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Art. 1.-1. Supernatural Religion: An Inquiry into the
Reality of Divine Revelation. In 2 vols. Sixth Edition,
carefully revised. Part III. London: 1875. 2. The Gnostic Heresies of the First and Second Centuries.
By the late Henry LONGUEVILLE MANSEL, D.D., Dean of St. Paul's, sometime Professor of Ecclesiastical History at Oxford. Edited by J. B. LIGIITFOOT, D.D., Canon of
St. Paul's. London: 1875. 3. St. John the Author of the Fourth Gospel. By CHRISTOPH
ERNST LUTHARDT, Professor of Theology at Leipzig, &c. &c. Revised, Translated, and the Literature much enlarged
by Caspar RENÉ GREGORY, Leipzig. Edinburgh: 1875. 4. Historisch-Kritische Einleitung in das Neue Testament. Von
Dr. ADOLF HILGENFELD, Professor der Theologie in
Jena. Leipzig: 1875. The inquiry into the origin of the fourth Gospel, which has
been recently revived by the author of. Supernatural Religion,' presents many points of interest to the general reader as well as to the theological student. It may, at first sight, seem strange that so fierce a battle should be fought over a book the pervading spirit of which is aptly represented in the traditional saying of its reputed author, ' Little children, love
one another.' But the surprise thus awakened is speedily dispelled when we take a comprehensive survey of the issues which are involved in the determination of the present controversy. It is, in every respect, undesirable that the importance of those issues should be unduly magnified. Christianity existed as an historical fact, amply attested by credible witnesses, long before the earliest date which has been assigned to the com
VOL. CXLV. NO. CCXCVII.
position of the fourth Gospel; and Christianity would still repose on the same unshaken foundation if that Gospel could be proved to have been written—not by an eye-witness of the events which are recorded in it, but—by some unknown author, in the middle, or the latter end, of the second century. On the other hand, it will be admitted by the apologists of Christianity—as it is eagerly urged by its assailants—that there is a sense in which the genuineness of the fourth Gospel is justly regarded as an articulus stantis aut cadentis Ecclesiæ. If it may be affirmed with truth respecting St. Augustine that he moulded for many centuries the creed of Western Christendom, it may be said with yet greater truth of the writer of the fourth Gospel that he has moulded the outward form of Christianity itself; the theology of that Gospel being stamped on the teaching of the earliest ecclesiastical writers, both orthodox and heterodox, and its doctrinal statements having furnished materials alike for the assaults which have been directed against Christianity, and for the apologies which have been made on its behalf, from the middle of the second century down to the present time.
It is true, indeed, that the fourth Gospel, so far from introducing into the Church any new teaching concerning Christ or Christianity, does but reaffirm that which had been taught ‘from the beginning,' and which is embodied in the three earlier, commonly known as the Synoptic Gospels, and in the Epistles of St. Paul. It is equally true, however, that the negative criticism of our own times has discovered methods of disparaging the contents of those writings which are inapplicable to the fourth Gospel; and, consequently, that this Gospel has been found to present the most insuperable obstacle in the way of modern unbelief. With a view to the removal of this obstacle, the author of “Supernatural Religion' has exerted his utmost efforts and ingenuity to disparage both the external and internal evidence which attest the genuineness of this Gospel. We shall deal very briefly with the former of these topics, (1) because the external evidence in favour of the fourth Gospel-even as it has been exhibited by the author of
Supernatural Religion '—is too strong to be shaken by his attempts to invalidate it; and (2) because Professor Lightfoot, in a series of articles of unrivalled learning and ability, recently contributed to the Contemporary Review,' has not only proved the incapacity of the writer of that book to deal with the subject which he has taken in hand, but has clearly exposed the fallacy of his statements, and supplied conclusive answers to the strongest of his objections.
We are content, so far as concerns our present purpose, to accept the date assigned by the author of Supernatural Re« ligion' to the first three books of the great work of Irenæus against Heresies, viz. 190 A.D. Within the space of one hundred years, then, after the composition of the fourth Gospel, as we allege, and almost immediately upon its first publication, according to the author of “Supernatural Religion,' we find Irenæus not only appealing to the four Gospels as the unquestioned and universally accepted depositories of the earliest Christian traditions, and ascribing each Gospel to the author whose name it now bears, but also assigning reasons, and the more fanciful these reasons may be deemed, the stronger becomes the evidence which they afford for our present purposewhy there must be four Gospels, and only four, in which the original records of the Evangelical history were contained. Now, independently of the time at which he wrote, there are reasons which impart peculiar weight to the testimony of Irenæus on this subject. He is supposed to have been born at Smyrna, the seat of a church to which one of the Epistles contained in the Apocalypse was addressed, and in the vicinity of which the fourth Gospel is said to have been composed. And further, when Irenæus wrote his book on Heresies, he was no recent convert to Christianity. He had been brought up from his infancy in the Christian faith. He had had as · his teacher Polycarp, himself the disciple of St. John; and he relates how Polycarp used to speak of the sayings of those who had been eye-witnesses of the word of life. The following quotation will sufficiently elucidate the general nature of the testimony of Irenæus both to the Johannine authorship of the fourth Gospel, and also to the identity of that Gospel in the form in which we now possess it with that from which Irenæus quotes :
"And moreover John, the disciple of our Lord, by their teaching (i.e. the teaching of the Gnostics) indicated the first ogdoad, these being their very words: “ John the disciple of the Lord, meaning to “ speak of the generation of all things, wherein the Father produced * them all, supposes a beginning, the first thing begotten of God; the " same whom he called both the only begotten Son, and God in “ whom the Father produced all as from seed, . . . And thus he - speaks : In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with “ God, and the Word was God; He was in the beginning with God.
... All things were made by Him, and without Him was not any " thing made: that is to all Æons after him the Word was the Cause “ of Form and Birth.” . . . And he adds, and the Life was the light of man.'* * Library of the Fathers. St. Irenæus, pp. 27, 28. Oxford, 1872.
After further reference to the first chapter of the fourth Gospel, and the quotation of the fourteenth verse of that chapter at length, Irenæus observes, in regard to the use made by the early Gnostics of this Gospel, • Thou seest, dearly • beloved, their craft, which they that use deceive themselves, dealing rudely with the Scriptures.'
It will be observed here that Irenæus who, as a native of the East and a bishop of one of the most flourishing Churches of the West, may be regarded as expressing the common faith of both, refers to the fourth Gospel in terms which leave no room for doubt that he possessed the same Gospel which we now possess, and that he regarded that Gospel as the genuine production of St. John. Nor is this all.
Irenæus expressly ascribes to the disciples of Valentinus, whose errors it was his object to expose, the same belief which he himself held respecting the fourth Gospel. We may reasonably assume that the opinions of the disciples of Valentinus were, in the main, in accordance with those of their master. This inference, as regards the fourth Gospel, is confirmed by two considerations: (1) We have the express testimony of Clemens Alexandrinus to the fact that Valentinus professed to use the whole instrument;' i.e. to accept the whole Evangelic teaching; and (2) The general resemblance between his system and the Logos doctrine of the fourth Gospel is so fully ..'mitted on all hands that it has even been alleged by its opponems that its author borrowed from the writings of Valentinus. It is not unfair, then, to assume that the acceptance of the fourth Gospel by the followers of Valentinus affords presumptive evidence of its acceptance by their teacher; † and, inasmuch as Valentinus flourished before the middle of the second century, we are thus brought within a generation of the lifetime of St. John himself.
Library of the Fathers. St. Irenæus, p. 29. Oxford, 1872. † It will suffice to refer by way of illustration to the fact, that two of the constituents of the ogdoad of Valentinus are the Word and the Life.
1 For further evidence on this point the reader is referred to the able and learned work of the late Dean Mansel, entitled “Gnostic • Heresies, pp. 176–178. The unfairness of Baur's arguments
, in dealing with the testimony of Irenæus, is here exposed, as is also the fallacy of his conclusions. The writer, however, observes that the testimony of Valentinus to the fourth Gospel is no longer needed, inasmuch as in the work of Hippolytus against heresies, written at latest during the reign of Hadrian, we have a direct quotation from that Gospel us made by Basilides. (Ibid. p. 148.)
Again, in the wriiings of Justin Martyr, which belong to the former half of the second century, we have another link connecting the age of Irenæus with that of the disciples of the Apostles themselves. Justin Martyr was of Greek descent, but bis family had been long settled in Flavia Neapolis, near the site of the ancient Sichem. During his earlier years he addicted himself to the study of various forms of Greek philosophy, but having become persuaded of the truth of Christianity, he devoted himself to the propagation of that faith which he had found to be alone 'sure and suited to the wants of man.'
When we consider the general scope and design of Justin's writings, coupled with the facts that the two Apologies were addressed to heathens, and that the dialogue was held with a Jew, we shall be prepared to find—as is actually the case-that the allusions to incidents recorded by the Synoptists are of much more frequent occurrence than to those which are recorded only in the fourth Gospel. We think, however, notwithstanding the confident denial of the author of • Super
natural Religion, that we shall be able to show that the allusions to the fourth Gospel are sufficiently clear and explicit to warrant the conclusions (1) that this Gospel was known to Justin; and (2) that it was acknowledged by him as an authentic record of the Evangelic history. We shall not now insist, though we fairly might do so, upon the source from which Justin obtained his account of the miracle of healing wrought upon
the man who was born blind, of our Lord's retort on the Jews who accused Him of breaking the Sabbath, or, once more, his doctrine of the Incarnate Logos as propounded so fully in the dialogue with Trypho. We shall restrict our examination to one single passage, in which the allusion to the fourth Gospel appears to us too palpable to admit of reasonable doubt. It occurs in the ninety-fourth chapter of the dialogue with Trypho, and it is as follows: “Yet He Himself (i.e. God)
in the desert caused a brazen serpent to be made by the same • Moses, and set up as a sign by which they who had been bitten * by the serpents were healed . . . for by this He taught a mystery, signifying thereby that He would destroy the power
of the serpent ... and proclaim to those who believe on Him "who was typified by this sign (that is on Him who was cruci* fied), salvation from the wounds of the serpent.'
This passage should be compared with one in the first Apology (c. 60) in which Justin, giving a somewhat free account of the same incident, states that Moses took brass and
Library of the Fathers. Justin Martyr, p. 191. Oxford, 1861.