THE FOURTH GOSPEL
The Gospel of John, students will examine the following as related to the Fourth Gospel: background context, author's purpose, literary structure, the picture of Jesus and other figures found in the Gospel of John, theological themes, comparisons and contrasts with the Synoptic Gospels, and contemporary relevance.
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FOURTH GOSPEL UNIT THREE
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The idea of the Messiah as set forth in the Apocalyptic literature connected itself, at an early date, with the use of this name. Jesus as the " Son of God" was identified with the angelic being who was to appear from heaven in the last age and call the world to judgment. The prerogatives which He had Himself claimed as "Son of man" were supplemented by the transference to Him of all the attributes assigned to the Apocalyptic Messiah. As yet, however, this conception of Him was tempered by the historical reminiscence. It was reserved for Paul, who had never known Jesus in the flesh, and who approached Him with a mind saturated with Jewish-Apocalyptic speculation, to construe a doctrine, more or less definite, out of the name " Son of God."
According to the Pauline view, Jesus was the " Man from heaven,"—not a man only, but a being of higher nature who had descended out of the eternal world. Already in His pre-existent state He possessed a supreme dignity, and was " in the form of God" (Phil. ii. 6), " God's own Son" (Rom. viii. 32). This Sonship, veiled for a while during His earthly humiliation, was " declared with power by His resurrection from the dead" (Rom. i. 4). Paul thus accepted in its full extent the conception of the Messiah which had obtained currency in rabbinical thought, and transferred it to the historical Person of Jesus. "Son of God" was more to Him than a vague title of religious reverence. It connoted a theory of the heavenly origin of the man Jesus, of the glory He had
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sacrificed, of the purport of His life and death and Resurrection. But with all this, it left the relation between Jesus and God entirely undefined. Although " Son of God " implies all that it does in Jewish- Apocalyptic thought, it implies no more. It only predicates of Jesus that He belonged to a heavenly order, that He was first in rank of the beings immediately near to God, not that He was identical in essence with God Himself. The question as to the ultimate relation of the Son to the Father is indeed foreign to the whole tenor of Paul's theology. His thought is everywhere determined by the religious and practical interest, and He deals with the problem of the Person only as it bears on the redeeming work. It was enough for faith to recognise in Jesus the heavenly Messiah, through whom God was reconciling the world unto Himself; all further inquiry into the nature of His affinities with God was futile speculation into which Paul refused to enter. The practical character of His thinking is made apparent in the cardinal verse (Rom. i. 4), where the Sonship of Christ is associated with the fact of His Resurrection. Here the apostle declares in effect that he does not concern himself with questions relating to the pre-existent Sonship. His knowledge of Jesus as the Son of God takes its starting-point from the Resurrection, and all the rest is of the nature of inference from that
In the Fourth Gospel the Pauline doctrine is
not only developed and made more consistent with itself, but is in several respects essentially modified. 13
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(i) The idea of Sonship, which in Paul is carefully subordinated to a strict monotheism, is accepted in its full extent. In the generation succeeding Paul the name " Son of God" had gradually assumed the more definite meaning which the Greek language and forms of thought attached to it. The Fourth Evangelist employs it deliberately in the sense which it would convey to the ordinary Greek mind. Jesus as the Son was Himself of the same nature as the Father. All the divine powers and attributes devolved on Him in virtue of His inherent birthright as Son of Gpd.
(2) The connection between the Sonship and the rising from the dead is discarded, along with the whole doctrine that the earthly life was an eclipse and humiliation. It was the risen Christ in whom Paul was able to recognise the divine glory. An act of divine power was necessary in order that Jesus might be restored to that status of Sonship which He had sacrificed by His appearance in the flesh. To John the Resurrection has no such central significance. It, indeed, marks a widening out in the activity of Christ, the beginning of a period when He would exercise His divine prerogative, unhampered by the earthly limitations to which He had for a while submitted Himself. But He had never ceased, or even appeared to cease, to be the Son of God. The dignity which Paul ascribes to Him in His exalted life belonged to Him likewise in His life on earth ; and this, to the mind of John, constitutes the real meaning of the Gospel history. It was the manifestation, under
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forms of space and time, of the glory of God, as reflected in His Son.
(3) The Sonship of Christ is brought into relation with the Logos theory, and so becomes capable of a more exact theological definition. To Paul, with his absolute monotheism, it was impossible to conceive of the divine Sonship in anything but a vague and half-figurative sense. Jesus was the "Man from heaven," "declared to be the Son of God," but there could be no thought of an actual division within the being of God. It was the adoption of the Logos hypothesis which allowed of a consistent working out of the literal idea of Sonship. In God Himself, according to the Alexandrian speculation, there was a second divine principle, one with Him in essence and yet distinct. To this eternal " Logos " Philo had already applied the name of " Son of God." The name in its Philonic sense was now transferred to Christ, and afforded a speculative basis for a fuller doctrine of His nature. He was the " Son of God," inasmuch as He was identical with the Logos, which had its ground in the depths of the divine being, and was itself 0eo?; the Fourth Gospel assumes that when Jesus spoke of God as " Father "He was directly conscious of this essential relation to Him. As the Logos who had proceeded from God, and was one with Him from eternity, He claimed to be the " Son."
A prominent place is given throughout the Gospel to the "witness" by which this claim of
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Jesus has been confirmed. The different passages which describe the "witness" may be regarded as in the first place apologetic, and contain the evangelist's answer to current objections on the part of Jews and heathen. At the same time, they serve to elucidate his own positive conception of the Sonship of Christ.
(i) The first witness is that of John the Baptist, whose work consists, as we have seen, in his recognition of Jesus as the Son. The importance attached to John by his own party and by the Jewish people at large, lent value to his testimony. To the evangelist himself he was indubitably "a man sent from God," who spoke under the influence of God's Spirit and had means of knowledge beyond the reach of other men. Moreover, he was the representative of the ancient prophets, and in their name pointed to Jesus as the fulfilment of the hopes of Israel. The evangelist is careful, however, to assign a secondary place to the evidence of John. It could only carry conviction "for a season" to those who had directly felt the authority of the great prophet's message (v. 36). It was at best the witness of man, and no human word was sufficient to enforce belief in the mighty claim advanced by
(2) In like manner the evidence of the Old Testament is not allowed the primary value which it possesses in the Synoptics and the writings of Paul. Jesus, indeed, speaks of the Scriptures as testifying everywhere to Himself, and several incidents in the narrative are illustrated by quota-
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tions from Messianic prophecy. This line of proof is not, however, elaborated. It is even doubtful if the evangelist had any first-hand or complete acquaintance with the Old Testament His allusions to it are comparatively few and of a somewhat perfunctory and superficial nature, dealing for the most part with passages which had obtained currency in the popular teaching of the Church. The Scriptures in any case are no longer the supreme authority which they were to the earlier Christian writers. John has advanced to a conception of the Person of Christ for which they can only afford him a vague and general evidence, and he seeks for his real proofs within the Gospel history itself.
(3) The " works " of Jesus are one convincing witness to His divine nature. These " works" are chiefly the miracles, which can only be accounted for on the supposition that He who wrought them partook of the creative activity of God. Hence the pre-eminent place which they occupy in the Gospel, and the endeavour to heighten them and remove every possibility of explaining them by reference to natural agency. But besides the miracles, the whole outward activity of Jesus is included under the idea of His " works." His life in all its manifestations was something more than human, and testified to a divine power residing in Him. In His conflict with the unbelieving Jews He points uniformly to His "works" as one plain and unsurmountable argument that He had come forth from God. "The works which the Father
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hath given Me to finish bear witness of Me'' (v. 36). '"If I do not the works of My Father, believe Me not; but if I do, though ye believe not Me, believe the works " (x. 37, 38). " I told you, and ye believed not: the works that I do in My Father's name, they bear witness of Me" (x. 25). It is recognised at the same time that the faith elicited by the works is not the highest kind of faith. Jesus complains that the people will not believe Him except on the evidence of signs and wonders (iv. 48). He asks His disciples to believe "for the very works' sake" (xiv. 11), if their minds are indeed closed to the better testimony. The witness afforded by the works is external, and at most can only compel a grudging and unintelligent belief. Something more is needed before there can be an inward, whole-hearted conviction that Jesus is in truth the Son of God.
(4) Of more value, then, than the testimony of the works is the explicit witness that Jesus bears to Himself by His spoken words. He says, indeed, (v. 31), " If I bear witness of Myself, My witness is not true " ; but this only implies that His self-witness does not stand alone. He speaks in the name of His Father, who will Himself confirm all that might seem incredible in His message. Elsewhere He declares (viii. 14), "Though I bear record of Myself, yet My record is true: for I know whence I came, and whither I go." His consciousness of Himself, in His relation of Sonship to God, is the one sufficing evidence. He alone could know the true mystery of His nature, and faith would demand
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no other testimony than His bare word. The whole aim of the evangelist is to give such an impression of Jesus that His witness to Himself shall have the weight of immediate proof. Those sayings of His,—" I am the Light of the world," " I am the Bread of Life," " I am in the Father, and the Father in Me," are more than empty assertions. They have behind them the authority of the divine Person, who moves before us full of grace and truth, and express in clear words what we already feel about Him. He Himself, in His whole personality, is the true evidence and confirmation of His supreme claims.
(5) This witness of Jesus to Himself is supported by another witness; that which is borne to Him by the Father. " It is written in your law that the testimony of two men is true. I am one that bear witness of Myself, and the Father that sent Me beareth witness of Me" (viii. 17, 18). This and similar passages are not to be interpreted as alluding to special voices from heaven (cf. i. 33, xii. 28), or even to the inward consciousness of Jesus that the Father acknowledged Him and was working through Him. The idea is rather that the power of Christ evidenced itself as a divine power. Those who were of the truth heard His voice. The instinct for God in the human heart responded to Jesus, recognised in Him the fullest and clearest manifestation of the divine. The same idea is expressed more plainly elsewhere in sayings which describe the believer as drawn to Christ by the agency of God Himself. " I have manifested Thy
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name unto the men which Thou gavest Me out of the world; Thine they were, and Thou gavest them Me" (xvii. 6). "No man can come to Me, except the Father which hath sent Me draw him. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto Me" (vi. 44, 45). The witness of God is in the last resort the immediate sense of a divine power apprehending us through Jesus Christ. Faith is conscious to itself that all it sought for in the Father is given to it in the Son.
These, then, are the main lines of evidence by which the claim of Jesus to divine Sonship is established; and different as they are in character, they seem all to converge on the one central fact It becomes apparent, however, when we reflect a little on these various types of " witness," that their unanimity is only on the surface. The Sonship as proved by the miracles is something entirely different from the Sonship which evidences itself by the drawing of the soul to Christ. There are, in fact, two conceptions blended together in the mind of the evangelist,—one of them speculative and theological, the other purely religious. Intrinsically they have nothing in common, yet they are both connoted in the name " Son of God."
In the first place, the meaning of the name is determined by the Logos hypothesis. Jesus was the Son of God, inasmuch as He was the Incarnate Word, who already in His pre-existent state had been "towards God," and one with Him in essence.
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This double relation of the Logos to God, indicated in the first verse of the prologue, is never lost sight of in the subsequent Gospel. Jesus as the Son is, on the one hand, the same in nature with the Father. He can lay claim to the attributes which belong peculiarly to God,—especially He shares with Him the fundamental divine attribute of self-existent life. "As the Father has life in Himself, so He hath given to the Son to have life in Himself" (v. 26). He can declare in plain words, " I and the Father are one"; "He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father." It is this identity of His nature with the divine nature that gives meaning to His work. By manifesting Himself He reveals God ; by imparting His own life He enables men to participate in the life of God. Yet, on the other hand, the idea of Sonship involves a distinction, a subordination. As the Logos was "towards God," derived from Him and dependent on Him, so Jesus acknowledges that His relation to God is not one of absolute equality. " My Father is greater than I " (xiv. 28). "The Son can do nothing of Himself; but what things He seeth the Father do, these things doeth the Son likewise" (v. 19). "Whatsoever I speak, therefore, even as the Father said unto Me, so I speak" (xii. 50). The Father has "sent" Him, has "given" Him His knowledge, His glory, His right of judgment, His essential life. This subordination of Jesus to God implies, as we shall presently see, an ethical moment, but in the first instance it is purely metaphysical. Philo had described the Logos as the " Son of God," in
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order to indicate by an expressive metaphor its twofold relation to the absolute divine Being; and the Sonship of Jesus in the Fourth Gospel is construed in the Philonic sense. What was predicated of the abstract Logos is transferred to the historical Person, who becomes one with God, and all the while separate from Him and dependent. In the nature of things it was impossible to work out the conception with any approach to logical consistency. Predicates that are intelligible in the case of a metaphysical principle cease to have meaning when they are applied literally to a historical life. We cannot but feel that, in so far as he elaborates the Philonic idea of Sonship, John loses sight of the actual Jesus who is the subject of his Gospel. He is thinking not of the Word made flesh, but of the Logos as an abstract principle,—" towards " God, and yet one with Him.
r On the one side, therefore, the Sonship of Christ is conceived theologically, in accordance with the presuppositions laid down in the prologue. But we miss the profounder import of the Gospel unless we recognise the presence of another and wholly different conception. The Fourth Evangelist, not less than the Synoptic writers, sets out from the fact of the historical life of Jesus. His speculative theories are nothing, in the last resort, but an attempt to explain in terms of reason his sense of a divine significance in the actual Person. That his faith in Jesus as the Son of God did not arise from mere doctrinal assumptions, is apparent from the nature of the " witness " by which he seeks to
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vindicate it. His ultimate reliance, as we have seen, is on the self-evidence of the revelation in Christ. Jesus speaks to the believing heart with a voice that appeals to men as the voice of God Himself. He that hath seen Him hath seen the Father. Thus along with the theological idea of the Sonship, underlying and vitalising it, we have another idea which is derived immediately from the contemplation of the divine Person. Jesus by His life and character made God real to men, evinced a faith and love and obedience which spoke of a unique fellowship between Himself and God. The philosophical categories fall into the background, and the Sonship is regarded under moral and religious categories. " I seek not Mine own will, but the will of the Father that sent Me" (v. 30). "The Father hath not left Me alone, for I do always those things that please Him" (viii. 29). "Therefore doth My Father love Me, because I lay down My life that I might take it again" (x. 17). " If I do not the works of My Father, believe Me not" (x. 37). In these and many similar passages the subordination of Jesus to the Father is no longer construed metaphysically. It becomes a personal attitude of love and obedience and self-surrender. Jesus bears witness that He is the Son of God, by living His life in unbroken fellowship with Him, by reflecting the divine character in His whole action and will. His relation to the Father is a filial relation in the full sense of the Synoptic teaching.
This other conception of the Sonship comes out
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most clearly in John's interpretation of the death of Christ. To the strict Logos theory the Cross was a stumbling-block, and John fully realises the difficulty of finding a place for it within his theology. He has to emphasise the voluntary nature of the death, so that it becomes not a passive suffering, but an act, foreseen and planned and deliberately effected by the divine Son. He has to relate it to the glory and the larger life that were to follow, in such a way that the death itself melts into a passing episode. But all the time, hampered as he is by the exigencies of his Logos doctrine, he is awake to the supreme significance of the death, and feels that it was not a derogation from Christ's Sonship, but the crowning fact by which the Sonship was evidenced. On the Cross Jesus was "lifted up," and drew all men unto Him. In the depth of His seeming humiliation He came forth on the steps of Pilate's judgment-hall wearing the crown and the kingly robe (xix. 5). It is in glimpses like these that we become aware of the true underlying thought which finds imperfect expression in a theological system borrowed from the speculation of the age. John, like Paul, had been apprehended by Christ, mastered by the vision of that divine life which had revealed itself in its full grandeur upon the Cross. His faith was grounded ultimately not in any abstract hypothesis, but in his knowledge of the living Saviour, "who dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, as of the only-begotten of the Father."
To sum up, the Gospel presents the Sonship
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of Christ under two aspects, which are radically distinct, although to appearance they are brought into harmony. There is first the metaphysical conception, reaching back to Philo and the Greek thinkers, by which the Sonship is defined in terms of the Logos doctrine. God existed from all eternity in fellowship with another being, one with Him in essence though subordinate, who is therefore called His "Son." This "second God" of Philonic speculation was manifested, according to our Gospel, in Jesus Christ. But the metaphysical conception is combined with another, which was derived immediately from the experience of faith. The evangelist had pondered on the life of Jesus, and had realised in his own heart His quickening and redeeming power. In this Saviour, who had satisfied his deepest longings and spoken to him with a divine authority, he recognised the Son of God. The name as employed by John covers both these conceptions, which belong in reality to different worlds of thought. His presentation of the life of Christ is thus involved from the outset in a certain confusion. The speculative theory can never be truly reconciled with the religious idea, and serves in the end to obscure, instead of illuminating and enhancing it.
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THE theology of the Fourth Gospel may be regarded in the main as a development, along peculiar lines, of Paulinism ; but there is one difference, evident on the surface, between the two types of doctrine. Paul concentrates himself, with an almost exclusive emphasis, on the death of Christ. Confronted on the one hand with the tremendous fact of sin, on the other hand with a holy law which judged men strictly according to their works, he had taken refuge in the grace of God revealed through the Cross. The work of Christ as he conceived it was all bound up with the redeeming death. In the Fourth Gospel the emphasis is shifted from the death to the life. Jesus is able to say at the last Supper, " I have finished the work which Thou gavest Me to do." His mission was already accomplished, and in the approaching death He would do no more than place His final seal upon it. The life, which to Paul was meaningless except as a necessary stage towards the Cross, has become all in all to the mind of John.
There are two considerations which serve in some measure to mitigate this broad difference
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between the two thinkers. It needs always to be remembered, in the first place, that while Paul insists on the death of Christ, he views it as much more than an isolated fact. The Cross is to him the supreme expression of the whole mind of Christ. All that Jesus had done and taught, all that He was in His sovereign personality, could be discerned in His death, so clearly and sufficingly that knowledge of the life was hardly necessary. If Paul refused to "know Christ after the flesh," it was not that he was blind to the value of the earthly ministry, or centred his faith in a dogma rather than in a living Person. The death, as he regarded it, was the life in its ultimate purpose and meaning. To know Christ crucified was to enter into the inmost spirit of Jesus, and all other knowledge of Him was external and inadequate. Nothing is more certain than that Paul, by his exclusive contemplation of the death of Christ, was the first to grasp the deeper significance of the Gospel history. He prepared the way for a truer, more vital conception of the Saviour's life than had yel disclosed itself to His own immediate disciples The aim of the Fourth Evangelist is to go bad upon the life with that profounder insight into it: meaning which the Pauline doctrine of the Cros; had now made possible. Paul dwells upon the fac of the death as illuminating the inner purpose o the life, while John reverts to the life and find that it anticipated, in its every detail, the crownini revelation. Regarded in this light, the contrat between the two writers becomes more apparer
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than real. The work of John presupposes that of Paul, and forms its necessary outcome and complement.
In the second place, the doctrinal import of the death of Christ is largely absorbed by John into his conception of a descent of the eternal Logos. He does not, it is true, regard the earthly life of Jesus as a humiliation. It was rather an infinite condescension on the part of one who had come from God and went to God, and had been entrusted with all things by the Father (xiii. 3). But for this very reason, that Jesus still retained His divine character while assuming outwardly the form of a servant, His appearance in the flesh constituted His sacrifice. The death at the close could not add to it anything that was essential. Beside the transcendent fact that the Son of God became flesh, and entered for a while into this lower world, all else was secondary. Thus in the Johannine view the life as a whole occupies the place which Paul assigned to the death. There are elements in Paul's doctrine — vital elements—for which the evangelist can find no room, and which he is content to leave entirely to a side. But he accepts the fundamental idea of a redeeming sacrifice, with the difference that he connects it with the Incarnation instead of with the death. He does not break away from Paul's Gospel of the Cross, but assimilates it, under other forms, to his own conception.
It might appear that in identifying the work of Christ with the life rather than the death, John reverts from the Pauline to the Synoptic tradition.
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Like the writers of the earlier Gospels, he seeks to infer the purpose of Christ's coming from a study of the actual history. He brings the fact of the Cross into its due relation to the events which had preceded and partially explained it. But the similarity of method covers a difference which is in reality much greater than that which separates him from Paul. To the Synoptic writers the work of Jesus consists in His teaching and activity. He appears as the Founder of the kingdom of God, as the originator of a new moral law, as the standard and example of the life of faith. It is assumed that the work which manifestly occupied Him during the time of His earthly ministry was His real and essential work. John, however, approaches the life of Christ with a sense of the infinite significance which had been disclosed in it by the after history. Jesus in his divine Person could not be represented fully by anything He had actually said or done. The apparent work served only to adumbrate under the form of "earthly things" the real work which the Son had accomplished for His Father. The aim of the evangelist is so to present the life of Jesus that we may learn to understand it in its deeper meaning and purpose. In the light afforded him by Paul, by Philo, by the history of the Church, most of all by his own religious experience, he sifts the literal tradition in order to discover the real import of the work of Christ.
(i) He takes his departure from the indubitable fact that Jesus had been the medium of a new 14
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revelation. This was the primary character of the Christian Gospel, that it professed to be a message from God, conveying a more perfect knowledge of His mind and will. How was it, then, that this revelation had been imparted by Christ? The Synoptic writers had been content simply to record the sayings and parables in which Jesus had spoken of God, of His eternal love and pity, of His nearness to those who trust Him. Paul had dwelt not so much on the spoken words of Christ as on His supreme act of self-surrender. The Cross, by which God had commended His love to us while we were yet sinners, had been the revelation. To the Fourth Evangelist these two accounts seem both inadequate. Jesus in His own Person was the revelation of God. His work consisted, when all was said, in the mere fact that He manifested Himself, showing forth the glory of the invisible God in His human life. The answer to Philip at the Supper may be regarded as the central theme of the whole Gospel. "He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father"; Jesus Himself is the revelation, and according as men know Him, through a living fellowship, they attain to the knowledge of God.
Not only does Jesus in His own Person reveal God, but He is the absolute revelation. There can be little doubt that we have here the chief practical motive that determined the evangelist in his adoption of the Logos category. He sought to establish the claim of Christianity to be the absolute religion, in which God had revealed Himself to men once
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and for ever. Jesus Christ was not merely a prophet who had come to bear witness of the Light, but was Himself the Light. The self-revealing principle in the divine nature had become incarnate in Him, so that no advance beyond His message was conceivable. This is the idea which underlies the prologue, and comes to definite expression in its closing verses. The manifestation of God in Christ is contrasted with the earlier manifestations, and shown to be different, not only in degree but in kind. God had revealed Himself in human reason and conscience as a " light that lighteth every man " ; He had spoken through Moses in His law ; He had sent His servant John the Baptist, the greatest representative of the long line of prophets. Through all these imperfect media the world had attained to some dim knowledge of God, who is Himself invisible. But every other revelation has now been superseded. " The only-begotten Son who is in the bosom of the Father," admitted to God's inmost counsels and participating in His very nature,—" He hath declared Him."
The revelation consists, then, in the vision of His own Person which Jesus affords to the world. It is remarkable that the Fourth Gospel contains almost nothing of positive teaching in regard to the nature and character of God. The simple Synoptic sayings which dwell on God's goodness and pro vidence and Fatherhood, impart a knowledge o: Him infinitely fuller and clearer than any word; recorded by John. But the Jesus of the Fourtl Gospel does not require to speak concerning God
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since He is Himself the Word, the Son in whom the Father is manifest. His one aim is to concentrate the world's attention on His own Person, for God Himself is revealed in Him.
The conception of Jesus as Himself the revelation
is determined, in the first place, by the Logos
theory. Those who have seen Him have seen the
Father, inasmuch as He has come forth from God
and is one with Him in His essential nature. The
appearance of Jesus is in this sense a real
theophany,—a self-manifestation of God under the
conditions of space and time. John is so far in
sympathy with the Greek-philosophical mode of
thinking, that he attaches a vital importance to
knowledge on its purely intellectual side. It was
necessary to the redemptive process that the higher
reality should become intelligible to human reason,
and this had been precluded hitherto by the eternal
separation between God and the world. But in
Christ the divine nature had come within the sphere
of the visible and knowable. To contemplate Him
was to apprehend the "truth,"—the absolute divine
Being. In so far as he grounds himself on the
Logos hypothesis, John conceives of the revelation
in this abstract metaphysical sense. It was simply
the exhibition of divine as opposed to earthly and
phenomenal being, and no ethical content could be
ascribed to it.
But the idea of revelation is construed by John in the light of other categories than those of philosophical theory. The doctrine of the Logos, it cannot be too often repeated, is only the form by
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which the writer endeavours to interpret in terms of reason his religious experience. By his contemplation of the life of J esus, by his inward fellowship with Him, he had won for himself a new knowledge of God. This was not a knowledge of God's essential being, but of His will and character. Jesus had reflected in Himself the divine love and goodness. Through His own assurance of God's Fatherhood He had given to His disciples also the spirit of adoption. We are conscious, as we read the Fourth Gospel, that this sense of a moral revelation of God in Christ has preceded the theological reflection, and is the vitalising power behind it. The Word made flesh would be an unreal shadowy figure, if it were not for the reminiscence of the historical Jesus which lies continually in the background. He by His obedience to the Father's will, by His infinite love and sacrifice, had made God real to men, and enabled them to know and trust Him.
(2) The Gospel lays a special emphasis on the significance of Jesus as the world's Judge. Already in the Synoptics this aspect of the Lord's work is made prominent, in connection with the Apocalyptic view of the kingdom of God. The Son of man will receive power from God to judge mankind ; He will call the nations before Him, and separate the sheep from the goats. The notion of a judgment was a traditional element in the Messianic hope, and since it could not be reconciled with the historical life of Jesus, it was carried forward into the future. So in the Book of Revelation the exalted Christ is, above
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all, the Judge, who executes the doom pronounced on the sinful world. Even Paul is faithful, though in a less marked degree, to the primitive Christian tradition ; and anticipates a day when " we shall all stand before the judgment-seat of Christ" (2 Cor. v. 10). The Fourth Evangelist accepts the doctrine of a Messianic judgment, which he thus found current in the Church, and gives it a new development in line with his characteristic ideas. The judgment is taken out of the future, and carried back into the actual life of Christ. While H e lived on earth He was already endowed with all the prerogatives of the Son of God; and one chief purpose of His coming was to judge men, in virtue of that sovereign power which the Father had entrusted to His hands. Here, however, we are met with one of those apparent contradictions which form a constant difficulty in the interpretation of this Gospel. In certain passages Jesus seems expressly to renounce His right of judgment. " If any man hear My words, and believe not, I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world" (xii. 47). "Think not that I will accuse you to the Father" (v, 45). " God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved " (iii. 17). Beside such passages, and sometimes almost in the same breath, we have others of quite a contrary tenor. " The Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment to the Son" (v. 22). " He hath given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of man " (v. 27). " Ye judge after the flesh ; I judge no
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man. And yet if I judge, My judgment is true ; for I am not alone, but I and the Father that sent Me " (viii. 15, 16). " For judgment I am come into the world, that they which see not might see, and that they which see might be made blind " (ix. 3 9). " N ow is the judgment of this world : now shall the prince of this world be cast out" (xii. 31). These two classes of passages appear to be mutually contradictory, and yet they can not only be reconciled, but serve to elucidate each other. Christ does not pass formal judgment upon men ; it is enough that He has revealed Himself, and given them the opportunity of declaring their attitude towards Him. " This is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, but men loved the darkness rather than the light" (iii. 19). The judgment is on His part involuntary, for His whole desire is to draw men unto Him and save them. But none the less it is a real judgment. The fact of His appearance is the all-important issue which compels men to assert themselves in their true natures. It needs to be observed that this judgment is not, in the first instance, an ethical one. Rather it connects itself with John's semi-Gnostic distinction of two great classes in the human race,—those who are from above and those from below,—children of light and children of darkness. The work of Christ was to sift out, as by a magnet, the purer element in mankind from the lower and grosser. Already in the prologue this thought becomes prominent (i. 12, 13), and it constitutes one of the chief motives in the Gospel as a whole. The old conception of the final judgment
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is replaced by the different conception of a present and continual action of Christ. The light has come into the world, and makes itself felt in men with an attractive or a repellent power, according to the nature that is in them. Hitherto they had been mingled together in the confused mass of humanity, but Christ effects a separation, and gathers "His own" out of the unbelieving world. He is the Son of God, and as men choose for Him or against Him they are judged; they reveal themselves either as children of light or children of darkness.
While he thus transforms the primitive idea of judgment, making it present and inward instead of future and dramatic, John appears in certain places to approximate to the Synoptic view. " The hour cometh in which all that are in the graves shall hear His voice, and shall come forth ; they that have done good unto the resurrection of life, and they that have done evil unto the resurrection of condemnation " (v. 28, 29). " The word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day " (xii. 48). It is impossible to reconcile such utterances with the view of judgment which we must regard as the distinctive Johannine view. They only serve to remind us that John, with all his originality of thought, was still partly bound to the past. Along with his own conception he strove to make room for the belief that had impressed itself on the Church at large, of which he was a member. In this instance, as in many others that will fall to be considered, he found elements in the current theology which were not wholly tractable to his method of re-interpretation,
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and instead of discarding them he simply incorporated them as they were. Their presence must be acknowledged, but it need not confuse us in our estimate of his own characteristic thought
(3) We pass now to the positive Johannine conception of the saving work of Christ. The judgment, as Jesus Himself declares, is subordinate to the real task assigned to Him by the Father, of "saving the world" (xii. 47). It is here that the divergence of the Johannine from the Pauline type of doctrine appears at its widest. The work of salvation, as Paul conceived it, had little meaning apart from the fact of sin. It was the futile struggle with the law of sin in his members which had brought Paul to his faith in Christ, and his whole theology is an attempt to explain the deliverance assured to him by that faith. Christ was his Saviour, the Saviour of the world, because of the atoning death which had broken the power of sin. In this view of the Christian Gospel Paul is radically at one with the Synoptists. It is true that they offer a different account of the method of Christ's work, but they have no doubt regarding its purpose. The emphasis is always on the relation of Jesus to the sinner. He came to seek and save that which was lost. By the might of His divine personality he lifted men and women out of their evil lives, out of their despairing sense of moral impotence, and gave them the certainty of God's forgiveness. In the Fourth Gospel this side of Christ's activity almost disappears. The
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beautiful fragment of the woman taken in adultery (viii. i-n) is certainly interpolated from another source, and with this exception the Gospel affords no parallel to the Synoptic records of the intercourse of Jesus with publicans and sinners. It represents Him rather as keeping strictly aloof from the sinful world. The children of darkness instinctively avoid the light, and those only draw to Him who possess the inborn predisposition towards the things of God. "We know that God heareth not sinners" (ix. 31) expresses an axiom which the evangelist appears to accept as self-evident. The message of Jesus could only be to "His own," who were capable of knowing and believing Him ; and to the outside world of sin His attitude was one of judgment.
The saving work of Christ, according to the Johannine conception, does not consist in the deliverance from sin. Before inquiring, however, into the positive meaning ascribed to it, it is necessary to determine how the Gospel deals with the problem of sin, the problem which was cardinal to earlier Christian thought. It was impossible for John simply to pass it over. He wrote for a Church in which the influence of Pauline ideas was still powerful. He was recording the life of Jesus, and could not wholly dissociate it from a message of forgiveness and atonement. The fact of sin ceases to be the dominant fact in his theology, but here and there he recognises it and makes some partial attempt to connect it with his own doctrine of the work of Christ.
Little importance can be attached to a text
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which might appear at first sight to be decisive,— the saying of John the Baptist, " Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world" (i. 29). Here, it is fairly certain, we have nothing but a vague concession to the earlier doctrine. Against the single text in which Christ is regarded as the great sacrifice for sin, we have to set the whole Gospel, which not only leaves this idea to a side, but moves in a world of thought quite alien to it. This will become more evident when we consider the place assigned by John to the death of Christ. If the doctrine implied in the text were of vital significance to him, it would certainly reappear in some emphatic form when he comes to contemplate the death. In point of fact, it is only hinted at under a vague symbolic allusion. Several explanations are offered of the mystery of the Cross, but that which had been regarded hitherto as the one sufficing explanation falls practically out of sight.
A more important passage occurs in one of the great controversial chapters (viii. 34-36): " Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin. And the servant abideth not in the house for ever: but the Son abideth for ever. If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed." Here the evangelist repeats, in somewhat perfunctory fashion, a thought and image borrowed from Paul; but even while he does so he superimposes his own ideas on the Pauline groundwork. Sin is conceived not as a positive principle, but as a privation, a limitation. The sinner is in the position of a
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servant who does not have free access to the Father's house, but the Son admits him to His own privileges. The deliverance from sin consists, so to speak, in the opening of a door that has hitherto been closed. To the mind of John, therefore, sin in itself involves no moral culpability. It was only after the coming of Christ that men became themselves responsible for remaining in the outward darkness when the way of freedom was open to them. " If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin" (xv. 22). The Spirit will convict men of sin, " because they believe not on Me " (xvi. 9). Sin is in itself a mere privation, and only assumes the darker character when the freedom offered through Christ is refused. There can be no deliverance from sin, in the Pauline sense; for the real sin which merits condemnation is nothing else than disbelief in Christ.
The dialogue with Nicodemus in the third chapter brings us nearer than any other passage to the true Johannine doctrine of sin. The account there given of the New Birth might seem at first sight to imply the full Pauline conception of a breach with the old sinful life, made possible by faith in Christ. A Pauline influence is certainly traceable in the thought and even in the language of the chapter ; but it will become apparent, in the course of our inquiry, that the doctrine of the New Birth rests on presuppositions wholly different from those of Paul. The birth does not consist in a renewal of the moral nature, but in a transition from the natural state of being to a higher state.
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Man by nature is shut out from the true life, is incapable of the higher knowledge and activity. Like the dwellers in Plato's cave (and the analogy, in view of John's relation to Greek thought, is more than accidental), he remains in a world of illusion until he is set free and " born from above " into the true world of light. Moral ideas do not, at least primarily, have any part in the conception. Doubtless it is implied that in the illumination of the new life a region of higher moral activities is opened up to the believer, but this is not the immediate import of the doctrine. The birth is a deliverance from sin, only in so far as sin is regarded as an exclusion, a darkness in which man by nature finds himself. So in the great verse that crowns the discourse, " God so loved the world," etc., the idea is not that of a redemption from sin, but that of a passing from the state of privation to fulness of life.
Thus the doctrine of sin, in the sense that it meets us elsewhere in the New Testament, is almost wholly absent from the Fourth Gospel. As a central doctrine of primitive Christianity it cannot be entirely set aside, and once or twice is recognised by a passing allusion. But the conception of sin which enters into the essential structure of John's theology has little in common with the earlier
conception. The "sin" from which Christ has offered us deliverance is the natural incapacity of man to possess himself of the higher life. He is separated from God, not by a principle of moral evil which has won mastery over him, but by the
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inherent constitution of his being, as a creature of this world, " born of flesh."
We are now in a position to understand the meaning which John attaches to the saving work of Christ. He takes his departure not from the fact of sin, but from the essential difference assumed to subsist between the lower and the higher nature. Man as an earthly being has no part in the life of God. The life he possesses is more truly " death" (v. 24), subject as it is to decay and limitation, and immersed in a world of unreality. The purpose of Christ's coming was " to give power to as many as received Him to become the sons of God" (i. 12). He came out Himself from the higher world, and was one in nature with His Father, and through Him the life was imparted to men. They were enabled to escape from the world of darkness, and to enter into true communion with God. In later chapters we shall inquire more fully into this conception of Christ as the Life-giver, which, according to John's own statement, forms the central motive of his Gospel (xx. 31). We shall see that the various elements of his thought, on its ethical and religious as well as on its philosophical side, are gathered together in this conception, and must be explained in their relation to it. For the present it will be enough to bear in mind the fact that the Jesus of the Fourth Gospel is above all the Life-giver. His saving work has reference not to man's sinful-ness, but to man's inferior nature, which longs to participate in the true and eternal life.
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We have thus considered the three main aspects under which John regards the work of Christ. As Son of God He was the Revealer, the Judge of mankind, the Life-giver. It will be observed that all this time the whole emphasis is laid on the appearance of Christ in the flesh. Already in the years of His earthly ministry He had put forth His entire activity and could say before the close : " I have finished the work which Thou gavest Me to do." The question now arises, "What is the significance attributed by John to the death of Christ ? " The event is recorded in detail, as by the other evangelists, and allusion is made to it constantly in terms the most impressive. To John, as to Paul, although for different reasons, the Cross had evidently an all-important place in the Saviour's work.
It is necessary at the outset to take account of one remarkable fact in his narrative of the fact itself. As is well known, he ante-dates the Crucifixion by a day. The Supper, as he describes it, took place on the I3th Nisan, instead of on the 14th, as in the Synoptics, while the death is assigned to the day following. In the Fourth Gospel, where outward facts are all invested with a symbolical value, this deviation from the unanimous testimony of tradition cannot be regarded as accidental. The evangelist was possibly influenced by a desire to dissociate the Christian sacrament from the Jewish Feast of the Passover. He guards himself doubly against this identification by ante-dating the last Supper, and by representing
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it as the prototype of the Agape rather than of the Eucharist. Thus the great Christian ordinance is left entirely free of Passover associations. Its institution is not ascribed to one particular occasion, but is connected broadly with the whole activity and teaching of Jesus (vi. 32ff.). In view of the Jewish polemic which pervades the Gospel, this explanation of the change of date appears more probable than that which would refer it to the so-called Paschal controversy. There is no evidence that this later controversy regarding the true date of Easter had begun to agitate the Church so early as the beginning of the second century; and in any case the view maintained by John is quite apart from the real point in dispute.
The sacramental interest, however, though it may well have weighed with the evangelist, was a side-issue. To him, as to us, the important fact must have been that the date of the Crucifixion itself was altered. It was made to coincide with the killing of the Paschal lamb, and so to fulfil the prophecy and realise the symbolism of the ancient ordinance. "Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us" (i Cor. v. 7). In this indirect way, therefore, John sets himself in line with the Pauline view of the death of Christ, suggesting it, as it were, in the background, as the complement and the presupposition of his own doctrine. The thought of Jesus as the Lamb of God, of His death as the great Atonement, had rooted itself in Christian faith, and demanded some place in the new presentation. But John is conscious that it does
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not harmonise with his conception as a whole, and satisfies himself with this vague indication of it by means of symbolism. The Pauline doctrine, indeed, is bound up with ideas that belong to a different world of thought from that in which the Gospel moves. The Jewish law, which to Paul, even while he broke with it, remained holy and dominated his entire theology, was to John a dead letter. The problem of sin, which was central in the mind of Paul, to John appeared something secondary. In the true Johannine doctrine there is no logical place for the view of the death of Christ as an Atonement. So far as that view seems to be accepted, we have to do, not with John's characteristic teaching, but with the orthodox faith of the Church, which he strove to incorporate with his own at the cost of an inner contradiction.
Another aspect of the death of Christ which is touched on without further elaboration is that indicated in the difficult verse of the intercessory prayer (xvii. 19). " For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified through the truth." We seem here to have an approximation to the type of doctrine which is elaborated in the Epistle to the Hebrews. Christ is the " truth," the reality, of the old symbolical sacrifices, and His death ensures a true consecration. He "sanctifies Himself," assumes the double part of a victim and a high priest. It is evident that the word ayid&iv, as applied first to Christ and then to His followers, is used in two different senses, 15
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answering to the twofold use of our word " consecrate." The Saviour on His part devotes Himself to death, in order that the disciples may be rendered holy, set apart for the service of God. His death is thus regarded under the figure of a sacrifice, and as such a real efficacy is ascribed to it. But there is nothing in the verse that implies the idea of an atoning death, as that was understood by Paul. The emphasis is laid on the " consecration," the separateness from the world, which was the mark of Christ's disciples. They, like their Master, have part in the higher life, and are not of the world, as He is not of the world. In this verse alone the consecration is directly related to the death of Christ, probably through the influence of a doctrine akin to that of Hebrews, which cannot be fully reconciled to the Johannine doctrine proper. At the same time, it is capable of a certain adjustment to the view represented by the Gospel. The death of Christ is the crowning act by which His work is perfected and becomes operative on those who believe in Him. It may be regarded, in this sense, as the efficient cause of their sanctification.
We have little difficulty in separating the evangelist's own interpretation of the death of Christ from those others, more or less extraneous, with which he seeks to combine it. He regards the true work of Christ as consisting in his life as a whole; and the death, from this point of view, is only an episode in the life. It crowns
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the revelation, and brings out certain aspects of it more clearly and definitely, but does not add any new element to the completed work. Nevertheless it has a place of central significance, as connecting the earthly life of Jesus with His larger life in the unseen world. The Word had become flesh, for only thus could the divine nature communicate itself to men, but the mani-iestation under forms of space and time had involved restriction. The Son of God could not exercise His complete activity; He could make His appeal only to those who were actually near Him; His intercourse even with them was external and interrupted. It was necessary that the visible life on earth should broaden out into a larger life, free from the limitations which had hitherto been imposed upon it; and this, according to the Fourth Gospel, was the purpose of the death. In itself it was a seeming derogation from the majesty of Christ, but He embraced it of His own will and associated it with the fact of His " glory." It loses its character as a suffering and humiliation, and becomes the act of transition from the earthly, restricted life to the exalted life.
In the first place, it marks the return of Jesus to the Father, His reinvestment with the glory which He had in the beginning. This return is conceived as something more than a simple reversion to His pre-existent Logos nature. He takes back with Him into His state of glory the human personality which He has borne on earth. He retains His
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sympathy with His people, and continues His saving work, unimpeded henceforth by earthly restraints. In the second place, the death prepares the way for a return of Jesus to His disciples. While He enters into His heavenly glory He is still regarded as dwelling in our world, revealing Himself to His Church in all times and places as He had once been revealed to His immediate followers. The earthly life as John describes it was the prefigurement and microcosm oi this wider life. Its various incidents have all an abiding significance, as typifying what Christ is still doing, now that He has become a universal presence instead of a visible person, hedged about with human conditions. His death was like the gateway through which He passed into this larger life. " I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me" (xii. 32). " Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone ; but if it die it bringeth forth much fruit" (xii. 24). The death of Christ was therefore the necessary prelude to the rise and extension of the Christian Church. Already in the Lord's lifetime the Church existed potentially in the little company of the disciples, but it could not develop itself in its true character, of a world-wide community bound together in fellowship with Christ, until He was glorified. Only then could He be present with His people everywhere, and make them partakers in the
He was set free by His death, not only for a wider but for a more intimate and deep-reaching
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activity. The bodily presence which seemed to bring Him so near to the original disciples, was in reality a barrier to the truer knowledge. Those who were associated with Him in His earthly life could only know Him outwardly. The veil of flesh under which they beheld Him served to conceal from them His real nature. Their fellowship with Him was partial, restricted, liable to interruption by every passing accident When through death He passed into the unseen world, He could dwell with the believer as spirit with spirit. He could enter into the very heart and reveal Himself as an inward presence, and speak His message in a new and more personal language to everyone that loved Him. A special turn is given to this thought by the doctrine of the Holy Spirit, which holds a conspicuous place in the Supper discourses. Without entering at present into the full bearings of this doctrine, we require to note its close dependence on the Johannine view of the death of Christ " The Spirit was not yet given, because that Jesus was not yet glorified (vii. 39). " It is expedient for you that I go away : for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you ; but if I depart, I will send Him unto you " (xvi. 7). The same thought is prominent in all the passages in which the doctrine of the Spirit is set forth. Jesus makes it clear that His dying is the one condition on which His supreme gift can be bestowed. He speaks, indeed, as if the bestowal of this gift, through which alone the closer and deeper knowledge of Him would become possible, were the chief purpose of His death.
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This, then, is the characteristic Johannine idea of the Cross,—that Jesus by His death escaped from the restrictions in which the assumption of a visible earthly life had involved Him. He was enabled to pursue His work with a larger power on an infinitely wider scale. One application of the idea demands a further emphasis, for the evangelist comes back to it repeatedly. The death of Christ prepared the way for a world-wide extension of the Church; and not only so, but it ensured the unity of this great body of believers, in spite of outward differences and separations. This thought is stated most explicitly in connection with the speech of Caiaphas. The high priest, moved unconsciously by a divine inspiration, declares that one man must die for the people; "and not for that nation only," adds the evangelist, "but that also he should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad' (xi. 52). It is noticeable in this passage that John expressly departs from the idea of vicarious sacrifice which might seem to be conveyed in the significant words of Caiaphas. He substitutes for it the other idea, that the Cross would be the loadstar of " all the children of God," — would attract into one community all who were destined, by an inward predisposition, to share in the divine life. The same thought is clearly indicated in the parable of the Good Shepherd. " I lay down my life for the sheep. And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear My voice, and there shall be one fold, one Shepherd" (x. 15, 16). Here also the death of
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Jesus is regarded as the grand condition of the Church's unity. The "one fold" gathered out of all the nations cannot come into existence until the Shepherd has laid down His life. Once again, it is this thought of the uniting power of the Saviour's death which underlies the intercessory prayer and constitutes its chief meaning. The oneness of His future Church for which Jesus prays the Father is not, indeed, related in so many words to the fact of the Cross; but we have to consider the whole prayer as a solemn introduction to the narrative that immediately follows. Jesus on the threshold of His death thinks of the results that will flow from it,—the widening out of His Church, the fuller consecration, the more perfect unity. " That they all may be one, as thou, Father, art in Me and I in Thee, that they also may be one in us" (xvii. zi\ John nowhere attempts to reason out this conception of the Cross of Christ as the bond of unity in the Christian Church. It is connected, no doubt, with the larger doctrine that Christ by His death had become an all-pervading presence, with whom the disciples, scattered as they were through many different lands, might hold a common fellowship. But an efficacy is also ascribed to the fact of the death itself. John recognises, like the writer to the Ephesians, that " those who aforetime were far off have been made nigh by the blood of Christ; for He is our peace, who hath made both one, and broken down the middle wall of partition" (Eph. ii. 13, 14). This idea is not established, as in the Epistle, on the ground of Pauline doctrine. It seems rather to be
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accepted as a simple fact which had demonstrated itself practically in the history of the Christian Church. The Cross of Christ had touched the common heart of humanity. It had wakened a new sense of brotherhood in men of all classes and nationalities, so that henceforth in their deepest interests they were one.
The death of Christ, so far as it has a separate value, is thus regarded as the condition of the Lord's glory, and of the expansion and unity of His Church. Otherwise it stands in close relation with the whole life, of which it was the crowning episode. In the parable of the Good Shepherd, Jesus makes allusion to His death as the supreme evidence of his faithfulness in His vocation. A true shepherd, unlike a hireling, gives his life for the sheep; so Jesus proves Himself worthy of His trust by remaining till death at the post of duty. Elsewhere, and especially in the Supper discourses, the Cross is the sovereign manifestation of Christ's love to His disciples. " Having loved His own, He loved them to the end" (xiii. i). "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends" (xv. 13). Here, it will be observed, John dissociates himself, in a manner that can hardly be unintentional, from the Pauline conception of a death that atoned for sinners. Christ died for His friends,—to confirm them in the knowledge of His love and draw them yet closer to Him. Finally, as the death conditions the entrance of Jesus into His state of glory, so it is itself the
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highest revelation of that glory which belonged to Him even on earth. Reference has been made already to the remarkable series of passages in which the true greatness of Jesus is set against the background of His seeming humiliation. His Cross was His " lifting up." In the hour of the scourging and mockery He came forth as the crowned King. The whole narrative of the Passion throbs with the conviction that His humbling Himself to the death of the Cross was also the Lord's exaltation. Such a conviction is altogether alien to strict Logos theory. Previous thinkers, working on the presuppositions of John's own theology, had been obliged to resolve the death of Christ into mere form and illusion. John himself is aware of the difficulty involved in it, and lays the chief stress on the " glory " to which the death was only a transition. None the less his religious instinct overmasters his theological consistency. The Lord who has compelled his reverence and brought God near to him is not the incarnate Logos, but Jesus Christ lifted up on His Cross.
I ^HE Fourth Gospel opens with the great thesis, JL "In Him was life." It closes with the emphatic statement of its main purpose, " that believing, ye may have life through His name." These two verses may be regarded as the poles between which the whole thought of the Gospel revolves. Jesus as the Son of God possessed in Himself a divine life ; this life is communicated to those who believe on Him. The problem of Christianity, as it presents itself to the evangelist, is to account for the reappearance in the believer of the life that was manifested in Christ. But before discussing the solution we require to arrive at a fuller understanding of the problem. What is the nature of that life which was inherent in Christ, and is imparted by Him to His people?
In his doctrine of life, as in his theology generally, John stands at the confluence of two great streams of thought. Already in the Alexandrian philosophy an attempt had been made to reconcile the Hebrew and the Hellenic ideas of the supreme good. In Paulinism both ideas contribute, although in unequal measure, towards the formation
of a new and richer conception. John represents the stage of thought at which Greek and Jewish beliefs had finally run together. It only remained to combine the resultant doctrine with the historical data of Christianity and with the facts of religious experience.
Life in the Old Testament is primarily the physical, earthly life, the sum of energies which make up man's actual existence. The soul separated from the body does not cease to be, but it forfeits its portion in the true life. It either departs to the shadowy world of Shedl, or, according to the more philosophical view of Ecclesiastes, is reabsorbed into the divine Being, " returns to God, who gave it." Thus the highest good is simply " length of days," the continuance of the bodily existence right on to its natural term. Two factors, however, were latent in the Old Testament conception from the beginning, and became more and more prominent in the course of the later development. In the first place, the radical element in life is activity. Mere physical existence is distinguished from that essential life which consists in the unrestricted play of all the energies, especially of the higher and more characteristic. In the loftier passages of the Psalms, more particularly, the idea of "life" has nearly always a pregnant sense. It is associated with joy, prosperity, peace, wisdom, righteousness ; man "lives" according as he has free scope For the activities which are most distinctive of His spiritual nature. God Himself is emphatically the "living He is the creative, ever-active God, —
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sufficient to Himself, the source of all reality and power. Life is His supreme attribute, distinguishing Him from men with their thousand weaknesses and limitations. The other factor in the Old Testament conception is even more important in its bearing on later thought Since God alone possesses life in the highest sense, fellowship with Him is the one condition on which men can obtain it. " By every word of God doth man live" (Deut. viii. 3). " With Thee is the fountain of life " (Ps. xxxvi. 9). In the higher regions of Old Testament thought, life and communion with God are interchangeable ideas. The belief in immortality is never expressly stated, but, as Jesus Himself indicates, it was implicit in this knowledge of a God "who was not the God of the dead, but of
So life in the Old Testament passes from a physical into a religious conception. It becomes equivalent to fellowship with God, through obedience to His will and possession of His Spirit. Life as thus conceived is indeed restricted to the brief space of earthly existence. " Death cannot celebrate thee: they that go down to the grave cannot hope for Thy truth. The living, the living, he shall praise Thee, as I do this day" (Isa. xxxviii. 18, 19). But this very restriction secured fulness and intensity to the essential idea of life. Future existence, when it came later within the purview of Jewish thought, was not emptied of all content in the interest of a one-sided idealism. It was life in as real and complete a sense as the present earthly life. All
the energies of man's being would find room in it, and would only be purified and heightened through a closer fellowship with God.
In the Synoptic teaching of Jesus the idea of life is substantially that of the Old Testament, unfolded in all its potential wealth of meaning. To Him also life is first of all the physical existence, and He advances on this conception along ethical and religious lines in the same manner as the psalmists and prophets. (i) He distinguishes between the essential " life " and the outward, subsidiary things with which it is so easily confused. "The life is more than meat" (Matt. vi. 25). "A man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth" (Luke xii. 15). (2) Thus He arrives at the idea of something central and inalienable which constitutes the reality of life ; and this He discovers in the moral activity. The body with its manifold faculties is only the organ by which man accomplishes his true task of obedience to God. Meat, raiment, and all the rest are necessary, but " seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness." (3) In this manner He is led to the conception of a higher, spiritual life, gained through the sacrifice of the lower. " If a man hate not his own life, he cannot be My disciple" (Luke xiv. 26). "He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for My sake shall find it" (Matt. x. 39).
Here, however, we become aware of the difficulty which meets us under different forms throughout our Lord's teaching. In His account of the supreme
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blessing for which lower things must be sacrificed, He seems to pass abruptly from ethical to eschato-logical ideas. "Life" is a reward laid up for the righteous in the world to come. It is regarded sometimes as a new state of being (Matt. xxv. 46), sometimes as a sort of prize that can be bestowed in the same manner as houses and goods and lands (Mk. x. 30). The precise meaning to be attached to the "world to come" in which this "life" will be imparted, depends on our interpretation of the general conception of the kingdom of God. Our Lord would seem to waver between the idea of a world beyond death and that of a Messianic age apocalyptically revealed on earth. In either case, however, He thinks of life as of something still in the future, the peculiar blessing of the realised
kingdom of God.
This future possession is defined more particularly in several passages as " eternal life," and the epithet might appear at first sight to imply a distinction. We find, however, on closer examination, that the term "life" itself usually involves the emphatic meaning. " This do and thou shalt live" is our Lord's reply to the inquiry concerning " eternal life." So when He says, " It is better to enter into life halt or maimed" (Matt, xviii. 8 ; Mk. ix. 43), or, " Narrow is the way that leadeth unto life (Matt, vii. 14), it is evidently the future blessing that is in His mind. Indeed, there is good ground for the conjecture that Jesus Himself never used the expression
" eternal life."
Since the ethical and eschatological ideas are
denoted by the same word, we are justified in assuming that in the mind of Jesus they were bound up with each other. The " life " which is projected into the future, and described figuratively as a gift bestowed from without, is in the last resort the life of moral activity. This becomes apparent when we take account of certain further elements in our Lord's teaching.
(1) The condition on which the future reward is given, is faithful performance of the moral task in the present. Those shall "live" that keep the commandments. The narrow way that leads to life is the way of obedience and sacrifice. By voluntary loss of earthly things in the cause of Christ the disciples will gain " life." The Apocalyptic imagery does not conceal from us the essential thought of Jesus, that the promised "life" is nothing but the outcome and fulfilment of a moral obedience begun on earth.
(2) Life is not only a future fulfilment, but has a real beginning in the present. Thus in the saying "Follow Me; and let the dead bury their dead" (Matt. viii. 22) Jesus implies that the disciples even now enter into possession of a new and higher life. They are the "living" as opposed to the children of this world, who are spiritually dead. The same thought appears in the parable of the Prodigal Son; "he was dead, and is alive again." Life in its full reality is the blessing of the world to come, but it will be different in degree, not in kind, from the present life of true discipleship.
(3) One element is common to the two types
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of "life," and marks their ultimate identity. The future consummation, described by Jesus in vivid pictorial language, is in its substance a closer fellowship with God. In the kingdom which He anticipated, the pure in heart were to see God,— those who hungered and thirsted after righteousness were to be satisfied with God's presence. This perfect communion with God is the supreme reward laid up for the believer. It constitutes the inner meaning and content of the future life. In like manner the present life of moral obedience is in its essence a fellowship with God. The aim of Jesus is to bring His disciples even now into such a harmony with the divine will that they may be children of their Father who is in heaven, resembling Him and holding communion with Him. The eschatological idea of life thus resolves itself at its centre into the purely ethical and religious. The kingdom is already come when God's will is done on earth as it is done in heaven.
The transition from the teaching of Jesus to the Fourth Gospel is mediated by Paul. In the Pauline presentation, as in the Synoptic, "life" appears in the first instance as something that belongs to the future. The earthly existence, with its labour and struggle, is a condition of waiting, in the expectation of a life into which we shall hereafter enter. "Your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life shall appear, then shall ye also appear with Him in glory" (Col. iii. 3, 4). Two influences, however, have com-
bined to modify the eschatological idea of Jesus before it meets us again in Paul.
(1) In the first place, the projection of life into the future is determined by a way of thinking which must, partly at least, be described as Hellenic. The fleshly nature is to Paul the stronghold of sin, the barrier between man's spirit and its higher destiny. Life cannot in any true sense begin until there is a deliverance from "this body of death." Paul is still, indeed, so deeply penetrated with Hebrew sentiment that he cannot conceive of a future life apart from a body, a "spiritual body," which will serve as its basis and organ. He is utterly removed from the Greek metaphysical doctrine which identifies life with the bare activity of the higher reason. None the less he has accepted, in its broad principle, the Greek opposition between the material and the spiritual. He regards the physical nature as actively hostile to the true life, which can only be realised in a world to come when the bondage of sense is finally broken.
(2) The belief in the Resurrection of Jesus has exercised a profound influence on Paul's whole thinking on the subject of life. What was formerly a vague idea, capable only of figurative expression, has now assumed a definite meaning. Life is that higher state of existence into which Jesus has actually entered. In the knowledge of the risen Saviour we have not only the assurance of the promised life, but a revelation of its nature. By thus connecting his thought of life with the fact of the Resurrection, Paul is enabled, on the one hand,
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to keep clear of mere fruitless speculation. He does not start from abstract principles, but from the knowledge of a living Person, and answers the question, " What is life ?" by simply pointing us to the risen Christ. And, on the other hand, he brings his conception into vital harmony with the Christian message. Even while he is influenced, more or less unconsciously, by the current philosophy, his interest is purely religious. Life has no meaning to him apart from the distinctive work of Christ. Paul accepts, then, in its full extent, the view which regards life as a future possession; but he maintains at the same time that it can be in a manner anticipated. Christ has risen, and entered already on the fulness of the new life, and we can have fellowship with Him by faith. Through that fellowship we participate in life,—reaching forward to it through the hindrances of the flesh, though it cannot yet be fulfilled in us. "I live ; yet not I, but Christ Hveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God " (Gal. ii. 20). The believer cannot yet say " I live," but he is conscious of an inward communion with the living Saviour, which is the earnest and security of his own life hereafter. In that sense life may be spoken of as an actual and present possession. Paul's thought of life is thus connected very closely with his doctrine of the Spirit, so much so that Spirit and Life are used almost as interchangeable terms. The Spirit is the divine power which became operative in the world through Christ, and which represents Him between His departure
and His coming in glory. The true life is still future, but even now the believer may " live in the Spirit." He is endued already with a potential life, which will have its realisation in the world to come. It is here that we discern the essential identity of Paul's doctrine with that presented to us in the Synoptic teaching of Jesus. The work of the Spirit, according to Paul, is chiefly a work of moral regeneration. Life in the Spirit is the life of meekness, temperance, holiness, love, faith. These things, in other words, constitute the substance of that higher life, which here asserts itself fitfully, under the manifold restraints and weaknesses of the flesh, and will hereafter be perfected.
It is now necessary to take some account of that other influence which is already discernible in Paul, and which becomes all-important in the subsequent development of his thought by the Fourth Evangelist. We have seen that the Hebrew mind, averse to metaphysical speculation, accepted the idea of life as ultimate. The complex of energies —physical, rational, moral—which constitutes man's life must be taken together, and did not admit of any further analysis. God in like manner was the living God. All His attributes working in harmony made up the life through which He revealed Himself in the creation and government of the world. The Old Testament knows nothing of abstruse questions regarding the nature of God. It assumes from the beginning that He is a living Person, possessed in an infinitely higher degree of
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all the manifold powers that cooperate in the life of man. Greek thought, on the other hand, was unable to find rest in a composite idea like that of life. It distinguished in man between the lower material nature and the higher activity of reason. It separated the reason which is concerned with sensible, phenomenal things from that which takes cognisance of ideal truth. These several activities in man's being were not only distinct, but at warfare with each other. The higher reason in which the Self consisted was something apart from the life as a whole, and its supreme task was to escape into freedom. " If pure intelligence, as compared with human nature, is divine, so too will the life in accordance with it be divine compared with man's ordinary life. Wherefore, so far as we can we must live the immortal life, looking to the highest principle in us " (Arist. Nic. Eth. x. 6). The Hebrew conception of the living God is likewise alien to Greek philosophical thought. The whole activity by which God appears to manifest Himself, is subjected to a sharp analysis with a view to determining His essential nature. He must be self-caused, self-sufficient He cannot participate in change or movement or outward form. Nothing that belongs to human passion can be attributed to him. He is wholly and eternally what man is in part, a pure intelligence, having Himself as the sole object of His thought, since He alone is ideally true and perfect. To quote Aristotle again : " Life resides in God, for the energy of thought is life; and this energy as it exists absolutely in God is the best and
eternal life. We assert, then, that God is living, eternal, best, so that life and continuous eternal existence must be ascribed to Him " (Metaph. xi. 6).
It is apparent, therefore, that the idea of life, so far as it has a place at all in Greek philosophy, has little in common with the corresponding idea in the Old Testament. As a matter of fact, we meet with it very rarely, even in the highly abstract sense which it bears in the passage just quoted. The fundamental category with the Greek thinkers is that of being. God Himself is simply the absolute, self - existent Being over against the unreal phenomenal world. As such He is identified with the pure activity of thought, since thought is the ultimate reality. Life, as Aristotle says, can be ascribed to Him, but only when life has been depleted of everything that gave it meaning to the prophets and psalmists. "God is living, inasmuch as the energy of thought is life." He is pure Intelligence, abstracted from every form of real activity and sensible manifestation, and communing for ever with itself.
In the system of Philo, the Hebrew and Greek conceptions are in some measure drawn together. On the one hand, Philo even goes beyond his master Plato in emphasising the opposition of material and spiritual. The body, he is never tired of insisting, is a prison-house in which the soul is beset with a thousand hindrances and confusions. In proportion as a man rises above this bondage of sense and identifies himself with the principle of thought within him, does he attain to the true life.
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To Philo, as to the Greek thinkers, God is the eternal Reason, and in the exercise of the higher reasoning activity we enter into communion with Him. On the other hand, Philo is powerfully influenced, and that in two directions, by the Old Testament teaching. He realises, first, that life involves an ethical as well as an intellectual element. The release from the bodily affections is desirable not only because they cloud the higher intelligence, but because they interfere with the right practice of virtue, which is regarded as an end in itself. By his recognition of this ethical moment in the conception of life Philo breaks away, more or less consciously, from the one-sided intellectualism oi his Greek masters. He falls back on the Old Testament idea, that life is the whole energy of the personal being, and is not coincident with any one of the activities in which it manifests itself. Again, to Philo, with his Jewish instincts and education, God was something more than the absolute Being of the Greek philosophy. It is evident that, while he uses the Platonic language, and sedulously explains away the anthropomorphism of the Old Testament, he is still mastered by the belief in a living and personal God. The contemplation of God, in which life attains to its fulfilment, involves a real fellowship as of one person with another. There could be no question with Philo of a mere reabsorption of the finite reason into the infinite, for the persistence of the individual being is assumed as the necessary condition of communion with God. Thus in the Alexandrian system we have an irrup-
tion of Hebrew ideas into a conception of life which in its main character is borrowed from Greek philosophy. It is maintained, in genuine Platonic fashion, that the true life is inherent in the reasoning soul, and is repressed and hampered by union with the material body. At the same time, the results to which Hebrew thought attained along the lines of a physical conception are tacitly assumed. Life does not consist in thought only, but in the whole energy of man's nature. It finds its highest realisation in communion with God, who is regarded ethically and personally.
Turning now to the Fourth Gospel, we may best take our departure from the point in which the Johannine doctrine differs most obviously from the Synoptic and Pauline. Paul, in accordance with the primitive Christian view, thought of life as the supreme blessing of the future. We have the sure promise of it, and can in some measure anticipate it by living even now " in the Spirit; " but the actual possession is laid up for us in the world to come. John maintains that life in its full reality is communicated here and now. He speaks in several instances of " eternal life," but the epithet does not suggest that the life is still future. It only denotes the quality of the new life as having its origin in the higher, eternal world. Indeed, the primary aim of the evangelist is to affirm the claim of the believer in Christ to an actual and present possession of that life which had hitherto been associated with another state of existence. Christ had made Himself flesh
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in order that in this world of time, amidst the limitations of the earthly conditions, we might become partakers of the eternal life.
It follows that death, in the Fourth Gospel, no longer possesses the significance which was ascribed to it by Paul. The Old Testament idea of death as the chief evil, imposed on man as a penalty for sin, reappears in the Pauline theology, and determines in some important respects its whole character. To John, death is nothing but the natural close of the bodily existence. It marks the moment when the true life is finally set free, but does not alter in any way the essential nature of that life. The real change takes place in the act of the new birth, when the transition is effected, under the agency of the Spirit, from the lower to the higher world. From that time onward, through all the accidents of time, including death itself, the believer is in possession of eternal life. It is true that the antithesis of "life" and "death" is continually present in the Gospel, as it is in Paul, but it needs to be taken in a special, theological sense. As " life" is something different from the physical life, so death has nothing to do with the mere dissolution of the body. It denotes not so much a single event as the whole condition of exclusion from the higher life. The natural man, who has not participated in the change effected by the new birth, is in a state of " death." "He that believeth on Me is passed " (already in that very act) "from death unto life " (v. 24).
At this point, however, we are met by one of
those apparent contradictions which from time to time obscure the characteristic teaching of the Gospel. There are passages in which John might appear to depart deliberately from his view of life as present, and to fall back on a primitive eschato-logical view. " The hour is coming, when all that are in the graves shall hear His voice, and shall come forth,; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of condemnation" (v. 28). " This is the will of Him that sent Me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on Him, may have everlasting life : and I will raise him up at the last day " (vi. 40 ; cf. 39, 44, 54). These passages are doubtless to be explained, like others that have already been noted, as reflecting a popular Christian dogma which was not wholly consonant with the writer's own thought, although he desired to allow due place to it It has to be remarked that in all the passages the allusion to futurity is conjoined with emphatic reference to the present communication of the life. " The hour is coming, and now is." " That every one who believeth may [at this moment] have everlasting life." "Whoso eateth My flesh and drinketh My blood hath eternal life: and I will raise him up at the last day." The future resurrection is admitted ; John is at one with popular Christianity in anticipating some fuller realisation of life in the world to come. But he regards the " rising at the last day " as only the fulfilment and confirmation of something already effected, not as the real beginning of a new state of being.
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This line of thought is developed most fully in the story of the raising of Lazarus, the culminating instance of Christ's work as Life-giver. The underlying idea of the whole narrative is contained in the great saying of Jesus, " I am the Resurrection, and the Life : he that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth in Me shall never die" (xi. 25, 26). Martha has declared her faith — the traditional faith of the Church—that her brother " will rise in the resurrection at the last day." Jesus answers that the life imparted by Him is independent of physical life and death. Those who believe in Him have risen already ; their death is only in seeming, and they carry with them, into the world beyond, the same life on which they entered here. Lazarus therefore had never died. Through faith in Christ he had possessed himself of the true life, and still continued in it, in spite of his apparent death. But this fact of his continuance in life is made manifest by his return at the call of Jesus to a bodily existence. The real miracle had been effected in him during his lifetime, in the act of his believing in Jesus; but his resurrection in the flesh gives a visible evidence and confirmation to the miracle.
Thus the effort of John, everywhere in the Gospel, is to apprehend the eternal life as something actual and present. He accepts the popular belief in a resurrection at the last day, but he empties it of the significance which had attached to it in earlier Christian thought. It is not the commencement, but simply the manifestation, of the new life. The
true resurrection takes place in this present world, when a man believes in Christ and makes the great transition " from death unto life." The change is an inward, invisible one, but is none the less real and vital. All men could discern the wonder of Lazarus rising in his grave-clothes, and leaving the tomb where he had lain four days. But this was only the reflection in forms of sense of the real miracle which had come to pass in Lazarus, and which is ever repeated in Christian "experience. " He that liveth and believeth in Me shall never die."
We have now to consider the nature of this eternal life, which is no mere future possession, but is communicated here in the present to those who believe in Christ. It is evident to every reader of the Gospel that John has a conception of life widely different from that of Jesus in His Synoptic teaching, and even from that of Paul. Those earlier conceptions have indeed left their impression more deeply than at first sight appears, but there are elements in the Johannine doctrine which profoundly modify its character. In order to explain them we have to take account of the Greek philosophical as well as of the Jewish and Christian influences.
The evangelist nowhere attempts to define in so many words what he means by "life." It might indeed appear as if such a definition were offered in the great saying (xvii. 3), " This is life eternal, that they might know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent." This verse,
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however, important as it is for the understanding of John's doctrine, cannot be construed as a definition. It only declares that the knowledge of God through Christ carries with it the assurance of life. The attainment of this knowledge is the chief end of all Christian activity, for those who know God inherit the life that proceeds from Him. The life, nevertheless, is more than the knowledge by which it is conditioned and mediated. But while little is said by way of express definition, the general import of the Johannine conception is sufficiently clear. The life which Christ communicates is the absolute, divine life. It is assumed that in God, and in the Logos who is one with Him, a life resides which is different in kind from that of men, and is the real, the " eternal" life (v. 26 ; cf. i. 4).
We have seen that in the Old Testament teaching, life is identified in the last resort with the life of God. He, as the ever-working and altogether just and holy One, is the living God, and men are possessed of life according as they hold fellowship with Him. But the difference between the human and the divine life is conceived under moral categories. God is other than man, inasmuch as all the human attributes are infinitely heightened in Him, and cooperate in the service of an absolutely holy will. He is higher than men, "as the heaven is high above the earth," but there is no suggestion of a radical difference in nature between His life and ours. On the contrary, the fellowship into which He calls His people presupposes a likeness—an ultimate identity. The Johannine conception of
life as the life of God has nothing in common with this Old Testament doctrine. It rests on the assumption of Greek philosophy, that the world of true being is wholly disparate from the lower phenomenal world. " God is Spirit," and the life which resides in Him must be different in kind from that which manifests itself in man's fleshly nature. It cannot be imparted by any ethical process of obedience and fellowship, for it implies another sort of being in which man, by the conditions of his nature, does not participate.
The idea of life is closely related by our evangelist to the ideas of Truth and Light, and in this connection we can most clearly discern its affinities with Greek speculation. " Truth " is one of the characteristic words of the Fourth Gospel, and is used invariably in a well-defined and peculiar meaning. The " truth" of anything is the spiritual reality of which it is the symbol (cf. the " true vine," " true bread," " true light," etc.). It is assumed that over against the world of visible things there is a world of supersensible realities, which has now for the first time been revealed through Christ. The conception obviously runs back to the Platonic doctrine of the " ideas,"—the fixed everlasting forms, which are perceived by the pure intelligence as they impress themselves on material things. In Alexandrian philosophy the Platonic theory was brought into relation with Jewish thought, and from Philo it is taken over, in a modified sense, by the Fourth Evangelist. He interprets theologically the idea which had arisen, in the first instance, out of a
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philosophical necessity. " Truth " becomes another name for the divine nature, which alone has ultimate reality. God is "the only true" (xvii. 3), and all other things have " truth" in them according as they reflect His thought and purpose. The mission of Christ who has come forth from God is to declare "the truth," and as one with God He is Himself " the Truth " in His own Person. Through Him it becomes possible for men, in the midst of earthly change and illusion, to lay hold on the eternal
The other term " Light," which is constantly recurring in the Gospel, may be taken as, broadly speaking, identical with "truth." It is, indeed, impossible to sum up the whole content of the Johannine idea of light in one exact definition. The term is chosen because of its very largeness and vagueness. Light is the immemorial symbol of all that is divine and holy ; it suggests gladness, security, quickening, illumination. These meanings are all present in the word as used by John, and we have to determine in each individual passage which of them is for the moment predominant. Taken generally, however, light is the equivalent, in the language of the imagination, of what is abstractly called "the truth." Over against the world of " darkness" there is the upper world of "light," of reality and perfection; and as Christ describes Himself as the "Truth," He claims elsewhere to be the " Light." Men have life through Him because He brings them out into the " Light," makes them partakers of the divine reality from
which they have hitherto been debarred by the conditions of their earthly nature.
The substitution of "light" for "truth " (so far. as it marks a real enrichment of the idea) implies that the higher reality is ever seeking to reveal itself. From the beginning it has been shining in the "darkness," although the darkness comprehended it not. We can here trace a suggestion, which is not, however, elaborated further, of the ultimate cause and motive of God's revelation of Himself in the Word made flesh. God was the eternal reality, the "truth" which the minds of men had ever been seeking after; but the truth in Him was also Light. Involved in His inmost nature there was the will to shine forth and communicate Himself to His creatures. " Light," as thus considered, forms a kind of middle term between the two views of the Christian revelation which are set before us in the Gospel. It connects itself, on the one hand, with the metaphysical conception of the Logos, who was with God from all eternity as the agent of His self-revelation. On the other hand, it implies an ethical motive in God's manifestation of Himself in Christ. His nature was one of Light, of infinite Love. He so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son.
Truth and Light are not simply identified with the divine Life. On the contrary, it is clearly indicated that life is something larger and deeper, into which they enter as constituent elements. " The Way, the Truth, the Life " form an ascending series; Christ is the Way that leads to
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knowledge of the Truth, and therefore to Life. "The Life is the Light of men,"—that is, the life carries with it, as one of its consequences, participation in the light. Nevertheless the idea is everywhere present that life belongs to God, inasmuch as He is the ultimate reality. In other words, John has taken over the Greek conception of God as absolute Being, and associates His divine life with His elevation above the earthly and phenomenal. Metaphysical categories have assumed the place of the moral and religious categories of primitive Christianity.
The affinity with Greek thinking is further indicated by the connection of life with knowledge, which will engage our attention in a later chapter. The saying, " This is life eternal, to know Thee the only true God," cannot be regarded as a definition, but at all events it lays stress on knowledge as the chief factor in the attainment of life. Making all allowance for the larger meaning which enters into the Johannine " knowledge," and which renders it equivalent in some measure to "faith," we have to recognise that the intellectual moment lies at the centre. Since he construes the "truth" in a Greek - philosophical sense, John is compelled to advance the further step, and attach a paramount value to the act of "knowing." He, indeed, perceives the danger of a one-sided emphasis on knowledge, and protests, more or less explicitly, against a purely intellectual view of Christianity, such as prevailed among the heretical sects. None the less he derived like them from the current
philosophy, which conceived of God as absolute Being. Communion with God, participation in His divine life, was therefore conditioned by knowledge, and the knowledge was itself a chief element in the life. In this aspect of John's teaching we discover a genuine trace of the fundamental Greek conception.
At this point, however, the native Hebrew strain in John's thinking blends itself with the Greek, and essentially modifies it. We have seen that in Greek philosophy the category of life had only a formal and subordinate value. God was living in so far as the "energy of thought" was life, but it was impossible to ascribe a life to Him analogous to that which subsists in man. As pure Being He could have no part in change or passion ; the complex of energies which constitute life in man could not be predicated of the absolutely simple divine nature. John, however, as a Jewish thinker, cannot escape from the idea of God as the living God. He assumes that in Him, as in man, there is an animating principle which forms the ground of His manifold activities, and is the ultimate and eternal life. Only this life of God, corresponding with that of man, must be altogether different in kind. God as the absolute Being has nothing in common with the earthly nature, and His life compared to ours is what the " truth" is to phenomenal things. Is it possible for man, who is "born of flesh," the creature of the lower world, to become partaker of the higher spiritual life ? 17
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Thus it follows, from the combination of the Hebrew and Greek ideas, that John involves himself in a view which may fairly be described as semi-physical. The true life is regarded as a kind of higher essence inherent in the divine nature, analogous to the life-principle in man, but different in quality,—spiritual instead of earthly. Ethical conceptions fall into a secondary place. Man requires to undergo a radical change not in heart merely, but in the very constitution of his nature. Until he possesses himself of the higher, diviner essence there can be no thought of his participating in the life of God.
It is here that we come to understand the significance attached by John to his doctrine of the Word made flesh. Since the divine life is something different in kind from the natural earthly life, no effort on man's part, nothing but the infusion into his nature of the higher essence, can make him a child of God. The miracle first became possible through the Incarnation in Jesus. He as the Logos partook of the divine nature. " In Him was life." " As the Father hath life in Himself, so He hath given to the Son to have life in Himself." And He, who thus shared from all eternity in the absolute, self-existent life of God, came down into this lower world and identified Himself with our race. The gift that seemed to be for ever beyond man's reach was now directly accessible to him. Through Christ he entered into fellowship with God, and received into himself the divine life.
This general conception of the work of Christ as Life-giver may be illustrated from three passages, in all of which the semi-physical character of John's doctrine is clearly discernible. First, we have the miracle at Cana, " the manifestation of Christ's glory," which was typical of all the work that followed. By the change of water into wine He expressed symbolically the ultimate purpose of His coming,—to transmute man's nature into something richer and higher. It has often been remarked that in this miracle there is no hint of any ethical meaning; the whole stress is laid on the magical power which could change one substance into another. And the symbol in this respect is true to the spiritual fact, as John conceives it. The difference between the earthly and the divine life is an essential one, like that between water and wine, and can only be overcome by an act of sheer miraculous power on the part of God.
Another passage, likewise allegorical, expresses the same idea, and brings it at the same time into closer relation to the Johannine doctrine as a whole. Jesus compares Himself to the vine from which the branches derive their nourishment. " As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself except it abide in the vine ; no more can ye except ye abide in Me" (xv. 4). The passage will fall to be considered later in its bearings on the ultimate teaching of the Gospel, but at present it is only necessary to mark the general assumption that underlies it. Christ, like the stem of the vine, possesses life in Himself, and imparts it to those who "abide in Him." The life
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is conceived after the manner of a physical energy which must be transmitted directly from its main source. It is a higher essence inhering in the Person of Christ, and passes into the believer when he is united to Christ in a relation of mystical
The idea comes out still more fully and unmistakably in our third passage,—the exposition of the meaning of the Eucharist in the sixth chapter (vi. 51-59). Jesus here declares that, "except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink His blood, ye have not life in yourselves." It is implied that the principle of life in Christ was something wholly different from that in men. In order to possess themselves of that truer life they must become incorporate with Christ, and so absorb His divine nature into their own. We have seen already that, while aiming at a more spiritual interpretation of the Supper, John claims for it a real value and efficacy. It is the mystery in which Christ dispenses life to those who believe on Him. The life was present in Him as an ethereal essence, and is transmitted through the elements of the Eucharist, which represent His flesh and blood.
Starting, then, from the assumption that Jesus was the Logos, one in nature with God, and combining Greek - philosophical with primitive Hebrew ideas, John arrives at the conception of life as a higher energy, analogous to the physical life-principle in man. This conception, however, is interwoven with another, which is radically distinct
from it. John the metaphysician is also John the Christian disciple, whose faith is grounded, ultimately, in an inward religious experience. He seeks to embody the truths of Christianity in forms borrowed from an alien speculation, but it is still possible to trace out the real undercurrent of his thought.
Jesus had, indeed, been the Life-giver, in a sense
wholly different from that which John assumes in
his philosophical construction. By the might of His
faith and love, by the revelation of-God imparted
through their knowledge of Himself, He had lifted
His disciples into a new life. But the change which
He had effected in them was a moral change. His
nature had transmitted itself to them as a spirit
of goodness, holiness, patience, self-forgetfulness.
These moral attributes, according to the teaching
and example of Jesus, were the true attributes of God,
and He enabled His people to attain to them, and
thus to participate in the divine life. " Love your
enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them
that hate you,—that ye may be the children of your
Father which is in heaven" (Matt. v. 44). There
was no question of a magical transmutation of human
nature into some kind of higher substance. The
life of God was to be realised through obedience to
the will of God.
The evangelist, therefore, is seeking to explain a fact of Christian experience. Jesus Christ had made possible to men a new life. Through faith in Him thousands had undergone what was nothing less than a second birth, and John himself had known in his own soul this transforming, regenerat-
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ing power of Christ. He attempts a metaphysical analysis of the life, on the lines of his Logos hypothesis; but all the time he conceives of it religiously, and in so doing takes up the ideas of primitive Christianity, and works them out to clearer and profounder issues. It is here that we discover the characteristic and permanent contribution of the Fourth Gospel to Christian thought.
In the first place, John has realised more fully than any of his predecessors that Christianity is a new life, that it implies a complete inward change, a regeneration of the whole nature. The truth is insisted on by Jesus Himself in familiar Synoptic utterances. " Either make the tree good and its fruit good; or else make the tree corrupt and its fruit corrupt." "Except ye be converted, and become as little children." "Not that which goeth in, but that which cometh out defileth a man." But it was reserved for John to perceive in its full extent the deep-reaching import of these and kindred sayings. The believer in Christ is essentially a new man, governed by motives and instincts that had no place in his old nature. He has come out of the false existence, and lives henceforth in the true world of God.
Again, the evangelist perceived, as not even Paul had done before him, that life can only be imparted by a living Person. His work took the form not of an exposition of the doctrine or the moral law of Christianity, but of a history of Jesus Christ as He sojourned among men. His immediate personal influence, acting on them continually, was
the real quickening power by which His disciples were transformed into newness of life. And in every age of His Church, as in the first days, Jesus must Himself be the Life-giver. His people must enter into direct fellowship with Him, who is still present to every believing heart, that abiding in Him they may have life.
Once more—and here we touch the central thought in John's teaching—he identifies the new life in the believer with the life of Christ Himself. What Jesus imparts is His own "flesh and blood," the very spirit by which He Himself lived. From age to age this life of His is reproduced in His followers, giving them power to become the sons of God. It will be necessary in a later chapter to dwell more fully on this great thought of the Gospel, and here we need only indicate it as the underlying motive in John's doctrine of life. Christ, to our evangelist, is not only the Life-giver, but Himself the Life. The end of Christian discipleship is to receive Christ into the heart, to unite ourselves with Him in a relation so deep and personal that He lives again in us.
There are therefore two conceptions of life, wholly different from each other, which are both present in the mind of John and are fused into apparent harmony. On the one hand, in accordance with the Logos hypothesis, the true life is conceived as a higher kind of Being. It is the energy of the divine nature, self-existent, indestructible, purer in quality than the life which resides in man. It was present in Christ as the Son of God, and is communicated to those who have entered into the
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mystical relation of union with Him. He assimilates our grosser nature to His, so that it undergoes a transmutation and becomes heavenly instead of earthly. On the other hand, John sets out from the impression created on him by the historical Jesus. The life of Jesus was the divine life; and what He sought to communicate to men was the secret of His own moral personality. To have the same will as He had, the same spirit of love and goodness and holiness, was to participate in the true life of God. Between this ethical conception and the metaphysical one which runs parallel to it, there is no real identity. The one belongs to the world of religious experience, the other to a world of speculative theory.
We cannot but recognise that John transfers to his philosophical conception a meaning which belongs properly to the religious idea of life. The new moral energy imparted by Christ is explained as a vital essence, analogous to that which informs the body, but higher in kind,—spiritual life as opposed to earthly. This attempt to reconcile two ideas which are in their nature disparate, serves in great measure to obscure and confuse the message of the Gospel. But in spite of much that is difficult and even contradictory in the evangelist's thought, we can discern the central truth,—the simplest yet the deepest in Christianity,—which he had realised in his own experience and sought to convey to others. To know Christ and hold fellowship with Him is eternal life. In Him was life, and we also have life through His name.
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r I "HE gift of Christ is summed up by the Fourth X Evangelist in the one word " Life." We have sought to determine what meaning he attaches to this word, and it now remains to consider his solution of the problem in view of which the whole Gospel is written. How is the life that was in Christ communicated by Him to His followers? How is it possible for those who have never seen Him to enter into a personal relation with the Life-giver, and receive His gift? We are concerned, in the first place, with the more general of these two questions, which are both involved in the problem as it presents itself to John.
Jesus in His Synoptic teaching had already declared the one condition on which His power could become operative in the lives of men. " Thy faith hath saved thee." " If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth." The essence of this "belief" was the recognition of a divine might and goodness, manifesting itself in Him. He Himself, in His absolute certainty of the redeeming love of God, was the guarantee of that love to
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others, and by their trust in Him they yielded themselves up to it and allowed it to effect its purpose. The same thought is expressed in our Lord's favourite image of the child-like heart. The faith that saved was present in a man when he could lay aside all pride and vain striving of his own, and submit himself wholly to the divine influence. Jesus in His own person was the supreme example of this attitude of simple trust, and He sought to communicate His own spirit to His disciples. "Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly in heart, and ye shall find rest unto your souls." Through all His teaching the emphasis is laid on faith, understood in this its deepest sense of trust in God and inward surrender to Him. In answer to such trust in Him, God bestows healing and forgiveness and the power of a new life.
Paul describes the appropriation of the gift of Christ in terms of an elaborate theology. Here also the essential thing is faith, but faith is invested with a definite and peculiar meaning. For Paul, the cardinal fact of the revelation in Christ was the atoning death, and the one object of faith was the Cross, whereby God accomplished His redeeming purpose through His Son. Various elements are included in the Pauline " faith " which have little to do with the original teaching of Jesus. It presupposes a given estimate of the Jewish law, a unique personal experience, a background of ideas derived from Pharisaic and rabbinical theory. But intrinsically the thought of Paul is similar to that
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which finds its simpler expression in the Synoptic Gospels. His faith, in its essence, was the yielding of himself to the love of God revealed in Christ,— revealed once for all in the grand act of sacrifice by which the Saviour's life was consummated. God offered Himself to men through Christ, and faith is the recognition of God, the opening of the heart to receive Him. To Paul, therefore, as to the first disciples, the condition on which the new life is imparted is a simple religious one,—trust in.God, elicited by His revelation of Himself in Jesus Christ.
In the Fourth Gospel, as in the Synoptic and the Pauline teaching, the chief emphasis is laid, or appears to be laid, on faith. The word TUOTW in its substantive form is never used, but the equivalent verb is present under almost all its possible variations, and dominates every chapter of the Gospel. 11 is evident, however, even to a superficial reader, that the "believing" so constantly insisted on by John is something much narrower and poorer than the Pauline "faith." It implies not so much an inward disposition of trust and obedience, as the acceptance of a given dogma. To " believe " is to grant the hypothesis that Jesus was indeed the Christ, the Son of God. The evangelist devotes his whole endeavour to presenting this belief in such a manner that it may impress conviction. He sets forth in all its aspects the " witness " that was afforded to the claim of Jesus, by His words, His miracles, thewonder of His personality, the divine sanctions which accompanied His work. It is assumed that the very purpose of a Christian Gospel must be to vindicate a certain view of Christ's
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Person, in order that men may " believe" and so obtain the gift of life.
Nevertheless, there are elements in John's conception of faith which differentiate it from the mere intellectual assent demanded in the later orthodoxy. In the first place, the act of belief, though placed apparently at the beginning, comes in reality at the end, of a religious experience. John himself appears to set out with the thesis that Jesus was the incarnate Logos, and to deduce from this assumption the whole story of His life and work. But the speculative idea, as we have tried to demonstrate, was an after-thought. It gave expression, under the forms of the current philosophy, to an estimate of the Saviour's Person which in substance and origin was purely religious. In like manner, the act of belief to which the evangelist attaches a paramount value is the summing up in an intellectual judgment of a previous religious experience. The confession that Jesus is the Son of God implies that you have been drawn to Jesus, and have recognised His saving power and the divine character of His life. The "belief" is no mere formal act, but the outcome of adeep inward conviction, and only as such does it have validity and meaning.
In this sense we can best explain a marked peculiarity in the Johannine conception of faith as compared with that of the earlier Gospels. The Synoptic writers, in recording the miracles of Jesus, almost always represent them as preceded and conditioned by an act of faith. Jesus could do no mighty works unless men first believed—waited on
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Him in an attitude of trustful receptivity. In the Fourth Gospel, on the other hand, belief is the consequence, not the indispensable condition, of the miracles. "He manifested forth His glory, and His disciples believed on Him"(ii. 11). "Himself believed, and his whole house " (spoken of the nobleman after the healing of his son [iv. 53]). " Believe me for the very works' sake " (xiv. 11). This view of faith as a result of the miracles is no doubt connected with the impoverishment of the main conception; the later evangelist is concerned with belief as a definite act of intellectual assent, rather than with the inward disposition which is faith in the true and deeper sense. But at the same time it serves to indicate that belief to his mind was only the final moment in a much larger process. Jesus does not demand the acknowledgment of His divine claim till He has revealed Himself to men and won them to a heartfelt conviction. The miracles by which He induced belief during His earthly sojourn foreshadowed the greater works which He would accomplish afterwards in His invisible fellowship with His people. These bear continual witness to Him, so that the confession of His Sonship is much more than the acceptance of a given dogma handed down by tradition. It is bound up with a living experience, of which it is the outward symbol and seal.
In yet another way the Johannine conception of belief involves the presence of a deeper element. Assent is demanded not merely to a bare fact, but to the claim of a person, and it therefore partakes in some measure of the character of trust. The
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judgment, " Jesus is the Son of God," is different in kind from such a judgment as " the world was made in six days." To make an affirmation concerning Christ implies the vision in your mind of the living Person, who commands your reverence and obedience. The intellectual act of assent to His claim is combined, it may be unconsciously, with a moral judgment, and is ultimately grounded in it. There are passages of the Gospel in which the belief in Christ becomes indistinguishable from the trust He awakens in those who have known His fellowship. "Ye believe in God, believe also in Me"(xiv. i). "He that believeth on Me believeth on Him that sent Me " (xii. 44). Even where belief retains its normal sense of acquiescence in the claim advanced by Jesus, a suggestion of the deeper meaning is present in it. " While ye have the light believe in the light, that ye may become sons of light" (xii. 36). " He that believeth on Me, the works that I do shall he do also " (xiv. 12). " He that seeth the Son, and believeth on Him, hath life" (vi. 40). In such verses the idea of belief on Christ merges insensibly in the further idea of a real apprehension of Him, of such a nature that His power imparts itself to the believer. Since a living Person is the object of the act of belief, that act, in itself a mere intellectual one, becomes involved with moral elements. " Believing " includes something of the larger character of faith.
It is necessary, therefore, to go behind the conception of belief in order to understand the Johannine doctrine of the appropriation of life. The
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act of belief is the outcome of an antecedent process, which is capable of analysis into several distinct stages.
(i) The immediate condition of belief is "knowledge." These two ideas, "believing" and "knowing," are several times conjoined in such a way that they might seem to be practically identical. " They have known surely that I came out from Thee, and have believed that Thou didst send Me " (xvii. 8). " That ye may know and believe that the Father is in Me, and I in Him " (x. 38). In such sayings, however, two different acts are spoken of, one of which is regarded as consequent on the other. The " knowledge" completes itself, and becomes effectual in the definite "belief." This is apparent, not only from a closer consideration of the relevant passages, but from a larger survey of the doctrine of knowledge, which holds an important place in the Gospel.
Nowhere is John's affinity to the Greek thinkers more unmistakable than in the value he assigns to knowledge ; yet here again we must make allowance for the double genesis of his conception. " Knowing," in the Hebrew use of the term, is more than an intellectual activity. It contains elements of a moral and religious nature, and when God Himself is the object of the knowledge, these become predominant. To " know the Lord," in the language of the psalmists and prophets, is to trust in God, to serve Him, to enter into harmony with His eternal will and purpose. The Johannine idea of knowledge is tinged throughout with a reflection of this Old Testament meaning. Jesus can say in bitter re-
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proack to the unbelieving Jews, " Ye neither know Me, nor my Father : if ye had known Me, ye should have known my Father also " (viii. 19). He declares in the close of the intercessory prayer, " O righteous Father, the world hath not known Thee : but I have known Thee" (xvii. 25). In such utterances it is impossible to limit the reference to a bare theoretical knowledge. This, indeed, is implicitly contrasted with the deeper sympathy and apprehension in which the real knowledge of God consists. The great verse, " this is life eternal, to know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent," must likewise be explained in the light of this wider conception of knowledge. Take it as we will, the verse is strongly marked with the Greek-philosophical influence, but this influence has been at least modified by the fusion of the Greek idea with another and larger one derived from the Old Testament.
When all allowance is made, however, for the ethical and religious value attached to knowledge, we have to recognise that the evangelist is working with essentially the same idea as the Greek thinkers. Life, in the Platonic theory, is perfectly realised when the soul escapes from the bondage of sense to the untroubled contemplation of ideal truth. The ascent to life is therefore conditioned by knowledge, which is nothing else than the endeavour of man to set himself free and exercise the true activity of his nature. Virtue itself is only an application or a particular form of right knowledge. In Philo this mode of thinking is brought into intimate connection with the pervading doctrine of the Logos. Accord-
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ing as a man advances in true knowledge, he realises more and more fully the Logos principle inherent in his nature, and thus enters into communion with the divine life. Philo, as we have seen, stops short of the Greek identification of life with the pure activity of thought; but on knowledge as the means of deliverance, the direct path to the higher life, he lays the same emphasis as his Greek masters.
There can be little doubt that in the meaning and the function which he assigns to knowledge, John is far more closely dependent on Plato and Philo than on the Old Testament. Writing as he did for Greek readers from the point of view of Greek philosophical theory, he cannot have meant to ignore the fixed Hellenic conception of " knowing " as primarily an act of the logical reason. When he insists on the importance of true "knowledge," he is speaking presumably in the language of his own time and culture, even although a reminiscence of Hebrew usage still lingers about the term. An examination of far the greater number of the passages in which the idea of knowledge is prominent, confirms us in this assumption, that the intellectual moment is the chief one in his mind. "If ye know these things, happy are ye if you do them" (xiii. 17). "Now they have known that all things whatsoever Thou hast given Me are of Thee " (xvii. 7). "We know not whither Thou goest, and how can we know the way?" (xiv. 5). " Ye worship ye know not what: we worship that which we know" (iv. 22). A special significance attaches in this connection to the saying (viii. 32), 18
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" Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free,"—where the idea of knowledge is related to that of " truth " and to that of deliverance, in a manner which at once suggests the scheme of Philo. In the light of such passages it may be affirmed that even where knowing seems to bear the wider connotation, the element of intellectual apprehension enters into it, and indeed determines its whole character. True to his Greek prepossessions, John regarded the activity of the reason as a chief factor in the attainment of the higher life. The original demand for a simple, child-like faith was no longer sufficient in a theology which had allied Christianity with a metaphysical doctrine. There was need for "knowledge" in the strict sense, intellectual insight into those deep doctrines which were henceforth to rank as the supreme verities. The evangelist guards himself, it is true, from the one-sided Gnostic estimate of the importance of knowledge; and his intellectualism is more than corrected by the profound religious spirit in which he contemplates the Person and work of Christ. None the less he must be held in great measure responsible for the eventual hardening of Christianity into a dogmatic system. One side of his thinking was followed out to its legitimate consequence when religion was construed as a higher knowledge, to which none but the wise and prudent posesssed
How, then, is knowledge related to belief? The two ideas may be said to coincide when they are both taken in the wider sense of which they are
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capable. The " belief" which connotes the religious experience that has led up to it is hardly distinguishable from the larger " knowledge." But knowledge in its stricter acceptation is one of the factors which precede and create belief. " They have known surely that I came forth from Thee, and have believed." Before the belief in Christ is possible, there must be a recognition on the part of the intellect of His divine origin and dignity. By reflection on His words and works and the manifold witness that attested Him,—by discipline in the apprehension of the " truth," men are wrought into deeper sympathy with Him. They are persuaded at last to the confession that He was no other than the Son of God. Faith as described in the Synoptic teaching is simply the opening of the heart to God, and the humble and child-like are the most capable of it. The Johannine "belief" is the result of "knowledge." It presupposes a mind fully enlightened, and equal to high speculations on the Person and nature of Christ
(2) Knowledge, however, though in itself an intellectual activity, is only possible on certain ethical conditions. This is expressed most clearly in the great saying (vii. 17), "If any man will do His will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of Myself." The mind is enlightened to discern the true nature of the revelation in Christ by a habit of moral obedience. It is recognised, in like manner, that the chief hindrance which prevented the Jews from respond-
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ing to the message of Jesus was an ethical one. "How can ye believe, who receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from the only God ? " (v. 44). " Why do ye not understand My speech ? even because ye cannot hear My word. Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do" (viii. 43, 44) The same hindrance is operative in every case where men prove insensible to the appeal addressed to them by Christ. "For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God " (iii. 20 21). By this strong ethical interest underlying his theory of knowledge John separates himself, perhaps intentionally, from the Gnostic tendency which had infected the religious thinking of his time. While admitting the importance of right knowledge as the necessary condition to a saving belief, he is still conscious that knowledge must run back to something deeper. Christianity might be construed as a speculative system, but even so it was grounded in a moral and practical demand. Here again we find the Logos doctrine, as presented in the Gospel, broken through by the genuine tradition of the teaching of Jesus. Compelled by his philosophical assumptions to assign a central place to " knowledge," the evangelist maintains that the knowledge must be ethically conditioned. " Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God."
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(3) Belief, knowledge, obedience,—the experience that leads up to life can be traced backwards through these successive stages. But behind them all there is one still more primary, at which the conscious activity of man merges itself in the operation of the divine will. We have already touched on that phase of Johannine thought which is expressed in such sayings as " No man can come to me unless the Father draw him." It would almost appear as if John accepted the Gnostic division of men into two classes, marked off from each other by a radical difference in their nature. The work of Christ, according to this doctrine, is not to offer life to all men, but to sift out from the miscellaneous mass the scattered " children of light." We have seen reason to deny that John maintains the doctrine to the full extent in which it appears in Gnosticism. In so far as he adopts it, his motive is not to limit the scope of salvation; possibly he was unconscious that his teaching, pushed to its logical consequence, would entail this limitation.
His aim, in the first place, is to account for a historical fact,—that only a small number out of that world to which Christ appealed, had offered a response to him. As in the Lord's own lifetime many had been called and few chosen, so in the age following the mass of men had been repelled by the same light that attracted others. With all the evidence before them that ought to have awakened them to true knowledge and belief, they had deliberately spurned the message. John solves
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the riddle in the manner already suggested by Paul, through the doctrine of a divine election. Only, where Paul insists on the direct agency of God in choosing or rejecting, John makes use of the idea of predisposition on the part of men themselves. Some natures have an instinctive sympathy with the light, and are drawn to it when it becomes manifest; others are blind and unresponsive. Ultimately the difference has its ground in the will of God, but it is accounted for, in the first instance, by this inherent difference in human
Again, while John seeks to explain a historical fact, he wishes further to suggest the mystery which attends the great spiritual change. The transition from death to life is a very real experience, but we cannot fully explore its nature and causes. We can only say that God Himself has effected it by the agency of His Spirit. When all the outward conditions for attaining to the new life have been satisfied, there will still be those who continue in darkness. Some condition is wanting which they cannot supply by their own will and power, and which involves a " drawing " by God Himself.
Thus we arrive at the stage which marks the absolute beginning of the progress towards belief in Christ. Just as the natural life begins in birth, so the spiritual life has its commencement in a " new birth," or " birth from above" (both meanings are conveyed, with an evident intention, in the SeZ u/ifis rfewi]dfjvai &vu>6ev). Attempts have been made to derive the doctrine from various heathen sources,
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chiefly from ideas connected with the mysteries. Indirectly, through their influence on the conception of Baptism, these ideas may have acted on the evangelist's thought, but the genesis of his doctrine can be explained apart from them, (a) Jesus had declared, in more than one familiar saying, that a man must become as a little child before he could enter into the kingdom of heaven. He demanded a new beginning, a radical "change of mind," and John intensifies both the image and its signification. Not only must a man return, as it were, to childhood, but he must undergo a new birth. Not only his moral temper but his nature itself must be renewed. (b) Paul speaks of the transition to faith in Christ as the putting off of the old and the putting on of the new man. In the light of his own peculiar experience he thought of the entrance into the Christian life as a sudden act, a change abrupt and final. He describes this change, it is true, not under the image of birth, but under other figures, chiefly derived from the death and resurrection of Christ, but none the less he suggests the idea, which John works out more fully, of a sudden, mysterious transition from the old life to the new. (c) The rite of Baptism, already regarded by Paul as the outward sign and guarantee of the inward change, had come to be invested with a yet higher value in the popular Christianity of a later age. The divine power was supposed to act through the visible ordinance. The change from the old to the new and spiritual life was in some real manner effected, as well as symbolised, by Baptism. We have seen that John
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protests against the over-estimation of the mere external rite. He does not, however, break away from the popular conception, but sets himself to deepen and spiritualise it. For him, as for the Church at large, Baptism marks the beginning of the new life, and possesses in itself a mysterious efficacy; but a higher agency cooperates with the material element. The water is ineffectual except as the vehicle and instrument of the Spirit.
The doctrine of the New Birth has therefore a twofold genesis, from the authentic teaching of Jesus as supplemented and interpreted by Paul, and from the conception of Baptism which had evolved itself, largely under extra-Christian influences, in the later Church. Two strains of meaning are blended together in the doctrine, roughly corresponding to these two sources from which it is derived.
On the one hand, the demand of Jesus for a Herdvoia, a radical change of will and moral disposition, is repeated with a further emphasis. The teaching which appears so strange to Nicodemus is supported by an appeal to actual experience,—" We speak what we know, and testify what we have seen." John had been conscious in himself of a change effected in him through the Spirit of Christ, and had witnessed a similar change in the lives of others. A higher will took possession of those who yielded themselves to God as He came to them in Jesus Christ. They entered on a new life, under the influence of new motives and thoughts and desires. In this sense, which must be accepted as the fundamental one, the " birth from above " has
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nothing to do with metaphysical doctrine. John is simply expressing, with the aid of a significant image, the fact which lies at the root of all Christian experience. The power of Christ, when it takes hold of a human life, effects a renewal of the whole moral nature. The fact is certain, although, as John indicates, it involves a mystery which can never be explained. We can only say that God works in the hearts of men through Jesus Christ. In ways that are beyond our tracing, like the motions of the wind, He breathes His Spirit into them and cleanses and renews them.
But, on the other hand, the simple religious conception is brought into relation with the mystical and philosophical ideas which colour the whole teaching of the Gospel. In place of the ethical change implied in our Lord's demand for a fM-rdvoia, John thinks of a transmutation of nature. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and in order that the gift of Christ may avail for him, man must be endowed miraculously with a higher capacity. Not so much his mind and will as the very substance out of which his being is formed, must become different. It is to be observed in the dialogue with Nicodemus, that the " Spirit" is not described under ethical categories. The contrast is between the "flesh," — the lower, earthly nature,—and the spiritual essence of God. Before man can hope to participate in the true life imparted through Christ, he must be wrought into affinity with the nature of spirit. His own will and effort are powerless to effect this change. He must undergo, in more than
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a figurative sense, another birth through the immediate agency of God. John conceives of the mysterious change as accomplished in the rite of Baptism, in which the divine power uses a material element as its vehicle and so acts on the earthly nature of man. It is evident that the "Spirit" which thus becomes effective through a purely physical agency is ethically neutral. It represents nothing but a divine creative energy, which lays hold on the natural life and sublimates and re-fashions it. Henceforth the man is "born again," in the sense that he has been magically changed into a new creature, and possesses affinities, lacking in him before, with the supersensible world. He "cannot see the kingdom of God,"—he has no receptivity for the life imparted through Christ, till he has undergone this essential change of nature.
These, then, so far as we have yet traced them, are the different elements in the experience which has its ultimate outcome in Life. First there is the incalculable working of the Spirit of God, by which the earthly man is " born again " as a spiritual man. This birth from above is viewed under two aspects, as a magical, semi-physical change, and as a moral regeneration, answering to the fifrdvoia of the Synoptic teaching. In virtue of its twofold character, it gives rise to two activities, different from each other yet interdependent. On the one hand, it manifests itself in a purer and more earnest morality. The regenerated man is enabled to do the deeds of the light, to will to obey the doctrine.
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On the other hand, through the new sympathies with the higher world that have been awakened in him, he becomes capable of true knowledge; and his power of knowing is further enhanced by the practical moral activity which accompanies and conditions it. Finally, the whole antecedent process comes to a head in the act of belief. Jesus is recognised as the Son of God, and the believer's attitude to Him becomes one of entire acceptance and obedience.
The act of belief is so all-important that John repeatedly speaks of it as the one immediate condition of life. In a sense it is so. It brings the disciple into such a relation to Christ that His power as Life-giver becomes real and effectual. But the gift itself is imparted, not so much through the act of belief as through the fellowship with Christ of which it marks the commencement. We have now to consider the nature of that fellowship which follows inevitably on true belief, and which carries with it the communication of life.
It is necessary to remind ourselves, at the outset, that John conceives of life as of something which is actually embodied in the Person of Christ. Into this world of darkness and death He came as the living One, and in order to receive His gift we require to participate in His being and nature. The whole teaching of the Gospel is determined by this thought, that the life is bound up with the Person, and that the work of Christ consists in the last resort in the communication of Himself. The
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problem which John attempts to solve is therefore a peculiarly complicated one, and involves him in mystical ideas which are hardly intelligible to our modern modes of thinking. It is not merely how Christ by His divine power can quicken those who believe in Him, but how He can impart His own life, how He can cause Himself to live again in His disciples. There are three main lines of thought by which John endeavours to explain this mystery of the transmission to the believer of the life that was
(i) The belief in Christ is followed, in the first place, by a full acceptance of His message, as expressed in His spoken words. It might almost appear from the prominence assigned to the words of Jesus, that no more is implied by fellowship with Him than a whole-hearted assimilation of His teaching. " He said to those who believed on Him, If ye continue in My words, then are ye My disciples indeed" (viii. 31). " He that heareth My word, and believeth on Him that sent Me, hath everlasting life " (v. 24). " The words that I speak to you are spirit and life" (vi. 63). " Thou hast the words of eternal life" (vi. 68). "I have given to them the words that Thou gavest Me" (xvii. 8). " If ye abide in Me, and My words abide in you" (xv. 7). It might be gathered from such sayings that Jesus manifested Himself, like any other great teacher, in the truths concerning God and human duty to which He gave utterance, and that we receive Him, His essential mind and spirit, in the believing apprehension of His words. Doubtless
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this view is continually present to the evangelist. To him, as to the early Church at large, Jesus was the great Teacher and Revealer. With his Hellenic sense of the value of knowledge, he was the more inclined to lay stress on the new truth imparted by Jesus, and to discover in it a main factor in the attainment of life. The ethical interest pervading the Gospel must likewise be taken into account. Jesus had laid down a new law of right living, on which the Christian community had based itself, and so far as His words had given expression to that law they afforded a nourishment and a quickening to His followers. But we must bear in mind the peculiar significance attached by John to the " words" of Jesus. The view of several modern critics, that the allusions to the " words " are everywhere tinged with the theological idea of the Logos, cannot be established with certainty. Once or twice we may detect a consciousness in the writer's mind that He who utters the words is Himself the eternal Word, but to construe all the references in this sense would involve us in many strained interpretations. This much, however, is certain, that the same Hebraic conception of the nature of God's word which forms an element in the Logos hypothesis, is present in the various allusions to the words of Jesus. In the Old Testament usage, a word, especially a divine word, is something real and active, not the mere utterance of thought, but itself a vehicle of living power. Through His word God communicates some part of Himself. His energy passes over into matter
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previously dead, or into human souls, which are thereby awakened to new and higher activities. A similar quality is ascribed in the Gospel to the words of Jesus. They are not so much the expression of His thought as the emanation of His actual being and power. Through them He gave out His own living spirit, so that it could enter as the energy of a new life into the natures of men. The sayings quoted above will serve to illustrate this conception of the words of Jesus. " The words I speak unto you are spirit and life." "If My words abide in you." Not only because of the truth conveyed in them, but because Jesus spoke them, His words are life-giving. They contain in them something of Himself. They are like the creative words of God which are instinct with the divine will and power, and quicken what was
Through the act of belief, then, it becomes possible to appropriate the words of Christ, while the refusal to discern in Him the Son of God makes His word ineffectual or changes its activity into one of judgment. The whole controversy with the Jews, which occupies the middle section of the Gospel, turns upon this idea, that the word which in itself is life-giving is rendered fruitless or condemnatory when those who hear it are unbelieving. On the other hand, the acceptance of Christ opens a channel for the entrance of His word. The inward belief cooperates with the word received from without, and enables it to exert its true power in the quickening of a higher life. " I
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have given them the words which Thou gavest Me ; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from Thee, and they have believed that Thou didst send Me " (xvii. 8).
(2) The assimilation of the words of Jesus is only the beginning, however, of that complete fellowship with Him which is life. The words, pregnant with spirit and life, are in a manner Himself, and He can say in one breath, "If ye abide in Me, and My words abide in you " ; yet His living Person, in its totality, is more than His words. How is it possible, through the act of belief, to incorporate ourselves with Christ in such a way that His Life may become ours? John attempts a solution of the riddle by means of His mystical theory of the Church and the Eucharist. As a visible personality Jesus has departed, but He is still present in the community of His people, having entered through death on a larger existence as real as that in which He first revealed Himself. And in the confession of belief in Him as the Son of God we become members of the community in which He lives and exerts His power. We have part, more especially, in the sacramental rite which He bequeathed to His Church as the perpetual symbol and guarantee of His presence. Reference has been made already to the several ideas which are blended together in John's conception of the Eucharist, and these must all be taken into account in any true and adequate interpretation. Certainly the crude Sacramentalism of the later Church, which largely based itself on
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the Johannine teaching, neglected many elements in it, and these among the most important. Yet it cannot fairly be denied that one side at least of the evangelist's thought was represented in the later doctrine. To him also the bread and wine had a real validity. In more than a symbolical sense they stood for the flesh and blood, the actual Person, of Christ, who thus made it possible that believers in all times and places should participate in Himself. Only by a mystical doctrine of this nature could John overcome the difficulty that was involved in his view of life as a semi-physical essence. For the transmission of life, as so conceived, there needed to be some means by which the higher substance, resident in the body of Christ, might in a real and literal sense be assimilated by the believer. In the Eucharist, the central and most mysterious act of Christian worship, John discerned the means by which this miracle is effected. The bread and wine not only symbolise, but in some inexplicable sense are, the body and blood of Christ. He continues through the ever-repeated rite the great work for which the Father sent Him, of imparting Himself for the life of the world.
(3) In His words, in the mystery of the Eucharist, Christ offers Himself to His people; but something further is necessary before they can fully participate in His eternal life. He requires that they should enter into a relation of permanent union with Him, abiding in Him continually, like
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the branches in the vine. This doctrine of a mystical union, in which the higher life flows uninterruptedly from Christ to the believer, contains the central and characteristic thought of the Fourth Gospel. It cannot be discussed in its whole significance apart from those conceptions of the Spirit and the ever-living Christ which will occupy us in later chapters. For the present it will be enough to indicate that two ideas, essentially disparate, are involved together in the doctrine of union with Christ.
On the one hand, John proceeds on the assumption that life is a higher sort of being, which resides in Christ as the divine Logos. It cannot be imparted to men except by a process of direct transmission. The earthly nature must ground itself in the Logos nature, and become inwardly identified with it. Such an image, therefore, as that of the vine and the branches, has more than a figurative value to the mind of John. He conceives that in some real, though mysterious, sense the believer is united to Christ as the branch is to the vitalising stem, and so draws into himself a continual nourishment. Life as it manifests itself in the disciples is nothing but the life of Christ, apart from whom they can do nothing. The union is in its nature inexplicable, and John does not attempt to describe how it is effected. Sometimes he appears to think of Christ as dwelling within the believer, as an unseen spiritual presence, a fountain of living water. More often he speaks °f the believer as abiding in Christ, grafted on
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to Him as the great life-giving stem. But the idea expressed in the many different images is that of a semi-physical relation of such a kind that the higher nature is continually transfused into the lower. Assuming, as he does, that life is a diviner essence, John is compelled to this conception of the union through which it is imparted. Fellowship with Christ in the purely moral and religious sense, would not of itself suffice for the communication of eternal life.
We have seen, however, that the metaphysical view of life, involved in the Logos hypothesis, is interwoven throughout with another, which belongs to the region of actual Christian experience. John was conscious in himself of a new spiritual energy awakened in him by Christ. He saw the difference which Christ had made in the disciples who had been gathered to Him out of the world,—a difference only comparable to the passing from death to life. It was not enough to explain this quickening as the result of the higher ethic proclaimed by Jesus and accepted by His followers. Mere teaching, preserved in books and traditions, cannot be a source of life-giving power. What Jesus had communicated was His own mind and spirit—something of His very self. He had made it possible for His disciples to become one with Him, and share His knowledge of God and the temper with which He had overcome the world. The real problem which John set himself to solve was at its centre a purely religious one. How can Jesus, who long since departed from our sight, be
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still the same to us as He was to His immediate disciples ? How can we enter into such a personal relation with Him that we may participate in His life?
The greatness of the Fourth Gospel consists in this, that it takes us back to the living Person of Jesus as the ultimate force in Christianity. There was a danger in the period immediately following the apostolic age that the religion of Christ would soon cease to bear any vital relation to its Founder. Already in the incipient Gnostic systems He was regarded abstractly as the medium of a revelation which could now be apprehended apart from Him. His earthly life was thrown into the background, and reduced to a mere appearance, in order to give larger room for what appeared the permanent substance of His message. John perceived that a religion thus severed from Christ Himself would be emptied of its real content and power. It was the life which had been the Light of men. Jesus had been a Saviour to the first generation of His people, not so much through His doctrine or His actual work, as through the impression produced on them by His living personality. And there must still be this immediate relation between Christ and His disciples if the miracle of the first age was to repeat itself. Only as we receive Christ Himself, as we dwell in His presence and assimilate His very spirit, do we become partakers of the divine gift bestowed through Him. This is the sovereign thought of the Fourth Gospel, and in spite of the alien speculation with which it is
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entangled it is everywhere impressed on us with a matchless power and grandeur. The life was in Christ Himself; we must grow one with Him by a direct and personal fellowship before it can live again in us.
The thought is elaborated by John in his record of Christ's intercourse with His twelve disciples. He describes how the "belief" elicited in them by the first miracle (ii. u) drew them gradually into an ever deeper and more intimate relation to their Master. As the world was repelled from Him, the few whom He had chosen learned to understand and serve Him with a fuller and fuller sympathy. At last He could declare, " I call you henceforth not servants, but friends ; for the servant knoweth not what his Lord doeth; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard of my Father 1 have made known unto you " (xv. 15). They no longer obeyed Him mechanically, but were united to Him by an inward harmony of will. They knew His mind intuitively, because they were one with Him in spirit and shared His thoughts and motives. As yet, while they were divided from Him by earthly limitations, the union could only be denned as " friendship," but it would become closer and more real after His death. Returning to His glory, He would come to them again, not as an outward friend, but as an inward presence with whom they could abide inseparably.
It is evident that in this strain of thought, which finds its highest expression in the Supper
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discourses, John departs altogether from the theory of a mystical, semi - physical union with Christ. He thinks of the true life as Jesus exemplified it in His life of holiness and love and self-sacrifice ; by participating in that spirit of Jesus men become God's children, and pass out of darkness into light. He realises, moreover, that something more is necessary than obedience to a new moral law. The higher life represented by Jesus is bound up indissolubly with His own personality. It was His life, and it cannot reproduce itself in His followers until they are inwardly identified with Him, possessed of the self-same will and spirit that dwelt in Christ. " Except ye eat the flesh and drink the blood of the Son of man, ye have no life in you." These words of the Eucharistic discourse are meant, as we have seen, to bear a spiritual as well as a literal interpretation. They express with a startling boldness the fundamental thought of the Gospel,—that to share in the life of Christ we must become one with Him, for apart from Him we can do nothing.
Regarded from this side, the doctrine of union with Christ is purely ethical and religious. The evangelist no longer thinks of life as a higher essence, imparted magically through the influx of the heavenly nature into the earthly. To be united with Christ is to enter into living fellowship with Him—into fellowship so real and intimate that His mind becomes our mind. Paul had declared already, " I live, and yet not I, but Christ liveth in me," and his experience had been
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repeated, even more fully and consciously, in the life of John. He had so yielded himself to the unseen Lord that he felt as if he had no longer any separate being. He was one with Christ, whose spirit was in him like a well of water, springing up into eternal life.
So to the grand question of his Gospel, How can the life in Christ become life in us ? John offers a twofold answer. The life is itself conceived in two modes,—metaphysically in accordance with the Logos hypothesis, and ethically in the light of the historical revelation. It follows, as a necessary consequence, that the doctrine of the communication of life assumes two different forms, which only on the surface are made to appear identical. In both alike the chief requirement is union with Christ. But this union is, in the one case, a magical transaction, involving a relation to Christ which is almost physical in its nature. In the other case it is grounded in a moral fellowship, such as was experienced by the first disciples. This latter view must be held to constitute the real and underlying thought of John, and the other is only an attempt, necessarily imperfect, to adapt it to the demands of an alien philosophy. In Jesus Christ, as He revealed Himself to man, is life; and to obtain that life we must enter into a personal communion with Him, abiding in Him like the branches in the vine.
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JOHN, like the Synoptic writers, presents his work in the form of a historical narrative. It records the chief actions and sayings of Jesus, describes His intercourse with His disciples, and His rejection by the unbelieving world, and closes, after the manner of the other Gospels, with the story of His death and Resurrection. But throughout this narrative of events we are conscious at every step of a further intention. In the Christ who lived and died John recognises the Eternal Christ who has passed into the unseen, and is still present to His people as truly as when He dwelt among them in the flesh. The earthly life is regarded as the type or microcosm of this larger life. It would scarcely be too much to say that the history which forms the ostensible subject of his Gospel is only of secondary interest to our evangelist. His real aim is to elucidate, in the light of the history, the abiding facts of Christian experience.
This must not be understood to imply that he sublimates the actual life of Jesus into a kind of allegory. On the contrary, it is all-essential to his purpose to establish the reality of the visible
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appearance. The higher life cannot be imparted to men except through one who has come out from God, and yet has truly united himself with man's earthly nature. On this fundamental fact, that once in a given place and time the Word appeared as flesh, the whole argument of the Gospel rests. But that first revelation of the Word would have little meaning unless it pointed, in some manner, to a permanent revelation. If the life was still to be communicated to believers in all ages, they must have immediate access, like the original disciples, to the source of life. They must have the assurance that the Christ whom they could only know in an inward experience was identical with Jesus who had once been manifest outwardly as the Son of God. The evangelist seeks so to present the earthly appearance as to convince his readers that it was more than an isolated fact. In this Jesus who had once revealed Himself in history they might recognise Him who was still with them as an unseen presence. The larger life on which He had now entered was only the continuation of the life begun on earth, and was no less real and personal.
Instead, therefore, of resolving the history into shadow and allegory, John insists on its reality, in order to claim a like reality for the spiritual manifestation that had followed it. No view of the Gospel could be more mistaken than that which regards it as moving wholly in a world of abstract ideas. It is written as a protest against the idealising tendency which sought to dissipate Christianity into a vague speculation. From the abstractions
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of the current theology the evangelist goes back to the primitive record, and describes how the revelation came to men in Jesus of Nazareth. There could be no question of the concrete reality of that life, which shared in our human conditions and was outwardly visible to all men. And the Christ who was still working for the world's salvation was as much a real presence as He had been in those first days. He was not to be dissolved into a theological idea or a phantasm of the religious imagination. So we may regard the Gospel as vindicating, for the inward knowledge of Christ, an equal validity with that outward and palpable knowledge enjoyed by the first disciples. " Blessed are they who have not seen, and yet have believed." They also can enter into real fellowship with che same Jesus who once appeared in the flesh, and participate in His eternal life.
The general intention of the evangelist is thus similar to that of Paul. He likewise starts from a purely spiritual experience of Christ, for which he claims a real validity. The Lord who had appeared . to him, as to one born out of due time, was He whom his fellow-apostles had known in the flesh. His right to the office of apostleship was equal to theirs, since he also had held personal communion with Jesus, not outwardly, yet no less truly and immediately. Paul, however, in his desire to assert the reality of his inward experience, leaves the earthly life of Jesus entirely to a side. He reasons, that to one who knew the exalted Christ the contem-
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plation of the mere bygone history was superfluous. " Though I have known Christ after the flesh, now I know Him no more." The value of the earthly life was that it prepared the way for the exalted life, and to ponder on it now would only obscure the mind to that higher vision. By separating thus sharply between the two phases of Christ's revelation, Paul to a large extent defeats his own purpose. Maintaining as he does that the Christ of faith is identical with the Christ of history, he yet creates the impression that they are in some way different. The appearance in space and time has little to teach us about the character and the work of Him who is now revealed more perfectly. We cannot but feel that Paul's conception of Christ, however intensely realised, is somewhat abstract and impersonal. It is difficult to recognise the features of the historical Jesus in the glorified Being who has manifested
himself to Paul.
John has learned to appreciate the earthly life of Jesus in something of its true significance. He believes, with Paul, that those who have not seen may yet enter into real communion with the Lord, and know Him in some respects more clearly and fully than His actual disciples. But this knowledge must begin with the contemplation of His life as it was once lived in the flesh. That life is the visible guarantee of what He is for ever, and we must constantly go back upon it if the unseen Christ who is with us still is to be something more to us than a mystical imagination. The inward experience, the historical reminiscence, these two are equally
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necessary, and explain and complete one another. John therefore, instead of disregarding the earthly life, takes it as the basis of his exposition of the larger activity of Christ. He teaches us to discover in the Jesus who once appeared in human form, the same Lord whom we have known for ourselves in the inward communion of faith.
In two ways he adapts the historical narrative to this wider purpose, (i) He so records the several incidents as to give them the double import of facts and symbols. The history becomes, so to speak, transparent, so that through it all we can discern the spiritual work of Jesus as well as the outward events of His life. The feeding of the five thousand is like a parable of the giving of the bread of life. The healing of the blind man is no isolated miracle, but the type of the true light breaking in on the darkened world. That no doubt may remain of the deeper import of those actions of Jesus, they are followed in every case by a discourse in which they are plainly interpreted. Even in His lifetime Christ appears as we know Him now, the dispenser of spiritual gifts, whose activity is inward and invisible. (2) It was impossible, however, under the conditions of a narrative which should in any measure reflect reality, to present adequately the Christ of spiritual experience. John has recourse, therefore, to direct statement in the form of prophetic allusion. Such allusions are scattered everywhere in the Gospel, and are prominent most of all in the great Supper discourses. Here Jesus, left alone with
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those who believed on Him and could enter into His thought with a true sympathy, tells of the new revelation which He would make to them after He was glorified. He "speaks no more in parables," but declares openly how He would abide with men in an unseen eternal fellowship. In these chapters the evangelist is able to escape from the restraints imposed on him by the narrative form of his work. He gives full utterance to his deeper thought,—that Jesus who once appeared in the flesh is also that spiritual presence who is still manifest to His own.
The Supper discourses form the Johannine counterpart to those Apocalyptic chapters which in the other Gospels precede the story of the Passion. There also Jesus, before He closes His life-work, throws His mind into the future, and shadows out the history of His Church and His own coming again in glory. The passages in question, embodying as they undoubtedly do some genuine tradition of the thought of Jesus, bear evident traces of the great hope which animated the primitive Church. The theology of Paul himself is modified, to an extent which criticism has hardly yet appreciated, by the expectation of Christ's second coming. The Return was looked for in the immediate future, and was conceived, under imagery borrowed from Jewish Apocalyptic, as a triumphal advent, amidst clouds of glory, of the Lord who was henceforth to reign. In the Apostolic age and for some time afterwards, this splendid expectation was the inspiring force in the Church's life; but as years passed on, and it still remained unfulfilled, there came a
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period of doubt and depression. The closing verse of Revelation bears pathetic witness to the sickness of hope deferred which was stealing into the hearts of many. It began to appear as if the whole activity of the Church had been based on an illusion. Christ had departed, and if He returned it would be at some far distant day, which those who had looked for Him so earnestly would never see.
The frustration of the hope led for the most part to despair and apathy. In the more ardent minds- it induced an unhealthy fanaticism. Such minds refused to accept the apparent fact, and clung more blindly and vehemently to their expectation of the Lord's coming, the more it seemed improbable. They thought to compel the great day by redoubling their certainty of it, and heightening the traditional picture of its character. The movement which culminated in Montanism had already begun in the early years of the second century, and constituted a serious danger to the Church. The real aims of the Christian life were lost sight of under the strain of a morbid excitement. Christian ideas were at the same time materialised. A millennial world such as is described in the well-known passage of Papias took the place of the true kingdom of God, which is righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
It can hardly be questioned that the idea of the Return of Christ is a central theme in John, as in the Synoptics and Paul. He wrote, however, not as they had done, under the living influence of the hope, but in the later age when it had ceased to be
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a real power in the life of the Church. His readers were those who had either abandoned it, and along with it much of their faith and ardour, or who maintained it when it could only pervert instead of nourishing their zeal for Christ. At the same time, the idea of the Parousia had entered so deeply into Christian tradition, so many of the doctrines and claims of the Church had been bound up with it, that John could not simply set it aside as illusory ; — to do so in that critical age of transition would have imperilled, perhaps have undermined, the whole structure of Christianity. Nor has John any desire to break away from it. He perceives that although in its crude immediate form it had proved vain, it yet enshrined a great spiritual truth. Even for Paul and his fellow-apostles, whom it had seemingly disappointed, it had in a deeper sense been fulfilled. The Lord had answered their hope and come to them again,—not on the clouds of heaven as they anticipated, but no less really and gloriously.
Instead, therefore, of discarding the idea of a Return of Christ, John reinterprets it in accordance with his own conceptions, and so retains for it a central place in Christian faith. The real Parousia has taken place already. It followed immediately on the departure of Christ, when through His death He reassumed His glory. Set free from the limitations of earthly, bodily existence, He was able to reveal Himself, as an unseen presence, to each individual believer, and not in transitory fashion, but permanently. To the mind of the evangelist this is no explaining away of the hope of the
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Parousia, no attempt to read a figurative meaning into it, since it had failed in the world of fact. He maintains, on the contrary, that the expectation has been fulfilled in even a more real and satisfying sense than the popular belief had attached to it. Jesus had returned in very truth, and if His people had been disappointed it was only because they had mistaken the nature of His coming.
Many of the allusions in the Supper discourses first become intelligible, when we realise that John is seeking to replace the current expectation of an outward Parousia, by His own more spiritual conception. He indicates that in three ways the Church had misunderstood the promise of Christ, (i) In the first place, it had failed to perceive that the second coming was to follow immediately on the exaltation. Jesus had spoken of "a little time," and this had been construed as meaning an interval more or less extended. Latterly, as years passed by and the great day never seemed to come, the Church was resigning itself to a watch indefinitely long, or else was despairing altogether of any fulfilment to the promise. " Some of the disciples said among themselves, What is this that He saith unto us, A little while, and ye shall not see Me ; and again, a little while, and ye shall see Me ? What is this little while ? We cannot tell what He saith" (xvi. 17, 18). Such a passage vividly reflects the questioning that had arisen in the second and third generations of the Church's history, in view of the long delay of Christ's reappearance. The answer
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is contained in the simile from childbirth (20-22), which turns on the suddenness of the transition from a great sorrow to a great joy. The "little time " is only the dark interval between the Lord's Passion and H is Ascension to the Father. The joy of reunion with Him will immediately begin after that brief agony, and will continue without interruption for ever.
(2) Again, the Church had taken for granted that the Return of which Christ had spoken was to be outwardly manifest. As He had come at first in a visible body, so He would appear a second time, clothed in glory, and every eye would see Him. This open manifestation was to vindicate the Church's faith to the unbelieving world. But John discovers here the chief reason why the hope of the Parousia had apparently been frustrated. Men had been expecting what was in its nature impossible, for Jesus could reveal Himself only to those who loved Him and believed in Him. In His larger spiritual life He was to be spiritually discerned, and the " children of darkness" were necessarily blind to Him. " Judas saith unto Him, not Iscariot, Lord, how is it that Thou wilt manifest Thyself to us, and not unto the world? Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love Me he will keep My words : and My Father will love him, and We will come unto Him and make Our abode with Him" (xiv. 22, 23). The second coming had indeed been fulfilled, but it consisted in the inward revelation of Christ to the believer. " He that loveth Me, I will love him, and will manifest Myself unto him " (xiv. 21).
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(3) Once more, the Parousia, according to the popular belief, was the Lord's coming back for His people. He had left them for an interval to labour and struggle on this earth, while He took possession of His kingdom; but He had not forgotten them, and in due time would return in glory and gather to Himself those who had faithfully served Him. Paul is confident, almost to the very end, that he will not require to pass into the other world by the gateway of physical death. The Lord will return for His people, "and we that are alive shall be caught 'up into the clouds to meet Him in the air, and so we shall be ever with the Lord" (i Thess. iv. 17). John recognises that here also the Church had mistaken the true import of Christ's promise. He had indeed spoken of a day when He would return for His people. He would come again and receive them unto Himself, that where He was they might be also. But such utterances did not imply that at some definite time, in a visible outward manner, he would transport them into some heavenly place. The eternal life may begin here and now; and while still in the body the believer may enter into the promised fellowship with the unseen Christ.
It is true that in several passages of the Supper discourses there would seem to be a double allusion, to a passing after death into the "house of many abodes," as well as to a spiritual reunion with Christ. But the latter thought is the pervading and determining one. When Jesus prays, " Father, I will that those also whom Thou hast given Me 20
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be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory " (xvii. 24), He is not thinking primarily of a future meeting with His disciples in heaven. He is rather completing the train of thought which opens with the verse (15), "I pray not that Thou shouldest take them out of the world." Against the popular conception of an outward Parousia, in which Christ would gather His disciples into His place of glory, the evangelist sets a deeper and more spiritual conception. Those who love Christ and believe in Him are reunited with Him already. He has come back for them, and taken them to dwell in heavenly places with Himselt.
The hope of the Parousia is thus adopted in all its outstanding features, and at the same time corrected, and interpreted in a new sense. Christ had already returned, not in visible glory manifest to the whole world, but as an inward presence, known to those who loved Him. He had taken His disciples to Himself, giving them entrance even now into that eternal world whither He had gone. Out of the crude Apocalyptic hope of the primitive age John educes an idea of permanent value and fruitfulness.
Before discussing this idea a little more fully in its significance for the Johannine theology as a whole, we have to take account of one all-important question. How is the second coming related to the historical fact of the Resurrection? In the primitive belief the two events were conceived as altogether distinct. The rising from the dead, while it marked the transition between the two
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phases of Christ's existence, formed part of the earthly history. It was the triumphant close by which the Lord revealed Himself in His true character before He finally ascended into His state of glory. An interval was to elapse before the second part of the great drama was to open, in the return of Christ as the world's King and Judge. In the Fourth Gospel the two episodes of Resurrection and Parousia appear to be blended together. The earthly life reaches its natural close in the death ("It is finished!"), which is followed by the " little while" of absence and waiting. Then in His Resurrection Jesus comes back to His disciples, never more to leave them, and is acknowledged by them as their Lord and their God.
There is, however, a curious survival of the primitive belief which assumed an interval, longer or shorter, between the Resurrection and the Return. It is suggested by the words of Jesus to Mary (xx. 17), "Touch Me not; for I am not yet ascended to My Father: but go unto My brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto My Father and your Father; and to My God, and your God." Here the Ascension, which in the first chapter of Acts marks the definite departure of Jesus from the earth, is placed immediately after the first appearance to Mary. When Jesus appears again that same evening to His disciples He no longer forbids them to touch Him; on His next appearance He Himself invites Thomas to feel the pierced hands and side. Since the meeting with Mary, His Ascension had been accomplished. He had passed through the
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mysterious, transitional state of being, when He held Himself aloof from men ; and had come back to abide with them. The Parousia is thus separated from the Resurrection by a scarcely perceptible interval, and even this is bridged over by the meeting in which He is seen and heard by Mary, although He withdraws Himself from her touch. We can scarcely be wrong in perceiving here one of John's concessions to the primitive tradition, which he sought to conserve in form, even while in substance he broke with it. His own interpretation allowed no room for an Ascension such as is described by the writer of Acts. He thought of the rising from the dead as at once Christ's entrance into glory and His return in power to the waiting disciples. But he endeavours to reconcile his thought as far as might be with the received doctrine of the Church, and suggests, without precisely indicating, a formal act of Ascension to the right hand of God.
This recognition of the orthodox belief does not, however, affect the substance of John's own characteristic thought. He departs from the traditional doctrine that the rising from the dead was followed, after a short interval of reunion, by a definite withdrawal into heaven, and that this again was preparatory to a second coming, at some unknown time in the future. The three moments, Resurrection, Ascension, Parousia, are all merged in one another. The return of Jesus to His Father was at the same time His entrance on that larger activity in which He manifested Himself again to His disciples. By His death He had over-
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come the earthly barriers, and His rising from the dead marked the commencement of His larger, exalted life. The Resurrection and the Return are practically identical, therefore, to the mind of our evangelist, and his view of both of them is profoundly modified by his thus blending them together, (i) The exalted life of Christ is immediately related to the earthly life, which it continues under larger conditions, but otherwise without change or interruption. In the popular belief, the Ascension implied a transition to an entirely new state of being. We have seen that even Paul, convinced though he was that the heavenly Lord was one with the historical Jesus, determined not to know Him as He had been in the flesh. Such knowledge could only hinder him in his effort to discern the glorified life, which had become essentially different from that earthly one. The whole drift of the primitive theology was to enhance the present exaltation of Christ by detaching it as far as possible from the first appearance in weakness. The Parousia was to be the triumphant evidence that He who had humbled Himself and suffered, had now ascended and clothed Himself in the attributes of glory and power. There was a danger that in this sharp opposition of the two phases of Christ's existence the sense of a real continuity might be obscured. The Jesus of history, the Jesus of the Parousia who was the object of the Church's worship, were conceived almost as two distinct persons, with only a name in common.
By suppressing the interval between the Resur-
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rection and the second coming, John seeks to affirm the identity of the exalted Lord with the Jesus who had revealed Himself in the flesh. The Incarnation had been more than a transient disguise which the Logos had now thrown off, in order to reassume His life with God. It was rather the beginning of a new mode in His existence, and He carried with Him into the unseen world the same human personality through which men had known Him on earth. This is the evident intention of the passage alluded to above, in which the Lord invites His doubting disciple to touch the wounds in His hands and side. His body had indeed been released from the earthly conditions (witness the passing through the closed doors), but it was still the same body. The Lord had come again, not in some new, unfamiliar character, but the same as He had ever been; and those who had entered most deeply into the meaning of His earthly life would know Him best as He now was in His glory. This is a thought that lies very near the heart oi John's theology. He could only bring it into clear prominence by suppressing the interval between the rising from the dead and the Parousia, and making the two events coincident. The reassumption of His body, which fulfilled Christ's life on earth and formed an integral moment in it, was at the same time His return as the exalted Lord, who would dwell with His people for ever.
(2) The Resurrection itself is placed in a new light by standing thus in immediate relation to the Parousia. Its significance ceases to consist, as it
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did to Paul (cf. Rom. i. 4) in the triumphant proof of the divine character of Jesus which it afforded. In the view of John the preceding life had rendered such proof unnecessary: the Father had already borne witness to the Son. Nor did the rising from the dead imply any essential change in the dignity or the nature of Jesus. He had been invested, even in His earthly ministry, with the attributes of God. The continuity of His life was in no wise broken by the transition through physical death to another state of being. The Resurrection, as John conceives it, had its chief significance in this,—that it marked the beginning of the wider activity of Jesus. "He had come again, to pursue His chosen work under larger conditions. He had thrown off the restrictions to which He had submitted Himself for a few years, and would henceforth be present to all believers, in every place and time, as He had once been to His immediate followers. Identified thus with the Parousia (the inward, spiritual Parousia which takes the place of the Apocalyptic hope), the fact of the Resurrection becomes subordinate to its ideal import The fact is indeed accepted, and even emphasised as against a false docetic interpretation; but we are made to realise that it has meaning and value, in so far as it is much more than an isolated fact. As Jesus passed through the closed doors into the midst of His disciples, so He comes to His people continually, no longer divided from them by material obstacles. As he revealed Himself to Mary by the speaking of her name, so He calls to us still in intimate personal
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communion, and our own hearts witness to us that it is the Lord. The historical appearance of the risen Christ to His followers half resolves itself into a type of His permanent revelation of Himself. His Resurrection was also his Return, and this return of which the disciples were the first witnesses is ever and again repeated in the experience of all who have learned to believe in Him. That such is the evangelist's meaning is more than implied in the incident of the meeting with Thomas, and the words that accompany it. Thomas could not recognise the risen Lord till he had actually seen and touched Him. The Resurrection that enforced belief on him was the visible, historical fact of the rising from the grave. " Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen Me thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed " (xx. 29). The experience of those future believers would be as real and valid as this of Thomas. They would also in a true sense witness the Resurrection, which was more than a given fact in bygone history. The Lord would rise again as often as He returned, in inward fellowship, to those who know and love Him.
The Parousia, therefore, is taken out of its Apocalyptic setting, and identified with the return of Christ in that larger spiritual activity on which He had entered through His death. John seeks to show that the coming of the exalted Lord, in Christian experience, will be just as real as the visible coming, and will accomplish the divine
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purpose even more adequately. " Those who have not seen and yet have believed " are in a true sense more blessed than those who saw. They also have an immediate, personal access to the Lord, but He reveals Himself to them more intimately, more fully.
1i) The coming of Christ in the Parousia will be universal,—no longer restricted by the conditions of space and time. All believers will have the same opportunity of knowing Him and communing with Him as had hitherto been enjoyed by the limited circle of personal disciples. There were other sheep not of this fold, "children of God scattered abroad," whom the Saviour could not gather in till He had entered on His larger, invisible life. His disciples who had known Him in the flesh would " weep and lament" over the momentary parting, but " the world would rejoice." The Lord would withdraw Himself in order to return as an all-pervading presence, for the accomplishment of His world-wide work. His earthly life was like the seed which is buried for a time, only to reappear in a fuller and grander form and " bring forth much fruit" (xii. 24). This universalism of John has, as we have seen, its practical limitations, but potentially it embraces the whole world. Jesus since His return in glory was present everywhere. He was able to manifest Himself to His people through whatever distant lands they might be scattered, and to unite them in one common Church.
(2) In His second coming Jesus will be more to His disciples than He was at first, since He will henceforth be an inward presence. His sojourn with
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them in an actual human body, while it seemed to make Him nearer and more real to them, had been a barrier against a true and complete intercourse. They could only know Him outwardly, and their fellowship with Him was necessarily interrupted, and liable to many obstructions and misunderstandings. In the Supper discourses He speaks of a new relation into which He has already taken them, and which cannot be fully perfected till after His death. He has "called them not servants but friends," and this friendship is to grow into something yet deeper, " If a man love Me,—My Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him " (xiv. 23). " I in them, and Thou in Me " (xvii. 23). The conditions of earthly existence had prevented an entire and intimate union between Christ and His people, but in His new life He would enter into their very hearts and impart Himself wholly to them. He would be the same Christ as they had known hitherto, partially and externally, but they would be able to commune with Him as with their own souls. The "friendship" would become an inward union, in which the distinction of " you " and " I " would pass away.
(3) The second coming of Christ, as distinguished from His brief earthly sojourn, will be permanent. This idea, that the Lord when He returns will depart no more, may be described as the chief motive of the Supper discourses. The approaching separation by death is the dark background which throws into clear relief the abiding nature of that new fellowship which is soon to be
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inaugurated. " Your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you" (xvi. 22). "I will that those whom Thou hast given me be with me where I am " (xvii. 24). The transitory life in which an intercourse, fitful at the best, was finally broken off by death would give place to an eternal reunion. The permanence is viewed throughout under two aspects. First, to the individual believer Christ will be for ever present, so that it will be possible to abide in Him in never-ceasing fellowship, as the branch abides in the vine. And again, He will abide with His Church through all the ages to come. There will be no fear of another separation after the Lord has returned in His larger, exalted life. He will not only " tabernacle" with men, but will "make His abode with them,"
Omnipresence, inwardness, permanence,—these are the three marks by which the Lord's second coming will be distinguished from the first; and new phases of His activity are thus rendered possible which were either excluded by the conditions of His earthly life or could only manifest themselves imperfectly. John lays a special emphasis on the efficacy that would henceforth belong to prayer. " Whatsoever ye shall ask in My name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son " (xiv. 13). In virtue of the closer union with a Lord now exalted, the believer would prevail with God, as Jesus Himself had done in His life on earth (cf. xi. 42). A difficulty might seem to be involved in the striking passage (xvi. 23, 24),
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where Jesus prefaces His promise that everything asked for in His name will be granted, with the words, " In that day ye shall ask Me nothing." The apparent contradiction, however, is only a surface one. Jesus would say that hereafter, when His disciples have entered into complete union with Him, they will lose the sense that He is intermediary between them and the Father. They will be so identified with Him that all prayer of theirs will be the prayer of Christ Himself, offered immediately to God. As such it cannot fail to be granted, since the Father's will is always one with the Son's. And this higher efficacy of prayer is only one side of the new power which will accrue to the disciples through the presence with them of the ascended Lord. The mantle of His own divine energy will fall upon them. "He that believeth on Me, the works that I do will he do also; because I go to the Father" (xiv. 12). Such an allusion to the work of the disciples as a continuation, under larger conditions, of the work of Christ Himself, throws a light on the real significance of the miracles recorded in the Gospel. The feeding of the multitude, the healings wrought on the blind and palsied, were symbolical of the spiritual power of Christ, and in this sense would be repeated, on a grander scale, in the life of His Church.
Along with the increase of power the disciples will attain to a more perfect knowledge. The Gospel is pervaded with the thought that in His first coming Christ could not adequately reveal Himself. He had to express His truth under
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the image of "earthly things." He had many things to say which men could not yet receive, and even the words He spoke could not be rightly understood until long afterwards. But His return as an inward presence would open the way to a truer intercourse in which He could fully manifest Himself. " These things I have spoken unto you in parables, but the time cometh when I shall speak no more in parables, but I shall show you plainly of the Father " (xvi. 25). " What I do thou knowest not now, but thou shalt know hereafter" (xiii. 7). " Hereafter ye shall see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man" (i. 51). This thought, that Christ is nearer and more clearly revealed to the believing heart since His Return than when He lived on earth, is indeed the justification of the Fourth Gospel. The evangelist, who has never seen Christ in the flesh, is conscious that he can understand Him and reproduce His inmost mind even more truly than those who in the literal sense beheld Him. He has enjoyed the more intimate communion with the unseen, exalted Lord. He is able to interpret the "parables " in the light of "heavenly things."
The hope of the Parousia, which in itself belonged to a primitive and bygone phase of Christian doctrine, is thus revived by the Fourth Evangelist, under certain characteristic modifications. Not only so, but a place is assigned to it hardly less cardinal than that which it occupies in the theology of Paul. The reason of this
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becomes apparent when we remember that the Gospel centres in the idea of the communication of life, through personal union with Christ. The life was present in Christ Himself. It could be imparted by Him to His people only by an immediate fellowship, a direct appropriation of His " flesh and blood," His actual Person. Even those who knew Him during His brief earthly appearance could not enter into this life-giving union with Him until He had returned, as an inward, spiritual presence. It was only then that He whom they had known externally as Master or Friend could overcome all barriers and make Himself one with them. And to those who had not seen and yet had believed, to the great multitude of disciples in the after ages, the original coming of Christ was meaningless unless it was the earnest of a second coming, no less real and valid than the first. Life could not be imparted to them except through a direct communion with the Life-giver. They needed the assurance that they also, who were divided by long intervals of time from the historical Jesus, had a personal access to Him and could participate in His divine life. Departed as He was from the visible scene, He was yet eternally present, revealing and imparting Himself to His own. The return of Jesus to His disciples is conditioned, as we have seen, by His return through death to the Father. He reassumed the glory which He shared with God before the world was (xvii. 5), and in that same act He became omnipresent like God. No formal Parousia, in the
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Apocalyptic sense, was necessary, since the one return of itself implied the other. And since Jesus was present with His disciples in all times and places, because He was now reunited with God, their fellowship with Him was a fellowship with God Himself. " As Thou, Father, art in Me and I in Thee, that they also may be one in Us. The glory which Thou gavest Me I have given them; I in them and Thou in Me " (xvii. 21-23).
The Fourth Gospel may be said to culminate in this magnificent conception of God Himself eternally present in the believer, through Christ who ^unites us with Himself as He is united with God. The conception is indeed reached along the lines of a metaphysic which in itself is alien to the Christian teaching. The union of Christ with God is interpreted in terms of the Logos theory, which substitutes an abstract, philosophical relation of being for the relation of love and faith reflected to us in the actual life of Jesus. In like manner the intercourse of Christ with the believer is obscured, by the idea of life as an essence which cannot be transmitted except in a semi-physical union. But we can recognise that under the categories of an alien philosophy John is striving to set forth the facts of a profound religious experience. " We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen." He was conscious of a living fellowship with Christ which had meant life and peace and illumination to him; and the assurance was given him that in this fellowship with Christ he had entered into communion with God Himself.
THE HOLY SPIRIT
IN the same farewell discourse which contains the promise of His own return, Jesus foretells the coming of another Comforter, even the Spirit of truth. Not a few of the expositors of the Gospel, both in early and recent times, have discovered the very core of its teaching in these prophecies of the future activity of the Spirit. It may, indeed, be granted that no other Johannine doctrine has exercised a profounder influence on the whole course of theological development; but it does not follow that John himself recognised the full significance of his conception. We shall find reason to conclude that, so far from being central to the thought of the Gospel, it serves to obscure its main intention. All that is essential in the doctrine of the Spirit has already been expressed under other categories. If the passages in question were altogether omitted, the general thought would only gain in clearness and simplicity, although certain isolated ideas, which have proved infinitely fruitful, would disappear.
The New Testament doctrine of the Holy Spirit has its roots in the very beginnings of Hebrew thought. The broad lines of the development can
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be traced with a fair degree of certainty, although our knowledge in regard to many points of detail is necessarily vague and conjectural. It will be well, before examining the doctrine in the special form which it assumes in the Fourth Gospel, to glance back on its previous history.
The Spirit of God, as it appears in the earliest records, is the cause of certain abnormal phenomena in human action and experience (e.g., the strength of Samson, the daring of Gideon, the prophetic impulse and the subsequent madness of Saul). Primitive thought accepted the common order of things as natural and inevitable, and discerned the presence of a higher agency only in what seemed extraordinary. Strange occurrences in the physical world were due to divine intervention; departures from the normal action in human life were likewise the result of some supernatural influence. They were not to be assigned to the will of the man himself, but to the Spirit, the "breath" of God which had for the moment taken possession of him. Two things are noticeable in this earliest form of the conception, (a) There is no attempt to generalise the idea of the divine Spirit. Attention is directed to the particular phenomena which seem to break in upon the natural order, and the ascription of them to a common cause,—the " Spirit of God,"—is only another way of saying that they are inexplicable. (b) The ethical value of the phenomena is left out of account. We even read in the story of Saul of an "evil spirit from the Lord." The one mark
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of spiritual activity is that it cannot be brought within the circle of natural causation, and therefore demonstrates itself to be from God.
In the development of prophecy a new direction was given to the primitive idea. The prophetic ecstasy, in which the visionary seemed for the time to be possessed with a power other than his own, was from the beginning the most signal instance of the divine action on human life. Originally, when the prophetic state was one merely of nervous excitation, the ideas of the Spirit which it suggested were crude and confused. The divine activity was associated not with the message of the prophet, but with his abnormal condition of mind and body while he uttered it. But after the advent of the great prophets a higher conception became possible. It was now recognised that the work of the prophet was to apprehend God in His ethical character, and in the light of this knowledge to declare His will. The Spirit was henceforth regarded as the medium of divine revelation. Its distinctive function was to convey some message from God to the mind of His prophets, while in a wider sense it was the power at work in the religious life generally. To receive of God's Spirit was to enter into communion with God,—to become capable of knowing, trusting,
In certain later passages of the Old Testament an idea emerges which was destined to exercise a vital influence on Christian doctrine. Isaiah had already conceived of the Messianic King as endued in a supreme measure with the Spirit of God,—the
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" Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord " (Isa. xi. 2). It will " rest upon him " as an abiding possession, instead of visiting him as an intermittent impulse. The later pictures of the coming of the Messiah accentuate the idea thus suggested by Isaiah. Not only the Messiah Himself will possess the Spirit in its fullest measure, but the age which He inaugurates will be marked by "an outpouring of the Spirit on all flesh " (Joel ii. 28). The post-exilic time, conscious that the great prophetic impulse of an earlier day had spent itself, looked forward to its revival in a yet higher degree in the future. God seemed for the present to have withdrawn Himself, but the Messianic age would witness a new activity of His Spirit, in which all His people, and not merely the few chosen prophets, would have their part. This idea forms an almost constant element in the Messianic hope, as reflected for us in the Palestinian-Jewish writings.
One view of the Spirit, which meets us several times in the later and more reflective period of the Old Testament, fell practically out of sight in the subsequent development. According to this view, the Spirit possesses a cosmical significance. It represents the immanence of God in His world, as distinguished from the transcendence of His essential being. Thus in the first chapter of Genesis (which belongs to one of the later strata in the formation of the Pentateuch) the evolution of order out of chaos is effected by the Spirit of God. The same idea
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reappears in several of the Psalms. God sends forth His Spirit and creates all life and renews the face of the earth (Ps. civ. 30). His Spirit is an all-pervasive presence from which it is impossible for man to flee (Ps. cxxxix. 7). The Book of Job, in like manner, speaks of the starry heavens as the work of the Spirit of God (Job xxvi. 13). In such passages we may trace the beginnings of the attempt to discover an intermediary power between God and creation, an attempt which became necessary in view of the absolute transcendence attributed to Him in later Jewish thought. The doctrine of the Spirit, however, was pursued no further in this direction. Subsequent speculation on the creative activity of God fell back almost exclusively on the Logos hypothesis, while the Spirit was associated with the idea of revelation, especially of that larger revelation which was to characterise the Messianic age.
Jesus Himself alludes to the Spirit in only a few isolated sayings of minor importance. With His profound sense of the immediacy of the relation between man and God, He seems instinctively to avoid a mode of speech that might imply an indirect action on the part of the Father. So far as He makes reference to the Spirit, He is evidently influenced by the ideas which connected it with the Messiah's kingdom. He claims that the prophecy in Isaiah (Ixi. i), "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me," is now fulfilled in Himself. He promises His disciples the illumination of the Spirit in moments of crisis and perplexity (Matt. x. 20; Mk. xiii. 11 ;
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Luke xii. 12). In the most striking passage of all He speaks of the sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, which can never be forgiven (Matt. xii. 31, 32). The saying is obscure, but has probably to be interpreted in accordance with the prevailing idea, that the power now manifest is no other than the power anticipated in the Messianic age. To mistake that power, to believe it satanic rather than divine, is the height of blindness and sin. In spite, however, of these few detached utterances, we may affirm that the idea of the Spirit is almost absent from the Synoptic teaching of Jesus. The later doctrine, as it appears in Paul and John, was developed out of the whole impression created by Jesus' Person and life, not out of His express words.
The immediate impulse to a Christian doctrine of the Spirit was supplied by the strange psychical phenomena which appeared in the primitive Church, and which were the outward expression of its intense religious life. In every Christian community there were those who felt themselves endowed with new capacities, — with those gifts of healing, faith, knowledge, prophecy, speaking with tongues, which Paul recounts in a well-known passage (i Cor. xii., xiv.). Paul himself, with his nervous enthusiastic temperament, had his share in such abnormal experiences, and ascribed them, like his fellow-believers, to the working of the Spirit of God. The natural tendency to account .for everything extraordinary by a theory of divine influence was now reinforced by the definite expectation of an out-
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pouring of the Spirit in the Messianic age. For centuries it had been believed that the power which had manifested itself in the ancient prophets was to reappear, in larger measure and more widely diffused, after the Messiah's coming. The actual facts seemed to explain themselves in the light of this anticipation. Christ had inaugurated the new age, and the strange excitements which characterised the meetings of His followers were due to the activity of the promised Spirit. "These are not drunken, as ye suppose. . . . But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out My Spirit upon all flesh" (Acts ii. 15-17).
Paul, however, while accepting the common belief that the new activities were the effect of a divine power, transformed it into a doctrine of permanent value and significance, (i) He gathered up once for all under a single conception the scattered phenomena which he observed in the life of the Church. They were the many-sided manifestations of one power—the Spirit—which, since the coming of Christ, had been dominant in the Christian community. Hitherto, as in early Israel, the Spirit had been regarded vaguely, as little more than a common name for a multitude of activities, all separate from each other. Paul discovered in them the working of a single power, "one and the self-same Spirit" which was the common possession of all believers. (2) He was thus able to think of it as permanently active. The old belief that it came intermittently in moments of peculiar experience was still tacitly
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accepted, and seemed to be confirmed by the actual pneumatic phenomena. Paul, however, saw in these the refracted action of a single power which lay behind them, and might be presumed to be always present, even when it was not definitely traceable in some specific form. To the Messianic community the Spirit had become a lasting possession,—the very atmosphere in which it lived and breathed. (3) Hence under the action of the Spirit he included much more than the merely abnormal in religious experience. Not only gifts of healing and speaking with tongues, but the constant endowments of the Christian life—faith and love and hope and patience—originated in the influence of the Spirit. These, indeed, were its truest and most characteristic fruits. That new impulse towards a higher morality and a closer dependence on God, which was for ever present in the believer, was nothing else than the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. As the "flesh " is the principle of sinfulness to which man by his nature is subject, so over against it there is this other power which effects deliverance and makes possible the true life of righteousness.
In one peculiar passage (i Cor. ii. 11) an analogy is drawn between the " spirit of man that is in him " and the " Spirit of God." The Apostle would here seem to attempt a semi-philosophical analysis of the power which he is elsewhere content to regard dynamically, in its practical effects. The Spirit which God communicates to men through Christ is at the same time the principle of His divine self-consciousness, and therefore carries with it a
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revelation of the inmost nature of God. This line of thought, of cardinal importance for the later development of the doctrine, has little bearing, however, on the main thought of Paul. Much more significant are the passages in which the Spirit is brought directly into relation with Christ ("the Spirit of Christ" ; " the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus " ; "the Lord is the Spirit"). The Spirit, whatever be its ultimate nature, is here identified with the power which manifested itself supremely in Christ, and has been mediated by Him to His people.
In so far, then, as Paul worked out his conception into a reasoned and consistent doctrine, his thought may be thus set forth, (i) The ultimate source of the Spirit is God. It resides in Him as the conscious mind resides in man, and proceeds from Him as His divine activity. (2) The sovereign manifestation of this Spirit of God was in Jesus Christ. It was like the power behind His life. It revealed itself in the whole work He accomplished for the world, and most signally in His Resurrection from the dead (Rom. i. 4, viii. 2). Because of this divine Spirit which was manifest in Him, Jesus is to be recognised as the Son of God. (3) Through Christ the Spirit becomes active in the life of His disciples. They become partakers in it through faith in Him, and are thus adopted into His own relation of Sonship to God. It takes possession of them as the power of a new life, and supports them in the struggle with the flesh and sin. It is like another and higher will sustaining theirs, and gradually subduing the whole nature to itself,—till
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the natural life becomes " spiritual" life. (4) The Spirit, which is in itself an abiding, indwelling presence, is revealed in the multitude of separate activities which make up the Christian life,—in special gifts and powers, distributed according to the individual capacity, — in love, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, temperance. It takes the place of the old law imposed from without. Instead of statutory enactment, the Christian man is governed by a spontaneous, self-authenticating impulse towards the higher life. " If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit" (Gal. v. 25).
Practically, therefore, the Spirit is to Paul the power of Jesus acting on believers in the after times as it acted on the first disciples. He is able to declare in so many words, " The Lord is the Spirit" (2 Cor. iii. 17). But it was not possible for Paul, as for the Fourth Evangelist, to assume a present and immediate fellowship between the exalted Christ and the believer. In accordance with his Apocalyptic idea of the Parousia, he conceived of the manifestation of Christ as still in the future. A time would come when His people would be received nto His presence, but their communion as yet was not directly with Him, but with the Spirit which was in His stead. This idea of the Spirit as the " earnest" of what will be hereafter, is in some respects the key to the whole doctrine as it appears in Paul. He realised that the Christian life was in its essence a fellowship with Christ, and yet, by the belief which he shared with the primitive Church, he was obliged to think of this fellowship as still
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future. The doctrine of the Spirit enabled him, nevertheless, to apprehend it as a present reality. Christ had departed, but the Spirit, given through Him and perpetuating His living influence, had taken His place and represented Him till He should come again. Possessing His Spirit in our hearts, we can reach forward to the future and live in the power of it. We can make Christ present to us, and hold a real communion with Him even now.
In passing from the Pauline to the Johannine doctrine, a preliminary question falls to be considered. Did John take up the conception directly from Paul, or was the Pauline influence modified, in this instance as in so many others, by the Alexandrian? A special force is given to this question by John's use of the term •jrapdKkrjroi, a term which would appear to be borrowed immediately from the writings of Philo. Here, however, we have a striking example of the freedom with which the evangelist turned Philonic suggestions to the purposes of his own thought. The passage in Philo (Vita Mos. iii. 14) has reference to the intercession of the high priest, who is so clothed when he stands before God in the Temple that " the whole world may, symbolically, enter in with him." " For it was necessary that the man consecrated to the Father of the world should employ as advocate (Tra/aa/eX??™) His son, most perfect in virtue, to ensure forgiveness of sins and a supply of richest blessings." Attempts have indeed been made to explain " the son" in this
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passage as the Logos, and so to establish a certain connection with the Johannine doctrine of the Spirit. But the thought of Philo, though somewhat difficult, appears to admit of only one interpretation. The high priest does not intercede with God in his solitary character as a man, but is supported by the prayer of the whole universe, —the perfect Creation or "Son" of God. The 7rapdK\t)Toy of the Gospel has nothing in common with that of Philo but the name, and the idea of aid or advocacy implied in it. Neither can the conception of irvevpa, as it is found in Philo, be regarded as in any sense parallel to the Johannine " Spirit." Philo transfers to the Logos those larger activities which are assigned to the Spirit in the later portions of the Old Testament. He associates -jrvev/Mt with the moods of ecstasy in the religious or philosophical life which are brought about at rare intervals by the inspiration of the Logos. The Alexandrian influence, therefore, has little to do with the genesis of John's doctrine of the Spirit. A peculiar character is no doubt imparted to this doctrine, as to every other, by the adoption of the Logos hypothesis; but apart from this it is derived directly from Christian, and chiefly from Pauline, sources.
We have now to examine the Johannine conception, as it is developed mainly, almost exclusively, in the Supper discourses. There is, however, an express statement which occurs earlier in the Gospel, and which prepares the way
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for the more definite teaching. "This spake He of the Spirit which they that believed on Him should receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified" (vii. 39). The verse itself, which fits in awkwardly with the context, has been explained away as an interpolation, or as an unintelligent commentary on a genuine saying of Jesus ; but the best proof of its authenticity is that it expresses clearly and succinctly a characteristic thought of the Gospel. The bestowal of the Spirit was conditional on Christ's departure. " It is expedient for you that I go away; for if I go not away the Comforter will not come to you; but if I depart I will send Him unto you " (xvi. 7). So in the original close of the Gospel (xx. 22) the moment is precisely marked when the promised gift of the Spirit was bestowed. Jesus, risen from the dead, appeared to His disciples, and breathing on them said, " Receive ye the Holy Spirit." Doubtless in this postponement of the gift until after the death of Christ, John was influenced, in the first place, by the current tradition as embodied in the story of Pentecost; but the examination of his doctrine as a whole proves that he had accepted this tradition as an integral element in his own thought. The Spirit was to take the place of Christ, and therefore could not be while He was yet present. It proceeded from the glorified life into which He would not enter until after His death.
Was the Spirit, then, simply non - existent before the departure of Christ? There are state-
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ments in the Gospel which would seem to indicate that from the beginning it had been active. The evangelist speaks of a light which in all ages has lighted every man. He acknowledges the divine authority of the Old Testament, due to its inspiration by the Spirit of God. He records the great saying of Jesus, that the hour " now is " when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The whole work of Jesus as conceived by John is bound up with the presupposition that a divine spirit, active from the beginning, was now finally revealed in Him. "God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto Him " (iii. 34). " John bare record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon Him" (i. 32) "The words that I speak unto you are spirit" (vi. 63), —channels, that is, of the spiritual energy that resided in Christ, and ever went forth from Him. So in the dialogue with the woman of Samaria, Jesus speaks of the living water that shall be in the believer like an ever-springing well, as a gift that He can impart even now. What the gift is He does not say, but in the passage quoted above (vii. 39) it is alluded to under the same image and referred to the Spirit, which could not yet be given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.
We are compelled to the conclusion that the word "Spirit" is used by John in two senses,—a wider and a more specific sense. In the first instance it is the general term, consecrated by immemorial usage, for all divine action. Thus in
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the great declaration, " God is Spirit," it is implied that the nature of God is spiritual, as distinguished from the earthly, material nature of man. " That which is born of the flesh is flesh"; and before man can become a child of God he must be born again into the higher world of " Spirit." In this wider acceptation of the term John is dealing essentially with the Old Testament conception of a supernatural energy, although it is involved in his mind with speculative ideas of Greek origin. "Spirit" is co-ordinated with "truth," and suggests the absolute and ideal being which is shadowed forth imperfectly in visible forms. Regarded in this more general sense, the Spirit has been always active. The work of Christ, even during His earthly life, was a manifestation of the Spirit, —an exhibition of divine as opposed to merely human power. But John recognises that after the death of Christ the action of the Spirit assumed a new and more definite character. He can affirm in so many words that the Spirit did not exist until the Lord was glorified. In place of those spiritual forces which had hitherto worked vaguely and incalculably, there was now one specific power—the Holy Spirit—which was the peculiar possession of the Church of Christ.
In thus regarding the Spirit which came after Christ's departure as something essentially new— different even from the Spirit as it acted through Christ's visible presence—John was governed, apparently, by two considerations, (i) He based on the actual fact that the Church was animated
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by a power to which there was no parallel in former history. Even in the Lord's own lifetime the disciples had failed to attain to the faith and enthusiasm that possessed them in the succeeding age. A sudden access of power, however it might be explained, had undoubtedly come upon them after the Master's death. The explanation embodied in the story of the day of Pentecost had already established itself in Christian tradition, and John accepts it, although he dispenses with the literal story. He represents the risen Lord as breathing on His disciples and communicating to them the Holy Spirit. This new power was henceforth to reign in the Church, and to inspire it with a more than natural energy. (2) But the fact itself harmonised with one of the all-pervading ideas of the Gospel. We have seen that John explains the death of Christ as above all else the condition of His glory, His fuller activity. Divine as He was on earth, He was yet trammelled by the limitations of earthly existence, and could not exert His whole power till He had reassumed His state of glory. The pouring out of the Spirit on the Church is connected with this larger activity which Christ was now free to exercise. He could not impart His supreme gift until He had departed, until He had passed through death into His higher, unrestricted life.
The Spirit is given, then, after Christ's departure, and it is only given to those who belong to Christ by a conscious discipleship. " If ye love Me, ye will
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keep My commandments; and I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because itseeth Him not, neither knoweth Him; but ye know Him, for He dwelleth with you and shall be in you"(xiv. isf.). Here it is expressly declared that the sphere of the Spirit's action will be limited to the Christian community. Those only who love Christ and manifest their love by the life of moral obedience will have the capacity of receiving His gift. This limitation might seem at first sight to be outof keeping with the subsequent passage(xvi. 8-11), where an influence of the Spirit on " the world " is also contemplated. "When He is come He will convict the world in respect of sin and of righteousness and of judgment;—of sin because they believe not on Me; of righteousness, because I go to the Father, and ye see Me no more; of judgment, because the Prince of the world is judged." The thought appears to be that through the Spirit sent by Him the claim of Christ will be triumphantly vindicated, so that the world will realise its sin in not believing on Him; will acknowledge His righteousness, established beyond all doubt by His return to the Father; will know itself judged when He manifestly overcomes the powers of sin and darkness. Thus interpreted, the passage ceases to stand in contradiction to the other sayings in which the Spirit is described as the peculiar possession of the community of believers. A wider action on the surrounding world is indeed claimed for it, but this action will be exerted indirectly, through its prese-nce
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in the community. Christ's people, in the power of His Spirit, will give effect to His message and vindicate its truth and value. The world which had rejected and condemned Him in His own lifetime will be compelled to reverse its judgment, when it witnesses the marvellous work of His Spirit within His Church. Paul, in his discussion of the comparative value of the different spiritual gifts, expresses in a simpler form the fundamental idea of the difficult Johannine passage. " But if all prophesy, and there come in one that believeth not, or one unlearned, he is convinced of all, he is judged of all: and thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest; and so, falling down on his face, he will worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth " (i Cor. xiv. 24, 25). The evangelist gives a wider application to the idea of Paul. He imagines the Church as a whole confronting the incredulous world and impressing it with the sense of a divine power, which finds expression in the various Christian activities. In this manner the work of the Spirit will have a universal significance, although its proper and exclusive sphere is the Church.
The Spirit is conceived, then, as a gift bestowed by Christ after His departure on those who called themselves by His name. The nature of its work is broadly indicated by the Philonic term irapdK\r)ro9. Jesus, while He was yet with them, made up to His disciples, by His own over-shadowing presence, what was lacking in themselves; and after He was gone they required some power that might replace Him.
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He would not leave them " orphaned " ; He would send them a " Helper " or " Advocate," who would support their weakness as He had done during His sojourn on earth. John's conception, taken in its widest extent, is therefore substantially the same as Paul's. He regards the Spirit as the power of Christ still active in the Christian life and pervading it throughout. Love and faith and goodness, all the higher energies by which the Master's life reflects itself in the disciple, are the manifestations of the Spirit. But this conception is by no means worked out with the same fulness and many-sidedness as in Paul. It may, indeed, be assumed that John takes for granted many forms of the Spirit's activity which he does not expressly name;—this is evident not only from the comprehensive term irapaKXijro?, but from the passage (xvi. 8-n) which describes the reflex influence of the Spirit on the world. But his explicit words deal only with one phase of spiritual action. The Spirit will illuminate the minds of the disciples and guide them to all truth (xvi. 13). It will not only keep them in remembrance of what they have heard from Christ (xiv. 26), but will unfold His words in their deeper and larger import (xiii. 7, xvi. 14). Under the light of His Spirit the whole life of Christ will disclose its inner meaning, and sayings and events which were little thought of at the time will come out in their true grandeur. In every passage where the work of the Spirit is distinctly referred to, the thought of John takes this main direction. He conceives of the new power bestowed by Jesus on His disciples as above all a means of
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illumination, of ever-deepening insight into the revelation of God in His Son.
Two reasons may be assigned for this more restricted view of the Spirit's activity which meets us in the Fourth Gospel. On the one hand the evangelist is influenced, more or less consciously, by the historical doctrine as represented in the Old Testament and the later Jewish theology. We have seen that ever since the rise of prophecy, the Spirit had been associated with one specific form of divine action. It was the medium through which God revealed Himself to His prophets, and the more general functions which it exercised in the religious life were so many different modes of this primary one. The idea still persisted in the early Church, that the work of the Spirit was essentially that of prophetic inspiration. Now that the Messianic age had set in, God had bestowed on all His people that higher enlightenment which had once been the special privilege of the chosen prophets. Out of this primitive doctrine Paul had evolved his splendid conception, but it had never been fairly understood or assimilated by the Church at large. The Fourth Evangelist, while he takes up the thought of Paul, develops it along the lines of the orthodox tradition, with the result that he deprives it, in great measure, of its real originality and greatness. What to Paul was a pervasive power, the source and inspiration of the whole Christian life, becomes the " Spirit of truth,"—the agent, above all, of religious knowledge. But again, by his reversion to the earlier and
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narrower conception, John was able to give effect to his characteristic view of knowledge as the chief religious activity. '' That they should know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent," is the secret of eternal life. Jesus accordingly, when He Himself departed, bequeathed to His disciples the enlightening Spirit which should guide them to all truth. With the aid of the Spirit they would attain to an ever clearer apprehension of His nature and message. They would possess within themselves a safeguard against error and a fountain of new illumination. I n the later theology, the Spirit was regarded almost solely as the supreme witness to the orthodox belief and the guide to its correct interpretation. John himself does not share in this restricted view, which is already traceable in the later writings of his school (cf. i John ii. 21, 27, iv. i ff., v. 6 ff.). The Spirit, as he conceives it, is a principle of inner development by which the traditional forms of belief may from time to time be broken up,'in order to reveal more perfectly their essential content. But he is mainly answerable for the direction which was given to the doctrine by the more mechanical thinkers of the succeeding age. He had laid stress on knowledge as the chief condition of life, and had brought this knowledge into a peculiar relation with the work of the Spirit. The higher knowledge, guaranteed by the witness of the Holy Spirit, was identified later with the orthodox dogma of the Church.
Thus far we have considered the Johannine doctrine as it concerns the modes and conditions of
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the Spirit's activity. A more difficult question
confronts us when we seek to obtain some broad
definition of what the Spirit is, in its essential nature.
Is it a Personal Being, one with the Father and
the Son, yet distinct from them, as in the later
doctrine? Is it the Logos of the Prologue, under
another name and another phase of manifestation ?
These views have both to be examined before we
can attempt to discover the real direction of the
(i) It may be said at once that there is no trace in John of the doctrine of a Trinity. The Prologue, where the theological pre-suppositions of the Gospel are most succinctly stated, knows only of the eternal God and the eternal Word. The ensuing discourses of Jesus dwell upon the relation of the Father to the Son, without any thought of a third Person co-ordinated with them in one Godhead. In the later chapters, when the conception of the Spirit definitely emerges, the whole stress is laid on the activity of this divine power in the Christian community. The idea does not present itself to the evangelist, that it had a significance also to the eternal being of God. He implies rather that the Spirit as a distinct power was non-existent until after the departure of Christ from the world. In regard even to its action in the community, John is careful to withhold from it any independent being or influence. "He will take of the things that are Mine." " He will not speak of Himself, but what He shall hear that shall He speak." The whole function of the Spirit is to represent Christ and to
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ensure that His influence shall continue in His
None the less, the terms in which the Spirit is spoken of might seem to suggest a separate personality. The word Trapa/cX^-ros is itself a personal name, and the pronoun "he" is consistently employed, even where the neuter would be naturally demanded by -jrvevpa. The attributes under which the Spirit's work is described—teaching, witnessing, convincing, guiding, hearing, judging, speaking—are all personal. An impression is everywhere conveyed of a power analogous to that of Christ Himself, taking His place and perpetuating His mission. Allowance must be made, however, for the very flexible use of the category of personality which is prevalent in ancient thought. Even the Old Testament, with its uncompromising monotheism, tends to hyposta-tise many abstract ideas, although it is far from implying that they are really to be considered as personal beings. In Philo, as in the Greek thinkers from whom he derives, this tendency is still more prominent. We cannot attach an undue importance to it when it re-appears in the Fourth Gospel, in which the abstract and the concrete, ideas and personal forces, are always merging in one another. Truth, light, life, the word of Christ, are described repeatedly in terms almost as personal as those which are applied to the Comforter. Granting, therefore, that much of his language may easily bear a personal interpretation, we are not to infer that John regarded the Spirit as a personality in the sense of the later Church doctrine. His conception,
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so far as he envisaged it to himself, is rather to be gathered from the verse (xx. 22): "He breathed on them, and said unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost." The Spirit is an influence imparted through Christ to those who believe in Him,—His own divine breath moving for ever in His Church and quickening it with a new life.
There was, however, a special reason why John was led to describe the Spirit in terms which can be properly applied only to a person. To have described it otherwise would have obscured the very truth which, as we shall see, underlies His whole doctrine. The Spirit is in the last resort one with Christ Himself. It is spoken of as "another Comforter," taking the place of Christ and carrying on His work to a larger fulfilment. But this distinction is only an apparent one. The power which Christ sends to replace Him in the hearts of His disciples, is simply Himself returning as an unseen presence.
(2) The second question that requires an answer is that which concerns the relation of the Spirit that came after Christ's departure to the Logos of His pre-existent life. It might appear at first sight as if the two powers were identical. Before the Incarnation there was a divine presence immanent in the world, the life and light of all men,—and in Christ it was gathered up, so to speak, into a single manifestation. The death of Christ was His return to the glory which He had shared with God. He shook off His transient vesture of humanity and re-assumed His Logos attributes as the all-
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pervading Spirit. This interpretation may indeed be said to correspond in some degree with the evangelist's thought. Since Christ is one with the Logos, the activity He exercises through His Spirit bears a certain analogy to that which as Logos He exercised from the beginning. But the Word made flesh was something more than the abstract Word. After the Prologue the category of the Logos falls into the background, as no longer sufficient by itself to explain the historical work of Jesus. He, in His human personality, was more than the divine principle which was all the time one with Him. The work of the Spirit does not connect itself with the pre-existent Logos of the Prologue, but with the earthly life as set forth in the Gospel proper. This, indeed, is the emphatic thought in the mind of John. He seeks to ensure that the power which will replace Jesus will represent His personal activity as it had been during His life on earth. The Spirit will unfold more fully the words which Jesus had spoken, will keep His disciples in remembrance of all that He was and did. It will give permanence to the historical revelation, which might otherwise be merged in the eternal action of the Logos and lose its distinct reality.
The difference between the Logos and the Spirit is clearly indicated by the different spheres of action which are ascribed to them. The Logos is the " light that lighteth every man." Not only so, but it possesses a cosmical significance as the power through which God has created and sustains the world. John does not indeed develop this
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side of the conception, but he makes it evident that his Logos, like that of Philo, is universally present and active as the medium of God's self-revelation. The Spirit, on the other hand, manifests itself solely within the Church of Christ. Its influence on the world, if any such influence can be assigned to it, is altogether of an indirect character, and is determined by its action on the Church. There can be no question of any cosmical function exercised by the Spirit. Its work is effected in the heart of the believer, and is strictly one of religious guidance and enlightenment. John himself appears to be quite unconscious of a possible identification of the Spirit with the Logos of the Prologue. He introduces it as an entirely new principle, which could have no real existence until Christ was glorified. H is thought of it has nothing to do with his philosophical speculation, but is bound up entirely with his knowledge of the actual work of Christ.
In order to discover, then, how John conceives of the Spirit, we have to consider more closely in what relation it stands to the life of Jesus. It is abundantly clear that the relation is a very close and vital one. The office of the Spirit is to " bring to remembrance" all that Jesus has said and done (xiv. 26), to justify His life against the slander and unbelief of the world (xvi. 8-u), to lead His disciples to a deeper knowledge of His mind and will, which they had only understood in part while He was with them (xvi. 12-15). Against these passages which relate the Spirit immediately to Jesus, we can indeed set others, which might seem
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at first sight to bring it into direct dependence on God. " I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Comforter " (xiv. 16). " The Comforter whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father " (xv. 26). Here it might appear as if the evangelist sought to represent the Spirit as the immediate gift of God, who confirms and perfects the work of His Son by this other power sent forth from Himself. But even in these passages the relation to Christ is made explicit. It is in consequence of His prayer that the Spirit is given: the Father will send it in His name (xiv. 26) ; it proceeds from the Father, and is yet sent from Him by Christ Himself. There can be little doubt that the thought is similar to that which comes to expression in other sayings, where the power of God is discovered behind the immediate work of Jesus. " No man can come to Me except the Father draw Him." "The Father Himself hath borne witness of Me." " I do nothing of Myself, but My Father worketh in Me." As the work of Christ in His lifetime had been in its essence a manifestation of the power of God, so the Spirit which came after His departure had proceeded from God. None the less, in a more immediate sense, it was He Himself who sent it. He continued to work through this divine power, and it bore witness of Him.
The Spirit is thus sent by Jesus after His death to replace His own presence with His disciples. At this point, however, the crucial difficulty in the
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Johannine conception is at once apparent We have seen that John regards the departure as only " for a little while,"—for the brief interval between the death and the Resurrection. The Lord had withdrawn His visible presence in order to return, and unite Himself in a closer, more lasting fellowship with those that loved Him. There is therefore no occasion for the sending of " another Comforter " who will replace Him. Christ Himself, abiding with His disciples, will be more to them than the promised Spirit, which is, at the most, nothing but His substitute. The evangelist appears to be fully aware of the difficulty in which his double conception has involved him. He feels that it is impossible to discriminate between the work of the Spirit and the work of the exalted Christ, and allows the two ideas to shade into each other at every turn. Jesus makes His promise of the " other Comforter, even the Spirit of truth, which will abide with you for ever" (xiv. 16), and declares in the same breath, " I will not leave you comfortless; I will come to you" (xiv. 18). The ideas of the coming of the Spirit and of His own return are interchangeable, and no attempt is made to keep them separate.
Indeed, the more closely we examine the Johannine doctrine of the Spirit, the more we are compelled to acknowledge that there is no real place for it in the theology as a whole. All that is vital in it is contained already in the grand conception of the return of Christ as an invisible and abiding presence. We can come to no other conclusion than that John endeavoured to combine with his
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own thought, which was complete in itself, the doctrine of the Spirit, as set forth by Paul. To Paul the union with Christ was still something in the distance, which faith could anticipate, so confidently as to regard it almost as a present reality, but which could not yet have its true consummation. The Spirit reigned in the interval, until Christ Himself should be manifest. It was the " earnest" of that closer fellowship which was as yet withheld. In Paulinism, therefore, the idea of the Spirit had a real and essential place. It enabled the Apostle to maintain his hope of the Parousia, and at the same time to live his present life in the power of Christ. John, however, has escaped from the crude apocalyptic theory which still obscured the deeper instincts of Paul. He has grasped the underlying truth in the idea of the Parousia while discarding the inadequate form, and is able to conceive of Christ as already come and inwardly present to His people. This conception of the return of Christ is his own characteristic expression of the Pauline doctrine, and in seeking to combine it with the literal doctrine of Paul he only complicates and weakens it
The doctrine of the Spirit may therefore be regarded as the supreme instance of that tendency, everywhere prevalent in the Gospel, to conserve the traditional belief alongside of the new and deeper interpretation. From the beginning the Church, as representing the Messianic community, had claimed to possess the Spirit, which, according to prophecy, was to be poured out on God's people in
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the latter days. This Spirit, at first regarded as a power that worked intermittently in abnormal experiences, became with Paul the motive energy of the whole Christian life. He expressed his knowledge of Christ, his living fellowship with Him, in terms of the activity of the Spirit, which represented Christ until He came again in the Parousia. John had transcended the primitive system of thought of which the idea of the Spirit formed an integral part; but he had still to reckon with it as a belief which had entered profoundly into the accepted teaching of Christianity. He was conscious, also, that it did not conflict with his own belief, but rather anticipated it in a less developed and explicit form. He is content, therefore, to introduce it as an alternative to his own conception of the return of Christ. The Spirit which he apparently describes as a separate power, is yet dependent on Christ, and perpetuates His work, and imparts nothing which it has not received from Him. In a word, the Spirit is one with Christ Himself. That power which the disciples are conscious of as an inward spiritual presence is their risen Lord, come again that He may abide with them for ever.
At the same time a certain distinction is drawn between the whole activity of the exalted Christ, and the special work which He will accomplish as the Spirit. It has been noted already that the peculiar task ascribed to the -n-apdicKijTo^ is that of illumination. He is the Spirit of truth, in its
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Johannine sense of absolute reality. He leads the mind beyond symbols and appearances to the knowledge of what is ultimate and essential. Possessing this Spirit, the disciples will be dependent no longer on external revelation, but will have a light within them, leading them on to an ever fuller and clearer knowledge. Jesus Himself, in His Synoptic teaching, replaces the ancient system of statutory commandment by the "law of liberty," the principle of moral autonomy ; and John by his doctrine of the Spirit extends this principle to the intellectual life. As the Christian conscience was free henceforth to legislate for itself, so the mind, enlightened by Christ, was to possess its own inward source of revelation. It was to discover those " many things" which were left unsaid by Jesus, or only shadowed forth by Him in dark hint or parable. It was to advance continually on the traditions of the past, and renew its thought of God in the light of new knowledge and new necessities. The Gospel itself, in its daring re-interpretation of the words and the life of Jesus, is the best commentary on this profound and fruitful idea. The evangelist goes back on the historical record and reads into it those larger meanings which a century of Christian life and reflection had gradually unfolded. He contemplates the work of Jesus not merely as it once was in the days of the visible sojourn, but as it was still continued in the experience of the Church and of the individual believer. Thus in an age when Christianity was in danger of hardening into a lifeless tradition, John asserted the
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supreme authority of the Spirit. He recorded the Lord's message as it was revealed to him by the Spirit, by the living Christ who was still present to those who loved Him.
Here, however, we must take account of that other thought on which John is careful to lay a peculiar emphasis. The office of the Spirit consists in declaring the mind of Jesus and perpetuating the work He had accomplished in His earthly life. " He shall testify of Me," "He shall not speak of Himself, but whatsoever He shall hear, that shall He speak." "He shall glorify Me, for He shall receive of mine and show it unto you." The Spirit is the perennial source of new revelation, and yet this new revelation is only the unfolding, ever more largely and clearly, of what has already been imparted in the life of Jesus. All our knowledge of God and His truth is ultimately derived from the historical manifestation, which conveys a different message to each succeeding time, but can never be superseded. We have seen that in his doctrine of the Return of Christ the evangelist asserts the identity of the glorified Saviour with the Jesus who had sojourned on earth. The work that had been resumed under larger conditions, with an access of divine power, was only the continuation of the earthly work, in the light of which it must be interpreted. This same idea re-appears and receives a more definite application in the doctrine of the Spirit. The exalted Christ, who abides with His people as the Spirit of truth, is one with Jesus, and delivers a message in which the first message is perpetuated,—in which it
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is expressed more fully, and adapted to the world's ever-changing needs.
On the one side, therefore, John vindicates the right of the Christian intelligence to reach out beyond the literal tradition to a higher and completer knowledge. In His brief earthly ministry Jesus did not exhaust His revelation. He departed from us in order to return, and to impart to the successive generations of His people those further truths which the disciples in His lifetime had been unable to bear. " I have declared unto them Thy name, and will declare it" (xvii. 26). But while claiming this freedom for the Christian thinker, and exemplifying it in his own Gospel, John insists on the eternal worth and significance of the historical record. The Spirit is not to be confounded with the speculative fancy, wandering at its own pleasure and arriving from time to time at new beliefs. It is the Spirit of Jesus,—His mind as revealed in His ministry on earth, living again in His disciples. It will only interpret to them, under new forms and in larger measure, the truth which He delivered in His recorded words. "Whatsoever He shall hear, that shall He speak: ... for He shall receive of Mine and shall show it unto you."
SUMMARY AND CONCLUSION
AN attempt has been made in the foregoing chapters to analyse the Johannine teaching into its chief elements, and to examine them in detail. It only remains to gather up the results of the discussion, in order to arrive at some estimate of the meaning and value of the Gospel as a whole.
By our ignorance of the authorship of the work and of the immediate occasion which called it forth, we are deprived of an all-important clue to its main intention. We are able, nevertheless, to form at least an approximate judgment. The Christian religion, transplanted to a Gentile soil, removed by a whole generation from the age of the apostles, had entered on a new and critical phase of its history. To maintain itself under the altered conditions, it required to reinterpret its message, in such a manner as to impress the larger world of Hellenic culture, while still preserving its own essential character. The need for such a re-interpretation was made evident to the Church at large by the exigencies of controversy. In the interval 23
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that had elapsed since the death of Paul and the first apostles, the attack on Christianity had assumed new and more serious forms. The Jewish opposition had become more radical; objections, to which the primitive theology supplied no answer, were raised by the philosophical schools; fresh enemies were always declaring themselves as the Church extended its borders. It is highly probable that the Fourth Gospel, like the Apologies of the succeeding age, was originally designed to serve a controversial interest, and that the larger plan gradually developed itself in the writer's mind out of this narrower one. He perceived that the conditions of the Christian mission had entirely changed within the past generation. Before an adequate answer could be rendered to particular difficulties, it was necessary to present the whole system of Christian belief under a fresh light, in language that would be intelligible to the new time.
In the case of all the Apologists of the second and third centuries, the task of defence entails a certain modification of the traditional teaching. The Church, in its effort to overcome the opposition of the Hellenic world, is compelled to reconcile itself as far as possible with Hellenic ideas. John employs this method more fully and more deliberately than any of his immediate successors. He is not content to effect a partial compromise with the prevailing modes of thought, but attempts a complete restatement of Christian doctrine. The polemical design with which he started becomes a subordinate, though still traceable element, in the
SUMMARY AND CONCLUSION 355
greater design of interpreting the message of Christ to the mind of his own age.
His purpose, however, requires to be more exactly understood. Recognising, much more clearly than other Christian thinkers, the need for a thoroughgoing reconstruction of the Church's belief, he was anxious to conserve whatever was distinctive and essential in it. This is apparent in his treatment of the various doctrines which are considered more or less fully in the course of his Gospel. While recasting them freely, in the characteristic moulds of his thought, he is careful in every instance to keep himself in line with the orthodox tradition. But his fidelity to the genuine Christian message is most of all discernible in his attitude to the central doctrine of the Person of Christ. The ultimate power which had inspired the mighty movement of the Apostolic age was nothing else than the life and character of Jesus. Not His actual teaching but His wonderful Personality, as it had impressed itself on His disciples in their immediate intercourse with Him, had constituted His revelation. John, though he writes a century afterwards, when the life of Jesus was fading into the distance, perceives that Christianity is inseparably bound up with it. He goes back to the facts of the gospel history, and seeks to present them to his contemporaries as the eternal basis of their faith. The reconstruction of doctrine is everywhere subsidiary to this practical purpose of affirming once for all the supreme value of the historical revelation in Jesus.
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The evangelist aims, then, at interpreting Christianity to the new age in such a manner as to conserve, and even to assert more clearly than hitherto, its distinctive message; and within this larger intention we can discern a more definite one. The acute opposition between the Christian community and the outside world had resulted in the fuller development of the idea of the Church. It had come to be realised that the followers of Christ were a people apart, and that the preservation of the new religion depended on the unity of the Church within itself. It was sought to maintain this unity, outwardly by a strict organisation, inwardly by the establishment of one common type of belief in which all private opinion should be merged. The church history of the early centuries is largely a record of the various struggles that inevitably followed from the attempt to fulfil this ideal; and at the time when our Gospel was written the first great struggle, occasioned by the appearance of Gnosticism, was just beginning. John speaks in the name of the orthodox Church, and his work is permeated with a strong church consciousness ; but his position is somewhat peculiar. While insisting on the imperative need for unity, he feels that it is only attainable by a wider comprehension. The antagonisms which had revealed themselves within the Church were not yet so serious that they might not be reconciled, to the deepening and enrichment of the common faith. Outward uniformity would be worse than useless if no room were allowed within the mechanical frame-
SUMMARY AND CONCLUSION
free activity of the Spirit of
work for Christ.
Much that at first sight appears contradictory in the Gospel receives its natural explanation when we regard the evangelist as maintaining the church idea, and yet endeavouring to broaden and spiritualise it. We can understand why he recognises the external order of government and worship, and insists at the same time on the inward and personal character of Christian discipleship. We can understand also his curious twofold attitude towards the accepted system of belief. On the one hand, he identifies himself with the church doctrine, and finds a place even for those elements in it which are logically inconsistent with his own thought. As a member of the Church, he yields his assent to the orthodox faith, and takes for granted that in his new presentation he is only unfolding and interpreting it. On the other hand, he does not exclude ideas which were already regarded by a large section of the Church as heretical. He perceives that the new movement, which was afterwards to result in the various Gnostic systems, had its ground in a genuine religious need, and endeavours to arrive at some understanding with it. The heresy would be most effectually overcome if the truth in it could be sifted out from the falsehood, and allowed its due place in the established faith. Hence the peculiar relation, at once polemical and sympathetic, in which John appears to stand towards Gnosticism. He sees that it is fraught with danger, and reaffirms, with a special emphasis, those vital facts of Christianity
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which it threatened to set aside; but he is willing to borrow from it whatever seemed true and valuable in its teaching. The Church, as he conceived it, was to allow room within its pale for all the different types of Christian thought and temperament. It might so assimilate fresh elements into its doctrine as to satisfy every legitimate spiritual need.
The Gospel, then, is the expression of the mind of the Church in its effort to readjust itself to a new age and a new environment. It is also the expression (and if this is forgotten, we miss its ultimate secret) of a profound personal religion. John had held fellowship for himself with the invisible but still living Christ, and claims that the knowledge to which he has thus attained is equally valid with that of the immediate disciples. He is conscious, indeed, that he can penetrate even more truly than they into the real mind of Christ. The outward revelation has become an inward one. The Master whose intercourse with His people was once limited by earthly conditions has now returned to dwell in their very hearts. This intense conviction, ever present in the mind of John, that he also had known the Lord as truly and immediately as the first apostles, was the ultimate motive which impelled him to write his Gospel. He believed that the eternal Christ of inward religious experience was one with the Jesus of history. The life as it had been manifested on earth was only the beginning of the larger invisible life, and the two revelations served
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to complete and to illuminate one another. In the light, therefore, of his own personal knowledge, he goes back upon the historical record, and seeks to understand it in its deeper and more permanent meaning. He feels himself at liberty to break through the letter of the tradition, to supply new sayings and symbolic incidents, to reflect on Jesus in His lifetime the glory with which the faith of the Church had encircled Him. To ascribe all this to some process of conscious invention, is to mistake the whole purpose and character of the Gospel. The departure from the traditional record had its true motive in a profound realisation of the Lord's continual presence. The knowledge of Christ which had come to him in inward communion was merged in John's mind with the knowledge he had received from without It was equally valid and authentic. The same Christ who had spoken in the bygone times was speaking now, and the words were as truly His as those which had actually fallen from His lips. This, indeed, is the abiding value of the Gospel, that it brings Jesus before us at once as a historical Person and as the invisible Lord who is ever present with His people. The experience of faith is thus invested with a new reality. We are able to feel that the inward presence to which we still have access is no other than Jesus Christ; and the message He speaks to us in our own lives blends itself with His recorded message, and is no less personal and authoritative. It is John more than any other teacher who has imparted the secret of that living fellowship with Christ which is the
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central meaning of Christianity. He wrote of Jesus as he himself had known Him, and claimed for all believers the same right of immediate personal knowledge. They also, although they had not seen, might hold communion with Christ, and as His disciples have life through His name.
The cardinal ideas of the Gospel have been examined at length in the foregoing chapters. They may be resolved, on an ultimate analysis, into three, (i) Jesus Christ in His actual Person is the revelation of God. The natural tendency, in an age removed by two generations from the life of Jesus, was to lose sight of the Person and to conceive of Christianity as a system of doctrine. Jesus was the revealer of certain eternal truths, and when these were understood His life might be left aside as something temporary and accidental. The evangelist perceived, however, that the grand fact of the Christian religion was Christ Himself. He found the revelation not so much in any words that Jesus had spoken, as in the Personality that was reflected, at best imperfectly, in the words. The teaching of Jesus as presented in the Fourth Gospel has little of positive content. It consists almost entirely of sayings about Himself and His relation to God and the belief and obedience due to Him. This was not the nature of our Lord's teaching as we know it from the Synoptic Gospels ; but John breaks away from the tradition in order to bring out emphatically what he sees to be the meaning at the heart of it. Jesus was Himself the revelation; and
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His words, however great and wonderful, were chiefly precious because it was He that spoke them, and they afforded insight into His mind and spirit. In virtue of what He Himself was, He had opened up a new world to His disciples and brought them into communion with God.
(2) The peculiar work of Jesus was to impart Life. There was resident in Him an altogether new principle, by which He lived and which He sought to communicate to those who believed in Him. In previous Christian speculation, the life which Jesus had promised as the reward of faithful discipleship was regarded as something in the future ; John conceives of it as a present possession. The believer, in the same act by which he surrenders himself to Christ, is born into a new state of existence, and becomes endowed with new powers and new capacities as a child of God. The life after death is only the continuation, under conditions of wider freedom, of the life which may be apprehended here and now. We recognise here again that John has penetrated to the essential meaning of the Synoptic teaching of Jesus, and has given it a clearer and in some respects more adequate expression. He realises that the life described by Jesus under apocalyptic imagery was in its substance an inward and spiritual blessing, and was involved in that " change of mind " without which a man cannot enter the Kingdom.
(3) The life is communicated through union with Christ It was inherent in His own Person, and before it can reappear in His disciples they
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must become in some sense identified with Himself. Belief and moral obedience are only stages towards a vital fellowship with Him, through which His very nature will be imparted. Life, as it manifests itself in the Christian community of all times and places, is simply the life that was in Christ, continually reproduced in His followers, who have known Him as an abiding presence and apprehended Him in a mystical union. In this profound conception of the relation of the believer to Christ, the evangelist develops, along lines already indicated by Paul, a truth which is everywhere implicit in the authentic gospel history. Jesus chose His disciples "that they should be with Him" (Mk. iii. 14), that His immediate influence should be around them continually, and transform them into His own likeness. This personal fellowship with Jesus was the secret of the new life which gradually sprang up within them. Reflecting on their experience, John is conscious that it must still repeat itself if Christ's disciples in the after times are truly to participate in His gift. They also must have access to the immediate presence of Christ, and become, in some sense, one with Him.
These three ideas, however, are all presented under two different aspects, in accordance with the twofold view of the Christian revelation which pervades the whole thought of John. He writes, on the one hand, out of a deep religious experience. Through fellowship with Christ he had attained to a higher life and a new assurance of God ; and
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he accepts Him, by a simple judgment of faith, as his Lord and Saviour. But he feels it necessary to explain and justify the convictions that have thus been born in him. He has recourse to the speculative forms which the thought of his time afforded him, and seeks to express by means of them the purely religious truths of Christianity. The result is that the genuine import of his teaching is to a great extent obscured. We have constantly to disengage it from the alien metaphysic which appears to interpret, but most often warps and conceals it
Looking back, then, on the three main ideas indicated above, we can discover in the case of each of them the forced combination of two different modes of thinking, (i) Jesus in His own Person is the revelation of God. This is the fundamental thesis of the Gospel, and it embodies, in the last resort, a simple religious judgment. The evangelist had come under the power of Jesus, had beheld His glory as it was reflected in the love and holiness and self-sacrifice of His earthly life. He realised, as the first disciples had done, that God Himself was manifest in that life of Christ. But he translates this belief, given immediately in a religious experience, into the terms of a philosophical theory. Jesus revealed the Father because He was Himself identical with the Logos, the eternal principle which, according to current speculation, was the medium of God's activity. His life, therefore, was that of a divine being, self-determined, omniscient, endowed with supernatural energies. He revealed God not so much in His moral
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attributes as in His intrinsic nature. The picture of Jesus which passes before us in the Gospel is everywhere imbued with this conception of Him as Logos, and loses, in this way, much of its reality and attractive power. But the eternal Word is at the same time the historical Jesus. Behind the theological construction there is the reminiscence of the life as it was actually lived, in its moral grandeur and divineness. Sometimes, as in the Supper discourses, this reminiscence definitely breaks through the Logos conception; but even where it is most obscured its influence is still present and determinative. The conviction that God was manifest in Christ has first impressed itself on John's mind through his contemplation of the life, and his statement of it in terms of the Logos doctrine is in the nature of an afterthought. The doctrine, born of a philosophical need, was radically incapable of expressing the religious truth ; and throughout his Gospel John is vainly striving to reconcile two different conceptions of Jesus. They remain, in the end, apart—always parallel but never, in any true sense, assimilated to each 9ther.
(2) In his presentation of the idea of Life, we can discern the same twofold strain in the evangelist's thinking. Christ is the Life-giver in virtue, first, of his Logos nature. He was Himself of the essence of God, and the life that dwelt in Him was different in quality from that of men. The purpose of His coming was to transfuse into man's earthly being the higher life which belongs originally
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to the divine nature alone. But again, John starts from the idea of life as it had come to him through the Old Testament and the Synoptic teaching of Jesus. According to this conception, life is the realisation of man's true activity as a moral and religious being. God, in His infinite love and holiness, is the Living One, and man participates in the divine life by conforming his will to the will of God, and so entering into communion with Him. Life as thus conceived has gained a new meaning and reality for John through his knowledge of the revelation in Christ. He sees that the true life has been manifested once for all in the life of Jesus, and that men can obtain it only by sharing in His Spirit and abiding in Him continually. Jesus in His own Person was the source of life to all future ages of His Church. Here again the metaphysical and the underlying religious ideas remain separate, although they are covered by one name and are apparently fused together. In His effort to explain the profound change effected in a man's moral nature by the power of Christ, the evangelist has recourse to modes of thought which belong to an alien philosophy. The life which consists in love and faith and likeness to Jesus is described as a higher kind of essence, inherent in the divine Logos and by Him imparted to men.
(3) The two lines of thought are perhaps most clearly traceable in the central doctrine of the communication of life through union with Christ On one side John conceives of the union as effected mystically, it may almost be said magic-
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ally. To obtain the higher essence which constitutes life, the believer must be united to the Life-giver in a semi-physical relation. A real validity is attributed to the Sacraments, especially to the Eucharist, in which Christ gives perpetually of His flesh and blood, and thereby incorporates Himself with His people. The words of Christ, likewise, are something more than the vehicle of His message. They carry with them some portion of His own personal being, and become a life-giving energy in the hearts of all who receive them. And this partial appropriation of the divine nature through word and sacrament only prepares the way for a complete and abiding union, in which Christ as an indwelling presence gives Himself wholly to His disciples. The believer is like a branch grafted on the vine, and the life that possesses him is the life of God, mediated through His Son. This mystical conception, however, is combined throughout with the purely religious one. The union with Christ in which life is imparted is a moral and spiritual relation, a " friendship " between the Lord and those who believe in Him. They are united to Him not only by an outward obedience but by an inward sympathy, and have identified their whole will with His. They live in His presence, so that His influence is upon them always, inspiring and transforming them. It was by intercourse with Jesus in His living Person that the immediate disciples were brought near to God and attained to new power and clearer knowledge. John perceives, and this is the ultimate teaching of his
SUMMARY AND CONCLUSION 367
Gospel, that the life is still communicated by this personal fellowship. Jesus is ever present with His people, even nearer to them than He was in the first days, and they can hold communion with Him, and with God through Him.
Thus in every part of the Gospel we can discover two lines of thinking, apparently brought together but in reality parallel and distinct. The evangelist is seeking to express ideas essentially religious under metaphysical categories which were in their nature inadequate to his purpose. The Logos doctrine and the historical revelation in Jesus Christ could not be brought into real harmony. A seeming reconciliation could only be effected by a certain confusion of terms and a continual transition from one order of ideas to another fundamentally different. We cannot admit that the Alexandrian philosophy allowed of a final, or even of an approximate, expression of the truth of Christianity. It was a form borrowed from the time, and the vital teaching of the Gospel can be disengaged from it, and requires to be so, before we can grasp its real significance. Nevertheless the adoption by John of the Logos hypothesis marks an all-important stage in religious history. The need that it served was in many respects a temporary one, but even thus it prepared the way for a permanent broadening and deepening of Christian thought.
(i) Much was gained, in the first place, by the
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alliance with Hellenic culture which was now rendered possible. It was the acceptance of the doctrine of the Logos that acclimatised the new religion in that Gentile world to which, since the days of Paul, it had made its chief appeal. Involved hitherto in Jewish tradition and symbol, it had remained foreign in large measure to the Greek mind, but it could now translate itself into intelligible modes of thought, and influence a far wider circle. Not only so, but new and fruitful lines of theological development were now laid open. Christianity could serve itself heir to the results of five centuries of Hellenic thinking, and was thus enabled to find a larger, and in some ways a truer, expression for its own intrinsic message.
(2) The universal character of the work of Christ was plainly asserted for the first time by the identification of Him with the Logos. Paul, indeed, had apprehended, with a sure religious instinct, that there was neither Jew nor Greek, Barbarian nor Scythian, bond nor free, but all were one in Christ Jesus. As a Jewish thinker, however, he could discover no adequate form wherein to express this conviction of the universality of the gospel. He still moved within the circle of the traditional Messianic ideas, wrapt up as they were with the expectation of a purely national deliverer. With the adoption of the Logos doctrine, Christianity was finally severed from the bonds of Jewish particularism. Jesus was now the Word that had been from the beginning, the Light that lighteth
SUMMARY AND CONCLUSION 369
every man. The name of Messiah ceased to bear its historical meaning, and became nothing but an alternative for the truer and more comprehensive title of "Son of God."
(3) Christianity could now be conceived not only as the universal but as the absolute religion. Since Jesus was the eternal Logos, the same in essence with God, He could no longer be regarded as merely one in the succession of God's messengers. He was the "true Light," the absolute revelation. His message might be capable of ever new and larger interpretation, but it would always be the same message, revealed through Him once for all. It is apparent from the prologue that John consciously realised this implication of the Logos idea. Jesus is contrasted with the "men sent from God" who went before Him,—with John the Baptist and Moses, the supreme types of the prophetic order. They were only reflections of the light which in Him was directly manifest. The same thought is emphasised, on its other side, in the sayings concerning the Spirit in the Supper discourses. All revelation henceforth will be mediated by the Spirit, which will only unfold in new language and with a fuller power the truth imparted by Christ. " He shall receive of Mine, and shall show it unto you."
(4) With the aid of his Logos hypothesis, John was able to assign to Jesus His central place as not only the founder, but in His own Person the object, of Christianity. To know Him, and believe in Him, and apprehend Him through an inward
THE FOURTH GOSPEL
fellowship, constituted the real aim and meaning of the Christian life. In this desire to assert the divine worth of the Person of Jesus, we can discern the root motive of John's acceptance of the doctrine of the Logos. He was conscious, by a judgment of faith, that Jesus was in Himself the way and the truth and the life, through whom alone men have access to the Father. It was necessary to employ some definite theological symbol which might affirm for all time coming this supreme religious significance of Jesus Christ. The Logos doctrine, offered him by the current philosophy, was indeed an imperfect symbol. It clothed the figure of Jesus in a merely formal divinity, and half obscured those elements in His life and Personality which were most truly divine. But it was the shell which preserved within it the vital truth of Christianity,—that Jesus is Himself the revelation. His religion, ever since this Gospel was written, has centred on His own Person, and has thus maintained itself, amidst all changes, as a real and living power.
In all these directions the idea of the Logos, adopted by John as the philosophical basis of his teaching, has served a great and necessary purpose; but it was provisional and inadequate, and the gains that resulted from it were not secured without a sacrifice. The evangelist desired to enhance the glory of Jesus by robing Him in the attributes of the eternal Word. By the heightening of the miracles, by the suppression of all that might seem derogatory to the divine
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nature, by the substitution of lofty oracular language for the simple sayings and parables, he sought to represent our Lord more worthily as the Son of God, manifest in the flesh. We cannot but feel, however, that he largely defeats his own purpose. The plain Synoptic narrative, in which Jesus passes before us as He actually lived, leaves on our minds a far truer and grander impression of His divine character than the elaborate theological Gospel. Those sayings about the Father and the Kingdom of God and the new life which have come down to us as Jesus spoke them, are richer and deeper, for all their apparent simplicity, than the grandest sayings in John. The passages of the Fourth Gospel which have arrested the Christian imagination are just those which conform most closely to the Synoptic picture, and are borrowed possibly from the same original tradition : the meeting with the Samaritan woman, Jesus weeping for a lost friend, the washing of the disciples' feet, the Master's last farewells to " His own." Here the attempt to clothe Jesus with a metaphysical divinity is laid aside, and He stands out in the authentic glory of His love and goodness and compassion. Presented thus, He "draws men unto Him," and reveals His likeness to God in a far truer and deeper sense than when He wears the attributes of the eternal Word.
The permanent value of the Gospel does not depend, therefore, on its adaptation of the Logos doctrine to the facts of Christianity, but is to be
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sought apart from that doctrine, one may almost say in spite of it. The evangelist has grasped intuitively in the experience of faith, certain truths which he endeavours to interpret by means of the accepted philosophy of his age. That philosophy has now in great part lost its meaning to us. At the best it was an imperfect medium, intractable to the purpose for which John employs it. But the form is one thing and the substance another. The Gospel, on a last analysis, is the personal testimony of a profound religious spirit, expressing, in the language of a given time, the truths which must ever be vital to Christian faith.
(i) It was John who first comprehended, and asserted for all time, the abiding significance of the earthly life of Jesus. After the lapse of two generations, when the life was now fading into a distant memory, he went back upon it, and discovered in it the absolute revelation of God. His work took the form, not of a theological treatise, but of a Gospel—an actual narrative of the life of Christ. To know Him as He had lived and worked among men, was the one key to the meaning of His religion. It is true that John's record, as compared to that of the Synoptists, is vague and fragmentary. Much of the impression that it creates on us is due to the reminiscence of the Synoptic narratives with which we approach it and which we read into it unconsciously at every step. But it is no less true that the Synoptics themselves acquire a new value from the " spiritual Gospel" which follows and completes them. It supplies us with the larger conception of
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Jesus as the ever-present Lord, and we carry this conception with us, as John himself did, when we contemplate the earthly life. Sayings and incidents that might seem in themselves to signify little, appeal to us with a new meaning. The story that has come down to us out of a remote past connects itself with our own experience and touches us directly with a living power. It is the Fourth Evangelist who has taught us to read this eternal import in the recorded life of Christ. He has lifted it, so to speak, out of the limits of its historical conditions, and made it a present reality to believers in all ages.
(2) We owe to this Gospel our deepest and most sufficing conception of the true nature of the work of Christ. In the doctrine of Life, as John presents it, there is much that belongs to a mode of thinking with which the world has long ceased to be in sympathy. The metaphysical categories which he employed could afford no true explanation of the great inward change effected by Christ in those who confess Him. But we must distinguish between the essence of John's thought and the forms in which he embodied it He perceived, as not even Paul had done hitherto, how profound and radical is the " change of mind " involved in Christian discipleship. It is like a new birth, a transition from death to life. However we may judge of John's own peculiar doctrine of the new life, we cannot but recognise that he has supplied us with the one conception of the work of Christ which can never lose its value and fruitfulness. The eternal need of man is for life,
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more abundant life. The word may carry with it widely different meanings to different men, in various periods of the world's history, but in itself it is the one comprehensive word which sums up all the thousand wants and longings of our human nature. And in Jesus Christ, as this evangelist has taught us, we have Life—the supreme possession in which all desire is satisfied.
(3) The Gospel centres in the idea that life is communicated through an immediate fellowship with Christ. He departed from our sight, only that He might return as an inward, all-pervading presence, and abide with His people for ever. It was John who first gave clear and adequate expression to this view of the Christian life, as nothing else than a continual communion with the invisible Lord. Paul had already made approaches to this conception, but he was hampered on the one hand by his theory of a future Parousia, on the other hand by his separation of the exalted life of Christ from the bygone earthly life. To the Fourth Evangelist these complications of the simple religious idea have ceased to exist. Jesus returned in the same act by which He rose from the dead, and His larger invisible life is only the continuation of His earthly life. As He called His disciples into fellowship with Him, so He calls men still, and in this fellowship they receive of His divine gift. Tradition has assigned the Gospel to an eye-witness of the Saviour's life, a beloved disciple who was nearer to Him than any other. While 'in its literal sense this account of the authorship cannot be substantiated, we can yet
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acknowledge its essential truth. The Gospel is indeed the transcript of a personal experience. This evangelist, who wrote nearly a century after the event, was not dependent on a secondary knowledge, but had himself communed with Christ and testified of those things which he had heard and seen.
(4) Affirming as it does the continual presence of Jesus with His people, the Gospel has secured to Christianity a principle of inward life and ever-fresh development. Jesus was the Word, the final and absolute revelation of God to man. But His earthly appearance, instead of exhausting the revelation, was only the beginning of it. The Lord would come again as an indwelling Spirit, and would interpret ever more fully the message He had spoken on earth, and unfold it in new aspects according to the needs of each succeeding time. The Fourth Gospel is itself the supreme illustration of this side of its own teaching. It identifies the Jesus of history with the eternal Christ who reveals Himself to faith. It represents Him as speaking, not in the words that He literally uttered, but in new words consonant with the changed conditions of a later day. For this message contained in his Gospel John claims a validity equal to that of the recorded message. He feels that he also is expressing the mind of Christ as it has been revealed to him in immediate and personal communion; and for all believers in the after-times he vindicates the same privilege. They have access for themselves to Jesus Christ. Besides the tradition of His teaching, they
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possess His living Spirit to guide them to all truth. " Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him, shall never thirst; for it shall be in him a well of water, springing up into everlasting life."
Christian piety in all ages has nurtured itself on the Fourth Gospel, which has been to the Church at large what it was to Luther, " the precious and only Gospel, far to be preferred above the others." The appeal which it has thus made to the deepest religious instincts of mankind may be largely explained from this very fact, that it is not the work of a literal eye-witness. It describes the Saviour not merely as He was, within the narrow limits of His life on earth, but as He is for ever, to those who have known and loved Him. When Jesus seemed to have departed, when the hope that He would come again had almost disappeared, John found the way back into His presence. He discovered that the Lord was still near, that after the little time of parting He had returned, never more to leave His people. Millions in the times since have responded to the message of this unknown disciple. He has taught them how they who have not seen, and yet have believed, may draw near to Christ, and, abiding with Him, have life through His name.
Agape, 127, 224.
Agony, 43, 45, 304, 307 f.
Alexandrian influence, 53 f.
Allegorical allusions, 19.
Allegorical method, 56 f.
Aloofness of Jesus, 166.
Angels of the Churches, 134.
Apocalyptic literature, 179, 192.
Apologists, 87, 99, 354.
Aristotle, 147, 244, 245.
Artistic character of Fourth
Gospel, 18, 22. Ascension, 43, 45, 304, 307 f.
Baldensperger, 85. Baptism, 40, 81, 129 f., 279. Baptism of Jesus, 43, 78, 81. Baptist, John the, 33, 35, 37, 77 f.,
Baptist party, 79 f. Belief, 12, 52, 119, 267 f., 275. Beloved disciple, 57, 144, 374. Bethesda, 57.
Caesarea Philippi, 33.
Caiaphas, 113, 230.
Cana, miracle at, 34, 58, 259.
Church, doctrine of the, 12, 24,
105 fF., 228, 356. Clement of Alexandria, 45. Clementine Recognitions, 80. Colossians, Epistle to, 88, 91, 95,
98, 102. Comforter, see " Spirit."
Communication of Life, 265 ff. Complexity of Fourth Gospel, 23,
27. Composition of Fourth Gospel.
i6f. Concessions, 10, 118, 216, 219,
249, 308, 348, 357.
Dante, 22, 25.
Death, 222, 248.
Death of Christ, 52, 73, 113, 169,
204, 207, 223 f., 335. Disciples, 1059, 137. Docetism, 89, 95. Double significations, 23. Drawing to Christ, 199, 277.
Earthly things, 209.
Ephesians, Epistle to, 54, 88, 105,
Ephesus, 46, 53, 79. Episcopal system, 132. Eternal Life, 238. Ethical conditions of knowledge,
275 f. Eucharistic discourse, 71, 123 f.,
186, 260, 293. Exclusiveness, 115.
Faith, 52, 97, 266 f. Feet-washing, 122, 130, 168.
Gentiles, calling of, uof. Gnosticism, 27, 63, 86 f., 274, 276,
357- . yvoims, 94, 96, 97.
Good Shepherd, parable of, 135 f.,
230, 232. Greeks, meeting of Jesus with, 110.
Hebrews, Epistle to, 54, 225.
Heresies, 5, 102.
"Hour "of Jesus, 169.
Idea of the Good, 148. Ideas, Platonic theory of, 253. Ignatius, 124, 132. Illumination by the Spirit, 338,
349-Intercessory prayer, 108, 225, 272.
Jews, polemic against, 34, 7<yf.,
John, First Epistle of, 88, 94, 102. Judas, 18, 72, 127. Judgment by Christ, 17, 185,
Kingdom of God, 7, 39, 129, 178,
238. Knowledge, 96, 97, 212, 271 f.,
Lazarus, 37, 164, 250. Leadership in the Church, 135. Life, 4, 124, 126, 201, 222, 234 ff.,
283, 318, 361. Lifting up, 185, 204, 233. Light, 254 f. Logos, 13, 43, 51, 54, 61 f., 95,
112, 145 ff-, 195, 201,208, 258,
289, 343, 363, 367 f-Lord's Supper, 43, 61, 71, 122 f.,
222, 260, 287. Luke, preface to, 2. Luther, 376.
Montanism, 140, 301. Moses, 74, 77,92-Mother of Jesus, 74, 75. Mysteries, 39, 128, 140, 279.
Nathanael, 47, 74, 166.
New Birth, 39, 129, 220, 278 f.
New Commandment, 115, 123.
Nicodemus, 18, 37, 39, 57, 220,
Nisan, month of, 223. Numbers, John's use of, 21.
Officialism, I33f. Old Testament, 92, 196. Omnipresence of Christ, 166. Omniscience of Christ, 165. Only-begotten, 187. Originality of John, 29-
" Man from heaven," 50, 192. Manna, 60. Memra, 149. Messianic age, 324, 339. Messianic idea, 4, 6, 50, 177,
i82f., 322. Miracles, 12,20, 35,164!., 197, 268.
Papias, 31, 301.
Parables, 38, 42,44.
irapaK\rjTos, 330 f.
Paschal controversy, 224.
Paschal Lamb, 224.
Paul, 15, 46 f., 105, 191, 206 f., 217,
240, 266, 279, 297, 325, 368. Pentecost, 332, 335. Pericope adulterse, 218. Person of Christ, 41, loo, 120,
163, 209 f., 262, 270, 283, 291,
355, 360, 363, 369. Peter, 18, 33, 34, 130. Philip, 57, 210. Philo, 55, 58, 146 f., 201, 245, 272,
Pilate, 18. niaris, 93.
Plato, 147, 148, 221, 253. Polemical aims, 24, 65 ff. Prayer, 315 f. Prologue, ii, 13, 16, 54,85, 145,
i55f., 176,211,344-Publicity of Christ's work, 72. Purchas, 133.
Resurrection of Christ, 193, '94. 241, 306 f.
Return of Christ, 295 ff. Revelation, Book of, 76, 87, 95,98,
116, 213, 301.
Revelation by the Spirit, 322. Revelation in Christ, 2iof., 363: Roman government, 115, 140.
Sacraments, 12, 21, 106, I22f.
Samaria, woman of, 18, 36.
Sanctification by Christ, 225.
Self-determination of Jesus, 169.
Self-witness of Jesus, 198, 203.
Seven, mystical value of, 21.
Siloam, 57, 130.
Simon of Cyrene, 91.
Sin, 51, 218 f.
Son of God, 4, 179, i86f., 192 f.
Son of man, 178, i83f., 213.
Spear-thrust, 20, 31, 91.
Spirit, 12, 45, 106, 229, 242, 320 ff.
Spiritual agencies, 91.
Spiritual phenomena, 325.
Subordination of Son to Father,
201. Synoptic influence, 32 ff.
Talmud, 73. Temptation, 43, 172. Thales, 152.
Thomas, 18, 57, 310, 312. Three, mystical value of, 21. Transfiguration, 43, 45. Transition, 4f., 26, 63. Trinity, doctrine of, 341. Truth, 45, 212, 253 f., 334. Two classes of men, 17, 97, 215. Two natures, doctrine of, 161. Two worlds, 96, 222.
Union of opposites, 10. Union with Christ, 288 f., 361, 365 Unity of Church, 135, 230f. Unity of Fourth Gospel, 31. Universalism of John, H2f, 313 368.
Vine, parable of, 259, 289. Virgin Birth, 43, 45, 187.
Witness to Sonship of Christ,
Words of Christ, 171 f, 284 f. Work of Christ, 205 ff. Works of Christ, 197.
Trinity College of Biblical Studies
FOURTH GOSPEL UNIT THREE