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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 11

The Literary Character of the Fourth Gospel

page 373

The Literary Character of the Fourth Gospel.

No questions, within the entire range of literature, are more important than those of the date, the authorship, and the authority, of the book which, in its earliest extant copy, is headed by the simple title After John! But, although the enquiry is triple, the main issue is that of the authorship. Investigation as to date is chiefly directed to the evidence to be derived from date as to author. Authority, again, depends altogether on authorship. If it can be proved that the Apostle John, one of the sons of Zebedee, wrote the gospel which now bears his name, the date at which he wrote it is a subordinate detail; and the only important question remaining is that as to the weight of the apostolic authority. If it can he proved that the Apostle John did not write the book in question, its date is immaterial, and authority it has none.

The question is more ancient than any distinct proof that we possess of the existence of the book in its present form. Late in the second century occur independent references to four gospels, and expressions closely similar to some parts of the language of the fourth. A Syriac version is ascribed to the same age. But the Sinaitic codex is, as yet,1 our most ancient positive evidence, being possibly of the age of Constantine. At the beginning of the third century the sect of the Alogi rejected the authority of the writings ascribed to the Apostle John; and the name of this school affords a sufficient indication of the cause of this rejection.

The dispute has been embittered by the fact, that the contest has originated in the hearts rather than in the heads of the disputants. The true method of patient historic re-search has, therefore, been too tardy for their ardour. By one party, the Fourth Gospel is regarded as the very Magna Charta of the Christian faith. It excites, in their minds, deeper feelings of love, awe, and tenderness than any other written language. From early infancy the ear has been trained to listen to the voice of a Divine teacher in its mystic phrases. So much of orthodox doctrine depends exclusively upon this gospel, that a belief in its authentic and venerable character has become an essential element of the entire system known as orthodoxy.

On the other hand, very grave doubts are entertained, by men whose studies are rather critical than doctrinal, as to the possibility that the book in question could have been written by a personal disciple of Jesus, or, indeed, by any inhabitant of Palestine. The crucial importance of the question is due to the minute detail with which this Evangelist professes to narrate the very words of Jesus. None but a constant attendant on His person could be a trustworthy witness to such an extent. And if, in the study of this gospel, it should become apparent that a course not uncommon amongst ancient historians has been followed, and that the opinions and reflections of the writer have been conveyed by him under the guise of speeches from the Subject of his narrative, the work would be not only untrustworthy, but something more.

It does not, however, follow that, even in such a case, the stigma of forgery should be applied to the writer. For a considerable period in the history of literature, the assumption of an imaginary personality was a license commonly accorded to the page 374 historian. No one calls Livy a forger, although no one supposes that Hannibal made the speeches which Livy put into his mouth. In our more exact age, such a method of conveying what the writer believes to be true is inadmissible. But to argue from the piety or beauty of any of the language of the Fourth Gospel, that the writer of such sentiments could not have been other than an exact chronicler, is to betray great unacquaintance with literature. Of the definite purpose with which the book was written we are told by the writer. As to the manner in which that purpose was carried out, it re-mains to be seen whether his ideas were accordant with our own.

It ought to be distinctly borne in mind, from the commencement of the enquiry, that the Fourth Gospel nowhere contains a statement that it was written by a personal follower of Jesus. It includes no direct avowal of authorship, such as is to be found in the Apocalypse, and in the Epistles of Paul, James, and Peter. It contains no implied avowal of authorship, such as is the case with the Third Gospel, and the Acts of the Apostles. The writer makes use of the third person, in a manner not called for by the natural flow of the narrative, as an anticipatory protest against disbelief of his account; and adds an argument which, before any existing tribunal, would tell against his veracity. 'He that saw it bare record, and his record is true, and he knoweth that he saith true, that ye might believe.'2 For that same end, 'that ye might believe,' he again tells us, it is the case that his book contains only a selection from the many acts of Jesus. This is a virtual disclaimer of the character of a simple historian. Lastly, at the close of the book is found what, if it be not an admission of a plural authorship, is a species of testamur from unnamed and unknown witnesses;3 who designate the Apostle John as their authority, not by name, but by reference to a late ecclesiastical tradition. 'This is the disciple which testifies these things, and wrote these things, and we know that his testimony is true.' Whatever value may attach to such a sentence, it cannot be said that it is a declaration made by the author of the book which it concludes that it is the work of the Apostle John.

While thus indistinctly indicating, but not plainly claiming, an Apostolic authorship; and accepting the character, not of a history, but of a doctrinal treatise; the book commences with a commentary on the first words of the Pentateuch, couched in the language of the Cabbalistic writers. It was the doctrine of the Cabbala (as may be seen in the book Jetsira),4 that the manifestation of the Almighty took place in the three phases of Conception, Word, and Writing. Such, the Cabbalists held, was the outcome of the words 'Let us make.' The 'Conception' corresponds, to some extent, to the Platonic Idea. The Word is sometimes spoken of as the Metatron, or Angel of Creation. The Writing is the visible, material creation. We must not here plunge into the mystic obscurity of the Cabbala. Hut nothing that occurs in any book of the New Testament would lead us to understand how language, so opposed to the simple narratives of the Synoptic Evangelists, could flow from the pen of one who, like other apostles, was recognised by the priests as an 'unlearned and ignorant' man.

That the Fourth Gospel presents a view of the person, life, and page 375 teaching of Jesus, which is in startling contrast to that taken by the Synoptic Evangelists, it is needless to say. The only question that remains is, how far these different accounts are, or are not, reconcile-able. It is quite possible that delineations of different parts of a lifetime, or different aspects of a character, may coincide in one harmonious whole. But it is one thing to admit a possibility, and another to accept a fact. To give real weight to the opinion that an account, differing so widely from that in which three Evangelists in the main agree, emanated from a member of the same little band of disciples, we must either find evidence that the writers intended their several accounts to be compared and taken together; or some satisfactory reason why one part of the story should have been told by one, and another by the other, narrators.

There is no indication in either of the Four Gospels that the writer was aware of the existence of any other record of authority equal to his own. The writer of the Third Gospel implicitly undervalues the many attempts made before his time, by referring to his own perfect know-ledge,5 derived from personal witnesses. In the Fourth Gospel occurs a silence which is yet more significant. In making the statement that many things were done by Jesus which were not recorded in that book,6 a writer could scarcely have omitted to say where they were recorded, if he had been aware of the existence of other narratives of authority equal to his own. Thus, as far as the language of either of the Evangelists goes, it is opposed to the idea of concurrent narratives.

If we seek for any reason, afforded by the course of either narrative, for the special division of subject existing between the two accounts, we find ourselves altogether at a loss. In the passage which refers to the testimony to be borne by the apostles, the eleven are alike addressed. In the Synoptic Gospels, Peter is spoken of as the first of the apostles; but it is not clear that anything more is intended than a reference to the historic fact in point of time. On three cardinal occasions—namely, at the raising of the daughter of the Ruler of the Synagogue, at the Transfiguration, and at the Agony in the Garden—Peter, James, and John are alone mentioned as present. That in a narrative written by the latter these important events should have been described we might fully anticipate. To neither of them is any reference made in the Fourth Gospel. On the other hand, in the account given by the fourth Evangelist of the conversation with the woman of Sychar, it is stated that the apostles were absent;7 nor is their presence indicated at the conversation with Nicodemus, or at that with the blind man when healed. These conversations are referred to by the Fourth Gospel alone. Thus the selection of topics is a matter in no way favourable to the argument for the apostolic origin of that book.

If we look with proper attention at the leading features of the character of Jesus, as drawn by the Synoptic, and by the single, writers, we shall find it hard to believe that the same historic Personage can be contemplated by the two accounts. Of the hope and expectation of Israel; of the portents preceding and accompanying the Advent; of the Nativity and Circumcision; of the youthful promise; of the Baptism, Fasting, and Temptation; of the Agony and bloody Sweat; of the darkness, and rending of the veil of the Temple; of the glorious Trans-figuration, and Ascension; and of the coming of the Holy Ghost; the Fourth Gospel has not one syllable. Of twenty-eight distinct miracles page 376 described by the Evangelists, two only are mentioned by the fourth; and their occurrence is coupled with a statement which it is hard, if not impossible, to reconcile with the course of the Synoptic narrative, to the effect that Jesus withdrew to the mountain from the multitude that sought to make Him a King.8 Even more striking is the contrast in the accounts of the teaching of Jesus. The First Gospel declares that Jesus did not speak to the people without a parable.9 Thirty of these beautiful lessons (including their repetitions) are narrated by the Evangelists. Not a single parable, in the true meaning of the word, is to be found in the Fourth Gospel. In the first three, the Teacher retires behind the authority of the Law, or the self-asserting wisdom of the moral of His wonderful fables. In the Fourth Gospel He speaks only of Himself; practical instruction is absent or obscure; and the use of mystical metaphor replaces the lucid simplicity of the great Prophet, whom the common people heard gladly.

In omitting the most important incidents of the history narrated by the accordant Evangelists, and in making the laboured course of argument depend on occurrences not referred to by them—such as the marriage at Cana, the healing of the blind-born by making clay, the raising of Lazarus, and the washing of the disciples' feet—the Fourth Gospel does not afford the means of constant collation with the Synoptic narrative. There are, however, a certain number of incidents, or of periods, which can be identified as spoken of by the contrasted ac-counts; and there is, moreover, a further number of incidents as to which it is uncertain whether they are, or are not, so to be identified. An honest comparison of these ac-counts is essential to the formation of a sound judgment as to their harmony or discrepancy.

Take first the chief cases of doubtful identity. These are the cleansing of the Temple, and the anointing of Jesus with a precious unguent. In the Synoptic narrative, the fame, the wonder, and the authority of Jesus appear rapidly and naturally to augment with each new display of His miraculous powers. The march of the narrative increases in its grandeur and awe from the commencement to the close. In His last visit to Jerusalem, when already hailed by the populace as the Heir of their native kings, the exertion of His authority to correct abuses that might have crept into the discharge of the wise provisions of the Law, for providing victims for the sacrifices of the worshippers, and legal money for the payment of the annual Temple tax, is in no way out of place. That an unknown provincial Teacher could have attempted such a service, without interruption, is highly improbable. The Synoptic writers place this incident at the close; the fourth writer at the commencement; of the public life of Jesus. The apologists for the Fourth Gospel assume a repetition of the act, for which there is no authority in either text; nor does the expedient obviate the difficulty as to its early occurrence.

The anointing of Jesus, shortly before the Passion, occurred, ac-cording to the first Evangelist, on the day before the Passover, at the house of Simon the Leper, in Bethany.10 The host is called Simon the Pharisee in the Third Gospel, and the woman is described there as one who was a sinner in the city.11 In the Fourth Gospel the incident is dated six days before the Passover; the name of the host is not given, but the woman is said to have been Mary,12 the sister of page 377 Lazarus, who is described in the preceding chapter as one of the intimate and beloved friends of Jesus. It is incredible that two writers, alike revering the memory of their Master, could consciously have allowed these two statements to be read side by side. The expedient of a double occurrence is again suggested. But in this case, the fourth Evangelist neglected the direction of his Master that the good deed of the Magdalene should be commemorated wherever the gospel was preached.

When we pass to those few points as to which the identification is unquestionable, it is only to find the accounts to be in open and positive contradiction of one another. Thus the date and occasion of the commencement of the public life of Jesus is a leading feature of His history. According to the accordant Evangelists, Jesus was baptised by John, and immediately afterwards was rapt into the desert, where he underwent the mysterious temptation of forty days. Thence He went into Galilee; but did not begin to preach until He had heard of the imprisonment of John,13 His first public act being the calling of Peter and Andrew, while they were fishing in the Lake of Galilee, to follow and accompany Him.

In the contrasted account, the baptism is not mentioned; but the visit of Jesus to John is identified by the reference to the descent of the Spirit. Two days later, Andrew, on hearing the testimony of the Baptist, brings his brother Peter to follow Jesus in Bethabara. Three days later, Jesus is represented as making a beginning of miracles in Galilee. The Passover follows, when He goes to Jerusalem, drives the dealers from the Temple, is visited by night by Nicodemus, and then goes into the land of Judea, tarries with His disciples, and baptises. It is expressly added that John was not yet cast into prison.14

No contrast can be more direct than that between these two ac-counts, the latter of which, by its reference to day after day, precludes the possibility of the forty days' sojourn in the desert, and represents Jesus, not as the successor, but as the rival, of the Baptist in his public functions.

The account of the close of the public life of Jesus, given by the fourth Evangelist, is as irreconcilable with that in which the other three narratives agree, as is that of the commencement of that life. The dates given are totally discrepant, and so are many of the special incidents narrated. Thus the supper at Bethany, before referred to, is described in the first and second Gospels as within two days of the Passover; in the fourth, as six days before the Passover. The supper at which the sop was given to Judas is stated by the Synoptics to have been the Passover. In the contrary account it is called 'before the Feast of the Passover,' and it is proved that such was the meaning of the writer, by the statement that the eleven thought Judas had gone out to buy what was needed for that feast. To purchase anything, or even to carry forth money in a purse, on the night when the Passover was eaten, would have been not only a sin, but a crime punishable by the law. Again, the accusers of Christ are spoken of as intending to eat the Passover after the betrayal; and the day of the Crucifixion is called the preparation of the Passover. These facts explain the meaning of the expression 'that Sabbath day was a high day' to be, that, in the year of the Crucifixion, Pasque fell on the Sabbath. According to the Synoptics, it fell on the fifth day of the week, our pre- page 378 sent Thursday. This difference as to the course of the moon is equivalent to a difference of three years in the date of the Crucifixion; which Panvinius, following the Fourth Gospel, has assigned to the year A.D. 33, instead of to the year of the consulship of Longinus and Quartinus, A.D. 30, which is the date accordant with the Synoptic narrative, and with the falling of the day of the week commemorated by the Church as the Day of Pentecost.

The result of a dispassionate comparison of this nature has the certitude of a sum in subtraction. It is no question of possible explanation, or of minor and unimportant discrepancy. Whenever positive comparison is possible, as to date, order, doctrine, the two accounts are absolutely irreconcilable. It is no more possible that both should be historic, than to take away two from four, and yet leave four remaining. The next step in the enquiry leads us to ask which, or whether both, of the two accounts are contradicted by other sources of information.

A tacit and instinctive sense of the impending result of more accurate study may be detected in the language of some of the most recent writers on the subject of the harmony of the Evangelists. Ebrard may be cited as an example. It is betrayed by a disposition to speak somewhat lightly of the authority of the Synoptic Gospels, on the points where, as in the instance of the year, day, and hour of the Crucifixion, they are contradicted by the fourth Evangelist. But it is certain that the question of comparative credibility can only be truthfully investigated, by means of a careful and accurate comparison, of the documents in question, with that ancient literature of similar or nearly identical date, which bears on the subject-matter of the gospels.

Research for this purpose must be directed to documents less familiar to the general reader, and somewhat less accessible even to the student, than is the Greek Testament. But, in compensation for the difficulty, the information which is afforded by those treatises of the Mishna, which throw light on the laws, manners, and opinions which prevailed in Jerusalem during the last century of the existence of the Jewish polity, is so minute, precise, and exhaustive; the date of each new 'fence' to the written Law is so securely fixed by the name of the Doctor who proposed, and of those who opposed or who sanctioned it, that the ground is firm beneath the tread. A comparison of the Mishna and the gospels has a further result beyond that derived from the comparison of the gospels themselves. It shows that while the first three gospels are in fall and unbroken concord with the testimony of Hebrew literature, the reverse is the case with reference to the Fourth Gospel.

The First Gospel, from its commencement to its close, is instinct with Jewish life, doctrine, and feeling. The more fully we become acquainted with the literature of the time, and with the contemporary state of the synhedral legislation, the more simple, luminous, and pointed become those passages in the narrative of the Evangelist which have long been confessedly obscure, References, slight indeed, but numerous and unmistakable, to the laws, the habits, and the opinions of the contemporaries of the Evangelist, sparkle in every page. That the writer of the First Gospel was a Jew, educated in Jewish learning to a point far above the common people, orthodox in Judaism, neither a Pharisee nor a Sadducee, but very probably a Karaite, and deeply imbued with the Jewish belief in oneiromancy, or the authoritative teaching of dreams, no student of Jewish literature can doubt. The Second Gospel, page 379 closely as it resembles the first, with the exclusion of the references to prophecy, and the full details of the teaching of Jesus, bears signs of the consultation of independent, or at least common, sources of information. While very probably written for the Gentile world, it contains little that is out of harmony with devout Judaism. The third Evangelist possesses the remarkable characteristic of speaking of Jewish laws and habits in the most narrow Jewish language, while he displays an educated and philosophical tolerance with regard to the Samaritans and the heathen world.

The author of the Third Gospel is indicated in the Acts of the Apostles. By that Evangelist alone is the first person employed; in the singular, in the two short introductions; in the plural, towards the close of the narrative. At Lystra, the writer informs us, Paul met the son of Eunice, a Jewess, by a Greek father, whom he adopted as his companion. At Troas, a few verses later, the first person is used by the narrator, when Paul, Silas, and Timotheus are the only names suggested by the narrative to whom it can refer. But at Philippi, directly afterwards, when Paul and Silas only are mentioned as cast into prison, the third person is resumed. It is maintained during the account of Paul's solitary travels, until he sails for Philippi with five companions, including Timotheus, but not including Silas; when the Asiatics, Tychicus and Trophimus, coming beforehand, no doubt from Asia Minor, awaited the apostle and his little party at Troas. Thence to the close of the book the continued presence of the writer with Paul is indicated by the constant use of the first person. It would be difficult to acquit the author of the narrative of a great want of candour, if he were any other than Timotheus.

This view of the authorship of the history, regarded by the light of that classification of Jewish opinions which we described in a former number,15 gives an admirable explanation of that mingling of the narrowest Jewish creed with great breadth of tolerance for the Samaritans and the heathen, to which we have referred as the peculiarity of the Third Gospel and the Acts. The writer commonly called St. Luke alone gives the parable of the Good Samaritan, which affords a marked contrast to the injunction given in the conventional Matthew—'Into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not.'16 The elegance of the language, and the comparative purity of the Greek, employed by this Evangelist, are again peculiar to himself. But the purely Jewish ideas of the writer are such as a man of his catholic knowledge would have been more likely to acquire from the teaching of a mother than from any other source. Thus, while the first Evangelist tells us of the appearance of angels in dreams, in the pages of the third we meet visible angels. Dives, in the Third Gospel, is borne at once to Sheol, and sees the happy Lazarus enjoying the compensation for his misery in this life, from across the great gulf. The reward of the followers of Messiah is to be in this present time. For a writer who had learned Greek philosophy from his father, and Jewish tradition from his mother, such a mixture of the broad and the narrow might be expected. On no other hypothesis has it been explained. With this important qualification, the Third Gospel coincides with the First in being in full harmony with the Jewish literature of the second century.

page 380

When we turn to the Fourth Gospel, we find the case altogether reversed. The very first verse of the narrative speaks the language of a stranger to Judea: 'The Jews sent Priests and Levites from Jerusalem.' No Jew could have written such a sentence. A Jew would have designated the authority which instituted the enquiries, and the appropriate agents of its prosecution. To a foreigner, regarding the occurrences of which he spoke from a distant locality, and, possibly, at a long posterior time, the expression was unconsciously natural. Throughout the entire book the keynote here struck is kept up. 'The Jews' are always spoken of from without; not from within, as by the other Evangelists, and by Peter, James, and Paul. Instead of being spoken of as the Sons of God, the sacred nation, of whom Jesus claimed to be, by birthright, the anointed King, and to whom the writer was proud to belong; they are everywhere described as a party hostile to the truth, and even as the children of the Devil. No personal follower of Him who bade His hearers obey the Law and the Sanhedrin could thus have written.

Not only is hatred to the Jews a distinctive feature of that gospel which even omits the prayer of Jesus on the Cross for his misguided murderers, but positive un-acquaintance with Jewish law, habit, and thought is very frequently betrayed.

Thus, in the account of the marriage at Cana, we are told of the Architriclinos, or master of the feast; a festal office proper to the Greeks, but unknown to the Jews. The entire course of a social meal, from the rinsing of the hands at the commencement; the 'indication,' or prescribed prayer, uttered by the most honorable rabbi present, the blessings proper to the various viands, down to the final service of the ewer, was ordered by a distinct legislation, the enactments of which we possess.17 The Greek triclinium was never used in Judea, unless it were by some of those Herodian or Grecian schismatics of whom the Book of Maccabees and the Talmud speak with such abhorrence. In the account of the Last Supper, the same substitution of Greek for Jewish manners is to be found. It is true that what appears to a Western reader to be the true meaning of the language of Moses, in appointing this festival, is now only accepted by the Samaritans, who to this day eat the Passover on their feet, even walking about during the meal. The Jewish Doctors taught that in the Holy Land Israel was to rest; and that, therefore, the Passover, within Palestine, was to be eaten seated. But it is impossible to admit that the heathen practice of reclining on the bosom of a friend could ever have been tolerated, at that solemn festival, by a people whose main dread was innovation. The remark that applies to the principle applies also to the details. It is not accordant with the Jewish laws to say that 'he that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit.' The feet, together with the hands, were to be washed in the services of the Temple; the hands alone before and after meals; and this practice, though common with the stricter Jews, was not rendered obligatory until after the time of Jesus. Again, the contents of the waterpots are described in Greek measures—not in Jewish. The presence of such vessels, of such size, would not have been 'after the manner of the purifying of the Jews.'18 Even in the expression 'water pots of stone,' which is a description of vessel page 381 unknown in Palestine, may be detected a confusion of two similar Aramaic words, one of which means stone, and the other means a water vessel.

The utter contrast between the ideas expressed by the writer of the Fourth Gospel, and those which were universally entertained by the Jews of Palestine, is even yet more distinctly shown by those passages in which Jesus is represented as claiming a character, of which the Synoptic Gospels are far from giving the slightest indication. It is not in pages like these that it would be proper to express any personal opinion as to the sanction for such a claim. The only question we attempt to answer is, what would have been possible, and what impossible, in Judea, in the first century. As to this, the language of the fourth Evangelist is such as to encounter a double impossibility. 'The Jews,' he writes, 'sought the more to kill him because he said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God.'19 It is intelligible why the writer of such a sentence omitted the Lord's Prayer from his narrative. He must have been unacquainted with the beautiful and solemn prayers of the Jewish Liturgy; with the written Law which said 'Israel is my son, even my first born;' and forgetful of his own language, where he writes, a little later, thus : 'The Jews said we have one Father, even God.'

This passage, however, must be read together with the last two verses of the 8th, and the 28th of the 20th, chapters. With these must be contrasted the accordant account given by the Synoptic writers of the condemnation of Jesus by the great Sanhedrin, for blasphemy. The cardinal fact of the rending of his robe by the High Priest is mentioned by the first and second Evangelists. The import of the whole is this: The great Sanhedrin, consisting of 71 members, reserved to itself the right of jurisdiction in three special cases, of which the question of a false prophet was one.20 It was on this charge that Jesus was brought before them.21 Their proceedings were prescribed by an exact and most merciful code; and the evidence adduced was not adequate to ensure condemnation. But the High Priest, misunderstanding, as we have previously mentioned, the Aramaic word of assent used by Jesus, for the utterance of the Divine name,22 the most awful and unpardonable crime known to the Jewish Law, rent his garment, which rending, not afterwards to be repaired, was the prescribed formality on the proof of that crime;23 and judgment of death was an inevitable consequence. Not only so, but we can only understand the total revulsion of popular feeling towards Christ as arising from the spreading amongst the people of the news that the High Priest had thus rent his robes. And thus, also, is the forgiveness of Jesus to be understood. The people knew not what they did—for He was guiltless of the tremendous accusation, the very idea of which would strike terror to every Jew. With this horror Jesus would fully sympathise, knowing at the same time that it had been excited by a false accusation.

Viewed in this light, the whole narrative, as given by each of the Synoptic Evangelists, is perfectly consistent, both with itself and with the provisions of the Jewish law. The account of the fourth writer is widely different. He omits all those points by which, in the other gospels, the harmony between the teaching of Jesus and the law is illustrated. Of the baptism, undergone 'to fulfil all the injunctions of page 382 the Law;'24 of the dignity and sanctity of those who fulfilled the minutest precepts;25 of the permanence of the Law as long as that of the order of nature;26 of the duty of obedience to the Senate;27 of the gladness with which the common people listened to a prophet,28 and more than a prophet; of the character of the trial before the Sanhedrin, and the final declaration of the High Priest, not a word is said in the Fourth Gospel. On the contrary, Jesus is represented as using language in the Temple which would have been the most open contempt of the Divine Law that was possible;29 and which would not only have aroused the popular fury, from which He is represented as escaping no less than seven times, but have at once attracted the interference, and judgment, of the Senate. No other false witness would have been needed to enforce the doom of lapidation, according to the Pentateuch itself,30 if the evidence of the fourth Evangelist had been brought before the Council, and had received independent confirmation.

In face of this formal and vital contradiction between the narrative of the Fourth Gospel and every other literary authority, it is scarely necessary to refer to the numerous remaining marks, contained in that work, of unacquaintance with the law and customs of Palestine. Such is the reference to the Divine law as 'your law,' or 'their law.'31 Such are quotations, nowhere to be found in the Hebrew Scriptures, or in the LXX. version. Such are the arguments as to the testimony of two men being true, and as to the inference from the 82nd Psalm.32 Such are the expressions—'One of you is a devil.' 'Ye are of your father the devil.' 'This people, that know not the law, are cursed.' 'All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers,'—the utterance of any one of which would have been a crime of defined character. Such is the account of making clay on the Sabbath, which would have been a direct breach of the law; which healing by word or by touch was not. Such are the statements that the Jews had agreed that, if any man did confess that he was Christ, he should be put out of the Synagogue; 'that they cast out' the blind man who was healed; and that many among the chief rulers who believed did not confess, because of the Pharisees, lest they should be cast out of the Synagogue. It is certain that not one of these phrases could have been written, or uttered, by an apostle or a personal disciple of Jesus.

For the question is not as to the truth or justice of the expressions; but as to their irreconcilability with the character of a Teacher who gave honour to the law. Such emphatically was Jesus, as represented by the Synoptic Evangelists. As such, He always refers to the Law, with the usual forms of citation. As such, He quotes it truly, although in the language, not of the Hebrew original, but of the Septuagint. As such, He would never have perverted the merciful provision, that forbad capital punishment to be inflicted on the testimony of a single witness, into a statement that the witness of two men must be true. As such, He would have had no occasion to draw, from a misread passage, an argument in defence of an expression used in the Temple liturgy, and in the Pentateuch itself. As such, He taught that he who used to his brother expressions far milder than those above cited, was in danger of condign punishment.33 As such, He argued that what He page 383 or His disciples did on the Sabbath day was within the limits of the Law.

As to the expression 'cast out of the Synagogue,' it is one of those which is a very probable mark of the late date of the book in which it occurs. During the existence of the Jewish polity, although the power of life and death, in the three specially reserved cases, had been taken from the Sanhedrin,34 the ordinary Jewish courts maintained their authority.35 As to this, the Synoptic Evangelists are in full accord with the judicial treatises of the Mishna. To teach that anyone who had been condemned by the Senate had been wrongfully condemned, was, if openly practised, an act of contempt of the Supreme Court, and was punishable by flagellation. In the case of the apostles this state of the law was exemplified. But it is the distinct testimony of Hebrew literature,36 that the punishment of excommunication was only resorted to out of Palestine. It is perfectly intelligible that such must have been the case. It is only when the executive power has fallen from the hands of the judge, that he resorts to what is called the spiritual sword. In the palmy days of Rome, when the hierarchy wielded the one weapon, and commanded the service of the other, the spiritual curse was employed to add bitterness to the pangs of the stake. But with the Jewish Law all was alike divine and spiritual. Disobedience was at once a sin and a crime. It was avenged by the legal punishment, so long as the national polity stood, and only stigmatised by the milder and inadequate process of exclusion from the community, when no other power of enforcement was left to the rulers of the people. To an accurate scholar, the introduction of this non-Judean punishment into the course of the narrative would alone be sufficient to impugn its authentic character.

It has not been attempted, within the brief limits of the foregoing pages, to present an exhaustive analysis of the Fourth Gospel. The object of the writer has been to compare, first, the accounts given by the four Evangelists of incidents which can be distinctly identified; and, secondly, the several statements, with the provisions of the Jewish Law as they were in force during the lifetime of Jesus, and down to the destruction of Jerusalem. As to these points no doubt is possible to the patient and honest student. The result of the comparison appears in the pure white light of truth. With those who are content to accept the awe-inspiring dogma of the existence of a canon of sixty-six books, all directly and equally inspired by the Holy Spirit, on the authority of the Councils of Carthage and of Trent, our remarks will have no value. But to those who consider that accurate investigation of any work, said to be historic, should precede its full acceptance, as authoritative, enough has perhaps been said to lead them to study for themselves those irrefragable facts, which it is impossible to reconcile with the verdict of an unlearned and superstitious period as to the apostolic origin of the treatise After John.

F. R. C.

Note.—Courteous enquiries having reached the author as to the Aramaic word which Caiaphas professed to take for the Tetragrammaton, it may be mentioned that either Hebrew script might be fairly represented by Hebrew script but that the proof of the misrepresentation is the rending of the pontifical garment according to the provisions of the treatise De Synedriis.

1 See introduction to the Tauchnitz edition of the New Testament, p. xi.

2 John xix. 35, xx. 31.

3 John xxi. 24.

4 Prolégomènes de la version du, Talmud. Par l'Abbé L. Chiarini, p. 92.

5 Luke, i. 3.

6 John, xx. 30.

7 John iv. 8

8 John vi. 15.

9 Matt. xiii. 34.

10 Matt. xxvi. 6.; Mark xiv. 1, 3.

11 Luke vii. 37.

12 John xi. 2.

13 Matt. iv. 17; Mark i. 14.

14 John iii. 24.

15 Fraser's Magazine, No. Ixi. New Series.

16 Matt, x 5.

17 Vide Beracoth, section 6; the whole of the eight Mischnaioth, and the accompanying Ghemara.

18 John ii. 6.

19 John v. 18.

20 Tractatus de Synedris, i. 5. 64.

21 Matt. xxvi. 61; Luke xxii.

22 Mark xv. 62, 63.

23 De Synedris, vii. 5.

24 Matt. iii. 15.

25 Matt. v. 19.

26 Luke xvi. 17.

27 Matt, xxiii. 2.

28 Mark. xii. 37.

29 John viii. 58.

30 Levit. xxiv. 16; De Synedris, vi. 4, 5.

31 John xv. 25, x. 34, viii. 17; Cf. Avoda Sara. f. 130.

32 John viii. 17, x. 34.

33 Matt. v. 22.

34 Wagensheilius, in Sotah, ix. 12.

35 Acts vii. 59, v. 18, 40.

36 See Buxtorff's Lexicon of the Talmud, under Hebrew script and Hebrew script the three kinds of excommunication.