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formed it into the shape of a cross ; and said to the people, • If you look upon that figure, and believe (TICTSÚNTS), you shall be saved in (or by) it.'
It is easy to assert that Justin's allusion is solely to Numbers xxi., and that there is no proof of his acquaintance with the account which the fourth Gospel contains of our Lord's conversation with Nicodemus. We think, however, that those who, without strong prepossession, will take the trouble to compare Justin's language with that of our Lord as recorded in St. John iii. 14-18, more especially the FIOTEÚNTS and the tois OTSOUri of the one, with the räcó TITTEUW,* of the other; and again, the σωτηρίαν, the έσώζοντο and the εν αυτώ σωθήσεσθε of the one, with the ivce owen ai' aŭtoũ † of the other, will scarcely fail to arrive at a different conclusion from that which has been reached by the author of Supernatural Religion.' I
In regard to other ecclesiastical writers of the second century the following observations must suffice :
(1.) A passage assigned on good evidence to Melito of Sardis (about 170 A.D.) refers to the miracles wrought by our Lord during the three years after His baptism. It can hardly admit of doubt that the period here assigned to the duration of our Lord's ministry rests upon the three Passovers of the fourth Gospel.
(2.) We find in a passage assigned to Claudius Apollinaris, the contemporary of Melito, an allusion to the piercing of our Lord's side, and to the water and blood which proceeded from it; and, in another passage by the same writer, there is an allusion to the apparent discrepancy in the Gospels as to the day of the Passion. The allusions in these passages to the fourth Gospel are too apparent to admit of question.
(3.) In a fragment assigned by Eusebius to Polycrates, bishop of Ephesus (about 190 A.D.), there is a reference to St. John as the disciple who · lay on the Lord's bosom.'
Concerning these and other testimonies of a yet earlier date to the existence and reception of the fourth Gospel, Professor Lightfoot writes thus :
'In every one of the writers, from Polycarp and Papias to Polycrates, we have observed phenomena which bear witness directly or indirectly, and with different degrees of distinctness, to its recognition.
† iii. 17. # The perversion of our Lord's language to Nicodemus by the Peratics or Peratæ of Hippolytus, one of the Ophite sects, affords additional evidence of the reception of the fourth Gospel before the middle of the second century. See Bunsen's 'Hippolytus,' vol. i. Pp. 36–38, and Dean Mansel's Gnostic Heresies,' p. 99.
It is quite possible for critical ingenuity to find a reason for discrediting each instance in turn. An objector may urge in one case, that the writing itself is a forgery; in a second, that the particular passage is an interpolation; in a third, that the supposed quotation is the original, and the language of the Evangelist the copy; in a fourth, that the incident or saying was not deduced from this Gospel, but from some apocryphal work containing a parallel narrative. By a sufficient number of assumptions, which lie beyond the range of verification, the evidence may be set aside. But the early existence and recognition of the fourth Gospel is the one simple postulate which explains all the facts.'
But before we proceed to consider the nature and strength of the positive evidence which the fourth Gospel affords that it was written by an eye-witness, or the nature and force of the objections upon which alone the genuineness of any writing in favour of which so much of direct evidence may be adduced can be disputed, we shall do well to advert to the comparative merits of the two theories respecting the composition of the fourth Gospel between which we are summoned to decide.
Assuming the date commonly assigned by orthodox writers to the fourth Gospel, i.e. the close of the first century, we have no external hostile evidence which deserves the name, whether direct or indirect, to encounter. We have simply to account for the real or, as we maintain, the imaginary absence of any direct evidence in its favour for a period of about eighty years. This period, it must be remembered, was singularly barren in theological works, and indeed in literature of any description; a period of which the writings most likely to refer directly to the fourth Gospel have, in part or in whole, perished; whilst the absence of specific allusions in those which remain is, in some cases, accounted for by the general design of the writers, or may be adduced, as Professor Lightfoot has conclusively proved, as positive evidence in favour of the genuineness of the fourth Gospel.*
On the other hand, if the date assigned by the author of • Supernatural Religion' to the fourth Gospel, i.e. the last quarter of the second century, be accepted, we have to account
* It is well known that we are indebted to Eusebius for a large portion of the literary remains of this period. Now the object of Eusebius was to adduce evidence in favour of those books only the canonical authority of which was called in question. It follows, then, that the absence of specific allusions to the fourth Gospel in the citations made by Eusebius from the early ecclesiastical writers—so far from affording presumptive evidence, as the author of Supernatural Re'ligion' urges, against its genuineness—proves only that its authority was not disputed.
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 overcoine, 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 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.
* Vol. ij. pp. 444, 445.
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 them; 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 froin, 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