« EdellinenJatka »
for the fact that a work professing to be the production of one who had been an eye-witness of the scenes which he describes, overleapt at one bound those obstacles which our author justly supposes to have delayed the general circulation and reception of other productions of the same period, and was simultaneously received, both in the East and in the West, as the undoubted production of that disciple whose name and whose authority its writer had assumed. We think it will not be deniedeven in the absence of all direct evidence in support of the genuineness of the fourth Gospel—that the latter of these two theories must either be sustained by arguments of no ordinary strength, or that it must rely for its reception on such dogmatic prepossessions as no conflicting evidence would be likely to
Here then we must pause to notice the manner in which our author attempts to dispose, by way of anticipation, of the great, and, as we think, insuperable difficulty which he has to encounter. He writes thus :
'It is constantly asserted that the minuteness of the details in the fourth Gospel indicates that it must have been written by one who was present at the scenes he records. With regard to this point we need only generally remark, that in the works of imagination of which the world is full, and the singular realism of many of which is
recognised by all, we have the most minute and natural details of scenes which never occurred, and of conversations which never took place, the actors in which never actually existed. .... Details of scenes at which we were not present may be admirably supplied by imagination ; and as we cannot compare what is here described as taking place with what actually took place, the argument that the author must have been an eye-witness because he gives such details is without validity. Moreover, the details of the fourth Gospel in many cases do not agree with those of the three Synoptics, and it is an undoubted fact that the author of the fourth Gospel gives the details of scenes at which the Apostle John was not present, and reports the discourses and conversations on such occasions, with the very same minuteness as those at which he is said to have been present; as for instance the interview between Jesus and the woman of Samaria. It is perfectly undeniable that the writer had other Gospels before him when he composed his work, and that he made use of other materials than his own.' *
We readily admit the truth of the assertion that the • world is full of works of imagination ;' and we cannot refrain from an expression of regret that our author has deemed it necessary to add to their number. But had he paused to reflect for a single moment upon the impassable gulf which separates works of imagination composed in modern times
* Vol. i. pp. 444, 445.
from works of imagination composed in the second century, he would surely have avoided the literary anachronism-we had almost said the palpable absurdity-which is involved in the supposition that there is any proper analogy between the two.
He asserts, indeed, with justice in respect to those books which are confessedly works of imagination, that no comparison can be drawn between what is described as taking place with what has actually taken place; and he infers, with equal reason, that by reason of the absence of this restraint, the writer has free scope for his imagination. But he has here overlooked the essential distinction which exists between a work which professes to be a history, and a work which professes to be a fiction; or—to state the case in the manner most favourable to our opponent's argument—between a work which purports to be a history of events of which no other records exist (as e.g. Psalmanazar's so-called · History of the Island of For'mosa '), and one which purports to record events of which other histories were in existence at the time of its composition, and of which other histories are still in existence at the present day.
The author alleges, indeed, that it is just here that the evidence in favour of the genuineness of the fourth Gospel fails, inasmuch as its details do not agree with the Synoptic Gospels. We shall have occasion to examine the manner in which he attempts to support this assertion hereafter; and we hope to show not only that he fails to establish his position, but further, that the evidence which he has adduced is, in some important particulars, directly subversive of the conclusion which he desires to establish. For the present, however, we are content to admit absolutely a fundamental difference, in conception and in execution, between the Synoptic Gospels and the fourth Gospel, and, hypothetically, the existence of certain positive discrepancies between thein ; and we think that these admissions --so far from militating against the genuineness of the fourth Gospel—will be found strongly corroborative of it.
The writer of • Supernatural Religion 'has cautiously abstained—so far as we are aware—from committing himself to any positive opinion respecting the identity of the three Synoptic Gospels which we now possess with those other gespels' which the writer of the fourth Gospel had before him when he
composed his work. We are content to give him the benefit of either hypothesis. If the writer of the fourth Gospel had not the Synoptic Gospels before him when he composed his own, then—inasmuch as no one will maintain the dependence of those Gospels upon the fourth Gospel-we submit that not only the substantial harmony, but also the striking coincidences,
which exist between them, are so much more remarkable than the alleged discrepancies, that it is far more difficult, upon our author's hypothesis, to account for the agreement, than it is, upon our own hypothesis, to account for the diversity.
We must now, however, contemplate the other alternative, viz. that the writer of the fourth Gospel had the Synoptic Gospels before him when he composed his own.
We have already observed that the author of • Supernatural Religion 'does not formally commit himself to this position. He has however, with a view to dispute the originality of the fourth Gospel, alleged what few, we think, will be anxious to deny, viz. that the writer of the fourth Gospel · had other Gospels before him ' when he composed his work;' and we think that the readers of Supernatural Religion' will have little difficulty in arriving at the conclusion-even upon the evidence adduced in that work—that the early Gospels to which the writer alludes were either identical with our present Synoptic Gospels, or substantially in accordance with them. Now, if this identity or substantial agreement be conceded, we submit that in precisely the same degree in which the fourth Gospel differs from, or, as our author alleges, is inconsistent with the other three, in that same proportion does it become incredible that the fourth Gospel should be a production of the later portion of the second century, or, indeed, any other than an original document.
Our position may be illustrated in the following manner :Lord Macaulay wrote his History of England' at about the same interval after the death of King William III. as that which, as it is now alleged, separated the author of the fourth Gospel from the Crucifixion. Could that accomplished writer have composed, under the assumed character of an intimate friend and companion of the King, a book, such as Bishop Burnet's · Memoirs,' which would have been accepted as the genuine production of a contemporary writer ? Or—to take another illustration—could the ablest writer of fiction at the present day produce such a supplementary sketch of the life and times of Johnson as would be received as the work of a second Boswell? If the reply to these inquiries be in the negative, though the writers be supposed to have availed themselves of all existing materials, and to have accommodated their style and terminology to those of their respective models, how much more improbable is it that a forgery-such as the fourth Gospel is now represented to be--should have imposed alike upon the Jewish and the Christian contemporaries of the writer, whilst not only differing in its entire conception from all existing memoirs of its subject, but abounding—as it is
alleged—with errors in regard to places and customs, such as no Jew could have committed, and betraying throughout its Grecian origin and its anti-Jewish prejudices?
Our readers will not need to be informed that we are very far from admitting the existence of those numerous and serious discrepancies between the fourth Gospel and the Synoptic Gospels, which our author has diligently collected from various sources, and which, as we shall have occasion to observe, he has unsuccessfully attempted to magnify. Our present concern is only to show that in exact proportion to his success in this portion of his undertaking, he has furnished strong presumptive evidence—we had almost said conclusive proof-of the fallacy of his main proposition. It is so obvious, that we should have imagined it could hardly have escaped the observation of the author of Supernatural Religion, that had the fourth Gospel been the invention of the age to which he assigns it, it would infallibly have presented literary characteristics precisely the opposite of those which our author has ascribed to it. The great outline of the evangelic history, as it is presented in the narratives of the Synoptic Gospels, was, at the period in question, so widely circulated and so generally received, that a literary forger, in order to procure currency for his work, would have been constrained to construct it upon the lines already laid down; in other words, he would have avoided those discrepancies, whether real or only apparent, which the impugners of the fourth Gospel, with shortsighted policy, have brought so prominently into view.
For our own part we believe that whilst a large number of these alleged discrepancies, when carefully examined, will be found to be really so many points of coincidence, the more valuable because undesigned, between the earlier and the later narratives, the real and universally admitted differences between the Synoptic Gospels and the fourth Gospel owe their origin to the difference of time, and of circumstances under which they were composed, and to the different objects contemplated in their respective composition. But, whether capable of reconciliation or not, we maintain that these discrepancies afford strong presumptive evidence in favour of the genuineness and the authenticity of the fourth Gospel-evidence, the strength of which bears a direct proportion to the number and to the magnitude of the discrepancies themselves. Had these discrepancies been detected exclusively or even chiefly in minute points-points in which a forger might, and would, inadvertently have betrayed himself, they might reasonably have been adduced in support of an adverse conclusion. But
a large proportion of the discrepancies between the fourth Gospel and the Synoptic Gospels are, alike by its impugners and by its apologists, admitted to be of an essentially different kind.' They are not so much indeed discrepancies in the proper sense of the word, as fundamental differences which are apparent even to the most superficial observer. They are differences such as no forger of a later period was likely to invent, and which none but an eye-witness, and one who knew that his work would be received as that of an eye-witness, would have ventured to introduce.
It would obviously be impracticable, within the limits of an article like the present, to adduce at length the internal evidence of originality which pervades the fourth Gospel. The necessity for such an undertaking, moreover, has been, to a great extent, superseded by the able work of Mr. Sanday, to which, notwithstanding certain points of difference between his conclusions and our own, we hold ourselves greatly indebted.* Inasmuch, however, as the question before us is one which must be decided in great measure by the weight of internal evidence, we think we should not do justice either to our subject or to our readers, were we to omit to lay before them so much of the evidence on which we rely as will enable them to form some estimate of its general character. Premising only that such evidence is, in its very nature, independent and cumulative, we proceed to examine certain portions of the first and second chapters of the fourth Gospel with a view to elicit some of the indications which they afford that the writer was an eyewitness of the facts which he has recorded.
We will refer first to the scene, so graphically delineated in the first chapter, of the call-as we will venture to assume - of the writer himself:
· Again the next day after John stood, and two of bis disciples; And looking upon Jesus as he walked, he saith, Behold the Lamb of God! And the two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus. Then Jesus turned, and saw them following, and saith unto them, What seek ye? They said unto him, Rabbi (which is to say, being interpreted, Master), where dwellest thou? He saith unto them, Come and see. They came and saw where he dwelt, and abode with him that day: for it was about the tenth hour. One of the two which heard John speak, and followed him, was Andrew. Simon Peter's brother. He first findeth his own brother Simon, and saith unto him,
* The Authorship and Historical Character of the Fourth Gospel considered in reference to the Contents of the Gospel itself. A Critical Essay, by William Sanday, M.A., Fellow of Trinity College, Oxford. Macmillan & Co. 1872.