesus extended over at least two years, and there is nothing intrinsically improbable in this. But it has been thought by some that so long a period of ministry is inconsistent with the report of the Synoptists, who tell only of one Passover, and from whose records the prima facie inference would be that Jesus was crucified at the Passover season which followed His baptism. This would involve that the public ministry of Jesus lasted for one year only.

I have suggested elsewhere the possibility that the Cleansing of the Temple is misplaced in the ordinary text of Jn. (see on 2:13, 23, 3:1). If we could take it in connexion with the last visit of Jesus to Jerusalem, as the Synoptists do, then the Johannine narrative does not involve a longer ministry than something more than one year, viz. the whole year described in Part II., and as many months as are necessary for the incidents of Part I.1 There would, in that case, be no chronological inconsistency between the Synoptists and an original text of Jn., which placed c. 2:13f. somewhere after 12:18. But, taking the text of Jn. as we have printed it, the ministry of Jesus lasted for more than two years, which is not suggested by the Synoptists, who do not mention explicitly the visits of Jesus to Jerusalem for the purpose of keeping the national feasts.

In connexion with this omission in the Synoptic narratives, we must bear in mind their character and structure. None of them professes to give a complete account of the public ministry. Mk., which is the oldest of them, is a record of the Galilæan ministry only, until the last scenes. Mt. and Lk. are based partly on this, and partly on a collection of discourses of Jesus, which contained also a few notable incidents. None of them aims at telling the story in complete detail or in exact sequence. It is unreasonable to assert that events undescribed by them could not have happened. Positive evidence is always more weighty than a mere argumentum e silentio, and hence, unless the Synoptic accounts definitely contradict what Jn. tells about the visits of Jesus to Jerusalem for the feasts, the latter must be allowed to stand. No such contradiction can be alleged.

According to Lk. (2:41), it was the habit of the family at Nazareth to go up to Jerusalem “every year” for the Passover, as all pious Jews were accustomed to do. We cannot doubt that, during the thirty years of preparation for His work, Jesus did the same. It is difficult to believe that, even if His public ministry lasted but for one year, He would have abstained from going up to Jerusalem in that year for Pentecost, or for the Feast of Tabernacles, which was the greatest of the religious celebrations. Such an attitude would have shocked the piety of His disciples, and would naturally have provoked the charge of carelessness in observation of the Law. Yet there is no hint anywhere that it was one of the counts in His indictment by the priests, that He neglected to attend the national festivals. His opponents were quick to point to the freedom with which He treated the laws about the Sabbath; it would have been an additional breach of law and tradition, which the people would have viewed with grave suspicion, could He have been accused of disregarding the obligation to attend the Feast of Tabernacles. That the Synoptists make no mention of such an accusation indicates that none such was made—that it is probable, therefore, that it could not have been made with truth—and hence that their narratives are not inconsistent with visits to Jerusalem paid by Jesus during the period of which they treat. But if one such visit be admitted, there is nothing to prevent the acceptance of several, such as Jn. records, and hence of the extension of the public ministry of Jesus over a longer period than one year.

Moreover, when we remember what Jesus conceived His mission to be, even if we limit ourselves to what the Synoptists tell of Him, it is difficult to suppose that He made no effort to appeal in person to Jerusalem, the home of the national religion and the central seat of its authority, until the last week of His life on earth. Unless Jerusalem were approached, His mission as the Messiah of the Jews would be incompletely fulfilled. It is, on the other hand, entirely in agreement with what we should have expected from One who claimed to be the Fulfiller of the Law (Matthew 5:17), that He should, again and again, have endeavoured to gain the allegiance of the citizens of Jerusalem, as is indicated in the report of John 1:0

One positive piece of evidence is supplied by the Synoptists themselves in corroboration of this conclusion. The source called Q, from which both the First and the Third Gospels have taken large part of their material, places in the mouth of Jesus a lament over the obduracy of Jerusalem, in the face of frequent appeals. “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem … how often would I have gathered thy children together … and ye would not” (οὐκ ἠθελήσατε, Matthew 23:37, Luke 13:34). Mt. and Lk. do not agree as to the occasion on which these words were spoken; but, whenever spoken, they point back to previous ministries of exhortation and warning. They are not sufficiently explained by a reference to mere aspirations such as Jesus may have felt on visits to Jerusalem before His public ministry had begun;2 they seem to imply definite appeals which were rejected by those to whom they were addressed. And of these the Johannine record provides adequate illustration, John 12:34-36, John 12:44-50 corresponding to the lament preserved in Q.

Further evidence of former Jerusalem ministries may be found in such passages as Luke 19:30f., Luke 22:8f., which show that Jesus, on the occasion of His last visit, was already known to persons dwelling in or near the capital. The owners of the ass, riding on which He made His triumphal entry, did not demur when the animal was borrowed; ὁ κύριος αὐτοῦ χρείαν ἔχει was sufficient excuse. And the master of the house where the Last Supper was eaten received Jesus as a welcome guest. Yet, as Drummond urges,3 these acquaintanceships or friendships may have been formed during earlier visits to Jerusalem which were not associated with any public teaching, and it would be precarious to build an edifice of theory upon them. But the use in the passages cited (from Lk.) of the titles ὁ κύριος and ὁ διδάσκαλος suggests that these Jewish acquaintances of Jesus were accustomed to speak of Him thus, and such a designation marks the relation of a master to his disciples (see on 13:13). They were not mere acquaintances and well-wishers; they were among those who recognised that He claimed at least to be a Rabbi and an authoritative Teacher. And this brings us round again to the conclusion that this claim had been made by Him before at Jerusalem as well as in Galilee. Thus the Johannine account of several ministerial visits to Jerusalem on the part of Jesus is corroborated by several Synoptic touches. And this confirms the view that the length of the ministry of Jesus is more accurately indicated by Jn. than by the Synoptists.

2. The discrepancy between Jn. and the Synoptists as to the actual date of the Last Supper and consequently of the Crucifixion has been the subject of much discussion. The Synoptists treat the Last Supper as the Paschal Feast. Jn., on the other hand, does not represent it as a Paschal meal, holding that the Passover was celebrated on the day after the Supper, and that Jesus died on the cross at the time that the Paschal lambs were being killed.

The account of Jn. is without ambiguity. At the Supper some present thought that Judas departed in order to buy some things for the Feast, which had therefore not yet been celebrated (13:29). The eating of the Passover was still to come when, on the morning after the Supper, the priests refused to enter the Prætorium lest they should contract ceremonial defilement (18:28). When Jesus died on the cross, the soldiers did not break His legs, the O.T. precept that the bones of the Paschal Lamb should not be broken being thus fulfilled, in the view of Jn. (19:36). Paul, it is to be observed, took the same view of the death of Jesus as that of the true Paschal Lamb (1 Corinthians 5:7, 1 Corinthians 5:8), this being the earliest tradition on the subject that is extant.1 See also on 19:14, 31, 42.

When we speak of the Synoptic tradition about the date, we must remember that it ultimately rests on Mk., from whom Mt. and Lk. take the framework of their narratives of the Passion. As Burkitt points out, in regard to this matter, we are not dealing with a consensus of three independent authorities.1 There is no doubt that Lk. (22:13) and Mt. (26:19) follow Mk. (14:16), when they all say of the preparations for the Last Supper, “they made ready the Passover.” Mark 14:12 introduces this by recording, “On the first day of unleavened bread, when they sacrificed the Passover,” the disciples asked Jesus where were they to prepare for the Feast. That they came into Jerusalem from Bethany for the supper is quite consistent with a regulation that the Passover was to be eaten in the city area (cf. Deuteronomy 12:5); but this is no proof. Nor is the fact that they sang a hymn (Mark 14:26) after supper any proof that this was the Paschal Hallel. Indeed, there are some difficulties in the Synoptic narratives as they stand. According to Mark 14:2, the Sanhedrim had decided not to arrest Jesus during the Paschal Feast, and yet they actually did so (Mark 14:43). The carrying of arms during the Feast was, at any rate, unlawful, although perhaps the disciples would not have refrained from this in the circumstances (Luke 22:38, Mark 14:47; see on John 18:10). To hold a formal trial before the high priest on the Feast day would, again, be unlawful (Mark 14:53). And the purchase of a linen cloth (Mark 15:46), and the preparation of spices and ointments (Luke 23:56) during such a Festival, would be strange, if not forbidden. Finally, the language of Luke 22:15 (even though Lk. regards the Supper as the Passover Feast) implies that, although Jesus eagerly desired to celebrate one more Passover with His disciples, yet in fact He did not do so.

These considerations indicate that the Johannine tradition as to the occasion of the Last Supper and the day of the Crucifixion is preferable to that of the Synoptists, who are not consistent with themselves. That the Johannine reckoning seems to have been adopted in the second century by the Quartodecimans is a further consideration.2

The attempts which have been made to harmonise the two divergent traditions by identifying the Last Supper with the Chagigah or the Kiddusch,3 or by amending the text of Mt. 26:174 with Chwolson, are not convincing. It emerges from the discussion that Jn.’s chronology must not be treated as inferior to that of the earlier Gospels; and that as to the date of the Crucifixion he is more probably right than they. So also as to the hour of the Crucifixion, placed by Jn. at noon, which is more probable than Mk.’s ὥρα τρίτη (see on John 19:14).

Reasons have been given in the notes on 2:13, 23 (see also p. xxx) for preferring, on the contrary, the Marcan tradition that the Cleansing of the Temple took place during the last week of our Lord’s ministry at Jerusalem, to accepting the early date assigned to it in the traditional text of Jn. It may be added that Tatian in his Diatessaron removes both the Cleansing of the Temple and the Nicodemus incident from the beginning of the ministry of Jesus. Tatian adopts the following order of events and discourses: the Parable of the Pounds, the Cleansing of the Temple, the Parable of the Pharisee and Publican, the Cursing of the Fig Tree, the Conversation with Nicodemus, the Discovery that the fig tree has withered away. He does not place these events in the last week of the ministry of Jesus (for he puts the Triumphal Entry a good deal later), but he treats them as happening at Jerusalem on His last visit but one to that city.

3. In connexion with Jn.’s notes of time, his use of the expressions μετὰ τοῦτο and μετὰ ταῦτα should be noticed.

μετὰ τοῦτο, which is not found in the Synoptists, appears four times in Jn. (2:12, 11:17, 11, 19:28), and always implies that only a short interval of time has elapsed.

μετὰ ταῦτα is not so precise; it is used at 5:14, 13:7, 19:38 as equivalent to “subsequently” or “afterwards.”1

It is used in an even looser way in the Apocalypse (4:1, 7:9, 15:5, 18:1, 19:1) to introduce a new vision, and in the Fourth Gospel to introduce a new section of the narrative (3:22, 6:1, 5:1, 7:1, 21:1), the idea of causal or immediate sequence not being present at all. It would seem that in 3:22, 6:1, 5:1, 7:1 μετὰ ταῦτα merely indicates the beginning of a new set of reminiscences of the aged “witness” behind the Gospel, which were taken down from his dictation by the evangelist who subsequently put the whole in shape. In these passages μετὰ ταῦτα is not strictly chronological.

(III) The Words of Jesus in Jn. And in the Synoptists

The contrast between the words of Jesus as found in the Synoptists and in the Fourth Gospel respectively has been observed even by superficial readers. Differences in the various books might have been anticipated. Perhaps the first collection of Jesus’ sayings was that included in the documentary source behind all the Gospels which critics designate as Q. This doubtless contained some stories of what Jesus did, but it was mainly concerned with what He said, especially with the parables, which were so characteristic of His method of teaching, and the terse, pointed epigrams which arrested the attention of all who heard Him. Then we have the Marcan Gospel, representing in the main the Galilæan tradition of the Ministry, said by Papias and Irenæus to depend on the recollections of Peter.1 Mt. and Lk. use both of these sources, with others. Jn. was later in date than Θ or Mk. or Lk., all of which sources he had probably read, but he depends mainly, for his facts, on the reminiscences of the apostle John, then in his old age. It is not the purpose of Jn. to retell the story of the Ministry, as it was told by Mk. and Lk., but to tell it from a new point of view. The story of Jesus is being misunderstood and in some ways perverted by Gnostic Christians. Jn. not only relies for his new narrative on the sole survivor of the apostles, but he selects for special record such facts and sayings as seem to him to need restatement, or which have hitherto remained unwritten. The authority for his facts is not mere vague tradition, but the “witness” of the Beloved Disciple himself. The purpose of the Fourth Gospel is not to set down all that the writer has learnt about his theme; but to tell what may persuade Christian disciples of the truth of his great thesis that Jesus is the Son of God, in whose Name they, believing, may find life (20:31). Jn. is not only an historian: he is an interpreter of history. And, moreover, he himself was one of the first disciples, although not of the inner circle;2 he had heard Jesus speak, and he knew how He was accustomed to speak, when in controversy with Jewish opponents, no less than in His discourse with simple people.

In books, then, which came into being under such different conditions, we should expect differences in the several reports of the discourses of Jesus. Further, we need not be surprised if there are also differences of arrangement and of style, corresponding to the temperament, education, design, and authority of the several writers. We are presented, moreover, with discourses, now expository, now argumentative; now exoteric for the public, now esoteric for the most intimate disciples of the Speaker; now addressed to Galilæan peasants, now to the Rabbis of Jerusalem. That there is a wide difference between the sayings collected in either version of the Sermon on the Mount (Mt. and Lk.) and the subtle arguments of John 5:8, John 5:9, and again the sacred farewells of cc. 14, I5, I6, is obvious. But if such differences were not apparent, we should have to conclude that some of the reports were unduly coloured.

We pass on to some comparisons in detail of the Synoptic reports and those in Jn. of the sayings of Jesus; and we find that some of the similarities are quite as striking as the differences.

1. Naturally, all accounts record the authority with which Jesus spoke. It astonished the people in the synagogue at Capernaum (Mark 1:22, Mark 6:2), as it astonished the Sanhedrim police at Jerusalem who had been so overawed that they did not arrest Him (John 7:46). It was the same tone as that which He used to Pilate (John 18:37).

2. “Brief and concise,” says Justin Martyr, “were His sayings, for He was no sophist.”1 Justin is referring to those terse, short sentences of which the Synoptic Gospels are full; other examples of which have been preserved in non-canonical sayings, some cited by the early Fathers, others only discovered in papyrus collections in our own time. It should be remembered that these telling aphorisms are exactly the kind of saying that would become traditional at once, would pass from mouth to mouth, and would be incorporated in a document such as Q. Paradoxes have been called the “burrs” of literature, because they “stick”; and one of our Lord’s methods was to teach by paradoxes. Mark 2:17, Mark 2:27, Mark 2:4:25, Mark 2:10:25 are examples of sayings which provoke the attention and so make men think. Of such sayings Jn. mentions some which the Synoptists also have, e.g. John 12:25 (the most famous of all) and 13:20. In addition, he has preserved some which are not found elsewhere, e.g. “My meat is to do the will of Him that sent me” (John 4:34); “Work not for the meat which perisheth, but for the meat which abideth unto eternal life” (6:27); and “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (15:13); cf. also 12:24. These are all addressed to inquirers and disciples, and are of a type with which the Synoptic Gospels have made us already familiar. So, too, the beautiful illustration of the woman in travail (16:21) recalls the manner of the speech of Jesus in the Synoptists.

3. It is common both to the Synoptic and to the Johannine tradition that while Jesus spoke in parable or mystery to outsiders (Mark 4:34, John 10:6) He was accustomed to explain His meaning more fully to His disciples (Mark 4:34, Mark 7:17, John 16:25, John 16:29). Yet even they did not quite understand His words (Mark 9:32, John 16:29); always there was a certain aloofness in His bearing, and despite His tender affection for His near friends they were afraid of questioning Him too far (Mark 9:32, Mark 10:32, John 2:4). This becomes even more apparent in the post-Resurrection narratives, but it is present throughout the ministry in its early stages.

4. A feature of the discourses of Jesus in Part I. of the Fourth Gospel must now be examined, because it discloses a similarity to some of His speeches in the Synoptists which has often been overlooked. Some critics have rightly called attention to the form in which the discourses in Song of Solomon 3:4, Song of Solomon 3:6 are cast, and which has been called their “schematism.” A saying of deep import is uttered by Jesus; His hearers misunderstand it, after a fashion that seems stupid; and then He repeats the saying in a slightly different form before He explains it and draws out its lesson. At least six instances of this may be noticed in Jn.:

(a) Jesus says, “Except a man be born from above, he cannot see the Kingdom of God” (3:3); Nicodemus asks, “How can a man be born when he is old” (3:4); and then Jesus repeats the saying in the form: “Except a man be born of [water and] the Spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God” (3:5), explaining it further in vv. 6, 7, 8. Nicodemus does not understand all at once (3:9).

(b) Jesus tells the Woman of Samaria that if she had asked Him, He would have given her “living water” (4:10). The woman is puzzled. How could He provide spring water, when there is no other well but the old well of Jacob, and He has no bucket to draw with (4:11, 12)? Jesus repeats that He can give “water” which shall become in the heart of the recipient a well of water springing up unto eternal life (4:13, 14). The woman does not understand all at once (4:15).

(c) Jesus says to His attendant disciples, “I have meat to eat that ye know not” (4:32). They think that He speaks of ordinary food (4:33). He explains that His meat is to do the Father’s will (4:34f).

(d) Jesus says to the multitudes who had been fed, “Work not for the meat which perisheth, but for the meat which abideth unto eternal life” (6:27). They think He is referring to manna, and they ask Him to produce it (6:31, 34). Jesus tells them that He is Himself the Bread of Life (6:35), and explains that those who come to Him shall never hunger (vv. 36-40). The hearers are not satisfied (6:41).

(e) Jesus says again, “I am the Bread which came down from heaven” (6:41). The inquirers ask how could that be, since they know His father and mother (6:42). He explains again, and repeats, “I am the Bread of Life.”

(f) Jesus utters another, even harder, saying, “The Bread which I will give is My Flesh” (6:51). The puzzled questioners ask, “How can this man give us His Flesh to eat?” (6:52). Jesus says again, “Except you eat the Flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you” (6:53), and then He expands and explains. Upon this many would-be disciples leave Him (6:60).

Thus the Discourses of Jesus, with Nicodemus about the New Birth (3:3-14), with the woman of Samaria about the Living Water (4:10-15), with the disciples about the spiritual nourishment which sustains Him (4:32-34f.), together with the three connected, but distinct, sections of the Discourse about the Bread of Life (6:27-40, 41-51a, 51b-58), all follow similar paths. But these similarities do not by any means prove that the discourses are constructed thus by the evangelist, without any historical tradition behind them.1

It is a remarkable circumstance that discourses such as those in Song of Solomon 3:4, Song of Solomon 3:6 do not occur anywhere in Part II. of the Gospel. Song of Solomon 5:7-12 are full of the discourses of Jesus, but Jn. does not report them on the lines of those which have been cited, viz. Saying of Jesus; Misunderstanding of it; Saying repeated, expanded, and explained. If the method or plan of the discourses indicated in Part I. is entirely the invention of the evangelist, adopted monotonously to bring out the nature of the teaching which he ascribes to Jesus, how is it that no trace of this method is found in Part II.?

The fact is that the discourses in Part I. of the Fourth Gospel are not reported as polemical arguments; they were addressed to sincere inquirers and well-washers who were seeking discipleship. We have already seen (p. xxxiii) that Part I. is a record of the early welcome which the teaching of Jesus received, mainly in Galilee, but also in a lesser degree in Jerusalem. That is, it deals with situations similar to those described in the Synoptic Gospels, and specially in Mk. And, accordingly, the method which Jesus used in teaching as set out in Part I. of Jn. is indicated also in the Synoptic narratives. It is the method of paradox (to arrest the attention of the hearer), followed (after the hearer has shown himself puzzled and therefore curious) by an explanation. In this, it resembles the method of teaching by parables.

Thus at Mark 7:15-23, Jesus puzzles the disciples by saying: “Nothing from without the man, going into him, can defile him; but the things which proceed out of the man are those that can defile him.” The disciples see that this is a “parable,” but they do not understand. Jesus then repeats the saying and explains it. Again, at Mark 8:15-20 Jesus says to His disciples, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees.” The disciples are dull enough to think He is speaking about some kind of bread. He explains with a rebuke what He means, and repeats His precept again (cf. Matthew 16:11). This is similar to the method by which Nicodemus was taught.

In short, the plan on which the teaching of Jesus to inquirers and disciples was fashioned, according to the Synoptists, recalls at several points the discourses addressed to such hearers according to the Johannine report of them in Part I. of the Fourth Gospel. The parallels to Jesus’ method of argument with hostile critics in the last week of His public ministry as recorded by the Synoptists are found, on the other hand, in Part II. of Jn.

5. The form of the polemic against Jewish objectors in Part II. of the Fourth Gospel has disconcerted some readers as savouring of Rabbinical subtlety,1 rather than of what is thought to be evangelical simplicity. In particular, the Rabbinical arguments at John 7:22f., John 8:17, John 10:34 (where see notes) do not appeal directly to a modern mind as very convincing or on a lofty plane of thought. But if John 7:22f. be only an argumentum ad hominem, the same might be said of the puzzling query, “The baptism of John, was it from heaven or from men?” (Mark 11:30). Neither argument did more than exhibit the inconsistency of the Pharisees, and this is not the highest type of reasoning as we understand it. Or, again, the argument in Mark 3:23f. which begins, “How can Satan cast out Satan?” is rather satire than close reasoning. “It is not logically convincing, since Satan might very well sacrifice some of his subordinates for the sake of a greater victory, and it reaches a conclusion which is true from premises, those of the scribes, which are false or shaky.”2 The truth is, that the polemic which Jn. records in Song of Solomon 7:8, Song of Solomon 7:10 is not dissimilar from the kind of argument which is represented by Mk. as being used against similar opponents, viz. the scribes and Pharisees. Such opponents had to be met with their own methods of argument, and this is brought out by the Synoptists as well as by Jn., although they are so much less familiar with the story of the rejection of Jesus at Jerusalem than he is. The kind of argument against the Pharisees reproduced in Part II. of the Gospel is not recorded by Jn. with the view of convincing Greek readers. It is included by the evangelist to bring out the profundity of the thoughts of Jesus, who even while He had to dispute with the Rabbis as to the validity of His claims knew that nothing could really be set against the tremendous pronouncement, “I am He that beareth witness of Myself” (8:18).1 And, as has been noticed above, the faithfulness with which these controversies have been recorded2 is illustrated by the very feature which the modern mind is apt to repudiate. It is not to be overlooked, moreover, that in these reports the commentary of the evangelist cannot always be distinguished from the sayings of Jesus which he has set down.3

6. The Discourses of Farewell (cc. 15, 16, 13:31-38, 14) stand alone, and are not strictly comparable with any other sayings in the Gospels. They are not like the parables or sermons to the multitudes which the Synoptists preserve; nor do they recall the arguments by which (either in the Synoptists or in Jn.) Jesus strove with those who rejected His claims. They were for his faithful and sorrowing friends, and spoke of them in particular and their future needs and duties. “I go” is behind every word (16:5, 7, 28, 13:36, 14:2). There are precepts of life, both practical, “bear fruit” (15:2, 8, 16), and mystical, “Abide in me” (15:4-10), for to observe this last is to be enabled to obey the other. There are warnings (15:18-25, 16:1-3): promises (15:26f., 16:14, 14:26); consolations (14:1, 27); counsels and assurances of love (15:12, 13, 17, 13:34, 35). These sayings are unique, because as the circumstances were unique, the Speaker is unique. And this is also true of the Last Prayer (see on 17:1). We cannot expect to find literary parallels to utterances such as these. They are not the invention of good disciples, even though they were men of high spiritual genius. The record of these sacred words is a record of faithful memories, quickened, we need not hesitate to say, by the Divine Spirit, whose help had been promised (so the evangelist tells) for this very purpose (14:26).

We have, indeed, no title to invoke miraculous intervention in such guidance of the evangelist’s pen, if that would imply that every syllable of the Master’s last words has been infallibly preserved. The evangelist sat at the feet, as he made his record, of the last survivor of the men who heard Jesus speak on the eve of His Passion. The aged apostle had been pondering these words all through his long life. Hardly did he remember all, but he remembered without any misunderstanding the purport, and very likely, in some instances, the actual words that had been used. The evangelist takes them down from the lips of the old saint, possibly not all at once, but on more than one occasion. Their original language was Aramaic, but they must be translated into Greek, for this is to be a Greek gospel. And, besides, an evangelist has his own methods of literary workmanship.

The wonderful record, e.g., in Mt. of the Sermon on the Mount is not quite the same as that in Lk., while it contains more. But no one supposes that what we call the “Sermon on the Mount” was a discourse that could be delivered in thirty minutes, in which time Matthew 5:6, Matthew 5:7 could be read aloud, or that the vast volume of teaching in these chapters, packed with counsel, epigram, illustration, was ever included in any one discourse. These teachings of Mt. 5-7 are certainly authentic; no one doubts that they express, with complete lucidity, the message of Jesus to those whom He addressed as well as to succeeding generations. But we must recognise that the record has been put into shape, and that it is not the less precious because it has been arranged with such rare skill.

No doubt the record in John 14:15, John 14:16 is not put into shape, as it were, with the same freedom as that employed in Matthew 5:6, Matthew 5:7. In the “Sermon on the Mount” the author is putting materials together which he has gathered from more sources than one. For the Last Discourses the evangelist has only one authentic source of information, and that has doubtless been followed closely and reverently. At one point, indeed (16:16-20), we seem to have an example of that method of teaching by paradox and repetition, which as we have seen (p. cxi) was a favourite method of the Master when dealing with His disciples. Again, these discourses recall those terse, illuminating, compelling phrases, which the Synoptists teach us were characteristic of the way in which Jesus spoke. Not to recall (see p. cx), 15:13 or 16:21, is there anything in literature more arresting than, “In my Father’s house are many mansions” (14:2)? No saying about the future life is more familiar. And this brings out one of the most remarkable features of John 14:0, I5, 16. These are among the most difficult passages of the N.T. Every phrase challenges an explanation. They contain teachings of such profundity that he who attempts to explain them must feel that he has essayed too hard a task. Yet no chapter in the Bible is more greatly beloved by simple Christian folk than Jn. I4; as no text in the Bible has brought more consolation than, “Let not your heart be troubled … if it were not so, I would have told you”; although, at the same time, its exact meaning is exceedingly obscure (see note on 14:1, 2). That is, the Last Discourses of the Fourth Gospel appeal to all men, and not merely to the philosopher or the theologian. The directness and universality of their appeal are not easy to reconcile with the view that they proceed, in the last resort, from any speaker other than the Son of Man Himself.

The style of Jn. is, nevertheless, impressed on cc. 14-16, as on the other discourses in the Fourth Gospel. It is Jn.’s habit to repeat words and thoughts again and again; and it is probable that this was the habit of Jesus Himself, which the evangelist has caught from listening to the reminiscences of the old apostle. It is not always easy to disentangle Jn.’s commentary from his report of the Lord’s words; e.g. in 5:20-29 commentary and quotation are intermingled1 (see note in loc.). The most striking example of an evangelical commentary, elucidating and enforcing the teaching of Jesus, is in 3:16-21, 31-36 (see on 3:16). The verses preceding 3:16 show how naturally the report of the words of Jesus slips into free paraphrase (see on 3:11); but nearly all exegetes recognise that from v. 16 onward the evangelist is speaking in his own person.

Now the method of teaching by iteration, by going back upon a word, by recalling a thought already expressed that it may be put in a new setting, is clearly apparent in cc. 14-16. The key-words abide (15:4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10), bear fruit (15:2, 8, 16), love (15:12, 13, 17), friends (15:13, 14, 15), hate (15:18, 19, 23-25), recur again and again in c. 15. The solemn refrain, “These things have I spoken unto you,” appears seven times in cc. 14-16 (see on 15:11; and cf. the refrain in 6:39, 40, 44, 54). There is no more reason to suppose that the use of such refrains is a literary artifice of the evangelist’s (although it might be so), rather than a reminiscence of our Lord’s habit of speech, than to suppose that He was not accustomed to say, “Verily, verily” (see on 1:51).

The view of the Last Discourses which has been adopted in this Commentary is, accordingly, that while the evangelist has left his mark upon the report of them, by arranging the sentences, by shortening them, by bringing together counsels which may have been repeated more than once, by using the Greek phrases and constructions with which he himself is specially familiar, the Teaching is not that of a pupil, however spiritually gifted, but that of the Master Himself, whose last words had been preserved in the memory of the Beloved Disciple, the last of the apostles.

7. A special feature of the way in which Jn. reports the words of Jesus outside the Last Discourses is the use of the phrase ἐγώ εἰμι, by which Jesus in the Fourth Gospel frequently introduces His august claims. There is nothing quite similar to this in the Synoptists, and the Johannine use of ἐγώ ἐγώ εἰμι, must now be examined in detail.

(i) The frequency with which the personal pronouns ἐγώ, ἡμεῖς, σύ, ὑμεῖς occur in Jn. is a marked feature of his style. Thus ἐγώ is found 134 times in Jn., as against 29 occurrences in Mt., 17 in Mk., and 23 in Lk. In large measure this is due to the emphasis which in the Fourth Gospel Jesus lays upon His claims and His personality, although the pronoun often appears when no such reason can be assigned.1 Thus we have ἐγὼ δὲ ἔχω τὴν μαρτυρίαν μείζω τοῦ Ἰωάνου (5:36); ἐγὼ�

ἐγώ εἰμι often appears, of course, in the Greek Bible, followed by a proper name or by a descriptive clause or word. Thus Peter says ἐγώ εἰμι ὅν ζητεῖτε (Acts 10:21). Jesus says after His Resurrection ἵδετε τὰς χεῖρας καὶ τοὺς πόδας μου, ὅτι ἐγώ εἰμι αὐτός, “that it is I myself” (Luke 24:39). ἐγώ εἰμι is often used in deliberate affirmations as to the speaker’s personality. Thus we have ἐγώ εἰμι Ἰωσήφ (Genesis 45:3), ἐγώ εἰμι Γαβριήλ (Luke 1:19), and ἐγώ εἰμι Ἰησοῦς ὃν σὺ διώκεις (Acts 9:5, Acts 22:3, Acts 26:15).

But we have to reckon with a more distinctive use of this introductory phrase. In the O.T. ἐγώ εἰμι is often the style of Deity, and its impressiveness is unmistakable. A few instances may be cited from the LXX, in each case Yahweh being the Speaker:

ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ Θεός σου (Genesis 17:1).

ἐγὼ γάρ εἰμι Κύριος ὁ Θεός σου ὁ ἰώμενός σε (Exodus 15:26).

σωτηρία σου ἐγώ εἰμι (Psalms 35:3).

ἐλεήμων ἐγώ εἰμι (Jeremiah 3:12).

Θεὸς ἐγγίζων ἐγώ εἰμι (Jeremiah 23:23).

ἐγὼ γάρ εἱμι Κύριος ὁ�Isaiah 61:8).

In all these passages ἐγώ εἰμι is the rendering of אני; while in the specially emphatic passages—

ἐγώ εἰμι, ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ παρακαλῶν σε (Isaiah 51:12),

ἐγώ εἰμι, ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ ἐξαλείφων τὰς�Isaiah 43:25),

the doubled ἐγώ εἰμι is the rendering of the doubled אנבי.1

We find this style in the Apocalypse, where it rests on the O.T.2 Thus the Divine words ἐγώ εἰμι τὸ Ἄλφα καὶ τὸ ῏Ω (Revelation 1:8, Revelation 21:6, Revelation 22:13) go back to ἐγὼ Θεὸς πρῶτος, καὶ εἰς τὰ ἐπερχόμενα ἐγώ εἰμι (Isaiah 41:4); Or to ἐγώ εἰμι πρῶτος καὶ ἐγώ εἰμι εἰς τὸν αἱῶνα (Isaiah 48:12), or some such passage. Moreover, words like these or like Isaiah 44:6 ἐγὼ πρῶτος, καὶ ἐγὼ μετὰ ταῦτα are placed in the mouth of the Risen Christ in Revelation 1:17, viz.:

ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ πρῶτος καὶ ὁ ἔσχατος, καὶ ὁ ζῶν.

Again in 2:23 the Son of God declares that all the churches shall know ὅτι ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ ἐραυνῶν νεφροὺς καὶ καρδίας, which goes back to Jeremiah 11:20, Jeremiah 17:10, where it is Yahweh who searches the reins and the heart. And finally in Revelation 22:16 Jesus says:

ἐγώ εἰμι ἡ ῥίζα καὶ τὸ γένος Δαβίδ, ὁ�

which, although not a citation of any single O.T. passage, depends on the prophetic teaching, e.g. Isaiah 11:1, Isaiah 60:3.

It is, then, clear that the ἐγώ εἰμι of these sentences from the Apocalypse is a reflexion of the manner of speech appropriate to God in the O.T., and being placed in the mouth of Jesus involves His Divinity, which the author thus claims for Him.

We now approach the Similitudes by which Jesus describes Himself in the Fourth Gospel:

ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ ἄρτος τῆς ζωῆς (6:35).

ἐγώ εἰμι τὸ φῶς τοῦ κόσμου (8:12).

ἐγώ εἰμι ἡ θύρα τῶν προβάτων (10:7).

ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ ποιμὴν ὁ καλός (10:11).

ἐγώ εἰμι ἡ�

(iii) There is yet another use of ἐγώ εἰμι. It appears sometimes without any predicate, although the predicate may be clear from the context. Thus, in answer to the question, “Art thou the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” Jesus says ἐγώ εἰμι, according to Mark 14:62 (cf. Luke 22:70), meaning, “Yes, I am the Christ.” So, at John 4:26, ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ λαλῶν σοι may mean, in like manner, “I that speak to you am the Christ” (but see note in loc.). Or, again, the blind beggar of John 9:9 admits his identity by saying simply ἐγώ εἰμι, “I am he of whom you have been speaking.” It is probable that a similar explanation is to be given of John 18:5, where Jesus says to those who are seeking Him, ἐγώ εἰμι. Yet another explanation is possible here, for the sequel, “they went backward and fell to the ground,” might suggest that they recognised in the words ἐγώ εἰμι not merely an admission of identity, but a claim of mystery which inspired them with dread. See, however, note on 18:6.

An examination of the passages in the LXX where ἐγώ εἰμι is used absolutely, shows that in general it is the rendering of אֲנִי־הוּא, which is literally “I (am) He,” and that this Hebrew phrase appears to occur only when God is the Speaker.1 Instances of this usage in the LXX are:

Deuteronomy 32:39: ἴδετε ἴδετε ὅτι ἐγώ εἰμι,

Isaiah 43:10: ἵνα … συνῆτε ὅτι ἐγώ εἰμι,

Isaiah 46:4: ἕως γήρως ἐγώ εἰμι,

καὶ ἕως ἂν καταγηράσητε ἐγώ εἰμι—

such proclamations being usually followed by the assertion of the Unity of God, viz., “And there is none other beside Me.”

It has been suggested that ἐγώ εἰμι is used in this way in the narrative of the Storm on the Lake. Both the Marcan and Johannine versions make Jesus say ἐγώ εἰμι· μὴ φοβεῖσθε (Mark 6:50, Matthew 14:27, John 6:20). And it is argued that to render ἐγώ εἰμι by “It is I,” and treat the words as a simple affirmation that it was Jesus the Master who had appeared, is to do violence to the Greek language. So Abbott2 regards ἐγώ εἰμι in 6:20 as a rendering of the Hebrew אֲנִי־הוּא, I (am) He, which is the comforting assurance, several times repeated in the prophets, of a Divine Deliverer. This is possible, but does not seem necessary. We have εἰμί used for πάρειμι in John 7:36 (see note there), and clumsy Greek as ἐγώ εἰμι for “I am present” may seem, it cannot be ruled out as certainly wrong (cf. 9:9).

A more plausible case may be made for this mystical use of ἐγώ εἰμι in Mark 13:6, Luke 21:8. Here Jesus foretells that false Christs will arise saying ἐγώ εἰμι. The parallel place, Matthew 24:5, has ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ Χριστός, which is obviously the meaning; but neither Mk. nor Lk. Supply ὁ Χριστός. There is no predicate for ἐγώ εἰμι in the Marcan and Lucan passages, and it seems probable, therefore, that the original tradition was that Jesus said that the claim of the false Christs would be the claim אֲנִי־הוּא, I (am) He.

(iv) Such considerations prepare us for the remarkable phrase πρὶν Ἀβραὰμ γενέσθαι ἐγώ εἰμι which Jn. (8:58) places to the mouth of Christ. In c. 8 we have had ἐγώ εἰμι three times before, but twice with a predicate expressed or understood (8:18, 28). In 8:24, 58, however, and again at 13:19, we have ἐγώ εἰμι used absolutely; and we must conclude that, in these passages at any rate (whatever may be thought of the Synoptic passages that have been cited above), ἐγώ εἰμι is the rendering of the Divine proclamation אֲנִי־הוּא, which the prophets ascribe to Yahweh.

This way of speech, elliptical and mysterious, was due, perhaps, to unwillingness to repeat the Sacred Name, the Tetragrammaton, which was revealed to Moses at the Bush. In Exodus 3:14 the Name of God is declared to be אֵהְיֶה אֲשֶׁר אֶהְיֶה, ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ ὤν, as the LXX has it; that is, His Name is אֶהְיֶה or ὁ ὤν. Moses was to say to the Israelites that אֶהְיֶה had sent him: “Qvi Est misit me ad uos.” But the English versions would mislead, if it were supposed that ἐγώ εἰμι in the sentence ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ ὤν (Exodus 3:14) explained for us the ἐγώ εἰμι of John 8:58. ἐγώ εἰμι in Exodus 3:14 is followed by the predicate ὁ ὤν, and is not used absolutely. To get an illustration of this absolute use, we must go to the prophetic אֲנִי הוּא, Ego ipse (Isaiah 46:4), which, by its studied avoidance of the Name revealed in Exodus 3:14, suggests its mystery and awe. Probably that Name did not connote self-existence (which is a later metaphysical conception) so much as changelessness and so uniqueness of being, “He that is.”

(v) In the attribution to Jesus of the solemn introduction of His claims by the phrase ἐγώ εἰμι, which, as we have seem, is suggestive of Deity in some of its various constructions, Jn. may possibly be reproducing actual words of Jesus, comparable to those cited in Mark 13:6 (see p. cxx above). But it is also possible that such utterances as ἐγώ εἰμι ἡ�

1 Here Jn. seems to have amplified and altered the Marcan narrative (see notes in loc.). Cf. also p. xxx.

2 H.E. iii. 24. 7.

1 The literature is vast. See Abbott, E.B. ii., s.u. “Gospels,” and for evidence from vocabulary, Diat. 1665-1874; Bacon, The Fourth Gospel, p. 366 f.; Stanton, The Gospels as Historical Documents, iii. p. 214f.; and recently Streeter’s admirable study in The Four Gospels, ch. xiv.

1 The Four Gospels, p. 398.

1 For the relation between Jn. and Lk., see Harnack’s brief study of their vocabulary (Luke the Physician, p. 224 f.). He holds it possible, but not certain, that Jn. used Lk. Cf. also Gaussen, J.T.S., July 1908,, for words and ideas common to both.

2 The addition to the text (in אBCL) of Matthew 27:49 is undoubtedly derived from John 19:34 (where see note).

1 Human Element in the Gospel, p. 52.

2 Cf. p. xci.

1 See, for this, J. O. F. Murray in Expository Times, Dec. 1925.

1 This is the period expressly assigned to the ministry by Origen: ἐνιαυτὸν γάρ που καὶ μῆνας όλίγους ἐδίδαξεν (Philocal. i. 5).

1 The mention of the Temple in Matthew 4:5, Luke 4:9 suggests an agony of Temptation occasioned by a visit to Jerusalem.

2 This is the explanation of Drummond, Character and Authorship of the Fourth Gospel, p. 45.

3 Loc. cit.

1 So Justin regards the Paschal Lamb as a σύμβολον of Christ (Tryph. 40); and lrenæus is explicit as to the Crucifixion being on the actual day of the Passover: “in eadem ipsa, quae ante tantum temporis a Moyse praedicata est, passus est dominus adimplens pascha” (iv. 10. I). Earlier still, Pseudo-Peter follows the Johannine tradition (Gospel of Peter, § 3). See above, p. xlix, on the Quartodeciman practice.

1 J.T.S., April 1916, p. 292, a valuable article; cf. also J.T.S., July 1908, p. 569.

2 See p. xlix above.

3 See G. H. Box, J.T.S., 1902, p. 357; and cf. Burkitt, J.T.S., 1916, p. 294

4 See references in Moffatt, Introd. to N.T., p. 545.

1 It is used thus in Luke 5:27, Luke 10:1 [Mk.] 16:12, Revelation 9:12, not appearing in Mt. or Mk.; in the LXX (as at Luke 12:4, Luke 17:8, Luke 18:4, Acts 13:20, Acts 18:1) it generally connotes strict sequence.

1 Eus. H.E. iii. 39, 15, v. 8, 2.

Θ̠Koridethi (ε 050). Tiflis. vii-ix. Discovered at Koridethi, in Russian territory, and edited by Beermann & Gregory (Leipzig, 1913). The text is akin to that of fam. 13, fam. 1, and the cursives 28, 565, 700 See Lake and Blake in Harvard Theol. Review (July 1923) and Streeter, The Four Gospels. Cf. also J.T.S. Oct. 1915, April and July 1925.

2 Cf. p. xlvii.

1 Apol. i. 14.

1 For this view see Jülicher, Introd., p. 392; and for an even more extravagant inference cf. Loisy (on John 3:2), who says that the Nicodemus discourse was constructed at first “comme poéme didactique sur la régéneration spirituelle que procure le Fils.”

1 See p. lxxxii above.

2 A. Menzies, The Earliest Gospel, p. 101.

1 Cf. p. xcii.

2 P. lxxxii.

3 See p. cxvi.

1 Cf. 1 Corinthians 15:45, where Paul combines a quotation with his own comment.

1 Burney held that the personal pronouns in Jn. often “represent close translation of an Aramaic original in which the pronoun was expressed with the participle” (Aramaic Origin, etc., p. 81). Cf. p. lxvii.

1 The LXX translators of certain books of the O.T. render אנכי (to distinguish it from אני) with curious pedantry by ἐγώ εἰμι, even when a verb follows. Thus Jephthah is made to say ἐγώ εἰμι οὐκ ἤμαρτόν σοι (Judges 11:27; cf. Judges 11:35, Judges 11:37, Ruth 4:4, 2 Samuel 11:5). But this eccentricity does not concern us in the present discussion. (See Thackeray, J.T.S., Jan. 1907, p. 272.)

2 Cf. p. lxviii.

1 A string of sentences beginning ἐγώ εἰμι is put into the mouth of the dragon in Acta Thomæs § 32.

2 Light from the East, p. 134 f.

3 De Iside, c. 9, p. 354 C.

4 Dieterich, Eine Mithrasliturgie, pp. 6, 8.

5 Deissmann, Bible Studies, p. 328 (from a Lyons papyrus).

1 ἐγώ εἰμι translates אֲנִי (without הוא) in Isaiah 47:8, Zephaniah 2:15, where the careless city says in arrogance, “I am, and there is none else beside me,” which is almost an assumption of the style of Deity.

2 Diat. 2220 f.



(i) The Title “Son of Man” in the Synoptists and in Jn.

(ii) The Doctrine of Christ’s Person in the Synoptists, Paul, and Jn.

(iii) The Doctrine of the Logos and the Prologue to the Fourth Gospel

(I) The Title “Son of Man” in the Synoptists and in Jn.


The title “the Son of Man” as a designation of Jesus is found in the N.T. outside the Gospels only at Acts 7:56.Acts 7:1 It is never employed by Paul, nor was it adopted by Christian writers of the sub-apostolic age. In the Gospels it occurs about eighty times, and always (for John 12:34 is not an exception) in the words of Jesus as a designation of Himself. It is never used of Him by the evangelists, when reporting His deeds or His words.

That Jesus should have made a practice of speaking of Himself in the third person is very remarkable,2 and it is not less remarkable that no one seems to have thought it curious.3 But that He did so speak, describing Himself either as “the Son of Man” or less frequently as “the Son,” is attested by all four Gospels, and by the several strata of narrative which modern scholarship has detected as underlying the evangelical records. A table drawn up by Dr. Armitage Robinson4 conveniently exhibits the distribution of the title in the Synoptic Gospels, and shows that it appears (1) in Mk., (2) in the document which critics call Q, (3) in the matter peculiar to Lk., (4) in the matter peculiar to Mt. So deeply rooted is this title in the traditional report of the words of Jesus, that in two passages at least it has been inserted by the later evangelists where it is absent from their Marcan source. Thus Mark 3:28, “All their sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men,” becomes “Whosoever shall speak a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him,” at Matthew 12:32, Luke 12:10, the sense of the saying being materially affected. And again the momentous question, “Who do men say that I am?” (Mark 8:27, Luke 9:18). assumes at Matthew 16:13 the form, “Who do men say that the Son of Man is?” or (according to some MSS.), “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?” Such editorial alterations presuppose a fixed tradition that Jesus habitually spoke of Himself as “the Son of Man.”


A further inference may be derived from Matthew 16:13. The evangelist who reported the question of Jesus in the form, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?” or the like, could not have thought that “the Son of Man” was a recognised title for “the Christ.” Had he thought so, his report of the Confession of Peter and its context would be unintelligible. For it would represent Jesus as announcing that He was the Christ in the question which asked His disciples to say who He was; and also as solemnly blessing Peter for a confession which only repeated what he had been told already. According to the Matthean tradition, then, the title “the Son of Man” as used by Jesus of Himself did not necessarily convey to His hearers His claim to be the Messiah. It was not a customary or familiar designation of the Messiah in the first century.

The Synoptic narratives represent the Confession of Peter (Mark 8:29 and parallels) as marking a critical point in the training of the Twelve. They had been accustomed to the title “the Son of Man” on the lips of Jesus before this point, but they had not understood hitherto that He who called Himself the Son of Man was the Christ. Henceforward this method of self-designation may have connoted for them the claim of Jesus to be the promised Deliverer of the Jewish race, but in the earlier days of their association with Him it could not have carried this meaning. Nor would it at any stage of His ministry have conveyed to His hearers, who were not among the chosen Twelve, that He claimed to be Messiah.

Two instances of the prevailing ignorance that the title had any Messianic significance appear in the Fourth Gospel. At John 9:35 (according to the true text), Jesus asks the blind man who had been cured, “Dost thou believe on the Son of Man?” The answer is one of complete bewilderment, viz., “Who is He that I should believe on Him?” He had not been a listener to the teaching of Jesus, and so he was not aware that He designated Himself “the Son of Man”; and it is also clear that he did not recognise “the Son of Man” as a Messianic title. At John 12:34 we have another illustration of the same ignorance. The multitude at Jerusalem had heard Jesus saying, “The Son of Man must be lifted up”; like the blind man, they did not know that He spoke of Himself when He spoke of “the Son of Man.” He had been speaking of the judgment which was impending, and they had been wonder ing if He was going to assert Himself as Messiah. But, on the contrary, He began to speak of “the Son of Man.” Who might this be? This was not a Messianic title known to them (see on 12:34).


Before examining more closely the significance which Jesus Himself attached to the title “Son of Man,” some further instances may be cited from the Gospels of its use by Him as a designation of Himself, where there is no suggestion of His Messiahship.

Four instances occur in the non-Marcan document (behind Mt. and Lk.) generally known as Q. Jesus, when addressing the crowds, contrasts Himself with the austerely living Baptist as “the Son of Man who came eating and drinking” (Matthew 11:19, Luke 7:34). Also, addressing the crowds, He said that as Jonah was a sign to the Ninevites, so shall “the Son of Man be to this generation” (Matthew 12:40, Luke 11:30). Addressing a scribe, He explained that, while the birds and beasts had homes, “the Son of Man hath not where to lay His head” (Matthew 8:20, Luke 9:58). And while Mt.’s report of a beatitude in the Sermon on the Mount is, “Blessed are ye when men shall reproach you … and say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake” (Matthew 5:11), Lk. has in the parallel place, “Blessed … shall cast out your name as evil for the Son of Man’s sake” (Luke 6:22). In none of these passages is there any hint of a Messianic claim. “The Son of Man” is simply His description of Himself. In the last-mentioned passage (Luke 6:22) it may be due to an editor; but in the other three it would seem to have been actually employed by Jesus, and there is no hint that those to whom it was addressed did not understand that it was thus that He spoke of Himself.

Two further instances, in which Lk. alone has the phrase, may be due to editorial revision, but they illustrate at all events the Lucan tradition. “Betrayest thou the Son of Man with a kiss?” (Luke 22:48), i.e., “Do you betray me with a kiss?” And, “The Son of Man came to seek and save the lost” (Luke 19:10) is a sentence addressed to Zacchæus which the other evangelists have not preserved.

We come next to the earliest occurrences of the phrase in the Marcan tradition. In Mark 2:27, Mark 2:28 we find the words, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath; so that the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.” The principle here set forth is that man is not to be the slave of an ordinance instituted for his benefit, and the stress of the reply would seem to reside in the word man, even in the phrase “the Son of Man.” Some have thought that “the Son of Man” in this passage is an Aramaism for man in general, and that a parallel usage may be found in Psalms 8:4, Psalms 144:3. Jesus is vindicating against the Pharisees not His own freedom only, but the freedom of the disciples, and incidentally of every man, in regard to the Rabbinical rules as to Sabbath observance, and so He says that “man is lord of the Sabbath.” If this were the only occurrence on His lips of the phrase “the Son of Man,” such an explanation might suffice, although the thesis that “man” (if by that is meant “every man”) is free to observe only such rules of Sabbath rest as he may frame for himself, would go beyond anything ascribed elsewhere on the subject to Jesus. And, in fact, Mt. and Lk. when reporting this incident give quite a different turn to the argument by omitting the words, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath” (cf. Matthew 12:8, Luke 6:5). It is because of the dignity of the “Son of Man” and His superiority to ordinary men that, according to Mt. and Lk., He—and apparently He alone—may claim to be above Sabbath regulations. “A greater than the temple is here” (Matthew 12:6). Cf. John 5:17, “My Father worketh hitherto, and I work.” The argument there, as in Mt. and Lk., is not that every man is free to keep the Sabbath just as he pleases, but rather that Jesus, because of His unique relation to God, who gave the Sabbath, may be fitly regarded as its Lord. We conclude, then, that even in Mark 2:28 the title “the Son of Man” implies something more than “man in general” or “the son of man” of the Psalter. Undoubtedly the emphasis is on the word man, but it rests also on the uniqueness of Him who was in such special relation to humanity that He could, and did, call Himself “The Son of Man.” It is not to be supposed that the Pharisees who rebuked Him for allowing His disciples to break the Sabbath (Mark 2:24) attached any very precise significance to this title which He assumed. They must have seen that by its use He meant to designate Himself, but they did not regard it as Messianic, or they would immediately have accused Him of blasphemy.

Something similar may be said of the phrase as it appears in Mark 2:10 (Matthew 9:6, Luke 5:24). Here Jesus healed the paralytic as an indication of His far-reaching power, “that ye may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins,” it being admitted by every one that God has this power. Here, again, is no affirmation of His Messiahship. But at the same time the sentence suggests a certain mysteriousness of personality. He did not say that man in general has the power to forgive sins, but only that He—the Son of Man—had it.1


We must now ask, however, if there is any trace in preChristian times of the use of “the Son of Man” as a title of Messiah, and if it be possible that Jesus chose it as a selfdesignation because it included the Messianic prerogatives.

In the Psalter “the son of man” is a poetical way of designating man in general (Psalms 8:4, 144:3; cf. Job 25:6, Job 35:8); and throughout Ezekiel the Divine Voice addresses the prophet as “son of man.” A similar use of this pleonasm for “man” appears at Daniel 7:13, a passage which deeply affected Jewish speculation as to the future: “I saw in the night visions, and, behold, there came with the clouds of heaven one like unto a son of man (ὡς υἱὸς�2 This passage lies behind the vision recorded in 2 Esd. I3 (about 80 a.d.), where one comes out of the sea “as it were the likeness of a man,” who “flew with the clouds of heaven,” and who is plainly regarded by the seer as Messiahs.3 The Messianic interpretation of Daniel 7:13 is also found in a Rabbinical saying of the third century a.d.4

There is, however, no trace in the O.T. of the title “the Son of Man” being used as descriptive of Messiah, the earliest instance of this usage being found in the Book of Enoch, and for the most part in that part of the book which is entitled the Similitudes of Enoch, and which is judged by Dr. Charles to have been composed about 80 b.c.. The first passage in Enoch which need be cited is based on Daniel 7:13. It runs as follows (46:1-5): “I saw One who had a head of days, and His head was white like wool, and with Him was another being whose countenance had the appearance of a man … and I asked the angel concerning that son of man who He was, etc. And he answered, ‘This is the son of man who hath righteousness … because the Lord of spirits bath chosen. Him … and this son of man will … put down the kings from their thrones,’” etc. There follows an account of this son of man (it will be noted that the phrase is not yet used as a title) executing judgment at the Great Assize. Next follows a passage at 48:2: “At that hour, that son of man was named in the presence of the Lord of spirits, and His name before the head of days … He will be a staff to the righteous … all who dwell on earth will bow before Him … and will bless the Lord of spirits. And for this reason has He been chosen and hidden before Him before the creation of the world and for evermore.” Then the days of affliction of the kings of the earth are mentioned, and it is said of them, “They have denied the Lord of spirits and His Anointed,” a sentence which identifies the son of man, who has been the subject of the preceding chapters, with Messiah.

These passages do not seem to exhibit the phrase “the son of man” used as a title. We get nearer to such a usage in 69:26, 27: “There was great joy among them, and they blessed and glorified … because the name of the son of man” (i.e. the son of man who has been mentioned already) “was revealed unto them. And He sat on the throne of His glory, and the sum of judgment was committed to Him, the son of man, and He caused the sinners … to be destroyed from off the face of the earth.” At 69:29 we have: “The son of man has appeared and sits on the throne of His glory, and all evil will pass away before His face, but the word of the son of man will be strong before the Lord of spirits.” Here we approach, but do not actually reach, the usage of the phrase “the son of man” as a title of Messiah. It does not appear that it ever became a popular or well-established title, while it is certain that, as it is used in Enoch, it goes back to Daniel 7:13.


When, with this in our minds, we examine afresh the passages in the Gospels in which Jesus calls Himself “the Son of Man,” the significant fact emerges that a majority of these passages relate to the Advent of Jesus in glory and triumph as the judge of nations and of individuals, an Advent which is to be catastrophic and unexpected. These eschatological passages occur in all the strata of the evangelical record. We begin with some which belong to the Marcan tradition:

Mark 14:61, Mark 14:62: “The high priest asked Him, Art Thou the Christ, the Son of the Blessed? And Jesus said, I am; and ye shall see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven” (Matthew 26:64, Luke 22:69). The high priest, who denounced this reply as blasphemous, seems to have detected the allusion to Daniel 7:13 (and perhaps also to Psalms 110:1), but this is not quite certain. At any rate, Jesus had openly claimed to be Messiah, and had also declared that as the Son of Man He would come again in the clouds to the confusion of His accusers.1

Mark 8:38: “Whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words … the Son of Man also shall be ashamed of him, when He cometh in the glory of His Father with the holy angels” (Luke 9:26; cf. also Luke 12:8). In the corresponding place Mt. has: “The Son of Man shall come in the glory of His Father with His angels; and then shall He render unto every man according to his deeds … There be some of them that stand here which shall in no wise taste of death, till they see the Son of Man coming in His Kingdom” (Matthew 16:27, Matthew 16:28).2

Mark 13:26, Mark 13:27: “Then shall they see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And then shall He send forth the angels, and shall gather together His elect from the four winds, from the uttermost part of the earth to the uttermost part of heaven” (Matthew 24:30, Luke 21:27). This is preceded in Mt. by the words, “Then shall appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven, and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn,” the report of Mt. thus carrying an allusion not only to Daniel 7:13 but also to Zechariah 12:10 (cf. Revelation 1:7 for a similar combination).

Some critics have thought that underlying Mat_24 is a fragment of a lost Jewish Apocalypse, but however that may be, there are four occurrences of the title “the Son of Man” in the non-Marcan material (Q) common to Mat_24 and Luk_12 and 17, as follows:

Matthew 24:27, Luke 17:24: “As the lightning … so shall be the coming of the Son of Man.”

Matthew 24:37, Luke 17:26: “As were the days of Noah, so shall be the coming of the Son of Man.”

Matthew 24:39, Luke 17:30: “So shall it be in the day that the Son of Man is revealed,” with a reference to the days of Lot in Lk. which is omitted in Mt.

Matthew 24:44, Luke 12:40: “In an hour that ye think not the Son of Man cometh.”

It is probable that Q is also the source of Luke 17:22, “The days will come when ye shall desire to see one of the days of the Son of Man and ye shall not see it,” although the saying is not found in Mt.

Other occurrences of the title in similar contexts which are found only in Lk. are:

Luke 18:8: “When the Son of Man cometh, shall He find faith on the earth?”; and

Luke 21:36: “Watch … that ye may prevail to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man.”

Occurrences of the title in similar eschatological contexts which are found only in Mt. are

Matthew 10:23: “Ye shall not have gone through the cities of Israel until the Son of Man be come.”

Matthew 13:37, Matthew 13:41: “He that soweth the good seed is the Son of Man. … The Son of Man shall send forth His angels, and they shall gather out of His Kingdom all things that cause stumbling,” etc.

Matthew 25:31, Matthew 25:32: “When the Son of Man shall come in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then shall He sit on the throne of His glory (cf. Matthew 19:28), and before Him shall be gathered all the nations: and He shall separate them one from another. …” This representation of the Son of Man as judge goes beyond what is said in Daniel 7:13, but it appears in Enoch 69:26, which has been cited above.

It must now be observed that, like the Synoptists, Jn. associates the title “the Son of Man” with eschatological doctrine. Thus at 5:27 we have, “He gave Him authority to execute judgment, because He is the Son of Man.” This is closely parallel to Matthew 25:32.

Again, in 1:51 the mysterious words, “Ye shall see the heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man,” cannot be explained of any temporal experience which Nathanael was to enjoy. They must refer to some vision of the Last Things1 (see note in loc.).

In 3:13, “No man has ascended into heaven, save He who descended from heaven, viz. the Son of Man,” primarily refers to the Incarnation, but it also recalls Daniel 7:13 as well as the Book of Enoch (see note in loc.).

In 6:62, “What if ye shall see the Son of Man ascending where He was before?” the doctrine of the pre-existence of the apocalyptic “Son of Man” is again suggested, as in Enoch.

In these passages of the Fourth Gospel, the title “the Son of Man” is used with that suggestion of its reference to a wonderful, heavenly Being, which we have already seen is frequent in the Synoptists.

There are two other passages in Joh_6 where the title is used, which are not so explicit in their eschatological suggestion, but which should be noted as indicating that for Jn., as for the Synoptists, “the Son of Man” always points to the uniqueness and mystery of the personality of Jesus as One whose home is in heaven. John 6:27, “The meat which endures unto eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you,” is expressed even more powerfully at John 6:53 “Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you.” The narrative here implies that the hearers of Jesus understood that by “the Son of Man” He meant Himself. “How can this one give us his flesh to eat?” (6:52). No Messianic doctrine is implied or suggested in these passages. But “the Son of Man” is the solemn title which is used of One Who has descended from heaven (6:33) that He may give life to the world (cf. 6:51).


The passages that have been cited, while they do not suggest that “the Son of Man” was a Messianic title in common use, seem to show that Jesus used it of Himself with the implication that in Him was the fulfilment of the vision of Daniel 7:13,Daniel 7:2 He was conscious of an infinite superiority to the sons of men among whom His Kingdom was to be established. He did not call Himself the “Christ,” although He did not deny, when pressed, that He was the Christ (John 4:26, John 5:39, John 8:28, John 10:25). He preferred to use a greater and a more far-reaching designa tion of Himself. He was not only the Deliverer of the Jewish people. He was the Deliverer of humanity at large, being “the Son of Man,” who had come down from heaven. He took over the phrase from Jewish Apocalyptic, but He enlarged its meaning. It is a title which, properly understood, includes all that “Christ” connotes; but, unlike the title “the Messiah,”it does not suggest Jewish particularism. In the only place where He suggested a form of confession as a test of faith, it is not, “Dost thou believe in the Son of God?” (for that was a recognised synonym for Messiah), but, “Dost thou believe in the Son of Man?” (John 9:35). Nothing short of this would satisfy Him. And it is an irony of history, that since the first century His most familiar designation by His disciples has been Christ, and the religion which He founded has been called Christianity, rather than the religion of Humanity, the religion of the Son of Man. The Gospel has been preached with a Jewish accent, ever since the disciples of Jesus were first called “Christians” at Antioch.1


While, then, the actual title “the Son of Man” may have been suggested by Jewish Apocalyptic, on the lips of Jesus it was used in an enlarged and more spiritual significance. Another feature of its use by Him must now be noted. It is the title which He specially employed, when He was foretelling to His disciples the Passion as the inevitable and predestined issue of His public ministry. Such forecasts, it may be observed,2 do not appear in the non-Marcan document behind Mt. and Lk. (Q); but they are found both in Mk. and Jn., with a similar employment of the title “the Son of Man.”

In Mk. these forecasts do not begin until after the Confession of Peter that Jesus was the Christ, which marked a turning-point in the education of the apostles.

Mark 8:31: “He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected … and be killed, and after three days rise again” (Matthew 16:21, Luke 9:22; cf. Luke 24:7).

Mark 9:31: “The Son of Man is delivered up into the hands of men, and they shall kill Him; and when He is killed, after three days He shall rise again” (Matthew 17:22, Luke 9:44).

Mark 10:33: “The Son of Man shall be delivered unto the chief priests and the scribes, … and they shall kill Him, and after three days He shall rise again (Matthew 20:18, Luke 18:31).

In these three passages the prediction of the Resurrection is associated with that of the Passion; and it is probable that the comment of Mark 9:32, “They understood not the saying,” has special reference to this (cf. Mark 9:10). The announcement of the Passion disconcerted (Mark 8:32) and grieved (Matthew 17:23) the Twelve; but they did not believe that it was to be taken literally.1

Next, we have:

Mark 10:45: “The Son of Man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28).

Mark 14:41: “The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners” (Matthew 26:45).

Matthew 26:2: “The Son of Man is delivered up to be crucified” (the title is not given in the parallels Mark 14:1, Luke 22:1).

And, finally, two Marcan passages speak of the Passion of the Son of Man as the subject of O.T. prophecy, while this is not said (in these contexts) of the Resurrection, viz.:

Mark 9:12: “How is it written of the Son of Man that He should suffer many things and be set at nought?”

Mark 14:21: “The Son of Man goeth, even as it is written of Him; but woe unto that man through whom the Son of Man is betrayed” (Matthew 26:24, Luke 22:22).

The title “Son of Man” is associated with predictions of the Passion in Jn., as in Mk.

John 3:14: “As Moses lifted up the serpent … so must the Son of Man be lifted up,” i.e. on the Cross (see note in loc.).

John 8:28: “When ye shall have lifted up the Son of Man, then shall ye know that I am He”; cf. also 12:34.

John 12:23: “The hour is come that the Son of Man should be glorified” (see note in loc.).

John 13:31: “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in Him.”

In these passages Jesus speaks of Himself as the Son of Man who was destined to suffer and die. There is nothing in the vision of Daniel 7:13 to suggest this; but, on the other hand, there is nothing to preclude the combination1 of the vision of One who was to come in glory with the vision of the suffering Servant of Yahweh as it is depicted in Deutero-Isaiah. And this combination seems to have been present to the mind of Jesus. In calling Himself the Son of Man, the primary thought is that of a heavenly messenger whose kingdom is set up on earth, but He foresaw that He could not achieve His full purposes except through Death. And this, as He said in passages already cited (Mark 9:12, Mark 14:21), was “written” of Him; i.e. the Passion was foreshadowed in O.T. prophecy, and most conspicuously in Isa_53. The conception, then, of the “Son of Man,” as it presents itself in the Gospels, is widely different from the popular conception of Messiah.2 It was not a recognised title of Messiah, and was not interpreted as such; rather was it always enigmatic to those who heard it applied by Jesus to Himself. For Him it connoted all that “Messiah” meant, and more, for it did not narrow His mission to men of one race only. It represented Him as the future judge of men, and as their present Deliverer, whose Kingdom must be established through suffering, and whose gift of life was only to become available through His Death.3

(II) The Doctrine of Christ’s Person in the Synoptists, Paul, and Jn.

In the Synoptic Gospels the acceptance of Jesus by His disciples as the Messiah was not the immediate consequence of discipleship. As they associated with Him, observed His deeds, and listened to His words, they gradually realised that He was a very wonderful Person, whom they could not completely understand (Mark 4:41, Mark 6:2, Mark 7:37). Some of those whom He cured of mental disorders seem to have acclaimed Him as the Son of God, that is, as Messiah, at an early stage in His ministry (Mark 3:12, Mark 5:7); but the conviction of this was not reached all at once by the chosen Twelve. The confession, Thou art the Christ (Mark 8:29), marks a crisis in their training, when a new vision of the meaning of Jesus’ ministry came to them. Further, the Synoptic narratives represent Jesus as dissuading the onlookers from making known His miraculous doings (Mark 3:12, Mark 5:43, Mark 7:36), although they did not altogether refrain from talking about them (7:37). In the Q tradition, there is a hint that Jesus was not always so reticent in this matter. When John the Baptist sent anxiously to inquire whether Jesus was really the Messiah, He directed the messengers to report His wonderful works as His credentials (Luke 7:22, Matthew 11:4), with an allusion to the Messianic forecast of Isaiah 35:5, Isaiah 35:6. The meaning of this could not have been misinterpreted, so that He departed here at any rate from His practice of reticence and reserve. Cf. also Mark 9:41. At the last His claim is explicit and final (Mark 14:62).

Now in the Fourth Gospel, the impression left is somewhat different. It is true that in this Gospel, as in the Synoptists, Jesus prefers to speak of Himself as the Son of Man—an unfamiliar and ill-understood title—rather than as the Christ (5:28, 8:28, 9:35). The Jews accuse Him of being ambiguous as to His claim to Messiahship (10:24), and only once does He explicitly affirm it in the early stages of His ministry (4:26). But Jn. does not describe the gradual development of the disciples’ acceptance of Him as the Christ. Jn. does, indeed, relate Peter’s confession as marking a turning-point in the ministry of Jesus (6:69), just as the Synoptists do. But he makes Andrew and Philip recognise Jesus as the Christ almost immediately after they came into His company (1:41, 45). He does not tell this expressly of Peter, but his story suggests it (1:42). Nathanael at his first introduction to Jesus greets Him as “King of Israel,” that is, as Messiah in the sense of the political deliverer who was expected (1:49). John the Baptist’s cry, “Behold, the Lamb of God,” probably represents a form of words which are a later paraphrase of what was said (see on 1:29); but that the Baptist recognised Jesus as the Messiah from the moment of His baptism (although he hesitated about this later) is clear not only in Jn. (1:33), but also in Mat_1Mat_1

The truth is that it is not the purpose of the Fourth Evangelist to describe the Training of the Twelve. For him, the important matter is to bring out the impression which was left upon them at last of His Person. Nathanael in 1:49 has not got as far as Peter in 6:69, still less as far as Thomas in 20:28; but Jn. does not dwell upon this, and he may have antedated the complete conviction of Jesus as Messiah, which he ascribes to Andrew and the rest in c. 1.2 What is of supreme importance for Jn. is to expound the true conclusion which the original disciples reached, and which he desires all future disciples to accept, viz. that “Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.”

This conception of the purpose of Jn. in his Gospel marks a difference of standpoint between the earlier evangelists and the last. Jn. is anxious to prove the truth of Jesus as the Son of God to a generation which had not seen Jesus in the flesh, and at a time when He had been the Object of Christian worship for more than half a century. Christian reflexion and Christian experience had reached a doctrine of Christ’s Person which had not been clearly thought out by Christians in the first enthusiasms of devotion to their Master. The Synoptists draw a picture of Jesus as viewed by His contemporaries; the Fourth Gospel is a profound study of that picture, bringing into full view what may not have been clearly discerned at the first.

It used to be argued in the middle of the nineteenth century that the Christology of Jn. is so markedly different from that of the Synoptists, that if we wish to get “back to Jesus” we shall do well to confine ourselves to the Marcan picture of Him, as more primitive and less sophisticated than the Johannine narrative. A closer inspection of the narratives has failed to recommend such counsels. The distance of time between the publication of the Marcan Gospel and that of the Johannine Gospel cannot exceed thirty years—a time all too short for the development of any fundamental change in the picture of Jesus as accepted by Christian disciples.

The claims made for Jesus in Mk. transcend any claims that could be made for a mere human being of genius and magnetic personality. We have seen that the claim to Messiahship, made for Jesus and by Himself, in the Marcan narrative, while only gradually understood and accepted by the Twelve, reaches very far. The Jesus of Mk. claimed the power of forgiving sins (Mark 2:10); Jn. does not mention that, while he implies it in the terms of the Commission to the apostles, of which he alone tells (John 20:23). The Jesus of Mk. claimed to be the final judge of mankind (Mark 14:62); the doctrine of Christ as judge in Jn. (see 12:47 and p. clviii) hardly goes beyond this. Indeed, the only hint of any limitation of the powers of Jesus in Mk. is in reference to His vision, when on earth, of the time of the Last judgment; what such limitation involves may be asked of the exegete of John 14:28, as justly as in the case of Mark 13:32. Or, again, the sacramental efficacy of Jesus’ Death is not more definitely stated in John 6:53 than in Mark 14:24, τὸ αἷμά μου τῆς διαθήκης τὸ ἐκχυννόμενον ὑπὲρ πολλῶν.

We do not cite the uncorroborated testimony of Mt. in this connexion, for his Gospel in its present form may be even later than Joh_1Joh_1 But, besides Mk., there is another “source” behind Mt. and Lk., viz. the document now called Q. In this (Matthew 10:32, Luke 12:8, Luke 12:9), the public acceptance or denial of Jesus as Master will determine the judgment of the Last Assize; John 12:48 does not make a more tremendous claim. And (not to cite other passages) there is nothing in Jn. which presents a more exalted view of Jesus than the saying: “All things have been delivered unto me of my Father; and no one knoweth who the Son is, save the Father; and who the Father is, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son willeth to reveal Him” (Matthew 11:27, Luke 10:22). Now Q may be older than Mk., as it is certainly older than Mt. and Lk. Yet here it offers a Christology which is as profound as that of Jn., and which is expressed in phrases that might readily be mistaken for those of the Fourth Gospel itself.

There is a difference between the Christology of the Synoptists and of Jn.; but it is not the difference between a merely human Jesus and a Divine Christ. What is implicit in the earlier Gospels has become explicit in Jn.; the clearer statement has been evoked by the lapse of time, by the growth of false gnosis, and by the intellectual needs of a Greek-speaking society which sought to justify its faith.

This is not the place to examine in detail the Christology of Paul, but it is important to observe how rapidly he reached that exalted conception of our Lord which is so prominent in his letters. The Epistles to the Romans, Corinthians, and Galatians are all earlier in date than the earliest date which we can ascribe to Mk.; for they were written before the year 58 of our era, or about a quarter of a century after his conversion. That is to say, the letters in which he indicated his view of Christ are earlier than any other extant Christian document.

The primitive gospel, “Jesus is the Christ,” soon reaches the formula, “Jesus is Lord,” and the title “Lord” includes for Paul the Divinity of his Master. This becomes so fundamental for his conception of Jesus, that while he continues always, as a Jew, to linger on the phrase “the Christ,” he uses the title “Christ” frequently as a personal name (Romans 5:8, Romans 6:4, Romans 8:10, Philippians 1:10, Philippians 1:23, Colossians 1:27, Colossians 1:28). As early as 1 Corinthians 1:12, he treats Χριστός as a personal name comparable to Ἀπολλώς or Κηφᾶς. This usage is never found in the Gospels, for the passages Mark 9:41, Luke 23:2, Matthew 26:68, where Χριστός is found without the definite article, nevertheless treat Χριστός as a title. Paul often uses the full designation Ἰησοῦς Χριστός without any suggestion of Messianic office. Jn.’s habit2 is to use the personal designation Jesus, a primitive touch which he shares with Mk., but which is seldom found in Paul.

In the four great Epistles (Rom., 1 and 2 Cor., Gal.), Paul has many phrases which recall Johannine teaching, Jesus is not only “the Son” (1 Corinthians 15:28), which is common to all the evangelists (see on John 3:17), but is God’s “own Son,” ὁ ἴδιος υἱός (Romans 8:32; cf. John 5:18). That God “sent His Son” (Romans 8:3, Galatians 4:4) is a conception common to all the Gospels, but cf. John 3:16 in particular. For the phrase τέκνα θεοῦ (Romans 8:16, Romans 8:17, Romans 8:21) cf. John 1:12. For Paul, Christ is ἐπὶ πάντων (Romans 9:5); cf. ἐπάνω πάντων ἐστίν (John 3:31), χάοις is a characteristic term in Paul; it is only used in the Prologue to the Gospel by Jn., but Paul means particularly by “grace” what Jn, means when he writes, “God so loved the world” (see note on 1:14). The Pauline contrast between “law” and “grace” (Romans 4:16, Romans 4:6:14, Romans 4:15, Galatians 5:4) is, again, explicitly enunciated in the Prologue (see on 1:17). Jn. does not use Paul’s word πίστις in the Gospel,1 but the emphasis laid on “believing” is a prime feature of Johannine doctrine (see on 1:7). Finally, Paul’s “Christ in me” (Romans 8:10, 2 Corinthians 13:5, Galatians 2:20) and “I in Christ” (Romans 16:7, 2 Corinthians 5:17, Galatians 1:22) are conjoined as inseparable in John 15:4, John 15:5. Paul’s ἐν Χριστῶ is not less mystical than anything in Jn. descriptive of the Christian life (see on 14:20, 15:16, 17:23).

The Epistles to the Ephesians and Colossians belong to a later period in Paul’s ca reer.2 We should expect to find resemblances in Jn. to their Christology, associated as they are by name with Churches in that portion of Asia Minor where Jn.’s literary activity was put forth. These Epistles specially illustrate the doctrine of the Prologue of the Gospel as to the Person of Christ. His Pre-existence (John 1:1) is laid down, “He is before all things” (Colossians 1:17). He is the Creative Word (John 1:3), and, as Jn. says, “That which has come into being was, in Him, life” (1:4), so in Colossians 1:17 we have, “In Him all things hold together or cohere.”3 The Pauline ἐν μορφῇ θεοῦ ὑπάρχων (Philippians 2:6) is the doctrine of John 1:1,John 1:4 even as οὐκ ἁρπαγμὸν ἡγήσατο τὸ εἶναι ἴσα θεῷ is brought out at John 5:18, John 10:33.

The teaching of John 1:16 as to Christ’s πλήρωμα which His disciples share is anticipated in Colossians 1:19, “It was the good pleasure [of the Father] that in Him should all the πλήρωμα dwell” (cf. Ephesians 4:13). Again, “In Him dwelleth all the πλήρωμα of the Godhead.” σωματικῶς (Colossians 2:9) brings us very near to the cardinal thesis, “the Word was made flesh” (John 1:14). And with this, both in Paul and Jn., is combined the doctrine of the invisibility of God. God is�Colossians 1:15); cf. John 1:18: “No man hath seen God … but the μονογενής who is God … hath declared Him.”

These are more than verbal coincidences. They show that hardly anything is missing from the doctrine of Christ as set out in the Prologue (except the actual term λόγο), which is not implicit in the Epistles to the Colossians, Ephesians, Philippians. Much that is enunciated in the Prologue was not a new discovery of the writer; it had been familiar to the Churches of Asia Minor for some time before it was put into the words which were thenceforth accepted by Christendom as the supreme philosophical statement and charter of its deepest faith.1

(III) The Doctrine of the Logos and the Prologue to the Fourth Gospel

The thesis of the Gospel is that Jesus is the Revealer of God (1:18), its practical aim being given at the end (20:31). The Prologue, however, is more than a mere preface, for it offers a philosophical explanation of the thesis. Jesus is the Revealer of God, because He is the Logos of God. This is a proposition which does not appear at all in the body of the Gospel, any more than the theological words and phrases, πλήρωμα, σκηνοῦν, μονογενης θεός, εἶναι εἰς τὸν κόλπον, ἐξηγεῖσθαι, which are found in the Prologue. Not only does Jesus never claim the title “Logos” for Himself, but Jn. never applies it to Him in the evangelical narrative.

The Prologue is undoubtedly by the same hand that wrote the Gospel, but it is written from a different point of view, entirely consistent with the Gospel but not derived from the history which the Gospel narrates. Jn. prefixes a short Preface to his hortatory First Epistle, and there again he introduces the conception of Jesus as the Logos (1 John 1:1; cf. p. lxi), while he does not in this later passage elucidate his meaning. But the Prologue is, as I have said, more than a Preface. It is a summary restatement of the Christian gospel from the philosophical side; and was probably written after the narrative was completed,2 not now to record or summarise the words of Jesus, but to express the writer’s conviction that Jesus the Christ was Himself the Divine Logos.

The influences which contributed to the formulation for the first time in the Prologue of the Christian Doctrine of the Word were, no doubt, various.

1. The Hebrew Scriptures have much about the Divine Voice in creation, the Creative Word (see on 1:3). In the Targums, or paraphrases of the Old Testament, the action of Yahweh is constantly described as His “Word” (מימרא), the term Memra being sometimes used as of a Person. Thus the Targum of Onkelos on Genesis 28:21 says that Jacob’s covenant was that “the Word of Yahweh should be his God.” This kind of quasi-personification extends to the Psalms, and particularly to the Book of Proverbs, where personal qualities are repeatedly ascribed to Wisdom (חָכמָה); cf. Proverbs 3:13f., Proverbs 4:5f., Proverbs 7:4, the most remarkable passage being 8:22: “Yahweh possessed me in the beginning of His way, before His works of old. I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was.” This is poetry, not metaphysical prose; but it treats Wisdom as the expression of God, co-eternal with Him. This quasi-personification of Wisdom is continued in the teaching of the son of Sirach, Ecclus. 24:3, which has much about Creative Wisdom, actually claiming for her, “I came forth from the mouth of the Most High.”

2. When we turn from Palestine to Alexandria, from Hebrew sapiential literature to that which was written in Greek, we find this creative wisdom identified with the Divine λόγος, Hebraism and Hellenism thus coming into contact. God is addressed as ὁ ποιήσας τὰ πάντα ἐν λόγῳ σου (Wisd. 9:1). The λόγος is the universal healer (Wisd. 16:12). This Almighty λόγος is said to have leaped down from heaven, as a warrior, bringing God’s commandment as a sharp sword … “it touched the heaven, but stood upon the earth” (Wisd. 18:15, 16). This last pronouncement suggests the personification of the λόγος who came to earth, but so much is not consciously present to the writer’s thought. The language of the Book of Wisdom betrays Stoic influence at several points,1 but with the Stoics λόγος was not personal.

3. The doctrine of the λόγος in Philo’s writings has been frequently examined; and here it can receive only a brief notice. We have already called attention to some striking verbal parallels between Philo and the Fourth Gospel,2 and such may be traced also in what Philo says about the λόγος; but the differences in the underlying thoughts as to this are manifest, and far-reaching. Some of these must now be summarised:

(a) The doctrine of the Personality of the Logos is vague in Philo, and especially so when he comes to the association of the Logos with Creation (see on 1:3). Thus Philo has the expressions ὄργανον δὲ λόγον θεοῦ, διʼ οὗ κατεσκευάσθη (de Cherub. 35): τὸ μὲν δραστήριον ὁ τῶν ὅλων νοῦς (de mund. opif. 3): when God was fashioning the world (ὅτε ἐκοσμοπλάστει), He used the Word as a tool (χρησάμενος ὀργάνῳ τούτῳ, de migr. Abr. 1): Philo speaks of the creative power (ποιητική according to which the Creator made the world with a word (λόγῳ τὸν κόσμον ἐδημιούργησε, de prof. 18). In other passages the λόγοͅ is εἰκὼν θεοῦ (cf. Colossians 1:15)1: εἰκὼν θεοῦ, διʼ οὗ σύμπας ὁ κόσμος ἐδημιουργεῖτο (de monarch. ii. 5; cf. de confus. ling. 20 and 28, where he speaks of τὸν εἰκόνα αὐτοῦ, τὸν ἱερώτατον λόγον.2

The earliest Christian writers3 take up the Jewish thought of the Creative Word from a different standpoint, while they employ language similar to that of Philo. To Jn. the Word is a personal Divine Agent who co-operated with the Creator in the work of Creation, even Jesus Christ, the Son of the eternal Father. Paul does not use the term λόγος but his language about the work of Christ in creation is almost identical with that of the Prologue to the Fourth Gospel. Cf. εἷς κύριος Ἰησοῦς Χριστός διʼ οὗ τὰ πάντα (1 Corinthians 8:6); τὰ πάντα διʼ αὐτοῦ … ἔκτισται (Colossians 1:16); cf. also διʼ οὗ καὶ ἐποίησεν τοὺς αἰῶνας (Hebrews 1:2). Like Philo, and like Jn., these writers employ the preposition διά to describe the mediating work of the Word (or the Son) in Creation; but in ascribing Divine personality to this mediating Agent, they agree with each other and with Jn., while they differ from Philo. Paul and Jn. do not borrow from Philo, nor are they directly dependent on his speculations; but they and Philo represent two different streams of thought, the common origin of which was the Jewish doctrine of the Memra or Divine Word.4

(b) The pre-existence of the Logos is not explicit in Philo, whereas it is emphatically declared in the opening words of the Prologue to the Gospel. Philo applies, indeed, the epithet πρεσβύτατος to the λόγος more than once (de confus. ling. 28, quod det. pot. 22); but such a phrase does not imply eternal pre-existence. See on 1:1.

(c) The Johannine doctrine of the connexion between Life and Light, which appears in the Logos teaching of the Prologue (1:4; cf. also 8:12), does not appear in Philo, although it suggests a line of speculation which would, one supposes, have been congenial to him.

(d) Most significant of all differences between Jn. and Philo, is that Jn.’s philosophy rests avowedly on the doctrine of the Incarnation (see on 1:14), while this is absolutely precluded by the principles of Philo. “There are,” he says, “three kinds of life: one which is πρὸς θεόν, another πρὸς γένεσιν, and a third which is a mixture of both. But the ζωὴ πρὸς θεόν has not descended to us (κατέβν πρὸς ἡμᾶς), nor has it come as far as the necessities of the body” (Quis rer. div. hær. 9).

4. In addition to these various philosophies, with which the Christian doctrine of the Logos has been associated by scholars, attention has been directed of recent years to the Mandaean and Hermetic literature, as possible homes of the Logos idea. Many parallels to Johannine phraseology have been collected from the writings of Lidzbarski, Reitzenstein, and others by Walter Bauer in the last edition of his commentary on the Fourth Gospel. Some of these are striking, especially those from the Mandaean Liturgies: “I am a Word, a Son of Words”; “the Word of Life”; “the Light of Life”; “the First Light, the Life, which was out of the Life”; “the worlds do not know thy Names, nor understand thy Light.”1 There is, however, no evidence that Mandæan teachings had any influence on Christian philosophy in its beginnings. Christian or Jewish belief may have affected the development of Mandæism, but Mandæism was not a source from which Christian doctrine derived any of its features.2 Probably, as in other cases, the parallels that have been cited are only verbal. To build up community or similarity of doctrine upon coincidences of language between two writers is highly precarious; and when the Johannine doctrine of the Logos is compared with that of Philo or the Stoics or the Sapiential Books, or even that of the Mandæan Liturgies, this should always be borne in mind.3

It is now apparent that the doctrine of a Divine λόγος was widely distributed in the first century. The Hebrew Targums or paraphrases of the ancient scriptures; the Wisdom literature of Judaism,1 both in Palestine and Alexandria; the speculations of Philo; the philosophy of Heraclitus, and that of the later Stoics, all use the idea of the Logos to explain the mysterious relation of God to man. We may be sure that the Logos of God was as familiar a topic in the educated circles of Asia Minor as the doctrine of Evolution is in Europe or America at the present day, and was discussed not only by the learned but by half-instructed votaries of many religions.

Christian disciples, Docetic and Ebionite no less than simple, unspeculative followers of Jesus, were conscious of the wonder of His life. It was inevitable that the Pauline teaching of the Epistles to the Colossians and Eph_2Eph_2 should quicken deep thoughts as to the relation of Jesus to the Eternal God. The Epistle to the Hebrews uses language about the “Word of God” (Hebrews 4:12) which naturally provoked questionings as to the relation of this energising and heart-searching Logos to the great High Priest Himself. An earlier writer, the Seer of the Apocalypse, actually gives the title “the Word of God” (Revelation 19:13) to the Leader of the Christian host, probably having the conception of the Logos as a Warrior (Wisd. 18:15) in his mind. Jn. must have been not only conversant in some degree with the philosophical speculations of Ephesus as to the Divine Logos, and with such teaching as that of Hebrews 4:12, but above all with the application of the title “the Word of God,” by the author of the Apocalypse, whose disciple he was.3 Such a phrase in the Apocalypse did not solve problems, but it must have suggested a remarkable problem to the followers of Jesus in the next generation, who asked what it meant. To call Jesus the λόγος of God without further explanation might well suggest that Docetic theory of His Person which it is one of the purposes of the Fourth Gospel to dispel as wholly irreconcilable with His earthly life.4

Jn.’s chief aim was to show (it was his deepest conviction) that Jesus is the Revealer of God. But the philosophers, whether Hebrew or Greek, whether they took Logos as meaning speech or as meaning reason, had for centuries been occupied with the idea that the Divine Word is the Revealer, and had not found it possible thus completely to bridge the gulf between God and man. How can we reconcile Spirit and Matter, the One and the Many, the Infinite and the Finite? It was left for Christian philosophy to proclaim that the only solution of these problems, which metaphysics had failed to solve, was historical. And the first statement of this is in the Prologue to the Fourth Gospel, ὁ Λόγος σὰρξ ἐγέετο. The philosophers had said that the Word is the Revealer of God. That is true, for Jesus is the Word.

Whether any one before Jn. had said explicitly, “The Word became flesh,” we do not know; nor can we say that this express and fundamental proposition was present to his mind when he penned the narrative of the Fourth Gospel. It may have been so, but it nowhere appears explicitly except in the Prologue, as has been pointed out already.1 When Loisy wrote, “La théologie de I’incarnation est la clef du livre tout entier, etqu’elle le domine depuis la première ligne jusqu’à; la dernière,”2 he was not accurate if he meant that the Logos doctrine of the Prologue dominated the entire Gospel. On the contrary, the Prologue is the recommendation of the Gospel to those who have approached it through metaphysics rather than through history; but the evangelist never allows his metaphysics to control his history.3 He appeals to no “witness” to corroborate the doctrine of the Word which he sets out in the Prologue, while the appeal to “witnesses,” Divine and human, appears in every part of the evangelical narrative.4 He puts it forth as the philosophical solution of the great problem, “How can God reveal Himself to man?”—a solution latent in the Wisdom literature of the Hebrews, although not perceived by the philosophers of Greece. This is Jn.’s great contribution to Christian philosophy, that Jesus is the Word; but nowhere, as Harnack has pointed out, does he deduce any formula from it. It was for later ages to do this, and to treat the Johannine presentation in the Prologue of the Word who became flesh, as the secure basis for far-reaching thoughts and hopes as to the destiny of man. “He became what we are that He might make us what He is,” is the saying of Irenæus,5 not of Jn.

For Jn. it is sufficient to preach as gospel that “God so loved the world that He sent His Son”; he does not put forward the tremendous paradox, “the Word became flesh,” as the gospel which he has received, although it supplies for him as he ponders it the rationale of the revelation of God in Jesus Christ.

In the Sapiential Books of the O.T., the praises of Wisdom are several times put into poetry or rhythmic form; Pro_8 is a familiar example. The hymn on Sophia in Wisd. 7:22f. points back to that of Pro_8, and the traces of its use in Hebrews 1:3, Hebrews 4:12 are apparent. Yet another Wisdom hymn, Ecclus. 24:3-22, takes up some thoughts from the two earlier hymns, and may have influenced the language of John 1:3, John 1:14 (cf. Ecclus. 24:8, 9, 12). It is, then, not without precedent if it be found that the doctrine of the Logos in the Prologue to Jn., like the doctrine of Sophia in the Sapiential Books, should have been put into the form of an Ode or Hymn, the profundity of the subject being better suited to poetry than to prose. The following arrangement of the Logos Hymn embodied in the Prologue is here offered for examination:


1. Ἐν�rationale of the main thesis of the Gospel. It begins with the proclamation of the Word as Pre-existent and Divine (vv. 1, 2). Then appear the O.T. thoughts of the Word as creative of all (v. 3), life-giving (v. 4), light-giving (v. 5). But the whole universe (v. 10), including man (v. 11), was unconscious of His omnipresent energy. He became Incarnate, not as a momentary Epiphany of the Divine, but as an abiding and visible exhibition of the Divine Glory, even as the Son exhibits the Father (v. 14). Thus does the Word as Incarnate reveal the Invisible God (v. 18).

Two parenthetical notes as to the witness of John the Baptist, to the coming Light (vv. 6-9), and His pre-existence (v. 15), are added. We have also two exegetical comments by the evangelist,1 at vv. 12, 13, to correct the idea which v. 11 might convey, that no one received or recognised the Word when He came; and again at vv. 16, 17, to illustrate the “grace and truth” of v. 14.

The great theme of a Divine Revealer of God is implicit in the first and last stanzas of the hymn (vv. 1, 18), the rest being concerned with the method of the revelation.

The Hebraic style of the hymn is plain. The repetition in the second line of a couplet of what has been said already in the first line (vv. 3, 5); the elucidation of the meaning of the first line by the emphatic word being repeated in the next (vv. 4, 5, 11, 14), which provides an illustration of what has been called “climactic parallelism” (cf. Psalms 29:5, Psalms 93:3); the threefold repetition in the first three lines of v. 14, all of which involve the bodily visibility of the Logos—sufficiently show that the model is not Greek but Hebrew poetry.

It will be noticed that the hymn moves in abstract regions of thought. The historical names—John, Moses, Jesus Christ—are no part of it: they are added in the explanatory notes of the evangelist. Nevertheless, v. 14 states an historical fact, and points to an event in time; but the history is told sub specie æternitatis.

The treatment of the Prologue as embodying a hymn on the Logos has been suggested more than once in recent years. An analysis of it from this point of view was published by C. Cryer in 1921.2 In 1922 C.F. Burney treated the Prologue as a hymn (with comments) originally composed in Aramaic;1 and Rendel Harris suggested that it was based on a Hymn to Sophia, although he did not work out the details of any rhythmic arrangement. He developed the parallels between the Prologue and the Sapiential literature of the O.T., comparing also some Stoic phrases.2

The arrangement of the stanzas which is printed above is not identical with those adopted by Burney or Cryer, an important difference being that the hymn proper does not embody argument (cf. vv. 12, 13, 16, 17) or contain the Personal Name of Jesus Christ. It is a Logos hymn of a triumphant philosophy, directly Hebrew in origin, but reflecting the phrases which had become familiar in Greek-speaking society. In the Christian literature of the first two centuries a good many traces of rhythm and verse arrangement may be found in impassioned passages of prose.3 Eusebius (H.E. v. 28, 5) cites a writer who remarks on the number of Christian Psalms and Odes which from the beginning �Odes of Solomon, which present so many points of contact with the Johannine writings, and especially with the Prologue to the Gospel, that they demand mention at this point.

The Odes of Solomon were first published from the Syriac by Rendel Harris in 1909.4 He regarded them as of first-century date, and to this Harnack gave his adhesion. I have given reasons elsewhere5 for regarding this date as too early, and for treating them as Christian hymns composed about 160 or 170 a.d.

These beautiful hymns are composed in cryptic fashion, and they contain no avowed verbal quotations either from the O.T. or the N.T. But the doctrine of the Logos is repeatedly dwelt on, in a way which recalls Johannine teaching. The Word is the Thought (ἔννοια) of God (Odes xvi. 20, xxviii. 18, xli. 10); this Thought is Life (ix. 3) and Light (xii. 7). “Light dawned from the Word that was beforetime in Him” (xli.15), so that the pre-existence of the Word is recognised (cf. xvi. 19). He is the Agent of Creation, for “the worlds were made by His [God’s] Word and by the Thought of His heart” (xvi. 20). The Incarnation of the Word is expressed by saying “the dwelling-place of the Word is man” (xii. 11; Cf. xxii. 12); and God continually abides with man, for “His Word is with us in all our way” (xli. 11). Were these sublime phrases as early as the first century, we should have to treat the Odes not only as arising in an environment like that which was the birthplace of the Fourth Gospel, but as being actually one of the sources from which its distinctive doctrines were derived. This, however, cannot be maintained. The Odes, nevertheless, provide a welcome illustration of that mystical aspect of Christian teaching which has sometimes been erroneously ascribed to Hellenic rather than to Hebrew influences. They catch the very tone of Jn.,1 and show how deeprooted in Christian devotion was the Johannine doctrine of the Word, within seventy years of the publication of the Fourth Gospel.

1 Cf. Hegesippus, in Eus. H.E. ii. 23. 13.

2 Cf. Abbott, Diat. 2998 (xix.).

3 Cf., however, John 12:34

4 The Study of the Gospels, p. 50 f.

1 With the Pauline phrases ὀ ἔσχατος Ἀδάμ or ὁ δεύτερος ἄνθρωπος (1 Corinthians 15:45, 1 Corinthians 15:47), the title “the Son of Man” may be compared, but there is no evidence of any literary relation between them.

2 “One like a son of man” is probably meant by the author to be a personification of Israel (see Daniel in loc.).

3 See J. M. Creed, J.T.S., Jan. 1925, p. 131, who holds that Daniel 7:13 does not sufficiently account for the picture of the Son of Man in the later Jewish Apocalypses, and suggests that the conception of the Heavenly Man entered Judaism from without, perhaps from Persian sources.

4 See Driver, Daniel, p. 108; and Dalman, Words of Jesus (Eng. Tr.) P. 245.

1 See p. cxxix below.

2 No mention is made in Daniel 7:13 of angels accompanying the descent from heaven of “one like unto a son of man”; but this additional feature of His Advent is mentioned by Justin (as well as in the Gospels). Cf. Tryph. 31: ὡς υἱὸς γὰρ�Apol. i. 52.)

1 The use of the title at Acts 7:56, which describes the vision of the dying Stephen, is similar to this.

2 Cf. p. cxxxiii below.

1 The majority of patristic interpreters (e.g. Justin, Tryph. 100) found in the title “the Son of Man” an allusion to His descent on the human side; and it may be that early theologians avoided the use of the title, because they dreaded the suggestion of human fatherhood in the case of Jesus.

2 This is pointed out by J. A. Robinson, l.c. p. 52.

1 See p. xlv.

1 See Gould in D.C.G. ii. 664.

2 Cf. Dalman, l.c. p. 265: “Suffering and death for the actual possessor of the Messianic dignity are, in fact, unimaginable, according to the testimony of the prophets. … But the ‘one like unto a son of man’ of Daniel 7:13 has still to receive the sovereignty. It was possible that he should also be one who had undergone suffering and death.”

3 The literature on the subject of this title of Jesus is very large. See especially Dalman, Words of Jesus (Eng. Tr., 1902); Drummond in J.T.S. (April and July 1901); J. Armitage Robinson, Study of the Gospels (1902); and the articles by Driver in Hastings’ D.B., and by G.P. Gould in Hastings’ D.C.G., with the references there given.

1 Cf. p. ci.

2 See note on 1:41.

1 See p. xcvi above.

2 See note on 4:1.

1 Cf. p. lxv.

2 We take them as Pauline; but in any case they are later in date than those already cited.

3 See on John 1:4.

4 Cf. also John 1:14 for the δόξα which the μονογενής receives from the Father.

1 See p. cxliii

2 Cf. p. cxliv.

1 Cf. Rendel Harris, “Stoic Origins of St. John’s Gospel” (Bulletin of John Rylands Library, Jan. 1922).

2 P. xciii above.

1 See p. cxli n.

2 Cf. for a full discussion, Drummond, Philo Judæus, ii. 185 ff.

3 See Lightfoot on Colossians 1:16.

4 Cf. p. cxxxix.

1 Bauer, pp. 8-13.

2 For the Mandæan doctrines and their growth, see W. Brandt, in ERE viii. p. 380 f.

3 A passage may be cited from Plato to illustrate this: καὶ δὴ καὶ τέλο͂ περὶ τοῦ παντδς νῦν ἤδη τὸν λόγον ἡμῖν φῶμεν ἔχειν· θνητὰ γὰρ καὶ ὰθάνατα ζῷα λαβὼν καὶ συμπληρωθεὶς ὄδε ὀ κόσμος οὔτω, ζῷον ὸρατὸν τὰ ὀρατὰ περιέχον, εἰκ ὼν τοῦ ποιητους, θεὸς αἰσθητός, μέγιστος καὶ ἄριστος κάλλιστός τε καὶ τελεώτατος γέγονεν, εἶς οὐρανὸσὄδε μονογενὴς ωσν (Timæus, § 44. sub fin.). To find here any relation to the Johannine doctrine of the μονογενής or the Pauline thought of Christ as the εἰκών of God, would be very perverse; but the coincidences in language are almost startling.

1 See on 1:10 for a parallel to Jn.’s Logos doctrine in Enoch xlii. 1 on the Divine Wisdom.

2 Cf. p. cxxxvii

3 Cf. p. lxviii. See on 5:38 for a simpler use of the phrase, “the Logos of God.”

4 See on 1:14.

1 P. cxxxviii.

2 La Quatrième Evangile, p. 98.

3 Cf. Harnack s important article on the “Prologue” in Zeitschr. F. Theol. and Kirche, 1892, No. 3.

4 Cf. p. xc.

5 Adv. Hær v. Pref., “Qui propter immensam suam dilectionem actus est quod sumus nos, uti nos perficeret esse quod est ipse.”

1 This is in the manner of Jn.; cf. p. xxxiv.

2 Expository Times, July 1921, p. 440.

1 Aramaic Origin, etc., p. 41.

2 “Athena Sophia and the Logos” (Bulletin of John Rylands Library, July 1922). See also Rendel Harris, The Origin of the Prologue (1917).

3 See the article “Hymnes” in Cabrol’s Dict. d’archéol. chrétienne, vi. 2839.

4 His final edition appeared in 1920 (Manchester University Press).

5 Cambridge, Texts and Studies, “The Odes of Solomon” (1913); cf. also Theology, Nov. 1920.

1 This is not only true of their Logos doctrine. With 1 John 4:19 we may compare, “I should not have known how to love the Lord if He had not loved me” (Ode iii. 3). In the note on 17:6 below, I have cited another parallel from Ode xxxi. 4, 5. See also notes on 1:32, 5:17, 6:27, 7:37, 38, 8:12. The Odist dwells continually on the great Johannine themes—Love, Knowledge, Truth, Faith, Joy, Light; he never mentions sin, repentance, or forgiveness (cf. p. xcv).CHAPTER VI


(i) The Authority of the O.T.

(ii) The Johannine Doctrines of Life and Judgment.

(iii) The Kingdom of God and the New Birth.

(iv) The Eucharistic Doctrine of Jn.

(v) The Johannine Miracles.

(I) The Authority of the O.T.

(i) The Old Testament was, for a Jew, the fount of authority, and in the Fourth Gospel it is frequently quoted to establish a fact, or to clinch an argument, or to illustrate something that has been said.

Thus the people by the lake-side (6:31) quote Exodus 16:15 to confirm their statement that their fathers had been given bread from heaven. The O.T. was their book of national history.

Jesus is represented in Jn. as appealing to the Law (Deuteronomy 19:15) and to the Psalms (Psalms 82:6) in support of His arguments with the Jews (8:17 and 10:34). The Synoptic narrative agrees with this representation of His mode of argument (Mark 12:35 and parallels; Matthew 4:4, Matthew 4:6, Matthew 4:11 = Luke 4:4, Luke 4:8, Luke 4:12). Paul appealed to the O.T. in the same fashion, as every Rabbi did (Romans 3:10, 1 Corinthians 15:45, Galatians 3:11, etc.).

Again, the Fourth Gospel represents Jesus as illustrating His teaching by the citation of Scripture passages; e.g. He quotes Isaiah 54:13 at 6:45, and His quotation (7:38), “Out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water,” seems to be illustrative rather than argumentative. There are many instances in the Pauline Epistles of this use of the O.T. (e.g. Romans 4:6); and the Synoptists ascribe it to Jesus just as Jn. does (Matthew 9:13, Matthew 9:21:16, 42, etc.). So far there is no difficulty in the report of the Fourth Gospel as to the use said to have been made of the O.T. by Jesus and His hearers.

(ii) The Jews, however, did not only hold that the O.T. was authoritative; they held that it pointed forward to Messiah, and to His Kingdom which was one day to be established among them. It was a prophetic volume, and for them prophecy included prediction. They believed that the actual words of the O.T. were intended by God to have a future as well as a present application.

Thus Jn. represents the people1 as expecting that Messiah would come one day, because the prophets had so predicted; and expecting Him to be born at Bethlehem (7:42; cf. Matthew 2:5), of the seed of David; to vindicate Himself by wonderful works (6:14, 30) because the Scriptures of the prophets had assured them that so it would be; and to “abide for ever” (12:34) because so it had been indicated in “the law.” The Synoptists do not give any details as to the nature of the Messianic expectation, but they are clear that Messiah was looked for, by the priests (Mark 14:61); by pious folk such as Simeon, Anna, the two at Emmaus (Luke 2:26, Luke 2:36, Luke 2:24:21); by John the Baptist, who expected Messiah to work miracles (Matthew 11:2, Luke 7:20); and by the people generally (Luke 3:15). The hope that the Messianic prophecies would one day be fulfilled was in every pious Jewish heart, and Jn.’s report that this expectation was vivid is borne out by all the other evidence we have.

(iii) The evangelists, Jn. as well as the Synoptists, were convinced that this expectation had been satisfied, for they believed that in Jesus the Messiah had been found. The purpose of Jn. in writing his gospel was that his readers might believe that “Jesus is the Christ” (20:31); and he is quite assured that Isaiah (12:41) as well as Zechariah spoke of Jesus. He applies, e.g., Zechariah 12:10 to the piercing of the Lord’s side on the Cross (19:37). Jn. tells of John the Baptist applying to himself the prophecy of the Forerunner (1:23; cf. Mark 1:2, Luke 3:4; cf. 7:27, Matthew 3:3), and accepting unhesitatingly Jesus as the Messiah (1:29, 34); and he ascribes the same belief to other disciples (1:41, 45, 49, 6:69, etc.). Martha makes the same confession (11:27). The disciples are represented as applying Messianic Scriptures to Jesus both before (2:17) and after His Resurrection (2:22, 12:16).

The author of Hebrews finds Jesus as the Christ frequently (1:5, 2:12, 5:5, 10:5) in the Psalms and in the Law; and in one passage at least Paul elaborates an argument (Ephesians 4:8) which depends for its force upon a mystical and forward reference to Jesus in Psalms 68:18.

Indeed, that Jesus is the Messiah of O.T. prophecy is the burden of the earliest gospel sermons (Acts 2:31, Acts 2:36, Acts 2:3:20, Acts 2:5:42, etc.).

(iv) Jn. agrees with the Synoptists in representing Jesus as accepting this position, and as claiming therefore to be the subject of O.T. prophecy. The difference Isa_1 that Jn. puts the recognition by His disciples of Jesus as the Messiah (1:50), and His acceptance of their homage, earlier than the Synoptists formally do (Mark 8:29); but it is not to be overlooked that Lk. (4:41) represents Him as conscious of His Messiahship at a date prior to the call of Peter and James and John by the lake-side. Jn. also puts into His mouth the plain affirmation to the Woman of Samaria that He was the Christ (4:26). At a later stage the Synoptists tell that He said the same thing to the high priest (Mark 14:62; cf. Luke 22:67, Matthew 26:64), which is not told explicitly by Jn., who does not go into full details about this examination by Caiaphas (18:24; but cf. 19:7). There can be no doubt that, according to Jn. and the Synoptists alike, it was implied in Jesus’ claim and explicitly asserted once and again that He was the Messiah of the O.T. “Moses wrote of me,” and the Scriptures “bear witness of me” (5:39, 46) are words that Jn. places in His mouth.

(v) Hence we are not surprised to come upon the expression that in Jesus and His ministry “the Scripture was fulfilled” (ἐπληρώθη). It does not seem to say more than, as we have seen, was accepted ex animo by all His early disciples. Yet the expression is not found in Paul or in Hebrews or in the Apocalypse or in the Johannine or Petrine Epistles. The idea of the “fulfilment” of the Scriptures in Jesus appears but once in Mk., four times in Lk. and the Acts (as well as twice with the verb τελεῖν instead of πληροῦν), six times in Jn. (and once with τελεῖν), and twelve times in Mt. It occurs once in James (2:23), but with no Messianic reference, being applied to the fulfilment of Genesis 15:6 in the later promise of Genesis 22:16f. These passages from the Gospels must presently be examined separately, but it is plain from their distribution that the idea of the “fulfilment” of a particular Scripture as an incident of Christ’s Ministry and Passion is more conspicuous in the later writings of the N.T. than in the earlier. Whatever the dates of Jn. and Mt. may be, they are later, in their present form, than the Epistles of Paul or than Mk. and Lk.; and it is in these later Gospels that the phrase becomes frequent, either in the form “the Scripture was fulfilled,” or “in order that the Scripture might be fulfilled.”

This way of speaking of the “fulfilment” of Scripture does not appear at all in the sub-apostolic age, although the belief was universal in Christian circles that the O.T. rites and prophecies pointed onward to Christ. Barnabas, for instance, who is full of “types,” and who finds Christ in the most unlikely places in the O.T. (see § 9, where he finds in the number of Abraham’s servants a forecast of the Cross of Jesus), never speaks of the πλήρωσις or “fulfilment” of a Scripture. The same is true of Justin Martyr. Nor is the formula of citation “then was fulfilled” a formula which Irenæus used, except when (as in Hær. iii. 9, 2) he reproduced it from the Gospels (Matthew 1:23). The only instances of πληροῦν being used of Scripture in his writings are in Hær. iii. 10, 4, where he says that the angels proclaimed the promise made to David as a promise fulfilled (… ὑπόσχεσιν ̣ ̣ ̣ πεπληρωμένην εὐαγγελίσωνται), and perhaps in Dem. 38, where he writes that “This” (i.e. Amos 9:11) “our Lord Jesus Christ truly fulfilled.” But in neither of these passages is the formula of citation “then was fulfilled” used by Irenæus. The earliest appearance of the phrase, subsequent to the First and Fourth Gospels, is in Hegesippus, who wrote about 160-180 a.d. In a passage where Hegesippus (quoted by Eusebius, H.E. ii. 23, 15) is describing the martyrdom of James the Just by the Jews, he adds, καὶ ἐπλήρωσαν τὴν γραφὴν τὴν ἐν τῷ Ἠσαΐᾳ γεγραμμένην, Ἄρωμεν τὸν δίκαιον (Isaiah 3:10; cf. Wisd. 2:12). The passage he quotes has not any such reference, but Hegesippus has been attracted by the word δίκαιος, and so he ventures to say that the Jews “fulfilled” this Scripture.1 In every Christian age it has been a fault of piety, when searching the O.T., to mistake verbal coincidence with fact for a veritable fulfilment of prophetic words.

It should be added that this formula of citation is not used (except when reproducing Matthew 2:15, Matthew 2:17) by the authors of any of the earlier Apocryphal Gospels. It is not found in them until we come to Evangelium Pseudo-Matthæi, a work of the fifth or sixth century; and its presence here is probably to be explained by the fact that this apocryphal writer aims at imitating the manner of the canonical Mat_1

The probable reason that the phrase “then was fulfilled the Scripture” is frequent in Jn. and Mt., but does not appear again until Hegesippus, and then rarely until post-Nicene times, is that the phrase was peculiarly Jewish. Jn. and Mt. are full of Hebraisms, and Hegesippus was a Jew. In the O. T. “to fulfil” is used of a petition (Psalms 20:5) or a Divine promise (1 Kings 8:15), but rarely of a prophecy (1 Kings 2:27, 2 Chronicles 36:21, Daniel 4:33, Daniel 4:1 Esd. 1:57). It seems that the word came into use in the Rabbinical schools after the O.T. canon had been closed. “To fulfil that which was said” and “then was fulfilled” are formulæ of citation that are occasionally found in Jewish writings (so Bacher, Exeg. term. i. 171).

It has often been thought that there existed in Apostolic days a Jewish collection of O.T. passages held to be predictive of Messiah.2 If this were the case, it would be natural that it should be utilised by the writers of the Gospels, at any rate of the later Gospels, Mt. and Jn. Allen has suggested3 that the quotations in Mt. introduced by a formula are derived from a written source of this kind, and not directly from the canonical Old Testament. The same might be true of the quotations in Jn.; but the existence of such a collection of testimonia in the first century has not yet, as it seems to the present writer, been established.

To return to the phrase “the Scripture was fulfilled,” as it appears in the Gospels. It always has reference to a particular verse of the O.T. (ἡ γραφή), the words of which fit the incident that the evangelist has recorded. There are two notable instances in Mt. The evangelist finds (Matthew 2:17) in Jeremiah 31:15 words prophetic of the Massacre of the Innocents; and again (Matthew 27:9) he says that in the buying of the Potter’s Field with the blood money “was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremiah” (Zechariah 11:13; cf. Jeremiah 32:6f.). In both of these cases we are dealing only with the comment of the evangelist, and it is probable that he was misled by verbal coincidences, just as Hegesippus was when he quoted Isaiah 3:10 of the martyrdom of James the Just (see p. cl). Having regard to the historical contexts both of Jeremiah 31:15 and of Zechariah 11:13 (Jeremiah 32:6f.), it cannot be maintained that they are more than vaguely descriptive or suggestive of incidents in the Gospel history.

The case of Luke 4:21 is different. Here the evangelist tells that Jesus read aloud in the synagogue the passage Isaiah 61:1, Isaiah 61:2, and that He began His comment upon it by saying, “To-day hath this Scripture been fulfilled in your ears.” There is no improbability in this, and it is entirely in agreement with the claim which, as we have seen, Jesus made repeatedly for Himself, that He was the subject of O.T. prophecy.

(vi) We come next to a more difficult conception, yet one which is logically connected with the belief in prophecy as understood by a Jew. Jn. represents Jesus as saying “the Scripture cannot be broken,” οὐ δύναται λυθῆναι ἡ γραφή (10:35). This is not said in reference to the fulfilment of prophecy, but parenthetically as an assertion of the permanent authority of O.T. words. But where prophecy was in view, it was held that the prediction once made carried with it the assurance of its accomplishment. The more strictly the verbal inspiration of the sacred books was taught by the Rabbinical schools, the more deeply would it be felt that the punctilious fulfilment of the Messianic predictions was fore-ordained of God. This was believed by every pious Jew, and the belief emerges distinctly in the Fourth Gospel, the evangelist ascribing this conviction to Jesus Himself. We may recall here some Synoptic passages which show that the belief that “the Scripture cannot be broken” was shared by Mt., Mk., and Lk. (especially by Lk.), and that all three speak of it as having the authority of their Master.

(a) At Mark 10:32 (cf. Matthew 20:18) Jesus predicts His condemnation and death at Jerusalem, τὰ μέλλοντα αὐτῷ συμβαίνειν, or, as Lk. (18:31) more explicitly puts it, “all the things that are written by the prophets shall be accomplished (τελεσθήσεται) unto the Son of Man.”

(b) According to Mark 14:21, Matthew 26:24, Jesus said at the Last Supper, “The Son of Man goeth, even as it is written of Him,” or as Lk. has it, “as it hath been determined,” κατὰ τὸ ὡρισμένον (Luke 22:22). Cf. also Luke 21:22.

(c) Lk. (22:37) alone records that Jesus said after the Last Supper τοῦτο τὸ γεγραμμένον δεῖ τελεσθῆναι ἐν ἐμοί, τό Καὶ μετὰ�Isaiah 53:12).

(d) Lk (24:26) represents Jesus as asking the disciples on the way to Emmaus, οὐχὶ ταῦτα ἔδει παθεῖν τὸν Χριστὸν; and then interpreting the Messianic prophecies to them.

(e) So again, according to Luke 24:44, Jesus said to the company in the Upper Room, δεῖ πληρωθῆναι πάντα τὰ γεγραμμένα ἐν τῷ νόμῳ Μωσέως καὶ τοῖς προφήταις καὶ ψαλμοῖς περὶ ἐμοῦ: it was necessary that all that had been written should be fulfilled.

In like manner Luke ascribes to Peter (Acts 1:16) the saying that it was necessary that the Scripture about Judas should be fulfilled.

This conception, then, of the inevitableness of the fulfilment of O.T. prophecies is ascribed by all the evangelists to Jesus, but it comes out most frequently in Lk. and Jn., the Fourth Evangelist generally expressing it, as we shall see presently, in another way.1

(vii) We have now to consider the meaning of the expression, common in Mt. and Jn., that certain things happened in order that the Scripture might be fulfilled.

A similar expression is found two or three times in the O.T. “Solomon thrust out Abiathar from being priest … that he might fulfil the word of the Lord which He spake concerning the house of Eli” (1 Kings 2:27). The LXX has here πληρωθῆνσι τὸ ῥῆμα Κυρίου. It may be that in this passage we need not suppose Solomon’s motive to be that he might fulfil 1 Samuel 2:27f., but that the writer only means that the event corresponded with what had been predicted. In like manner it has been suggested that in some passages where ἵνα πληρωθῇ ἡ γραφή is found in the Gospels, we need not give ἵνα a telic force. It may be used loosely on occasion with πληρωθῇ, as it is certainly used loosely, without telic force, in other contexts (e.g. Mark 5:43, Mark 6:25, Mark 9:9, in all of which cases the other Synoptists discard Mark’s ἵνα; cf. John 1:27, John 11:50 etc.). But thus to evacuate ἵνα of its telic force in the phrase ἵνα πληρωθῇ ἡ γραφή, however agreeable to our modern ideas of the Bible, is to do violence to the contexts, and to fail in appreciation of the Jewish doctrine of prophecy.

(viii) When the Chronicler places the rise of Cyrus “after the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah had been accomplished” (μετὰ τὸ πληρωθῆναι ῥῆμα κυρίου, 2 Chronicles 36:22), he means more than that the event corresponded with what had been predicted. He means that the event was overruled by God with a view to the fulfilment of His own eternal purpose, which had been proclaimed by Jeremiah the prophet.

Both Mt. and Jn. express themselves in the same way. Mt. uses the phrase ἵνα πληρωθῇ, or ὅπως πληρωθῇ, eight times of a testimonium quoted from the O.T., viz.: 1:23 (Isaiah 7:14), 2:15 (Hosea 11:1), 2:23 (“He shall be called a Nazarene,” the source of which is uncertain), 4:14 (Isaiah 9:1, Isaiah 9:2), 8:17 (Isaiah 53:4), 12:17 (Isaiah 42:1f.), 13:35 (Psalms 78:2), 21:4 (Zechariah 9:9). This was his doctrine, that the words of the prophets, quite apart from their context, had a forward Messianic reference, and that the incidents of the ministry of Jesus were divinely overruled, in order that the prophecies might be fulfilled. And in one remarkable passage, where he is following Mk., Mt. places this doctrine in the mouth of Jesus. Mark (14:49; cf. Matthew 26:56) reports that Jesus said at His betrayal that the manner of His violent arrest was ἵνα πληρωθῶσιν αἱ γραφαί. No special “Scripture” is quoted, and it may be that only the general trend of O.T. prophecy about Messiah and His sufferings was in the mind of the Speaker, or in that of the evangelist who reported His words. Yet that the evangelist believed Jesus to have said that an incident took place, “in order that the Scriptures might be fulfilled,” is significant.

We now come to the use in Jn. of this phrase. It occurs four times in a comment by the evangelist upon something which he has recorded, and he attributes the use of it to Jesus three times.

(a) Jn. says (12:37, 38) that the people did not believe on Jesus, despite His signs, ἵνα ὁ λόγος Ἠσαίου τοῦ προφήτου πληρωθῇ, quoting Isaiah 53:1, “Lord, who hath believed our report?” etc. The same prophecy is quoted in Romans 10:16, a similar interpretation being given to it, except that Paul does not use the formula ἵνα πληρωθῇ.

Jn. makes it clear that ἵνα here has a telic force, for he proceeds διὰ τοῦτο οὐκ ἠδύναντο πιστεύειν, ὅτι πάλιν εἶπεν Ἠσαίας, quoting Isaiah 6:10, “He hath blinded their eyes,” etc. This testimonium from the O.T. is also cited by Mt. (13:14) in the form “unto them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah,” words which Mt. ascribes to Jesus Himself.

The other instances in which Jn. comments thus on a recorded incident occur in the narrative of the Passion.

(b) In John 19:24 the parting of Jesus’ garments among the soldiers is said to have been ἵνα ἡ γραφὴ πληρωθῇ, the words of Psalms 22:18 being cited, “They parted my garments among them, and upon my vesture did they cast lots.” The Synoptists mention the parting of the garments, but do not expressly quote Scripture for it. See note in loc.

(c) In John 19:28 the saying of Jesus on the cross, “I thirst,” is recorded, and Jn. adds that it was said ἵνα τελειωθῇ ἡ γραφή, presumably having Psalms 69:21 in his mind. The Synoptists do not record this word from the cross. See note in loc.

(d) John 19:36, “These things came to pass, ἵνα ἡ γραφὴ πληρωθῇ, A bone of Him shall not be broken” (Exodus 12:46; cf. Psalms 34:20), Jesus being the true Paschal Lamb.

It is noteworthy that Jn. twice comments on recorded words of Jesus in the same way; that is, he speaks of them as if they were inevitable of fulfilment, like words of Scripture. In 18:8, 9 we read: “Jesus answered … If ye seek me, let these go their way, that the word might be fulfilled (ἳνα πλ. ὁ λόγος) which He spake, Of those whom Thou hast given me I lost not one” (referring back to 17:12); and again, 18:31, 32: “the Jews said unto him, It is not lawful for us to put any man to death: that the word of Jesus might be fulfilled (ἳνα ὁ λόγος τοῦ Ἰησοῦ πλ.), which He spake, signifying by what manner of death He should die” (referring back of 12:32). For Jn., the words of his Master were possessed of authority and inspired by foreknowledge; the event necessarily corresponded to what Jesus had said.

(ix) In two or three passages Jn. seems to go beyond a statement of his own belief as to the inevitableness of the fulfilment of O.T. prophecy; for he has been thought to ascribe the same opinion to Jesus Himself.

In 13:18 we have: “I know whom I have chosen: but that the Scripture may be fulfilled, He that eateth my bread lifteth up his heel against me” (Psalms 41:9); and again in 17:12: “I guarded them, and not one of them perished, but the son of perdition; that the Scripture might be fulfilled,” allusion probably being made to the same passage, Psalms 41:9 (but cf. Psalms 109:8, Acts 1:16). These phrases, as they stand, suggest that Jesus taught not only that the treachery of Judas was a “fulfilment” of Scripture, but that its progress was overruled in its incidents, so that “the Scripture might be fulfilled.” It may be so, but this is not necessarily the true interpretation, for in both passages the recalling of O.T. prophecy may be but an editorial addition or a comment of the evangelist after his habit.1

In like manner, ἵνα πληρωθῇ ὁ λόγος in 15:25 (where see note) may be added to the report of the Lord’s words by Jn., who found it apposite to cite ἐμίσησάν με δωρεάν from Psalms 35:19 or Psalms 69:4. In any case, in this particular passage, some doubt must rest upon the accuracy of the report, which makes Jesus speak of “their Law,” as if to separate Himself from Judaism.

Otherwise we have to suppose that Jesus taught that the causeless hatred with which He was rejected had been fore-ordained in words of the Psalmist which had to be fulfilled.

(II) The Johannine Doctrines of Life and Judgement

In Jewish thought the conception of a Day of Judgment when the future destiny of men shall be determined does not appear until after the Exile. One of the earliest allusions to this is in Daniel 12:2, Daniel 12:3: “Many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to eternal life and some to shame and eternal contempt,” a passage which (although it does not speak of a general resurrection) contemplates a separation of men into the righteous and unrighteous, and so presupposes judgment.

The growth of the idea is intimately connected with the growth of the Messianic hope. Judgment is the prerogative of kings, and so it was the office of the Messianic King. “A throne shall be established in mercy, and one shall sit thereon in truth, in the tent of David, judging and seeking judgment” (Isaiah 16:5; cf. Isaiah 32:1). The theocratic King of Psalms 72:1 executes judgment in response to the petition, “Give the King Thy judgments, O God, and Thy righteousness unto the King’s son”; or as the Targum has it, “Give the precepts of Thy judgment to King Messiah.” It is noteworthy that the vision of Daniel 7:13, which tells of One to come “with the clouds of heaven like unto a son of man,” does not ascribe the office of judgment to this Coming One, but rather to the Ancient of 6ays, Who is the fount of all true judgment (cf. Deuteronomy 1:17).

However, when we come to the Book of Enoch, we find the doctrine of world judgment clearly expressed, and the office of judgment committed to the Son of Man.1 The various forms which the doctrine of judgment takes in this book are summarised by Charles on Enoch 45:3: “The Elect One will sit on the throne of His glory, 45:3, 55:4, 62:3, 5 … being placed thereon by the Lord of Spirits, 61:8, 62:2; and His throne is likewise the throne of the Head of Days, 47:3, 51:3,” a typical passage being: “He sat on the throne of His glory, and the sum of judgment was committed unto Him, the Son of Man” (69:27). How far the eschatology of this book was prevalent in Palestine in the first century we do not know precisely; but it is clear that the orthodox believed that the dead, or at any rate the righteous dead, would rise again. The Book of Jubilees (23:11) speaks of “the day of the Great Judgment,” and the Apocalypse of Baruch (50:3, 4, 51 f.) tells of a resurrection at the Advent of Messiah for the purpose of judgment. The Second Book of Esdras belongs to the latter half of the first century, and is tinged with Christian thought; but its testimony is relevant here. In 2 Esd. 12:33 it is said of the wicked that Messiah “shall set them alive in His judgment, and when He hath reproved them, He shall destroy them.”

By Mk., Jesus is represented as saying of Himself: “Ye shall see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of power, and coming with the clouds of heaven” (Mark 14:62; cf. Mark 13:26, Mark 8:38). The picture of Him as the Judge at the Last Judgment is explicit in Matthew 25:40f., His judgment being: “These shall go away into eternal punishment; but the righteous into eternal life.” The office of Judge is assigned to Him by the apostolic preachers: “This is He which was ordained of God to be the Judge of quick and dead” (Acts 10:42); and again: “God hath appointed a day in the which He will judge the world in righteousness by the man whom He hath ordained” (Acts 17:31). Paul has the same doctrine; he speaks of “the Day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ” (Romans 2:16; cf. 2 Corinthians 5:10).

It is, therefore, highly probable that Jewish doctrine in the first century conceived of Messiah as the Judge at the Last Judgment; and it is certain that in Mt., in the Acts, and in Paul it is taught that Jesus is to be that Judge. In claiming to be the Messiah of Jewish hopes, He claimed, as it would seem, to be the Judge of mankind at the Last Assize.

Thus the language in which Jesus spoke to His Jewish disciples about the final judgment of mankind was the language of Jewish Apocalyptic. The images and the figures which He employed to bring home to His hearers the severity and certainty of the Divine judgments were not unfamiliar to them. He always spoke to men in the language which they could best understand; and, as the first disciples were Jews, He spoke to them as a Jew would speak, conveying to them at the same time deeper and more spiritual truths than any of which Jews had dreamed. He was, in truth, the Messiah of their ancient traditions.

In the first years of bewildered hope after His Ascension, the expectation was strong in many hearts, as the Pauline Epistles show, that the Son of Man would speedily come again in judgment to vindicate the Divine righteousness, and to fulfil the Divine purpose of the ages. But time went on; and, as the first generation of Christian believers passed away, it became evident that the Promise of the Lord’s Coming, as they had understood it, was not certainly to be fulfilled all at once. Jerusalem had fallen. The Temple was destroyed. Christianity was no longer a phase of Judaism. The thought of Jesus as the Messiah ceased to be the dominating thought of those who called Him Master. He was Messiah, but He was more. And it was the task of the last of the evangelists to remind the Church how much there was in the teaching of Jesus Himself as to the Judgment of Mankind, and the Coming of His Kingdom, that had been neglected in the eager faith of the little community which had so unerringly perceived in the Risen Lord the Christ of their fathers.

Accordingly, we find in the Fourth Gospel, on the one hand, phrases entirely in the manner, so to speak, of Mt. and of the Acts and of Paul, as to Messiah and Messiah’s judgment at the last; and, on the other hand, a wider and more catholic presentation of Jesus as the world’s King and Saviour, whose Kingdom is already established in some degree.

(a) To Jn., Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, just as He is to the Synoptists. Indeed, Jn. is the only evangelist who reproduces the Jewish title Messiah (1:42, 4:25). If Jesus had not been Messiah, He could not have been the Light of the World, of Jew as well as of Greek. To Jn., as to the Synoptists, Jesus was the Son of Man of Daniel’s vision.1 The words addressed to Nathanael (1:51) could not have been understood by any one not a Jew: “Ye shall see the heaven opened, and the angels ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.” That recalls the vision of the Son of Man of the Synoptists (Mark 14:62 and parls.). Jn. is not unmindful of this aspect of the teaching of Jesus, viz. that He proclaimed Himself as the Jewish Messiah, of whose judgment the Jewish Apocalypses had spoken.

Further, Jn. is explicit in the announcement of a Great Assize at last, when all men shall be judged by the Son of Man. “The hour cometh in which all that are in the tombs shall hear His voice, and shall come forth, they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done ill, unto the resurrection of judgment” (5:29). For this παρουσία2 Cf. 1 John 2:28; it is a Christian privilege that “we may have boldness in the Day of Judgment” (1 John 4:17). That this doctrine appears in Jn. is only what we expect to find in writings which go back to the reminiscences of a Jewish disciple.

(b) But, for Jn., Christianity has broken its Jewish fetters once for all. The aged apostle remembers, as he looks back, that there were teachings of Jesus which transcended all the hopes and thoughts of Judaism, and these are now reproduced (through the medium of a disciple) for the instruction of the Church. The rigid ecclesiastical polity of the Jews was a thing of the past. And Jesus had said that it would not be permanent; that the time was coming when neither Samaria nor Jerusalem would be the spiritual home of the true worshippers of God (4:21f.). He had spoken, too, of His flock as embracing not only Jews but Gentiles (10:16). Here were master thoughts, denying any exclusive privilege to the Jew, inconsistent or seemingly inconsistent with any millennial reign of Messiah on Mount Sion. In fact, when the Fourth Gospel was being written, Christianity was being accepted by Greek and Roman as well as Jew. And the catholicity of its appeal is perceived by the evangelist to be agreeable to the mind of Christ, as disclosed in sayings of His not yet recorded and only imperfectly understood.

Moreover, it was becoming clear that the expectation of an Advent of the Son of Man and of the establishment in its fulness of the Kingdom of God in the near future was a mistaken expectation. There will, indeed, be a final consummation. Jn. is the only evangelist who uses the expression “the Last Day” (see on 6:39); he does not deny, rather he explicitly declares, the doctrine of a Great Assize, while he does not look for any immediate Advent of Christ in majesty, such as the first generation of Christians had expected. But the outlook of the Last Discourses (cc. 14-16) is directed to the future of the Church on earth rather than to any sudden and glorious Coming of the Master from heaven (cf., however, 14:3). And this surprised the Apostles: “Lord, what is come to pass, that Thou wilt manifest Thyself to us, and not unto the world?” (14:22). They had been told, “I will manifest myself unto him that loveth me” (14:21); this was an Advent of Jesus to the faithful soul. But they were hardly content. And Jn. reports that Christ gave no other answer to their curiosity about His Coming than the quiet promise, “If a man love me, he will keep my words … and we will make our abode with him” (14:23).

Thus Jn. will not dwell on the prospect of the Final Judgment of the world as it had presented itself to Jewish minds. He knows that it was involved in the teaching of Christ, and he says so in the Gospel, stating it with greater explicitness in the First Epistle.1 But there was another element in that teaching which needed fresh emphasis. The judgment of the individual is determined in the present by his own attitude to Christ: “he that believeth not is judged already” (3:18, where see note). This judgment is not arbitrary, but inevitable, and is the issue of a moral necessity. In the sight of God, to whom a thousand years are as one day, the predestined future is as certain as the past, and it may be discerned in the present. Die Weltgeschichte ist das Weltgericht: “he that believeth not is judged already.” And so, on the other hand, with the believer in Christ: “he comes not into judgment, but has passed from death into life” (5:24). Those who believe in Him shall be safe at the last (11:26; cf. 17:12), and He will “raise them up” (6:39, 40, etc.). In virtue of the Life which they share with Him, they will be sharers of the Resurrection unto eternal life.

A third doctrine which Jn. expounds with greater fulness than the Synoptists is the doctrine of life here and hereafter. In the Synoptists, indeed, the teaching of Jesus is explicit as to a future life and a resurrection to judgment both of righteous and unrighteous, while at the same time He points out that the conditions of this future existence are necessarily dissimilar to those of our bodily life here (Mark 12:25f.). In Jn. the thought emerges that the ζωὴ αἰώνιος of the future may begin in the present. It is already possessed by him who believes in Jesus (3:15, 16, 36, 6:40, 47). or in the Father who sent Him (5:24). It is both a present possession and a hope of the future. This is the reason why Jn. can speak of judgment being already determined; it begins here and is fulfilled hereafter, as life also is.

It is to be observed, however, that this doctrine of ζωὴ αἰώνιος is not peculiar to Jn., but is also found in the Synoptists, although it is by them expressed in a different way, in terms of the Jewish concept of the Kingdom of God to which the Synoptic references are so frequent. In Jn., “eternal life,” the life of the citizenship of the “Kingdom of God,” is that on which a man enters after he has been born ἄνωθεν (3:3). The Kingdom of God, according to the Synoptist presentation, is at once present and future. It is future, if we contemplate its complete fulfilment (e.g. Matthew 8:12, Matthew 13:43, Matthew 25:34, Mark 9:47, Luke 13:28) and pray “Thy Kingdom come” (Matthew 6:10). But, in another sense, it is present now. “The Kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:21; cf. Luke 6:20, Luke 11:20) And to enter into it one must become like a little child (Matthew 18:3, Mark 10:15, Luke 18:17), a condition which should be compared with John 3:3. To enter into the Kingdom of God and to enter into life are, indeed, treated by Mk. as identical expressions (Mark 9:45, Mark 9:47). It thus appears that the spiritual doctrine of ζωὴ αἰώνιος of which Jn. is so full, is implicit in the Synoptic Gospels, which speak of the Kingdom of God coming and come, just as in Jn. we read of eternal life as both future and already present.1

Hence there is no inconsistency, as has sometimes been suggested, between the two sides of the Johannine teaching about eternal life. “He that believeth on me hath eternal life,” and “I will raise him up at the last day,” express the same doctrine, viz. that whether in this world or in the world to come, life, that is, the spiritual life, which is “life indeed,” is found in Christ alone. This is the perpetual theme of the Fourth Gospel.

In Christ is life (1:4). This He has in Himself as God has (5:26). He has the words of eternal life (6:68). His words are life (6:63). To know Him is eternal life (17:3). He is the Life (14:6). He gives the living water which continually and eternally vivifies the energies of the spirit (4:14, 7:38). He came that His flock might have life (10:10). He is the Bread of Life (6:35), the Bread which sustains life. The Bread which He gives is His Flesh, given for the life of the world (6:51). Without this no one has life (6:53); but he that eats of it abides in Christ (6:56; cf. 15:4). They who follow Him have the light of life (8:12). That is the secret of eternal life in this present stage of being. (See further on 11:25.)

So, too, is it after death. Christ quickens the dead, as the Father does. ὁ υἱὸς οὓς θέλει ζωοποιεῖ (5:21). Those who keep His word shall not taste of death (8:51). He is not only the Life; He is at once “the Resurrection and the Life” (11:25). Those to whom He gives eternal life never perish; no one plucks them out of His hand (10:28).

Others will perish (3:16); those who are rebellious shall not see life, but God’s wrath rests upon them (3:36). “If ye will not believe that I am He, ye shall die in your sins” (8:24). “If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and cast them into the fire, and they are burned” (15:6).

Such is the doctrine of Judgment and of Life expounded in the Fourth Gospel. The evangelist is at once Hebraist and Hellenist. He wrote “that ye may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God” (a Jewish belief, for Greeks and pagans had no thought of Messiah), and also “that believing ye may have life in His Name,” a universal message which it is of supreme consequence to all men to apprehend.

There are, then, in Jn. these two contrasted views of the future life, one pointing back to Hebraism, the other more akin to Hellenism, but both accepted by the evangelist. To rule out either as foreign to his thought is not scientific criticism. Thus Wendt1 has been followed by some scholars in his view that the phrase ἡ ἐσχάτη ἡμέρα is an interpolation added by an editor in 6:39, 40, 44, 45, 11:24, 12:48; his reason apparently being that the doctrine of a “last day” or “day of judgment” is inconsistent with the spiritual doctrine of eternal life which Jn. unfolds. But there is nothing in the style of these verses to suggest that they are not Johannine. If we extrude from the text of a book every phrase which does not seem to us to be congenial to the argument, we may indeed reduce the residuum to a consistent whole, but it does not follow that we are doing justice to the author’s opinions or that we have got nearer to what he originally set down. We may think it strange that a Hellenist should be a Hebraist in certain regions of thought. But the writer of the Fourth Gospel was both.

(III) The Kingdom of God and the New Birth

The Kingdom of God, coming and come, is a principal topic in the Synoptic reports of the teaching of Jesus. Many of His parables are concerned with the explanation of its significance. In a sense, it is a present reality (Luke 17:21), but it is more frequently named in the Synoptic Gospels as an ideal to be realised in the future (Matthew 6:10, Mark 9:1, etc.), the signs of its approach not being always apparent (Luke 17:20).1 The phrases, “the Kingdom of Heaven,” “the Kingdom of God” were not unfamiliar to the Jews, of whom some looked for a political and social Utopia, a happy future for their race and nation; while others, more spiritually minded, understood that righteousness rather than prosperity was the ideal of a community over whom Yahweh was King. Of this Kingdom Jesus taught that no one could become a citizen without a spiritual change, without turning away from material things, and approaching God with the simplicity and single-heartedness of a little child (Matthew 18:3, Mark 10:15, Luke 18:17). It is this last conception that is expounded with startling emphasis in the discourse of Jesus with Nicodemus: “Except a man be born from above, he cannot see the Kingdom of God” (John 3:3).

The idea of rebirth is not peculiar to Christianity. The Brahman, the spiritual aristocrat of India, is “twice born.” In the Novella of Justinian (lxxviii.) it is asserted of a manumitted slave that he has τὸ τῆς παλιγγενεσίας δίκαιον. Wetstein, who quotes this, quotes also the saying of Apuleius that the day of a convert’s initiation is his birthday. The idea, indeed, is frequent in the Mystery religions which had a vogue at the end of the first century. Mithraism may have been affected by Christian phraseology, but in any case the expression used of one who has been initiated, renatus in æternum, is noteworthy.1

More to the point, when examining John 3:3, is the language used in Rabbinical writings of Gentile proselytes who have accepted Judaism. “A man’s father only brought him into this world; his teacher, who taught him wisdom, brings him into the life of the world to come.”2 Wetstein quotes: “The stranger who is proselytised is like a child newly born, because he must break away from his former teachers and principles, as well as from the ties of kinship.”3 The germ of this metaphor, which is a very natural one, appears in such passages as Psalms 87:4; and it may have been familiar to the Rabbis of the first century, although the Talmud, as we have it, being of later date, does not prove this to demonstration. The narrative of the discourse with Nicodemus (3:10) seems to represent Jesus as expressing surprise that he, a master of Israel, should not be acquainted with the doctrine of rebirth, but this is not quite certain. See notes on 3:4, 10.

In any case, Nicodemus, as one of the Sanhedrim, must have been familiar with the phrase “the Kingdom of God,” which he and his fellows were accustomed to interpret in terms of the Messianic expectation of future prosperity and peace. It was for the future, rather than the present; and its ideals were political and social rather than spiritual, although spiritual ideals were not wholly absent from it. But he was hardly prepared to be told that he was not following the path which led to the Kingdom, and that without a complete change of attitude he could not enter it. He must become like a child before its Heavenly Father; he must be “born again.”

This phrase, however, is expanded in v. 5, where it takes the form “born (or begotten) of water and the Spirit.” This has generally been interpreted of baptism, and the interpretation demands careful analysis.

It must first be observed that the representation of baptism as a new birth is infrequent in the N.T. We find it, perhaps, in 1 Peter 1:3, 1 Peter 1:23, where Christians are described as “begotten again not of corruptible seed but of incorruptible”; and it appears in the phrase λουτρὸν παλιγγενεσίας (Titus 3:5). Paul generally speaks of baptism, not as a new birth, but as a “burial with Christ” in the baptismal waters followed by a rising again therefrom (Romans 6:3, Colossians 2:12).1 But, at the same time, for Paul a man in Christ is “a new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17), and this thought is not far from that of the “regeneration” of the Christian believer, and the image of baptism as a new birth.

At any rate, this image is used in the literature of the second and third centuries, more frequently than any other, to illustrate baptism. In the note on 3:5 passages are quoted from “2 Clement” (about 140 a.d.) and Hermas, which treat 3:5 as having a baptismal reference. So Justin says: We bring the catechumens “where there is water, and after the same manner of regeneration as we also were regenerated ourselves, they are regenerated”; and he proceeds to cite 3:3 (loosely, after his wont).2 Christ, he says in another place, “was made the beginning of a new race which is regenerated by Him through water and faith and wood, which contains the Mystery of the Cross.”3 Both Hippolytus4 and Irenæus5 speak of the “laver of regeneration”; and Irenæus more than once describes baptism as “the power of regeneration unto God.”6 Clement of Alexandria in like manner uses the verb “to be regenerated” as equivalent to “to be baptized.”7

Hence, although the doctrine of baptism as a new birth is not prominent in the N.T., it was probably recognised by the end of the first century, as it certainly was in the second century; and if we are to take John 3:5 as accurately reporting a saying of Jesus, He gave to the image the seal of His authority.

There are, however, grave difficulties in the way of this, the usual, interpretation of the passage. That Jesus is the Author of the terse and pregnant aphorism, “Except a man be begotten from above (ἄνωθεν) he cannot see the Kingdom of God” (John 3:3), need not be doubted; it is, as we have seen, but a picturesque and arresting statement of the Synoptic saying, “Except ye become as little children, ye cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven” (Matthew 18:3). But if, in His discourse with Nicodemus, He explained “being begotten from above” (v. 3) as “being begotten of water and the Spirit” (v. 5), and this latter phrase is to be understood of baptism, it can only be John’s baptism8 which was indicated, for Christian baptism was not yet instituted as an initiatory rite. As Jn. observes (7:39, where see note), “the Spirit was not yet given because Jesus was not yet glorified.” But John’s baptism could hardly have been described as “being born of water and the Spirit.” It is true that Ezekiel (36:25) speaks of the new spirit that comes by sprinkling (cf. Psalms 51:2, Psalms 51:7, Zechariah 13:1); but Jn. expressly distinguishes the baptism of John which was ἐν ὕδατι only from that of Jesus which was to be ἐν πνεύματι ἁγίῳ (1:33). At a later date it was reported that John’s adherents did not know of the Holy Spirit (Acts 19:2). If Jesus in the words of John 3:5 recommended to Nicodemus that he should submit himself to baptism by John, He ascribed a spiritual efficacy to that baptism which was unknown to john’s own adherents.

It is difficult to resist the inference that the words ἐξ ὕδατος were not part of the original Saying of Jesus which is reproduced by Jn., but that the form which the Saying takes in 3:5 is due to the evangelist (or to a later editor) who is expressing it in the language of the next generation, and with an application wider than, and differing from, that which it bore when addressed to Nicodemus. That Jesus enforced upon Nicodemus the necessity for a spiritual change, for “regeneration,” is, indeed, highly probable; but that as the road to this He should have recommended the baptism of John, and above all that He should have described this as “being born of water and of the Spirit,” is improbable.

What has happened here is that Jn. has taken a great Saying of Jesus (v. 3), addressed, it may be, to Nicodemus in the first instance, and that he has restated it in v. 5, in terms of the doctrine of Christian baptism which was beginning to take shape at the end of the first century. The Saying of Jesus, it can hardly be doubted, laid stress on the spiritual change which candidates for the Kingdom of Heaven must undergo; they must be born ἄνωθεν (v. 3); and it was natural in early days of persecution and trial that the critical moment should be identified with the moment of baptism, when the new convert deliberately professed faith in Jesus as the Son of God, and accepted the resulting obligations and perils.

We have to reckon, of course, with the doctrine of baptism as applicable to adult proselytes. When it became customary (as it did at an early date) to baptize infants, the doctrine underwent necessary modifications. In the beginning, conversion— the change of mind and heart consequent on a conviction of the unique claims of Jesus—was indistinguishable from regeneration, the new birth into a world of larger and freer opportunity. But once the practice of baptizing infants was adopted, as agreeable to the mind of Christ, it became obvious that the initial regeneration was not a conversion, in any intelligible sense, for an infant has no settled purpose or habit of mind or mental outlook which needs to be changed; and thus the term conversion was reserved for that subsequent awakening of a spiritual sense and of a turning to God, which may be either sudden or gradual, according to the life-history of the individual concerned. The neglect of these elementary considerations has been mischievous in keeping alive controversies about baptismal regeneration which have sometimes been only disputes about words.

At v. 16 the discourse with Nicodemus passes into an exposition of the doctrine of eternal life, which is apparently (see on v. 16) due to the evangelist himself. The topic is, however, not a new one. It is the same topic as that of the “Kingdom of God” with which the discourse opens; but the evangelist expounds it after his own manner and in language which may appeal to Greek no less than to Jew. “Eternal life” is the desire of all mankind; and the spiritual movement which is requisite if the desire is to be satisfied is an act of faith in Jesus as the Son of God. This is the perpetual theme of the Fourth Gospel.

(IV) The Eucharistic Doctrine of Jn.


The author of the Fourth Gospel gives no explicit account of the institution of the Lord’s Supper. That he knew of it is certain, for at the earliest date to which the Gospel can be assigned the Eucharist was an established Christian rite (1 Corinthians 10:16f., Acts 2:42, Acts 20:7) whose significance was fully realised. Jn. tells of the Last Supper (c. 13), but he does not identify it with the Paschal Feast as the Synoptists do, placing it on the eve of the Passover. He has in this particular departed from the Synoptic tradition, which, seemingly, he wishes to correct.1 For Jn. the Passover Victim was Jesus on the Cross, and it may be that his omission to record the institution of the Lord’s Supper is due to his desire to avoid the suggestion that the Eucharist is the Christian Passover; just as, unlike the Synoptists, he avoids sacramental language (see on 6:11) in his account of the Feeding of the Five Thousand, which took place shortly before a Passover celebration.


We next observe that the discourse which, in Jn.’s narrative, follows the Feeding of the Five Thousand is reminiscent of sacramental language, more particularly towards its close; and this must be examined in some detail.

That some words were spoken at Capernaum (6:26, 42, 59) which told of the heavenly Bread as superior to the loaves provided for the hungry multitude is not difficult of credence. But that the whole discourse, as it is found in 6:26-58, belongs to this occasion is improbable. It falls into three sections, vv. 26-40, vv. 41-51a, vv. 51b-58. The first section tells of the Bread from heaven which God gives to those who believe in Jesus, and it announces that Jesus is, Himself, the Bread of Life. The second section is introduced by objections raised by “the Jews,” and speaks further of Jesus as the Bread of Life, but does not say explicitly that this Bread is the gift of the Father. The objectors seem to be Galilæans (v. 42), although they are called “Jews,” the term that is used throughout the Gospel for the opponents of Jesus. In the third section the terminology is changed, and not only the terminology but the doctrine as well. For Jesus speaks now, not of Himself as the heavenly Bread continually given by the Father to believers, but of the Bread which He is, Himself, to give them in the future (δώσω, v. 51). This gift is described as His flesh and His blood, which He will give for the life of the world, and which when appropriated by the believer will be the source and the guarantee of eternal life.

The three sections of this discourse are bound together by Jn., and he represents them as forming a whole. The refrain “I will raise him up at the last day” occurs in all three sections (vv. 39, 40, 44, 54). The same is true of the expression, “who (or which) came down from heaven,” which occurs seven times (vv. 33, 38, 41, 42, 50, 51, 58). And the reference to the manna in the wilderness (v. 31) is answered in v. 49 and again in v. 58. There is a general unity of theme, the doctrine expounded from beginning to end being the main Johannine doctrine, viz. that the only way to life is belief in Jesus, a belief which involves continuous “feeding” on Him, i.e. the refreshment and invigoration of man by perpetual communion with the Son of Man.


The discourse as a whole, and especially its third section, is couched in Eucharistic language. Jn.’s doctrine of “feeding” on Christ is, indeed, a spiritual and mystical doctrine; but it is not doubtful that he means, in vv. 51b-58, to suggest that at any rate one mode of thus “feeding” on Christ is through the sacrament of the Holy Communion. To speak of eating Christ’s flesh and drinking His blood is a metaphor intensely realistic and quite extraordinary,1 going far beyond the teaching about the heavenly bread in the verses which precede. Perhaps the emphasis laid here upon the “flesh” and “blood” of Christ is in polemical reference to the Docetism which Jn. always had in view.2 But, in any case, the language is Eucharistic and was recognised as such so soon as the Fourth Gospel began to be read. Two or three witnesses may be cited here in proof of this.

1. The Eucharistic language of Ignatius (about 110 a.d.) is clearly influenced by Joh_6.

(a) ἄρτον θεοῦ θέλω, ὅ ἐστιν σὰρξ τοῦ χριστοῦ … καὶ πόμα θέλω τὸ αἷμα αὐτοῦ, ὅ ἐστιν�John 6:33 identified with the σάρξ of John 6:51, and the words about the drinking of Christ’s blood go back to the same source. Despite his realism, Ignatius is a mystic like Jn. (cf. also Trall. viii., Philad. i.); and his doctrine of the Eucharist is like Jn.’s in this, that he does not state it so as to exclude other methods of approach to God.

(b) In Philad. iv., the reference to the Eucharist is explicit. σπουδάσατε οὖν μιᾷ εὐχαριστιᾳ χρῆσθαι· μία γὰρ σὰρξ τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, καὶ ἓν ποτήριον εἰς ἕνωσιν τοῦ αἵματος αὐτοῦ. The point to be noted is the use of σάρξ for the Body of Christ in the Eucharist, as in Jn. 6, a phraseology not found elsewhere in the New Testament.

(c) The same inference may be drawn from Smyrn. vi., where Ignatius says that the Docetæ εὐχαριστίας καὶ προσευχῆς�Joh_6.

2. Justin (about 145 a.d.) uses similar language. He says (Apol. i. 66) that as the Word was made flesh, and as Jesus had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so also the Eucharistic food is, we are taught, the σάρξ and αἷμα of Christ. The reference is, again, to John 6:51, John 6:54.

That Ignatius and Justin should have applied the language of John 6:51-58 to the Eucharist is not surprising, for this has been done in every Christian age. But inasmuch as they provide the earliest patristic allusions to Joh_6, their testimony is especially apposite, as indicating the obvious interpretation of “eating the flesh and drinking the blood” of Christ.3

It will be observed that the promise of eternal life which is attached in vv. 54, 58, to the eating of the flesh and drinking of the blood of Christ, did not deter the second-century Fathers from giving this passage a Eucharistic reference. For Ignatius the Eucharist was a means of union with Christ, and so of sharing in His Passion and Resurrection. A strong passage is Eph. xx: ἕνα ἄρτον κλῶντες ὅ ἐστιν φάρμακον�Joh_6 (vv. 51-56, 63) by the Syriac word pagar, which is the rendering of σῶμα in the Synoptic accounts of the Institution of the Lord’s Supper. That is, the Syriac version of John 6:51b runs: “The bread which I will give is my Body, for the life of the world,” which at once suggests Luke 22:19: τοῦτό ἐστι τὸ σῶμά μου [τὸ ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν διδόμενον] or 1 Corinthians 11:24: τοῦτό μού ἐστι τὸ σῶμα τὸ ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν. As early, then, as 200 a.d. the Syriac Church translated Joh_6 in such a way as to make a Eucharistic reference explicit and unmistakable. To this translation we shall come back presently.

Thus a Eucharistic reference in John 6:51-58 is not to be evaded. This does not mean that a non-sacramental explanation might not be placed by a Christian reader upon the mystical phraseology of the passage. No one would deny that there may be ways of “eating the flesh and drinking the blood” of Christ in a spiritual manner which do not involve sacramental feeding. But the language is sacramental, and was so understood throughout the second century.


If we accept literally the Johannine statement that the words of John 6:51-58 were addressed to Jews in the synagogue of Capernaum, after the Feeding of the Five Thousand, then the further statement that they were treated by the hearers as incredible and as a “hard saying” (v. 60) follows as of course. It could not have been otherwise. Even those who had been disciples of Jesus would naturally be shaken in their allegiance.

It is true that in Jn. (see on 3:14) the prediction of Jesus that death would be the end of His ministry is placed at an earlier period than in the Synoptists, and therefore such a prediction at this point is consistent with the Johannine narrative as a whole. But it is specially perplexing to find a prediction addressed to “the Jews,” who were outside the circle of His immediate followers, to the effect that He would give His flesh for the world’s life. This can hardly be historical. And, again, the language in which this momentous announcement is couched is definitely sacramental. It would thus appear that Jesus took this opportunity, before the Eucharist was instituted, of making prophetic reference to it as a means of grace and as the appointed way of communion with Him. This has been held by many expositors, but it is very difficult to accept, having regard to the audience and the occasion of the discourse.

The conclusion which seems to emerge is that the discourse of John 6:26-58, either in whole or in part, is placed out of its historical context. We have seen that, at any rate, vv. 51b-58 are reminiscent of the words spoken by Jesus at the institution of the Eucharist on the eve of His Passion. Very little is told by the Synoptists of what was said by Him on that occasion, and it may well be that, as in other cases, the Fourth Gospel here supplies what is not to be found in the narratives of its predecessors. An examination of the word σάρξ, as represented in Syriac, provides, as we shall see, reason for accepting John 6:51b as the Johannine version of the actual words used at the institution of the Lord’s Supper.


Let us ask the question, “Is the Aramaic word behind σάρξ in John 6:51b the same as the Aramaic word behind σῶμα in Mark 14:22, Luke 22:19?”

The general distinction between σάρξ and σῶμα in the N.T. is no more than this, that σῶμα is the organised σάρξ, the bodily nature regarded as an organic whole. In Ephesians 2:15 the σάρξ of Christ is mentioned where we should expect σῶμα, probably because σῶμα is used in v. 16 of His mystical body. In Colossians 1:22 we find the expression τὸ σῶμα τῆς σαρκὸς αὐτοῖ, both words being employed to describe the body of Christ. Jn. avoids the word σῶμα, using it only (see on 2:21) of a dead body; and prefers σάρξ (cf. 1:14), probably because he wishes to emphasise the fact of the Incarnation, as against the nascent Docetism of the age.1 And so the word σῶμα, which is common to the Synoptic and the Pauline narratives of the institution of the Eucharist, does not occur in Joh_6.

In the LXX σάρξ and σῶμα are both used to render the Hebrew בָּשָׂר, a word which is nearly always behind σάρξ and more frequently than any other word behind σῶμα. And if the Aramaic form of בָּשָׂר were the word used by Jesus when He said “This is my Body,” it might be rendered σῶμα or σάρξ according to the idiosyncrasy of the translator.

There is, however, another Aramaic word which may have been that actually used at the institution of the Lord’s Supper, viz. the Aramaic form of the Hebrew פֶּנֶר. In the O.T. פֶּנֶר is rendered only three times by σῶμα, and then always in the sense of dead body (Genesis 15:11, 2 Kings 19:35, Isaiah 37:36); but by the first century of our era it is quite possible that it may have been used to denote a living body. As we have already seen, the Syriac versions of Joh_6 always give pagar as their translation of σάρξ; viz. the same word as they use in rendering “This is my Body.” And this Syriac pagar in Joh_6 may well be a reversion to the actual word used by Jesus at the institution of the Eucharist.

In any case, whether the original word used at the Last Supper was the Aramaic בְסַר = Hebr. בָּשָׂר, or the Aramaic form of פֶּנֶר, it is clear that it might have been rendered by σῶμα or by σάρξ according to the habit of the translator.2


That the memory of the Aramaic word actually used by Jesus should not have been preserved may be thought surprising, but it is not more surprising than the variety of the forms which the Greek version of the words of institution has assumed.3

The words following the blessing of the bread are as follows in the various reports:

(1) In Mk.: “Take; this is my Body.”

(2) In Mt.: “Take, eat; this is my Body.”

(3) In the Western text of Lk.: “This is my Body.”

(4) In the later and fuller text of Lk.: “This is my Body, which is given for (ὑπέρ) you; this do in remembrance of me.”

(5) In Paul: “This is my Body, which is for (ὑπέρ) you; this do in remembrance of me.”

(6) In Jn.: “The bread which I will give is my Body (so the Syriac has it), for (ὑπέρ) the life of the world.”

It may be taken as certain that the words “This (bread) is my Body” were used; and also that, either in connexion with the Bread or the Cup, it was said by Jesus that what was given was “ on behalf of ” men. Thus Mk., Mt., Lk., connect the words τὸ ὑπὲρ πολλῶν (or ὑμῶν) ἐκχυννόμενον with the giving of the Cup, while Paul and the longer text of Lk. have also ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν of the σῶμα which is given; the allusion to the impending sacrifice on the Cross being obvious. We have the same in Jn., who reports that Jesus said, “The bread which I will give is my Body, for the life of the world.” The universal efficacy of Christ’s sacrifice is a favourite doctrine of Jn. In 1:29 the Baptist points to Jesus as taking away τὴν ἁμαρτίαν τοῦ κόσμου. In 1 John 2:2 he is not content with stating that Christ is a propitiation (ἱλασμός) for (περί) our sins, but he adds, “and not for ours only,”�

The idea that the Eucharistic rite was instituted as a memorial, εἰς τὴν ἐμὴν�Luke 22:19. Cf. also Justin, Tryph. 41, 70. We have to bear in mind throughout the examination of sacramental passages in Jn., that (like Mk.) he gives no hint of the Pauline and Lucan doctrine that the Eucharist was instituted as a memorial.1 It is, for him, a means of spiritual “feeding” on Christ, the assimilation of His humanity.


So far, we have had under review the eucharistic language in c. 6 only. But an examination of 15:1-12 also discloses allusions to the Eucharist.

It is argued elsewhere1 that cc. 15, 16 are out of place in the traditional texts of the Fourth Gospel, and that c. 15 should follow immediately after 13:30. Judas has left the Upper Room, and it appears that this is the point in the narrative (see on 13:4) at which we must suppose the Eucharist to have been instituted.2 Now there are only two passages in which Jesus is said to have mentioned the vine, although in two or three parables He spoke of vineyards. The first is Mark 14:25 (see the parallels Matthew 26:29, Luke 22:18): “I will no more drink of the fruit of the vine (τὸ γέννημα τῆς�

The eucharistic wine is described by Clement of Alexandria as τὸ αἷμα τῆς�Psalms 104:15) Origen brings together the two verses Mark 14:25 and John 15:1, when he is speaking again (in allusion to Psalms 23:5) of the spiritual inebriation of the eucharistic Cup, τὸ γέννημα τῆς�

We have seen that the language of the latter part of c. 6, while definitely sacramental, does not exclude the possibility of a spiritual feeding on Christ by the faithful soul. It is equally true that the allegory of the Vine and the branches which are sustained by its life permeating and quickening them, does not refer (and was never taken to refer) solely to the Eucharist; but that it was suggested in the first instance by the words of institution seems probable, nevertheless.

As we have already pointed out, there is no trace in Jn. of that aspect of the Eucharist in which it is a Memorial, εἰς�Joh_6), while he associates�Joh_15). So he says again (Rom_7): ἄρτον θεοῦ θέλω ὅ ἐστιν σὰρξ τοῦ Χριστοῦ … καὶ πόμα θέλω τὸ αἷμα αὐτοῦ, ὅ ἐστιν�Php_4), which Lightfoot renders “so that all may be one by partaking of His own blood.” All this is very like the doctrine of John 15:1-12, in its association of mutual love and common life with the sacrament of Christ’s Blood, once the eucharistic reference is perceived; although Ignatius does not allude directly to Joh_15.

Origen,1 however, brings the similitude “I am the Bread of Life” into direct comparison with “I am the True Vine.” He says, after his curious manner, that to understand the latter similitude, you must go back to Psalms 104:15, where it is said that while bread strengthens man’s heart, wine gladdens it (ἄρτος στηρίζει, οἶνος εὐφραίνει). And elsewhere he pursues the same idea, identifying the inebriating Cup of Psalms 23:5 with the eucharistic chalice, and adding, “This drink is the fruit of the True Vine, who said, I am the True Vine.2 Origen’s identifications are often fantastic, but the passages that have now been cited show that the eucharistic reference of John 15:1 is not a modern fancy.

(V) The Johannine Miracles


The Fourth Evangelist teaches explicitly that Jesus exhibited in His works the Divine glory (cf. 2:11), which had been His from eternity (17:5); and not only so, but also that Jesus Himself claimed that His works bore witness to His august origin and mission (5:36, 10:25, 15:24). Jn. does not suggest that the faith which is evoked by miracle is of the highest type (cf. 2:23); and in one place he represents Jesus as deprecating an appeal to “signs and wonders” (4:48), which is in correspondence with the Marcan tradition (cf. Mark 8:12). But nevertheless Jn. lays stress on “signs” as truly witnessing to the claims of Jesus.

The common opinion of the first century was that the doing of wonderful works, such as an ordinary human being could not do, showed that the wonder-worker had been sent by God, whose help he had (3:2). Jn. shared this opinion, and he likes to call the works of Jesus His σημεῖα, as significant of His superhuman personality (2:11, 4:54, 6:14, 12:18, etc.). There were many such signs (2:23, 3:2, 6:2, 7:31, 11:47, 12:37), but Jn. has selected only a few for detailed record, choosing such as, to his mind, show in a special manner that Jesus was the Son of God (20:31).

Jn. uncompromisingly attributes to Jesus the power of working miracles, but he omits many which the Synoptists describe, some being so remarkable that the omission is surprising; and in one or two instances he seems deliberately to alter a Synoptic story so that it no longer implies miracle. Thus Jn. says nothing of Jesus stilling the storm by a word of authority, which Mk. narrates as an extraordinary instance of Jesus’ control of inanimate nature (cf. Mark 4:39-41), even more convincing, as it would seem, than the turning of water into wine at Cana. Jn. does not tell of Peter walking on the sea (cf. Matthew 14:28); and his story of the great draught of fishes1 seems to give a version of that incident which is wholly devoid of a miraculous element (21:6f.). So too (see note on 6:21), Jn. retells Mk.’s story of Jesus “walking on the sea” in such a manner as to correct it, by omitting any suggestion of miracle.

There is a further omission by Jn. in his report of the miracles of Jesus which is in striking contrast with the Synoptic records. Jn. tells nothing of any cure by Jesus of demoniacs, such as the cures which appear so prominently in Mk. (cf. Mark 1:23, Mark 1:34, Mark 1:3:11, Mark 1:5:2, Mark 1:7:25, Mark 1:9:17; cf. 6:7). That disorder of the brain is due to demoniac possession was believed by the Jews of the first century generally, and Jn. mentions such a belief (7:20, 8:48f., 10:20f.), but he does not imply, as the Synoptists do, that Jesus believed it. Nor does he adduce any cure of mental disturbance by the word of Jesus as a proof of His supernatural power. Jn. does not exaggerate the supernatural element in the works of Jesus, while he sometimes refuses to assert its presence where the Synoptists fasten on it as of deepest moment.


Only six of the wonderful ἔργα of Jesus are described by Jn.—three in Galilee, and then three in Jerusalem and Bethany —as follows:

i. The turning water into wine (2:1-11).

ii. The healing of the nobleman’s son (4:46-54).

iii. The feeding of the five thousand (6:4-13).

iv. The healing of the impotent man (5:2-9).

v. The healing of the blind man (9:1-7).

vi. The raising of Lazarus (11:1-44).

Of these, i., ii., iii., and vi. are explicitly called σημεῖα (cf. 2:11, 4:54, 6:14, 12:18). The allusion in 9:16 marks v. also as a σημεῖον; while iv. is not thus spoken of at all, although it may be included in the ἔργα to which Jesus alludes at 5:36.1

In each of these six cases the evangelist describes the σημεῖον as arising out of the circumstances of the case. Jesus does not deliberately set Himself to perform any wonderful work the occasion for which has not been suggested by human need. All of these miracles may be regarded as signs of pity, as well as of power, with the single exception of the first. As described by Jn., the magnitude of the miracle at Cana seems to be quite disproportionate to its immediate purpose, viz. that of relieving some awkwardness at a village wedding. It can hardly be called a “sign” of the infinite compassion of Jesus, as the other Johannine miracles may be called. It was such a sign of His δόξα, that it stabilised the faith of disciples (2:11); but Jn. says no more about it.


It has been suggested by some scholars2 that the signs of Jesus which are described by Jn. were chosen by him so as to bring out the force of some special discourse or saying of Jesus with which they are associated. That is possible in some instances, to which we shall return; but it cannot be said of Nos. i., ii., or iv. The sign at Cana is a sign of nothing except the δόξα which Jesus exhibited in this display of His power (2:11), nor is any word of Jesus associated with its lesson (see on 2:9). So, too, the healing of the nobleman’s son, although an indication of the compassion of Jesus as well as of His power, is not associated by Jn. with any commendation by Jesus of the man’s faith, such as concludes the similar story in Luke 7:9. Jn. does not hint in his narrative (4:46-54) at anything more than an exhibition of power. Nor, again, does the healing of the impotent man at Bethesda (5:2-17) clearly lead up to any discourse disclosing the spiritual meaning of his cure. It excited immediately a dispute about Sabbath observance, the formal breach of which suggested to the Pharisees the charge of impiety. Jesus answers them by claiming to be in the same relation to the Sabbath that God is: “My Father worketh hitherto, and I work” (5:17). In other words, He compares His own beneficent activity on a Sabbath day to that of God, who is always and every day exerting His omnipotence for the benefit of mankind. And the rest of c. 5 draws out the relation of the Son to the Father. But no stress is laid on the miraculous character of the healing (if, indeed, that was its nature), and the discourses of c. 5 do not discuss this at all.

The healing of the man born blind, on the other hand, leads up, although by a circuitous route, to a saying of Jesus. The story begins, like that in c. 5, with a charge of Sabbath-breaking (9:16), and the Pharisees, having failed to disprove the alleged cure, reiterate the charge that the healer must be a sinner. The long and elaborate disputation of 9:13-34 may have been related in order to exhibit to the reader how blind the Pharisees really were; and at 9:39 a single sentence of Jesus suggests that the miracle symbolised the mission of Him who came to impart the faculty of spiritual vision to those who were spiritually blind. The story, in short, may have been inserted at this point to illustrate the claim of Jesus to be the Light of the World (8:12). But that is not to be taken as the evangelist’s sole purpose in narrating it. He wishes also to impress upon the reader that the hatred with which Jesus inspired the Pharisees had its roots in His refusal to accept the Sabbatical Law as a final statement of the will of God.

The feeding of the five thousand is closely connected by Jn. with a long discourse on the Bread of Life (6:26-58). The miracle is treated as leading up to the discourse at Capernaum, although this association presents serious exegetical difficulties.1 The miraculous feeding is not treated by Jn. as sacramental (see on 6:11), while the eucharistic reference of 6:51-58 is unmistakable. This part of the discourse suggests the institution of the Eucharist (6:51f.) more definitely than it recalls the feeding of the five thousand. The discourse is probably placed by Jn. out of its historical setting, but its position as following the σημεῖον (6:14) of the miraculous feeding has, no doubt, been deliberately chosen by the evangelist.

Lastly, it is to be observed that no formal discourse is associated with the raising of Lazarus, which, nevertheless, is also called a σημεῖον (12:18). This, as is usual with Jn., means a sign of Divine power (cf. 11:4, 40) rather than of Divine compassion, although the pity of Jesus for the sisters of Lazarus has a prominent place in the story. The spiritual teaching of the miracle is, no doubt, clearly expressed at 11:25, “I am the Resurrection and the Life.” But it would be going beyond the evidence to claim that such teaching suggested to Jn. the story of the raising of Lazarus from the dead; nor is such a literary method that of the Fourth Gospel.2


Something must now be said about the “miraculous” element in the “signs” of Jesus, which Jn. reports in detail.

The healing of the impotent man at Bethesda is not called a “miracle” or a “sign” by Jn. (see on 7:21). The man’s infirmity was chronic, having lasted thirty-eight years, like that of the woman in Luke 13:11 who “had a spirit of infirmity eighteen years”; although Jn. does not ascribe the man’s bodily condition to the influence of a “spirit,” as Lk. does.3 Probably Jn. thought the cure to be so extraordinary that it could not have been effected by any means short of the exercise of Divine power. It was indeed one of the beneficent “works” of Jesus (5:36), but not all of these suggest “miracle.” And we are not compelled to suppose any miracle in the incident of 5:5-9. The cure has many parallels in the modern treatment of some forms of nervous infirmity. Possunt quia posse uidentur.

The healing of the nobleman’s son (4:46-54) is called a σημεῖον by Jn. (4:54; cf. 4:48), who regards it apparently as an instance of telepathic healing, as is more expressly indicated in the parallel story of Mt. 8f., Luke 7:2f. (see on 4:46). Telepathic healings can hardly be ruled out as impossible by those who recognise the extraordinary spiritual power of Jesus, even if they do not accept His Divine claims. But it is generally overlooked that Jn. does not say that Jesus spoke an effective word of healing. All He is represented as saying is, “Thy son liveth,” i.e. “he will recover.” We may assume that the symptoms had been described by the father, who believed his son to be dying. Jesus told him that his son would live. There is no record of a “miracle” here. Many a physician, having heard detailed the course which a disease has taken, would be able to predict either that it would end fatally, or that the moment for anxiety had passed. Jn. would have regarded such prescience as superhuman, and therefore a “sign” of Divine knowledge; so would most Orientals at the present day. But those who have experience of the scientific diagnosis of disease would be slow to treat such prescience as beyond human powers.

The cure of the man blind from birth is more difficult to interpret. Jn. represents it as a σημεῖον (9:16), and as miraculous (cf. 11:37). Yet he tells that it was effected after the use of natural remedies such as those which were used at the time by practitioners of the healing art (see on 9:6, 7, and cf. Mark 7:33). The cure may not, indeed, have been brought about as simply as this. The patient, after his cure, claimed that the healer must have been more than an ordinary man (9:32, 33), the point of the story being that the blindness was congenital (see on 9:18f.). The only case in the Synoptists which seems to be a cure of blindness from birth is that of Mark 8:22f., and there the language used is not quite explicit. We cannot be sure of what happened in the case described by Joh_1 No one can assert with confidence that congenital blindness, whether complete or partial, could never be relieved by the use of natural remedies; and it must be remembered that the cure in John 9:6-11 is not said to have been instantaneous. The border line between possible and impossible is not easy to define in such cases.

The story of the feeding of the five thousand is deep rooted in the evangelical tradition, being found in all the Gospels; in Mk. it is a “miracle,” outside the ordinary course of nature, quite as much as in Jn. Jn. calls it a σημεῖον (6:14) which suggested to the people that Jesus was a prophet, because He was able to do such wonderful things. Nothing is said expressly by Jn. of this “sign” being a manifestation of the Divine δόξυ which was disclosed in the works of Jesus (cf. 2:11), but that is substantially what is implied. No Gospel suggests any doubt as to what happened. Jesus literally multiplied the loaves, so that five of them fed five thousand; and yet, after the multitude had eaten, more bread was left (for the fragments filled twelve baskets) than had originally been provided.

Many explanations have been offered of this extraordinary incident with the motive of rendering it more credible;1 but no naturalistic hypothesis is completely satisfying. Strauss urged that the tradition grew out of Old Testament stories about miraculous meals (see note on 6:15). Others think that the narrative of the feeding of the multitude arose out of the institution of the Eucharist, which is thus placed at an early period in the public ministry of Jesus; but this is to rewrite the narrative of the Last Supper (see further on 6:11). Others, again, appeal to some hypnotic power of suggestion possessed by Jesus, which enabled Him to persuade people that they had seen what they had not seen. This will not commend itself to any who find in Him the Divine attribute of truth as well as that of power. He did not deceive men by illusory pretence, or by a trick which would impress the simple folk who came to hear Him. If, as we hold, the narratives of Jn. and Mk. alike go back to those who were eye-witnesses of the scene, it is not easy to dispose of the available evidence, scanty as it is, by supposing this miracle story to rest on a mistaken tradition of what really happened.

The story of the miracle at Cana is even more difficult to believe, and it is not at all so well attested as the miraculous feeding. It rests upon the Johannine tradition alone; and, as has been observed above (p. clxxvii), the occasion for working so stupendous a miracle was hardly adequate, as compared with that which is apparent in the feeding of the multitude. The latter was a work of kindly charity; the former only relieved a little awkwardness at a village wedding. The miracle at Cana is described as a sign of power over inanimate nature, in that water was literally turned into wine; and the only motive assigned by Jn. is that Jesus thus “manifested His glory, and His disciples believed on Him” (2:11). There is nothing quite like this anywhere else in the Gospels, and in the τέρας or prodigy which Jesus is said to have performed we can find no inner meaning, except in so far as it indicated superhuman power.

Various ways of escape from the literal truth of the narrative have been mentioned in the Additional Note on 2:10 (see also on 2:9), but none of them carries complete conviction. The most plausible of these is that suggested by Wendt who thinks that the story grew up round some traditional saying, such as that of keeping the good wine until the end. It is noticeable, indeed, that Jn. does not tell the story as if he were telling it for the first time (see on 2:9); he tells it as a story already in currency. But, nevertheless, its particularity of detail, its psychological interest, its reference to the setting aside of the authority of Mary, its coherence, all indicate that an actual incident lies behind 2:1-11, rather than that it has been developed out of a single terse saying.

That there was a feast at Cana, and that Jesus unexpectedly supplied the needs of a wedding party, is in no way unlikely. That some of His disciples who were present (and it is probable that John the son of Zebedee was one) discerned in His action a sign of His superhuman power is expressly stated. But it is not said that Jesus Himself claimed to do anything miraculous on the occasion, or that He acquiesced in any such interpretation of His intervention. His complete power over nature can hardly be challenged by those who recognise His personality as Divine, and believe that He afterwards rose from the dead. But the question of His power over nature and its limits does not arise for us here, unless we can be sure that what some disciples (the other guests do not seem to have been specially impressed) interpreted as miracle would have been interpreted in the same way by ourselves had we been there.

In regard to the raising of Lazarus, we must first examine an alleged difficulty which does not present itself in the case of the other Johannine miracles.

It is asked, How could Mk. be silent about so notable a miracle, if he knew that it had taken place? The argument e silentio is always precarious, and in this particular instance it is especially so. None of the Synoptists mentions the raising of Lazarus, but they pay little attention to the development of the ministry of Jesus at Jerusalem. On the other hand, from c. 5 onward Jn. devotes himself to describing the increasing hostility of the Pharisees to Jesus, and in his narrative the climax of their opposition was reached when the Lazarus miracle attracted the attention and inspired the enthusiasm of many people at Jerusalem and its neighbourhood.1 The point in the story, as told by Jn., is not, primarily, that the miracle was a stupendous one, but that it did, in fact, hasten the final decision of the Jewish authorities to secure the death of Jesus (11:53). The Synoptists tell nothing of the words or works of Jesus which are reported in Song of Solomon 5:7-12 of the Fourth Gospel. For some reason, this whole ministry and not merely the raising of Lazarus is omitted in the narrative of Mk., upon which Lk. and Mt. primarily depend, and which is the framework of their Gospels.

No serious examination of Mk. can fail to observe the fragmentary character of his Gospel. It consists of a number of incidents and discourses, which, as is generally held, owe their preservation to the reminiscences or the preaching of Peter. There is no pretence that the Marcan Gospel is a complete narrative. Now Peter does not appear once in Part II. of the Fourth Gospel (Song of Solomon 5:7-12). He is not represented as having been present in Jerusalem or Bethany until the Last Supper (13:6), although it is probable that he was present at the supper at Bethany of which Jn. tells 12:1f. (cf. Mark 14:3f.). He appears to have come up to Jerusalem for the Passover. More particularly, Peter is replaced by Thomas as the leader and chief spokesman in the story of Lazarus, and there is no reason to suppose that he was present on the occasion of the dead man being raised, or for some little time afterwards (see on 11:16). If he were not an eye-witness of what happened, it is not surprising that he did not include the story among his reminiscences. He had been present when Jairus’ daughter was raised from the dead, and this was duly recorded by (Mark 5:37f.), as one of Peter’s experiences. There was no special reason why a second miracle of revivification should be mentioned, if Peter did not see it; indeed, it would weaken the credibility of any man’s reminiscences if he included in them an incident so extraordinary, of which he had not first-hand knowledge.

But more than this should be said about Mk.’s omission to note the miracle of the raising of Lazarus, in which he is followed by Mt. and Lk. The Synoptic account of the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem provides no explanation of the extraordinary enthusiasm with which He was received on this His last visit Up to c. 11, Mk. tells of no visit of Jesus to Jerusalem. How then did it come to pass that the people of the city treated His entry as a royal progress? “Many spread their garments upon the way … they cried, Hosanna, Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord” (Mark 11:8, Mark 11:9). The only evangelist who gives a sufficient reason for this is Jn., who says explicitly that it was the report of the raising of Lazarus at Bethany which so excited the people that even the Pharisees had to confess “the world is gone after Him.” It is Jn.’s habit to correct Mk. where he deems it necessary (see p. xcvii); and at this point, by rectifying a serious omission in Mk., he makes the story of the triumphal entry coherent for the first time.1

We now come to the details of the miracle as told by Jn., for miracle (whether rightly or wrongly) he held it to be. As compared with the Synoptic miracles of reviving the dead, from one point of view it is much more surprising. For the revivification of a corpse more than three days dead would be more impressive than the raising up of a child only just dead (Mark 5:35f.), or of a young man brought out for burial (Luke 7:11), as that speedily follows death in the East. Indeed, in these Synoptic stories the hypothesis that death had not actually taken place before Jesus spoke the word which restored them, is not formally excluded. Jesus said that the daughter of Jairus was not dead, although no one believed Him; and instances are not lacking of persons being prepared for burial who were really alive. Even those who reject all miracula need find no difficulty in Mark 5:35 or Luke 7:11.

There is a certain similarity in Jn.’s narrative of the raising of Lazarus to these stories in Mk. and Lk. The revivification was brought about in all cases by the voice of Jesus (11:43). Again, Jesus is made by Jn. to say that the sickness of Lazarus was not unto death (11:4) and that His friend had fallen asleep (cf. Mark 5:39): “I go that I may awake him out of sleep” (11:11, where see note). It has often been suggested that Lazarus was in a kind of death-like trance, which his sisters had mistaken for death,2 which persisted for three days in the tomb, but which was dispelled when the tomb was opened, and the loud voice of authority was heard. Martha, indeed, said that the body was decomposed (11:39), but that is only what she would expect on the fourth day after death, and there is no hint in the narrative that she was right about it. Vv. 41, 42, would, on such a theory, represent the joy of Jesus in finding that His friend was still alive.

There is no doubt that, even if this naturalistic explanation represents the truth of the matter, the effect produced on the spectators would be overwhelming. They would conclude that one possessed of such powers in recalling a buried man to life must be superhuman. Their report would draw to Jesus many adherents, and the enthusiasm with which His entry into Jerusalem was received would be a natural consequence.

But the narrative of c. 11, as it stands, is not consistent with such a theory. Jn.’s comments on the words of Jesus (cf. v. 13) cannot always be regarded as final (see on 2:21); but here at v. 14 he records that Jesus had said plainly, “Lazarus is dead.” The evangelist accepted this as a fact, and he depicts the demeanour of Jesus throughout, not as that of one who was serene in His consciousness that His friend was still living, but as that of one who knew that Lazarus was dead, and who proposed to use the supernormal forces which He possessed to restore him to life, in order that the disciples and the other bystanders might “believe” (vv. 15, 42). We cannot, indeed, claim on any hypothesis that we have in c. 2 the exact words which Jesus used in speaking about the death of Lazarus and in His consolation of Martha. There is no trace of the story having been written down until half a century or more after the event; and if, as we hold, it represents an historical incident, it depends on the memory of a very old man, who has all his life pondered on it as the greatest of his Master’s works of mercy, and as a signal illustration of His words of mystery, “I am the Resurrection and the Life” (v. 25).

It has been thought, indeed, that the whole story was built up round this saying. But it cannot be treated as a mere invention or as a parable constructed to convey spiritual truth, like the parable of Dives and Lazarus, which has been regarded by some critics as its germ. The literary method of Jn. is quite different (cf. p. 83). He means to narrate something that really happened, and he has drawn a vivid picture. The distinction, e.g., of the characters of Martha and Mary is remarkably exposed (see on v. 20). The description of the agitation of Jesus (vv. 34, 35) is not such as a romancer would have ventured to set down. The Jews at v. 37, instead of referring to the Synoptic raisings from the dead, as they would certainly have been made to do by a writer of fiction, refer instead to the recent healing of the blind man at Jerusalem (see note in loc.).

We conclude, then, that the narrative of c. 11 describes a remarkable incident in the ministry of Jesus. It may be that the details are not reproduced by Jn. with such precision as a modern historian would desiderate. In that case, there is room for the hypothesis that Lazarus was raised from a death-like trance by an extraordinary effort of will, and exercise of spiritual power, by Jesus. Those who do not accept “miracle” in any form may be inclined to adopt some such hypothesis. But that Jesus could literally recall the dead to life is not impossible of credence by any one who believes that He Himself “rose from the dead.” The miracle of Lazarus is on a different level from the recorded miracle at Cana, where it is not the spiritual forces at the command of Jesus that are in question, but the transformation of water into wine by a mere fiat of His word, comparable to the Fiat lux in the ancient story of Creation. But he is a bold dogmatist who, in the present condition of our knowledge, will venture to set precise limits to the exercise of spiritual force even by ordinary human beings, still less when He who sets it in action has all the potentialities of the spiritual world at His command.



Of patristic commentaries on the Fourth Gospel, the earliest is that by Heracleon,1 of which only fragments, dealing mainly with Song of Solomon 1:4, are extant. It illustrates the Gnostic applications of the text. Origen’s commentary2 is strikingly original, but, after his manner, is often fantastic; it is essential to the student of the exegesis of the third century. Chrysostom3 is eloquent and vigorous, but, full as his homilies are, I have not found his exposition of much service. The Fathers were generally better theologians than critics, and this is especially true of Chrysostom. He does not reach the heights of Augustine, who can pack a sermon into an epigram and who has always been reckoned among the very greatest of commentators; but even his commentaries are valuable rather for his insight into great spiritual truths than for their precise exposition of the text. The metrical paraphrase of the Fourth Gospel by Nonnus (circa 400 a.d.) is a remarkable feat, its Homeric hexameters following the text closely enough, but it is not instructive to the modern reader. As a translation, Jerome’s Vulgate is in no need of praise. I have found the writings of Ignatius, Justin, and Irenæus more valuable than any of the set commentaries by the Fathers: Ignatius for his theological presuppositions, which are markedly like those of the Fourth Evangelist,1 Justin2 and Irenæus for their use of the Gospel, which is often of great value as bringing out the original meaning.

I have made no attempt to collect or collate the views of modern commentators,3 although I am very sensible of obligations to many of them. During the last quarter of a century great commentaries on the Fourth Gospel, such as those of Brückner, Meyer, Westcott, Godet, of former generations, have not been produced.4 Scholars have devoted themselves rather to the historical and critical problems of the “Gospel according to St. John” than to the exposition in detail of the text. I have given references in the Introduction and Notes to many essays and treatises on these problems, published both in Europe and in America, which are full of valuable and illuminating comment. It is needless to dwell on the aids to Johannine study to be found in the learned Biblical Dictionaries and Encyclopædias of our time. Particular mention should be made of E. A. Abbott’s Johannine Grammar, which is now as indispensable to the expositor for its grammatical distinctions (sometimes too subtle) as Wetstein’s great work is still indispensable for its classical parallels to the language of the N.T.

The treatment of the historical and critical problems involved is very difficult. Perhaps we have not data for their complete solution. But all such inquiries are subsidiary to the exposition of the sacred text itself. This is at once more important and more difficult. It is vastly more important to learn what the evangelist meant to teach, and what was the picture of our Lord that was present to his mind, than to know whether the book was written by an apostle or by the pupil of an apostle, important as this is in its place. Again, the expositor’s task is specially difficult, if he tries to place himself in the position of those who read the Gospel when it was first published. its appeal to the twentieth century cannot be unfolded until the lesser task has been in some measure accomplished, of setting forth its appeal to the second century. Before we venture to appraise the permanent value of the writer’s teaching, we must first discover what he meant to say. And this discovery is sometimes disconcerting, perhaps because the author moves in spiritual regions of thought too high for us, perhaps because his convictions are unwelcome to the scientific temper of our time. The most profound book of the New Testament can be truly interpreted, as it was written, only by a disciple, by one who is willing to learn.

1 Cf. p. lxxxii.

1 Cf. p. cxxxiv.

1 Barnabas (§ 6) applies the words to Christ’s Passion; and Cyprian quotes Wisd. 2:12f. to illustrate a general thesis, “Quod ipse sit iustus, quem Iudaei occisuri essent” (Test. ii. 14).

1 This apocryphan says “then was fulfilled” of Habakkuk 3:2, Isaiah 1:3 (the Nativity), of Psalms 148:7 (the dragons adoring Jesus), of Isaiah 11:6 (a legend of the Flight into Egypt), of Isaiah 19:1 (the prostration of the idols), and of Psalms 65:9 (the wisdom of the Child Jesus). It is curious that it does not cite Jeremiah 31:15 or Hosea 11:1, which are cited as testimonia in the canonical Matthew.

2 See, in particular, Rendel Harris, Testimonia, who holds that the existence of such a collection of Messianic prophecies has been proved.

3 W. C. Allen, St. Matthew, p. lxii.

1 For the use of δεῖ in Jn., see on 3:14.

1 See p. xxxiv, and also the notes in loc.

1 Cf. p. cxxvii.

1 Cf. p. cxxx.

2 Cf. p. lxii.

1 See p. lxii.

1 See, further, p. clxii.

1 St. John’s Gospel, p. 136.

1 See above, p. clx.

1 This phrase, which refers to the taurobolium, appears first in the fourth century (C.I.L. vi. 510).

2 Mishna, Surenhus. iv. 116, quoted by Schürer, Hist. of Jewish Peop1e, i. 317 (Eng. Tr.).

3 Yebamoth, 62a.

1 I have discussed the symbolism of baptism more fully in Studia Sacra, p. 51 f.

2 A pol. i. 61.

3 Tryph. 138.

4 Theoph. 10.

5 Hær. v. 15. 3.

6 Hær. iii. 17. 1; cf. i. 21. 1.

7 Pæd. vi. sub init.

8 The Pharisees did not accept John’s baptism (Luke 7:30).

1 See p. cvi.

1 In Ezekiel 39:18, Ezekiel 39:19 there is mention of eating the flesh and drinking the blood of men; but this refers to the slaughter and destruction of enemies.

2 Cf. Pfleiderer, Prim. Christianity, iv. 38 f. So Ignatius (Smyrn. 6.) uses the argument that the Eucharist implies the reality of Christ’s flesh.

3 This is the interpretation adopted in the Prayer of Humble Access in the Anglican Liturgy, where it is derived from the Order of Communion of 1548.

1 Cf. p. lxxvii.

1 Thus, in the Apostles’ Creed, the earlier versions have “resurrection of the flesh, ” which afterwards became “resurrection of the body, ” no doctrinal difference being intended.

2 Abbott (Diat. 1326 ff.) holds that τὸ σῶμά μου in the words of institution is to be interpreted as “myself”; but this does not adequately represent σῶμα.

3 See, for textual discussion of these passages, Sanday in D.B. 2:636 f.

1 This must be taken in connexion with the fact that he probably knew the text of Lk. (p. xcix), as well as the Pauline Epistles (p. cxxvii).

1 P. xx.

2 Tatian places the institution after 13:32.

3 Lommatzsch, 11:258.

4 Ibid. xi. 456.

1 Note that wine is repeatedly called the blood of the grape (Deuteronomy 32:14, Ecclus. 39:26, 50:15, 1 Macc. 6:34).

2 No emphasis seems to have been laid on this indwelling in most of the early Liturgies; it appears, however, in the Liturgy of the Syrian Jacobites (see Brightman, Eastern Liturgies, p. 106).

1 In Ioann. 33.

2 Comm. in Matt. 85 (Lommatzsch, iv. 416). Cf. Cyprian, Epist, lxiii. 2. on the association of the “True Vine” with the Cup.

1 Jn. does not call it a σημεῖον.

1 The incident of Jesus walking by the sea is not, of course, called a σημεῖον by Jn.; see on 6:17-21.

2 Cf. E. F. Scott, The Fourth Gospel, p. 3.

1 See p. clxx.

2 See p. lxxxvi.

3 See p. clxxvii.

1 Holtzmann (Life of Jesus, Eng. Tr., p. 193) cites a case of cure of “atrophy of the optic nerve of many years’ standing,” resulting when the Holy Coat of Treves was displayed in 1891. There were ten other cures for which physicians of repute could find no medical explanation, including those of arms and legs impotent through rheumatism. Holtzmann thinks that these cures were due to “suggestion” made by the spiritual authorities of the Roman Catholic Church, who exhibited the relic as efficacious to cure; and he cites them as possible parallels to some of the Gospel miracles.

1 See, for various hypotheses, Schweitzer, Quest of the Historical Jesus, pp. 41. 52. 60, 84, 326.

1 Cf. Richmond, The Gospel of the Rejection, p. 141.

1 Cf. Headlam, Miracles of the N.T., p. 226, and Garvie, The Beloved Disciple, p. 129; contra, Burkitt, The Gospel History and its Transmission, p. 222, and Moffatt, Introduction to Lit. of N.T., p. 539.

2 Renan held that the supposed resuscitation was a fraud arranged by the sisters, with the connivance of Jesus Himself (Vie de Jesus, c. 22). But this is now upheld by few critics, if by any; and it is in. consistent with all that we know of Jesus.

1 See p. lxxiii.

2 The best edition is that by A. E. Brooke (Cambridge University Press, 2 vols., 1896).

3 Chrysostom’s Homilies on St. John are accessible in English in the Oxford “Library of the Fathers.”

1 See p. lxxi.

2 See p. lxxv.

3 A full list will be found in Moffatt’s Introd. to the N. T.

4 A recent commentary by Walter Bauer, Das Johannes Evangelium (Tübingen, 1925), is packed with scholarly comment, although it is not on a large scale. .

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