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.
Trinity College of Biblical Studies-Free Online Bible College
Trinity College of Biblical Studies-Undergraduate Studies
Trinity College of Biblical Studies Library
St Augustin-Homilies on the Gospel of John -Homilies on the First Epistle of John
St Chrysostom-Homilies on the Gospel of St John and the Epistle to the Hebrews
Register for this free Online Bible class by clicking on this link
THE FOURTH GOSPEL UNIT TWO
and more definitely, as hostile to Christianity. The Book of Revelation, written in the same neighborhood, under the same outward conditions as our Gospel, reflects the feeling that had grown up in the Church under successive persecutions. It had come to be recognized that the world and Christ were enemies. The Church was driven back on itself and accepted the world's hostility as final and irremediable. Its obligations henceforth, its work of love and usefulness, were to find their limits within itself. The attitude of the Gospel may be partly accounted for by these historical conditions, but the true explanation lies deeper. For all his width and spirituality, John has accepted the ecclesiastical idea. He has learned to identify Christianity with the Church as an outward institution. Between this Church, to which the higher spiritual life has been imparted, and the surrounding world he sees a great gulf fixed. The "world" exists for him only as an outer darkness, with which he need not concern himself, since it has no part in the work and the promises of Christ. This attitude was doubtless accentuated by the prevailing hostility between the Church and the secular power, but it belongs to the inner substance of John's thought. He starts from the conception of the Church as the elect community of Christ, within which alone He can reveal Himself to men.
It is here that John makes his gravest departure from the actual message of Christ as we know it in the Synoptic Gospels. That message was in the fullest sense universal. It was addressed not so
much to those within the fold, to the just men who needed no repentance, as to the darkened world without. In the Fourth Gospel a whole side of the teaching of Jesus, and that the grandest and most characteristic, is left wholly out of sight. The " Saviour of the world " becomes in effect the Saviour of the Church. He lays down His life "for His friends; "He loves His own and prays for them, "not for the world" (xvii. 9). At the same time the peculiar power of John's Gospel is due in great measure to these very limitations. It forgets the wider aspects of the message of Christ, only to express with matchless depth and intensity His appeal to His own personal disciples. His love to " the world " has assumed a new meaning for all time, because John, within the limits of the Church idea, was able to realize so intimately His love for " His own."
We have thus discovered that the universalism of the Gospel is combined with a sharp-cut conception of the Church. Christianity makes a world-wide appeal only in the sense that men of all races are among the chosen disciples; Christ has His sheep in every fold. But the Church in which the scattered children of God are thus united is separate from the world, and has an organic life and character of its own. It is one of the main purposes of the Gospel to legislate for this new community. From the manifold confusion and error of his own time, the evangelist goes back to the original intention of Jesus. He seeks to determine the nature of the true Church as con-
THE FOURTH GOSPEL
statute by the Lord Himself in His fellowship with the first disciples. In three directions we can trace this practical interest underlying the Gospel, and coloring its whole presentation of the life and teaching of Christ.
I. In the first place, John is concerned with the doctrinal basis on which the true Church must rest. It is a significant fact that the Fourth Gospel has contributed more powerfully than any other influence to the building up of the orthodox Christian dogma. The great Church councils, from Nicaea onward, worked on the lines laid down by John, and sought to formulate his doctrinal positions more fully and precisely. This choice of John as the master-theologian ("6 #€0X0705") was no mere matter of accident. His teaching lent itself as a basis for the common belief because it was designed by himself for that express purpose. Writing as the representative of the Church, he set himself deliberately to shape a theology on which the whole Church might agree. The outward organization was to maintain its unity through the commonly accepted faith.
The Johannine theology in several of its aspects first becomes intelligible when we thus regard it as expressing the mind of the Church, not merely of the individual thinker. Reference has been made already to the frequent "concessions" to earlier types of doctrine. Again and again the characteristic ideas of the Gospel are blended with others which have simply been taken over from the
common belief without any real assimilation. They are part of the traditional Church doctrine, and the evangelist as a member of the Church accepts them. In like manner we can explain his manifest desire to keep himself in line with the current modes of belief even when in spirit he breaks away from them. He avails himself, as far as may be, of the existing elements of Christian thought, and works upon them by methods of allegory and reflection in order to make them capable of new meaning. His aim throughout is not to create a new theology, but to conserve and at the same time broaden and deepen that which he found already. His readers were to feel that the Church spoke through him, reiterating the witness of those who had been with Christ "from the beginning" (xv. 27). The position of John as a Church theologian may also account in some measure for the abstract dogmatic form in which he gives expression to the great Christian truths. He does not start like Paul, with facts of personal experience, but with a priori assumptions. He lays down certain doctrines which must be simply " believed " on an outward authority, and so made the foundation of the Christian life. There is indeed, as we shall see later, another side to his conception of Christianity, but in the first instance he presents it as a body of theological "belief" imposed on men from the outside. The idea of orthodoxy as the necessary condition of salvation has its roots in John ; and the inference is a fair one that his work is intended, like later confessional
THE FOURTH GOSPEL
documents, to express the beliefs of the Church at large. Here were certain fundamental principles which required to be taken for granted by all who would call themselves by the name of Christ. Without a clear uniformity in these matters of doctrine, there could be no true Church.
John's purpose, then, is to shape a theology which will give adequate and authoritative expression to the common faith. The time had come when it was necessary once for all to mark out the doctrinal basis on which the Church might henceforth build itself in accordance with its true idea. It will become apparent as we inquire more fully into the theology of the Gospel, that its aim in this direction is of a twofold nature. On the one hand, it seeks to establish more firmly the genuine Christian tradition. In the passing over to a new time and a new culture, in the attempt to reconcile its faith with heathen philosophies, the Church was in danger of drifting away from its old anchorage. The memory of the life of Christ was fading into the background. The central significance of the Person of Christ was no longer recognized as it had been by the first Apostles. John perceived that the whole life and power of Christianity were bound up with the belief in Christ. If the Church was to survive and accomplish its mission, it must hold true to its primitive faith that God had manifested Himself to men through the historical life of Jesus Christ. The Logos doctrine of the Fourth Gospel marks a momentous innovation on the earlier
Christian theology, yet its inner purpose was wholly conservative. As against the dangerous tendencies of the new time, it re-affirmed with a stronger emphasis the original Christian position. Jesus in His living Person was the Way and the Truth and the Life. The divine revelation had come through Him, and He must ever be the one centre of Christian faith.
But along with this primary intention of basing the Church more firmly on its original foundation, there is another, hardly less prominent. While insisting on the beliefs which he recognized as essential, John desired to make room for the new elements of truth that had come to light in his own age, or might be revealed in after times. Already, perhaps, he foresaw the danger of an undue hardening and narrowing of the Church's doctrine, consequent on a too violent revulsion from heresy. He so broadens his own conception of Christianity as to admit much that has come to him from alien sources; and not only so, but he secures an inward principle of development by which the Church may be able from time to time to renew and enlarge its knowledge of the truth. The Spirit bequeathed by Christ was the abiding possession of His people. They were not dependent on any fixed tradition, but on the living Spirit, which was ever revealing new truth to them, unfolding more and more fully the original revelation of Christ. If the later Church constructed its rigid system of orthodox belief on the lines laid down by the Fourth Gospel, we need to remember that the Gospel itself
THE FOURTH GOSPEL
is the eternal protest against all such fixing of dogma. The true Church, as the Evangelist conceived it, was to hold fast the essential belief in Christ, so as to maintain a living fellowship with Him. Then in virtue of that fellowship it was to advance to ever clearer and fuller knowledge, renewing the outward forms of truth with each new age.
II. The ecclesiastical purpose comes out most clearly in the view of the Sacraments which is set before us in the Gospel. Already towards the close of the first century the whole life of the Church was bound up with the two great ordinances of Baptism and the Lord's Supper. In his doctrine of the Sacraments we must seek for the key to John's position in regard to the general question of the
One of the most striking peculiarities of the Gospel is the omission of the all-important narrative of the institution of the Supper. In the place where this narrative stands in the other Gospels we have the scene of the feet-washing, followed by the exhortation to mutual love and service. The omission and the substitution are both significant, and cannot well be explained except in one way. With his profound insight into the spiritual meaning of Christianity, John saw a danger in the increasing reverence attached to the outward rite of the Supper. The natural craving for something visible and material in religion had seized on the simple ordinance bequeathed by Jesus, and invested it with
a superstitious value. More particularly among those Greek Churches for which the evangelist wrote, the ideas that had grown up around the heathen mysteries were gradually transferring themselves to the Christian Sacrament, with the result that the Gospel message was half emptied of its meaning. The marked omission of the one incident which to many must have appeared the most important in the whole narrative, must have been intentional. John wished in the most decisive manner to subordinate the outward rite to what was spiritual and essential. " By this shall all men know that ye are My disciples, if ye love one another." " Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you." Not a ritual ordinance, but the inward spirit of love, truth, peace, was Christ's real bequest to His disciples, by which they would be kept in fellowship with one another and declare themselves to the world.
While John omits the actual incident of the foundation of the Supper, he deals at length with the sacramental idea in the discourse which follows the feeding of the five thousand, in the sixth chapter The Eucharistic bearing of this chapter is quite apparent. Even the language used is of a technical character, and is borrowed from contemporary discussion regarding the nature of the Lord's Supper.
The discourse in this chapter is based on the preceding miracle, which, in accordance with John's method, becomes the symbolical expression of a permanent religious fact. Christ dispenses to the world the bread of life. He has in Himself an
THE FOURTH GOSPEL
inexhaustible divine life which He imparts from age to age to those who believe on Him. How is this life communicated? It might appear from the earlier portion of the discourse as if the process were conceived as wholly spiritual. Jesus demands a true belief on Himself as the revelation of God, a living communion with Him, an assimilation of our nature to His. But this spiritual process is associated, more and more definitely as the chapter draws to a close, with the ordinance of the Eucharist: "The bread that I will give is My flesh, which I give for the life of the world " (vi. 51). " Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink His blood, ye have no life in you " (53). "He that eateth My flesh and drinketh My blood, dwelleth in Me, and I in him" (56). In sayings like these we have direct allusion to the Eucharist as the " medicine of immortality,"1 the means of fellowship between Christ and the believer, the real appropriation of the body and blood of the Lord.
In this chapter, therefore, we seem to have two views, wholly contradictory to each other. The imparting of the bread of life, typified in the miracle, is the communication by Jesus of His own mind and spirit to His disciples. It is also identified in a special manner with the outward rite of the Eucharist. The contradiction is partly to be explained as an instance of John's peculiar method. He does not discard the common beliefs, even when they clash with his own, but accepts them formally in order to interpret and spiritualize them. In the
1 Ignat. Eph. 20.
present instance he takes the popular conception of the religious value of the Supper, and sets it in the light of a higher and more reasonable conception. The outward ordinance becomes symbolical of the true communion with Christ by a life of faith and obedience. To "eat His flesh and drink His blood" is to appropriate His spirit, to make yourself one with Him so that He seems to live again in His disciple. John himself points us to some such symbolical import in his words, by the warning with which the discourse closes : " It is the spirit that quickened, the flesh profited nothing " (vi. 63). He indicates that the language he has borrowed from the common Eucharistic usage must be taken in a higher acceptation. He has been speaking not so much of the literal body and blood of Christ conveyed through the visible elements of the Supper, as of something inward and spiritual. The external ordinance is only a symbol, of which the reality is a living and personal union with Christ.
Nevertheless it must be granted that John in this chapter lays an emphasis on the outward rite which cannot be wholly reconciled with his higher, more spiritual view. To him, as to the Church at large, the Eucharist was more than a ritual observance. He insists on its real validity, and relates it in the most solemn manner to the central facts of Christianity. We are compelled to recognize that he himself was affected with the sacramental ideas, against which, in their crude and unreasoned form, he makes his protest. He believes that in some mysterious manner the divine life is communicated
THE FOURTH GOSPEL
through the bread and wine, which represent the actual flesh and blood of the Lord. The full significance of this view of the Supper will be discussed later, in connection with the whole Johannine doctrine of Life. It will be seen that through his twofold conception of Jesus as at once the divine Logos and the historical Person, the evangelist is led to construe Life in metaphysical as well as in ethical terms. " In Him was Life" in the sense that He was the repository of a higher nature, different in kind from that of man. His purpose was to make men partakers of this life, by so uniting them with Himself that His divine essence is transfused into them. The Eucharistic idea lends itself naturally to this view of Life as a sort of ethereal substance. It is adopted by John not merely out of deference to a deep-seated popular belief, but as an organic element in the structure of his own thought
His attitude to the Supper appears therefore to be of a twofold character, (I) He recognizes the danger to the higher life of the Church of an external ordinance, observed as it was wont to be in a mechanical and superstitious spirit. The Christian rite had become more and more impregnated with influences from the surrounding cults of Paganism, with the result that the mere act of participating in the Supper was supposed to possess a supreme religious value. John seeks to counteract this unthinking, semi-heathen estimate of the ordinance. He dares to depart from the well-established tradition which assigned the instep-
tuition of the Supper to the solemn hour immediately preceding the Lord's Passion. That which appears in the other Gospels as the first observance of the Eucharist becomes with him a simple Agape, and is associated with the giving of the new commandment " that ye love one another." The Church holds communion with Christ and proclaims Him to the world by manifesting that spirit of mutual love and service of which He had offered the supreme example. A formal act of worship, however sacred in itself, "profited nothing," and may even be a positive power for evil. When Judas received the sop, " Satan entered into him " (xiii. 27). To eat without discerning the Lord's body, without a sense of the inward, spiritual meaning of the rite, is to incur j judgment through the H only Supper. (2) J john's purpose, however, is not to disparage the Sacrament, but to assert the great religious facts in which its real significance consists. The act which is nothing when it is performed ignorantly and mechanically, is of sovereign value to those who have apprehended its true meaning. The material elements represent the flesh and blood of Christ—His divine Person, given for the life of the world. He is present in them not merely by way of symbol, but actually, and His disciples by partaking of them become incorporated with His higher nature. But there must be something in the recipient corresponding to the spiritual reality which is conveyed through the gift. The outward act of participation must be accompanied with belief in Christ and a true insight into the nature of His work, and a will
128 THE FOURTH GOSPEL
to know and serve Him. The Sacrament becomes operative as the bread of life through this receptive spirit on the part of those who observe it.
The aim of the evangelist, therefore, was to substitute a deeper and more religious conception of the Supper for that which he found prevalent in the Church of his time. He sought to connect what was otherwise an outward rite, of the same order as the heathen mysteries, with the new and vital truths of Christianity. It seemed possible in this way at once to maintain the Supper as the central act of Christian worship, and to dissolve the superstitious reverence with which it was commonly regarded. The inward significance of the rite would be more the^n the rite itself. It became apparent in the course of the later development that the popular conception of the Supper had really been enhanced by this attempt to modify it. The spiritual implications on which John had laid the chief emphasis were more and more confused with the outward ordinance, till the distinction between symbol and reality was lost sight of altogether. For this result John cannot be held responsible, except in so far as his deeper interpretation was itself mingled with elements which were in the last resort unspiritual. His conception of Christ as Logos involves him in a view of Life which can only be described as semi-physical, and which runs parallel throughout with the purely religious view. Life as so regarded cannot be communicated except by a magical agency, and John discovered this agency in the Lord's Supper. One side at least of his thought,
though not the most vital or characteristic, had its legitimate outcome in the later Catholic doctrine.
The teaching of the Gospel on the Sacrament of Baptism is complicated by the controversy with the Baptist party, but this itself helps to throw light on the writer's main position. A certain value is granted to the baptism of John, although its formal, inadequate character is duly emphasized. It was a baptism " with water," as contrasted with the true baptism " with water and the Spirit." The discourse on the New Birth, in which these words occur, corresponds with that in the sixth chapter on the Bread of Life. The reference to Baptism, though scarcely so pronounced as the later reference to the Lord's Supper, is sufficiently evident, and bears out what has been said already of John's attitude to the sacraments. The entrance into the " kingdom of God" is a spiritual act, of which the outward rite of baptism is only the seal and symbol. A man is "born through the Spirit," and on this spiritual aspect of the great change the whole stress is laid throughout the chapter. None the less the "water" is co-operative with the Spirit. John accepts without question the ordinary Church doctrine of the mystical efficacy of Baptism, while he seeks at the same time to co-ordinate it with a more reasoned conception. The discourse in the third chapter will demand a fuller consideration at a later stage, but meanwhile it may be illustrated by two other passages which have likewise a manifest bearing on the subject of Baptism. The blind man, after his eyes have been anointed by 9
130 THE FOURTH GOSPEL
Jesus, is sent to wash in the Pool of Siloam, and having washed returns seeing (ix. 7). Here the miracle is due to the power of Jesus, who is the Light of the World, and this is insisted on by the detailed account of the anointing. Yet the work of Jesus only received its completion when the man had " washed." In other words, the rite of Baptism is necessary, not only as a seal and evidence of the saving work of Christ, but as the real perfecting of it. The transition from darkness to light, from the natural to the higher life, is effected in the sacramental act. The other passage is even more significant. It is contained in the dialogue between Jesus and Peter at the scene of the feet-washing (xiii. 8-10), when Jesus declares, " If I wash thee not thou hast no part with me," but explains further that after the first washing nothing is necessary save to wash the feet. The passage is a difficult one, but its general drift seems plain. The feet-washing is the sovereign expression of the spirit of Jesus, the spirit of humility and love and service. The disciples have no true part in the Christian life until they submit themselves entirely to this spirit, so that it becomes their own. Yet the new life of moral fellowship with Jesus presupposes a " washing" which consists apparently in the rite of Baptism. The daily cleansing by the spirit of Jesus is conditioned by that regenerative act, and at the same time confirms and
John's attitude is thus the same in regard to both the Sacraments. As in the case of the
Supper, he purposely refrains from giving prominence to the outward ordinance of Baptism. When he passes over the incident of the baptism of Jesus, when he notes expressly that " Jesus baptized not, but His disciples" (iv. 2), the controversial interest, which was no doubt uppermost in his mind, may well have been blended with another. Baptism as a formal rite had come to occupy too central a place in the Church's devotion, and John desires to keep it in the background, in order to fix attention on certain spiritual facts. The mechanical act was nothing, apart from the higher process which constituted its inner meaning, and to which it gave effect. Man is born again through the Spirit, and only when this is recognized does the material element in Baptism become operative. Nevertheless the popular belief is so far accepted, and serves to give expression to one side of the evangelist's own thought. The regeneration through Christ is something more than a purely ethical process. It implies a transformation of the earthly man into a being of a higher nature,—a child of God in the same sense as Jesus, the eternal Logos, was divine. Baptism is the necessary miracle by which this change, half physical in its character, is made possible. With his deep religious instinct John feels the inadequacy of the sacramental doctrine, to which he is nevertheless committed, alike by his acceptance of the Church belief and by his own philosophical theory. He endeavors to broaden and vitalize it by forcing it into harmony with another order of ideas. The outward rite is in-
132 THE FOURTH GOSPEL
terpreted partly as a symbol, partly as the real condition of a moral change and a life of constant discipleship. But the ethical conception of Christianity cannot be harmonized with any doctrine of the efficacy of a ritual act, and the result of John's endeavor to give a deeper and more spiritual meaning to Baptism was the same as in the parallel instance of the Supper. By attaching the profoundest Christian ideas to a formal ordinance, he invested the ordinance itself with a new value, so that faith, in increasing measure, came to centre upon it. The " spiritual Gospel" had its outcome not in the purer, more vital religion which the writer dreamed of, but in the ritualism and lifeless externalism of the later Catholic Church.
III. If the Gospel was written with a view to the up-building of the Church, we look for some reference to Church government and organization, all the more so as the second century was in these respects a time of critical transition. Already in the Epistles of Ignatius we have a foreshadowing of the Episcopal system, with the transformation of the whole structure of the Church which it involved. The primitive form of organization, relying as it did on a religious enthusiasm which was now waning, was no longer adequate to the new time and the larger needs. It had to be replaced by an elaborate system, administered according to rule and form by accredited leaders. The Fourth Gospel, written in that time of transition by one who spoke in name
of the Church, may fairly be expected to have some bearing on this important side of the Church's life; and in various allusions, which after the Johannine manner are veiled and indirect, we are justified in finding a reference to debated questions of Church government.
The relation of the Gospel to the rising system of episcopacy has recently been discussed by Mr. Purchase in a work of singular freshness and interest.1 He argues that the evangelist seeks to combat the hard and fast officials which was rapidly gaining ground in the Church. The "disciple whom Jesus loved" is the type of the true Christian member, whose fellowship with the Lord is immediate and personal, and takes his place above Peter, the official representative of the Church. Mr. Purchase would even construe the Eucharistic references in the Gospel as part of a protest against the new system. The administration of the Supper, to which increasing importance was attaching itself, had placed the stated leaders of the different churches in a position of great influence. By spiritualizing the conception of the Supper, by subordinating it to the true sacrament of love and service, John seeks to lessen the prestige of self-seeking officials. He shows how those even who are excluded from the visible communion may still preserve the inward fidelity to Christ. There is much that is attractive in this reading of the Gospel, and, taken broadly, it doubtless expresses a true and important
1 Johannine Problems and Modern Needs (1901).
134 THE FOURTH GOSPEL
side of the evangelist's purpose. He is the exponent of a wider and more spiritual view of Christianity, and joins issue with various influences of his time which tended to narrow and externalize it But there is no evidence that " officials " in the second century was regarded as such an influence. On the contrary, we have abundant evidence that to the higher minds of the Church the new system appeared the best safeguard of all that was most vital in Christianity. The "angels of the churches" were the repositories of the genuine Christian tradition, the chief witnesses in times of persecution, the sureties of the common brotherhood. The literature of the second century reflects the deliberate effort to confirm them in their place and authority, and so build up the Church as an institution fully organized for its great work.
Accepting the view, therefore, that one main purpose with John was to assert the spirituality of the Church, we may yet believe that he had no quarrel with the growing officialism. He may well have considered that the higher objects of the community would be best served by securing for it a strong and efficient government. Over against the mass of heathenism Christ required to have "His own —the nucleus of spiritual life which would gradually gather to itself the scattered children of God. Such a community would be able to maintain itself and cherish a due consciousness of its high calling, only as it was knit together as an organic body. Its growth in
spiritual power was so far dependent on the outward mechanism of institution and government.
Instead of protesting against the "officialism' which had taken the place of the loose organization of an earlier time, the evangelist probably intended to set it on a firmer basis. It was the necessary means to that " unity" which he demanded as the essential attribute of a true Church. It was bound up with that theory of the sacraments which, as we have seen, he accepted, even while he sought to deepen and purify it. Apart, however, from this general probability, there are passages in the Gospel that seem to bear directly on the subject of Church leadership, and these confirm us in the view that John acknowledged the new system and desired to strengthen it.
The main passage is the parable, or rather allegory, of the Good Shepherd in the tenth chapter. The drift of this parable first becomes clear to us when we realize that Jesus is speaking not so much of the sheep as of the under-shepherds, —the guardians whom He has appointed for His people. " I am the door of the sheep," i.e. the door through which alone they can be approached. "He that entereth in by the door is the shepherd. And the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out." " I am the door: by Me if any man enter in, he shall go in and out, and find pasture," i.e. for the sheep entrusted to him. Jesus speaks throughout of the conditions under which the pastoral office must
136 THE FOURTH GOSPEL
be exercised,—the necessity that those who are employed in it should act in His name and possess His spirit. Further on, with a variation of the image, He describes Himself as the " true shepherd," the pattern shepherd whom His subordinates must strive to imitate. They are not to be as hirelings who flee when the wolf cometh, but must be prepared to give their life on behalf of the sheep, like Jesus Himself. The immediate purpose of the parable is to raise the ideal for those who had been set over Christ's flock, and who in many cases had proved unworthy of their office, entering on it with false motives and beliefs not truly Christian, and failing the Church in time of persecution. The false shepherds are denounced because the position they have misused is such a sacred and important one. It is assumed— and against this condition of things the evangelist makes no protest—that Christ's people depend for everything, for pasture, safety, guidance, example, on the leaders placed over them. An office so all-important ought to be held by men who understood their obligations. The leaders of the Church must learn to consider themselves as standing in Christ's place, and take example, in their relations to the sheep committed to them, from the chief Shepherd. The whole parable bears the impress of a time when the post of leadership in the Church had gained for itself a peculiar dignity, and John has no desire to subvert or even modify the new ecclesiastical system. His aim is rather to strengthen it, by insisting that the leaders must
be worthy of their office, and rule in Christ's spirit for purely spiritual ends.
This conclusion is borne out by the position assigned in the Gospel to the disciples. As a body they are the Church itself in its earliest beginnings, but the fact is also kept in view that they are the destined leaders of the Church. " As My Father hath sent Me, even so I send you" (xx. 21). "Ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with Me from the beginning" (xv. 27). The intercourse of Jesus with His disciples, while it typifies His abiding fellowship with all believers, has thus a more special significance to those who hold authority in the Church. They stand in a relation to the chief Shepherd similar to that of the Apostles, whose work has devolved on them. They are to take warning and example in their own present service from Peter and Philip and Thomas and the disciple whom Jesus loved. It is noteworthy that the Apostles, as they appear in the Gospel, already occupy a place which may be described as official. They act as intermediaries between Christ and the people in a manner plainly suggesting the stated ministry of the later time. Jesus does not Himself baptize, but entrusts this duty to His disciples (iv. 2). The Greeks who desire to meet Him at the feast present their request through Philip and Andrew, who communicate it to Jesus (xii. 21, 22). The disciples are finally set apart, after Christ has risen from the dead, as His representatives. He
THE FOURTH GOSPEL
breathed on them and said, " Receive ye the Holy Spirit: whosesoever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whosesoever sins ye retain, they are retained" (xx. 22, 23). This commission is given to the disciples in virtue of their office as the messengers appointed by Christ (21), and is valid for those who should succeed them. The leaders of the Church are constituted as a definite priesthood, with full power to act in the Lord's name, and to mediate His forgiveness and the gifts of His Spirit.
The Gospel presents us, therefore, with a theory of the Church in which the dual character of John's thinking is everywhere discernible. He begins with a conception of Christianity as the absolute religion which makes its appeal to all mankind; but this universalism is crossed by the idea of the Christian Church as a body strictly separate. The people of Christ, gathered though they are out of all nations, are divided in the sharpest manner from the surrounding "world," and form a distinct community with an organic life of its own. The dualism is even more pronounced in the elaboration of this idea of a holy and separate community. On the one hand, the Church endeavors to realize the spiritual religion inaugurated by Christ. It is a world-wide brotherhood of those who worship the Father in spirit and truth, and the one criterion of membership is that personal nearness to Christ which was exemplified once for all in the beloved disciple. On the other hand, the Church is an
outward institution, a kingdom by itself over against the kingdoms of this world. Those only have part in it who have undergone a special initiation, and have conformed to certain given requirements of belief and ritual. John wavers continually between these two conceptions, and seeks as far as possible to reconcile them. He widens the boundaries of doctrine and admits a principle of free theological development, while he accentuates the demand for orthodoxy. He interprets the sacraments in their spiritual import:—Baptism as the symbol of entrance into the new life, the Eucharist as typifying the inward communion with Christ; but none the less he accepts these rites as possessed of a real validity. He insists on a loftier standard of Christian character and fidelity in the Church leaders, and grants them authority only as they act in the name of the chief Shepherd. But he sanctions the official system which had displaced the freer organization of the early time, and would purify it in order to confirm it in its privileges. Thus in every direction he enforces the spiritual idea of the Church, and at the same time magnifies the outward institution.
This twofold attitude was imposed on him, in the first place, by the practical needs and circumstances of his age. There were two opposite tendencies within the Church, each of which constituted a grave danger. The more powerful of these tendencies was towards a hard and fast externalism. Now that the early enthusiasm had spent itself, attention was more and more con-
THE FOURTH GOSPEL
centrated on the building up of an organization that might supply its place. The unity of the Spirit gave way to an outward uniformity which was secured by a hierarchy of officers, a fixed ritual, a harder definition of creed, a closer amalgamation of the scattered companies of believers. Ecclesiastical interests tended to bulk more largely in men's minds than the weightier matters of the religious life. This growing externalism, inevitable in the second period of every great movement, was aggravated by certain special influences to which the Church at that time was exposed. Converts from heathenism brought over with them the crude sacramental ideas that had gathered around the Mysteries. Jewish conceptions of a priesthood and a statutory law had become naturalized in Christian thought. Even the spectacle of Roman Government, with its majestic order and cohesion, supplied an ideal which the Church also strove to realize. As a result of these and similar influences, all working together, Christianity had become to a large extent secularized. The Catholic Church as an outward organization was identified with the kingdom of God.
There was, however, another tendency of quite an opposite nature, but hardly less dangerous to the future of the new religion. It had its outcome a generation later in the extravagances of Monetarism, but was already operative from the very beginning of the century. A section of the Church, conscious that a barren externalism was encroaching on the higher interests, demanded a return to the example
of the primitive age. The Church ot' the Apostles had required no set forms of worship and administration : why should they be necessary now ? Christianity as a spiritual religion must allow room for the free activity of the Spirit, which would manifest itself still as in the first days if the restraints of an artificial order were removed. It was forgotten, however, that the Church of the second century was different in character, and was placed in a different world, from the primitive community. The spontaneous enthusiasm of the early time had spent itself, and all attempts to revive it, in precisely the same form, were in their nature futile and unreal. The little company of believers had grown to a vast multitude, dispersed over many lands, and the primitive methods of government could no longer suffice. Without some organized system, enabling it to hold its own under the new conditions, the Church in a little time would have fallen to pieces.
The evangelist wrote, then, in view of these two opposing tendencies, and with both of them he is in partial sympathy. He is conscious that the higher religious interest was in danger, and his Gospel, on one side of it, is a protest against the externalism which was invading the whole life of the Church. He asks for a fuller recognition of the spiritual nature of Christianity. He holds that rites and forms are meaningless without an apprehension of the inward truth which they exhibit by way of symbol. None the less he accepts the Church, with its system and ordinances, as the
142 THE FOURTH GOSPEL
necessary embodiment of the Christian revelation. He believes that it was implicit from the first in the intention of Christ, and that He Himself through His living Spirit has been ordering its development. What he demands is not a simple return to the primitive example, but a truer conformity of the outward structure of the Church to its inward idea. The unity of organization ought to have its counterpart in a unity of love and service. The act of sacrament ought to be more than a mechanical observance, and represent a real communion of the believer with Christ. It was necessary to build up the Church as an institution, but the body ought all to be governed and pervaded by the quickening
The double conception of the Church may therefore be explained, at least in part, by the peculiar circumstances of the time; but it is connected still more vitally with the twofold theory of the Christian revelation on which the Gospel rests. Jesus is, on the one hand, the Logos who mediates to men the divine life, and His work on this side is wholly of a mystical and magical character. As He manifested Himself in the flesh, and thus informed the lower nature with the higher, so He perpetuates His incarnation by means of the Church. The outward institution, even as such, is something holy and mysterious, since it is like the visible dwelling-place of the Logos, the sphere within which His presence reveals itself over against the world. John accepts in a yet fuller and more literal sense the idea of Ephesians, that the Church
is the body of Christ,—the vesture of flesh which the eternal Word is always renewing in order to abide with men for ever. "I am no more in the world, but these are in the world" (xvii. n);—the community of the disciples, as the germinal Church, is to replace Christ after He is gone, and to manifest Him as still present. The idea is worked out at length in the latter part of the intercessory prayer, which traces the several analogies between Christ Himself and His Church. "They shall have My joy fulfilled in themselves; they are not of the world, as I am not of the world. As Thou hast sent Me, even so also I have sent them ; that they all may be one; as Thou, Father, art in Me. and I in Thee " (xvii. 136°.). The idea is impressed on us from many different sides, that Christ is mysteriously related to His Church, that He reappears through it in a kind of new incarnation. And the reverence paid by John to the Church as a visible community springs ultimately out of this idea, which is itself the natural amplification of the initial thesis,—"the Word was made flesh."
Yet the conception of Jesus which lies deepest in the evangelist's mind is the simple religious one. The revelation has come to him through his knowledge of the actual Person, and the Logos doctrine is at best an after-thought, an attempt to construe under forms of reason what had first been given to faith. We shall find in the teaching of the Gospel generally that the pure religious idea is always blended with the theological, and at times breaks through it altogether; and this is true in a very
144 THE FOURTH GOSPEL
signal manner of the theory of the Church. J john, indeed, lays stress on the outward community, the visible organ through which the Logos continues to manifest Himself; but along with this mystical view he gives prominence to another. The Church is a spiritual brotherhood, and all have part in it who confess the name of Jesus. Its function is to realize in the world those new ideals of love and service and holiness which were exemplified once for all in the Savior's life. The one condition of true membership is to share in the Spirit of Christ through personal communion with Him. In the little company of disciples gathered around Jesus at the Supper, John sees the prototype of the future Church; and he speaks of one among them " who lay on Jesus' bosom, whom Jesus loved." This beloved disciple represents the Church in its essential idea. All the rest is temporary and external, and the one thing necessary is the inward fellowship, by faith and love, with Jesus Christ.
THE DOCTRINE OF THE LOGOS
BETWEEN the Synoptic records and that of the Fourth Evangelist there is one broad difference, evident on the very surface. The earlier writers are concerned almost wholly with the life of Jesus in its outward expression, with the actions and sayings in which He revealed His spirit. They are content to set the life before us and leave it to produce its own effect, as it did on the disciples who first witnessed it. John, on the other hand, starts from the impression which had been made on him by his knowledge of the divine life. He assumes from the outset that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God, and construes the history in the light of this assumption. Reversing the method of the Synopsis's, he does not reason from the outward actions to the Person behind them, but judges the work from his theory of the Person.
The Gospel commences with a prologue, written apparently with the express intention of placing the reader at the right point of view for understanding the story which is to follow. This Jesus, whose life on earth is about to pass before us, was a divine Person. He was one with the Logos, who had
146 THE FOURTH GOSPEL
been with God from the beginning, and through whom the world was made. In virtue of His divine nature, He possessed the true life, and came that He might impart it to men. The conception thus set forth in the prologue is never again reverted to in so many words, but it pervades the Gospel and supplies the key by which its teaching must be interpreted. Jesus was the Word made flesh. He was the Life-giver and the absolute revelation of God, because in His own Person He was the
The idea of a Logos, an immanent reason in the world, is one that meets us under various modifications in many ancient systems of thought, —Indian, Egyptian, Persian. In view of the religious syncretism of the second century, it is barely possible that these extraneous theologies may have exercised some influence on the Fourth Evangelist, but there can be little doubt in regard to the main source from which his Logos doctrine was derived. It had come down to him through Philo, after its final development in Greek philosophy.
In the sixth century before Christ, Heraclites first broke away from the purely physical conceptions, which had hitherto prevailed among Greek thinkers, by discovering a \6-yo?, a principle of reason, at work in the cosmic process. From the obscure fragments of this philosopher which have been preserved to us we can gather that he was chiefly interested in accounting for the aesthetic order of the visible universe. In the arrangement of material phenomena, in the adaptation of means
THE DOCTRINE OF THE LOGOS 147
to ends, he discerned the working of a power analogous to the reasoning power in man. His speculation was still entangled with the physical hypotheses of earlier times, and on this account dropped out of sight, and had little influence on the greater systems of Greek thought. Plato and Aristotle gave themselves to the elaboration of the theory of ideas, with its absolute separation between the material world and the world of higher reality. Their work was of profound significance for the future development of Logos speculation, but belongs in itself to a different philosophical movement. It was in the reaction from Platonic dualism that the Logos idea again asserted itself, and was worked out through all its implications in Stoicism. The Stoics, animated chiefly by a practical interest, sought to bridge the gulf between the world of true being, as conceived by Plato, and the actual world of man's existence. They abandoned the theory of super - sensible archetypes, and fell back on the simpler hypothesis of Heraclites, that the universe is pervaded through all its parts with an eternal reason. Man in his individual life may lift himself above all that limits him, and realize his identity with this Logos, which resides in his own soul, and is also the governing principle of the world. The Stoic philosophy not only furnished the general conception of the Logos to later thinkers, but also laid down the distinction which became of prime importance in the after development. The faculty of reason, as it exists in man, utters itself in speech, which is denoted by the same
148 THE FOURTH GOSPEL
Greek word, Xo7o?. To the universal Xovo? Stoicism assigned the same two attributes as mark the reasoning power in man. On the one hand, it is Xof/o? eV8ia&:Tos, reason in its inner movement and potentiality ; and, on the other hand, X^o? Trpo^opiKos, reason projected and made concrete in the endless variety of the visible world. This distinction within the Stoic doctrine forms the point of attachment by which the Logos idea connected itself with Christianity.
With Philo of Alexandria the speculation enters definitely on a new phase. This Jewish thinker takes over the main Stoic conception, but combines it with other elements, borrowed eclectically from previous systems of thought. The Logos idea is loosened from its connection with Stoic materialism, and harmonized with a thorough-going Platonism, which regards the visible things as only the types and shadows of realities laid up in the higher world. It becomes identical in great measure with Plato's Idea of the Good, except that it is further regarded as creatively active. Philo is thus led to an all-important departure from the original Stoic doctrine. His Logos, instead of being merely immanent in things, is endowed with an independent existence. It is detached from the world of matter, which nevertheless it creates and orders. But Philo grafts his conception on a system of thought more alien to Stoicism than even the ideal speculation of Plato. While a Greek philosopher, he was also an orthodox Jew, to whom the Old Testament
THE DOCTRINE OF THE LOGOS 149
Scriptures were the authoritative revelation of all truth. He adopted the Logos theory and made it central to his system, primarily because it offered a means of transition from Judaism to Greek philosophy. Without abandoning the Jewish belief in one supreme God, it became possible, through the hypothesis of the Logos, to describe the divine activity in terms of Hellenic thought. Not only so, but Judaism thus reconstructed seemed to be rendered more consistent with itself. The same problem which Stoicism had endeavored to solve by its reversion to the Logos doctrine had become urgent in Jewish theology. Here also all progress, alike in the moral and the intellectual life, was in danger of being arrested by an overstrained dualism. The effort to conceive of God as absolutely transcendent had resulted in separating Him altogether from the world, of which He had still to be regarded as the Creator and Governor. Already in later Old Testament thought, much more in rabbinical speculation, we can trace the idea of an intermediary between God and the world. Wisdom is described in Job and Proverbs, with something more than a poetical personification, as God's agent and co-worker. Peculiar significance was attached, by the later interpreters, to the various Old Testament allusions to the Word of God. By His "Word" He had created heaven and earth, and revealed Himself to His prophets. The actual hypostatizing of the divine Word in the doctrine of the Memra was probably subsequent to the time of Philo, but it was the outcome of a mode of
150 THE FOURTH GOSPEL
thinking already common in Jewish theology. God, who was Himself the high and holy One, of purer eyes than to behold iniquity, mediated His action through the divine Word. It was natural for Philo, with his Greek culture and philosophical bent of mind, to advance a step on the Jewish speculation of his time, and identify the Word of the Old Testament with the Stoic \6yos.
The Logos of Philo requires to be understood in the light of this double descent from Hellenic and Old Testament thought. The Stoic conception, as we have seen, took account of the two meanings of the term Xo7o?, reason and uttered speech, but the distinction was of little practical importance. What the Greek thinkers sought to affirm was the rationality of the world. The Logos under all its aspects was simply the principle of reason, informing the infinite variety of things, and so creating the world-order. To Philo, on the other hand, the idea of reason was combined with that of divine energy and self-revelation. According to the story in Genesis, God had created all things by His word, and the universe as we see it is nothing else than the projection and embodiment of His will. Philo remains true to this fundamental Hebrew conception ; and while describing his Logos in language directly borrowed from Plato and the Stoics, he regards it in the last resort as dynamic. It represents the sum of forces which have their ground in the will of God, working harmoniously together as the immanent reason of the world.
This difference between Philo and the Greek
THE DOCTRINE OF THE LOGOS 151
thinkers is connected with another and still more vital one. To the Stoics the eternal reason was itself an ultimate principle, and the necessity was not felt of explaining it as the reason of God. The doctrine of the Logos may indeed be regarded as an attempt, more or less conscious, to escape from the belief in a divine Creator. His place is taken by the infinite reason, in which all things live and move and have their being, and which in deference to popular ideas might be described as God. Philo could not content himself with this notion of an absolute Logos. He started from the Jewish belief in a supreme, self-existing God, to whom the creative reason of the world must be related and subordinated. It must be regarded as in some manner His reason, working in accordance with His being and will. To this clashing of the primary Greek conception with the demands of Hebrew monotheism we may largely attribute one of the most perplexing peculiarities of the Philonic doctrine. The Logos appears sometimes as only an aspect of the activity of God, at other times as a "second ,God," an independent and, it might seem, a personal being. There can be little doubt that Philo, as an orthodox Jew, had no real intention of affirming the existence of two divine agents ; and the passages in which he appears to detach and personify the Logos must be explained mainly in a figurative sense. The Word which is described as speaking, acting, creating of itself is God's word, vividly realized by an imaginative thinker. But at the same time this strain of Philonic thought bears
152 THE FOURTH GOSPEL
witness to the original independence of the Logos idea, which still maintains itself alongside of the Jewish monotheistic belief. In order to explain how God may act on the world, Philo has recourse to the Logos of the Stoic philosophy, which in his mind becomes the outgoing of the sovereign will of God. But the Greek idea is thus built into a theological structure to which it has no real adaptation. The Alexandrian thinker is compelled to waver between two different theories, and to assign to the Logos of philosophy a semi-independent place beside the supreme God.
In one respect Philo has a much closer affinity to Greek speculation than to the Old Testament. He elaborates his Logos doctrine chiefly in a cosmic interest. The problem he had set himself was the same as that which had occupied the Greek thinkers from Thales downwards,—to explain how the world had come into being and maintained itself as an intelligible order. The Old Testament conception of an absolutely righteous God is replaced by the Platonic doctrine of a divine architect, who has formed in his mind the perfect patterns of all existence, and seeks to realize them in the visible universe. We have little difficulty in resolving all the various functions assigned to the Logos into this primary one of mediating the creative activity of God. (I) It is the agency by which God reveals Himself. The appearances of God recorded in the Old Testament are explained by Philo as manifestations of the Logos. In like manner the patriarchs and prophets were men to
THE DOCTRINE OF THE LOGOS 153
whom the Logos communicated itself with peculiar force and clearness; hence their knowledge of God. To a less degree God reveals Himself to all men. " Every man in virtue of his intelligence bears a kinship to the divine Logos, and becomes an express image or fragment of the higher nature " (De opif. mund. 51). The Hebrew idea of revelation is thus brought into line with the Stoic hypothesis of an all-pervasive Logos, attaining to consciousness of itself in man. (2) Through the Logos man is enabled to lay hold of the higher spiritual life. The mass of men are entangled in the web of illusion, and the divine element in them is obscured by ignorance and sensual passions. A man becomes spiritual according as he lifts himself to the contemplation of the Logos, and endeavors to judge all things in the light of it. Here again the dominant idea is that of participation in the universal reason. Philo's " spiritual man" is identical with the philosopher, who can rise above his partial, individual point of view and make himself one with the sovereign mind that pervades all being. (3) Consequently, the Logos is the agent of deliverance, of salvation. He who has part in it is lifted out of the stream of circumstance, and becomes a citizen of the heavenly world of freedom. " They who have real knowledge of the one Creator and Father of all things are rightly addressed as the sons of the one God. And even if we are not yet fit to be called the sons of God, still we may deserve to be called the children of His eternal image, of His most sacred Logos " (Con/.
154 THE FOURTH GOSPEL
ling. 28). In so far as men can possess themselves of the Logos nature, enter into sympathy with the higher reason behind all visible things, they are sons of God, and have in their souls the earnest of immortality.
The Fourth Gospel is based on a doctrine of the Logos which to all appearance is closely similar to that of Philo. In the prologue the main features of the Philonic conception are reproduced in vivid summary,—the eternal existence of the Word, its relation to God as towards Him (irpos TW deov) and yet distinct, its creative activity, its function in the illumination and deliverance of men. The prologue assumes that the idea of the Logos is already a familiar one in Christian theology. It is introduced abruptly, as requiring no defense or explanation, and its different aspects are lightly indicated, by way of reminding the reader of truths sufficiently known to him. The doctrine of Philo had therefore naturalized itself in Christian thought before it was taken up by the Fourth Evangelist, and must already have undergone a certain modification. At the same time, every verse in the prologue offers striking analogies to corresponding sayings of Philo. We have seen reason to believe that John had acquainted himself directly with the works of the Alexandrian thinker, and consciously derived from them.
To what extent does the Philonic conception change its character as it assimilates itself to the theology of the Gospel ? Before an answer can
THE DOCTRINE OF THE LOGOS 155
be given to this question, it is necessary to consider a preliminary difficulty with which Johannine criticism has been largely occupied ever since the appearance of Harnack's famous pamphlet.1 Is the prologue to be regarded as an organic portion of the Gospel, or is it, as Harnack contends, a mere preface, written to conciliate the interest of a philosophical public ? The idea of Christ as the divine Logos is nowhere resumed in the body of the Gospel. The term Xoyo? is constantly used, but always in its ordinary sense of spoken discourse, while the categories of Light, Life, Love are substituted for the Logos of the prologue. The work as we have it is no metaphysical treatise, such as we might expect from the opening verses if they truly set forth its programme, but a historical document, the narrative of the earthly life of Jesus Christ. In spite, however, of Harnack's powerful argument, the almost unanimous voice of Johannine criticism has declared against him. Closer examination of the prologue in its connection with the Gospel has resulted in multiplied proof that the ideas seated at the outset are woven in with the whole tissue of the work. The prologue supplies the background, the atmosphere, by which we are enabled to contemplate the whole history in its right perspective. Nevertheless, while Harnack's main argument cannot be accepted, it serves to remind us of one fact which can scarcely be emphasized too much. John is not concerned
1 Ueber das Verkiiltniss des Prologs des vierten Evangelisms ztnn ganzen Werk (1892).
156 THE FOURTH GOSPEL
merely with the Word, but with the Word made flesh. After the first few verses, in which he treats of the pre-existent Logos, he passes to the historical life of Jesus, who was not simply to be identified with the Word. In Him it had become visible and human, and acted on men with a personal influence. Hence there is no more mention of the Word, which ceases with the prologue to be the subject of the Gospel. Through J Jesus the Word manifested itself, informing all His actions and sayings with a divine significance, but it was henceforth the Word made flesh, indissolubly bound up with the human personality. The theme of the Gospel is not the Logos, but the divine Person, Jesus Christ.
John therefore accepts the Philonic conception in order to assimilate it to his account of a historical Person, through whom the Word declared itself under the conditions of human life. It is evident that the conception could not be so adapted without submitting to radical modifications, (I) The Logos which was to clothe itself in flesh and act on men with the force of a personality, must in its ultimate ground be a personal being. We have seen that Philo, partly through a poetical impulse, partly because of the composite origin of his speculation, attributes a semi-independence to his Logos. This prepared the way for the later personification, but Philo himself thinks only of a divine principle, the creative reason of God. John, however, makes it an essential moment in his conception, that the Logos has a ground of independent being within God. He solemnly repeats in the second verse of
THE DOCTRINE OF THE LOGOS 157
the prologue " the same was in the beginning towards God,"—not absorbed in Him, but standing over against Him as a distinct Person. His view even of the pre-existent Logos is dominated by his knowledge of its ultimately "becoming flesh." There must have subsisted from all eternity an essential distinction of being within the divine nature before the Word could at last appear in Jesus Christ. (2) The creative activity of the Logos, which in Philo is determinative of the whole conception, falls into the background. Only in one verse ("All things were made by Him") do we have any clear trace of this aspect of Logos doctrine, and the sequence of thought would still be complete although the brief allusion were omitted. It is thrown out, apparently, by way of acknowledgment of the recognized theory. Some reference to the cosmic significance of the Logos was necessary if any link with previous speculation was to be preserved. To John himself the mode in which the world came into being was not a question of primary or even of secondary interest. He is concerned wholly with the spiritual life as it resides in the Logos, and is communicated by Him to men. Not only does the cosmology of Philo fall out of sight, but it even appears to be controverter. The Gospel knows nothing of that absolute transcendence of God which made the theory of an intermediate agent necessary to the Alexandrian thinker. It assumes, on the contrary, that the world is the direct object of God's love and providence (iii. 16). It maintains that God acts immediately on the human
158 THE FOURTH GOSPEL
soul, and so prepares the way for the redeeming work of the Logos (vi. 44). The hypothesis on which Philo builds is thus set aside, and the Logos as he conceives it ceases to have any real place or function. We have entered an entirely new world of thought, in which the Philonic idea is brought into new relations and radically transformed. (3) In the Gospel, much more emphatically than in Philo, the term \o7os denotes word as well as reason. Philo took advantage of the double meaning of the term to read the Hebrew idea of the creative energy of God into the Stoic philosophy; but to him, as to his Greek masters, the \oyo<s is still predominantly the divine reason. In the working out of his system he proceeds almost entirely on the lines of Plato, and only by a stray allusion here and there allows prominence to the Hebrew idea. In John, on the other hand, the term \6yo? discards its philosophical meaning, or retains it as little more than a faintly coloring element. The Word is regarded throughout as the expression of God's will and power, the self-revelation of His inward nature. From the speculations of the Greek thinkers the evangelist reverts, as he indicates in his opening sentence, to the idea of Genesis. The ultimate ground of all things was the word, the word of power by which God uttered Himself. So in the following verses the whole stress is laid on the Life that was in the Logos. It was not an abstract Reason, but a divine energy, potent and life-giving ; it was the inward being of God become active and going out from Him. In its fundamental thought
THE DOCTRINE OF THE LOGOS 159
the prologue is more directly related to the Old Testament than to Philo. It presents, under forms borrowed from Alexandrian speculation, the Hebrew idea of the Word of God, by which He at once reveals Himself and gives effect to His purpose. On this conception of the Logos the ensuing Gospel is based. Christ is "sent out from the Father," as speech goes out from a man and reveals his inward mind and character; and as the divine Word He is also, in accordance with the Hebrew idea, the medium of God's quickening power. "In Him was life." "Ye have life through His name."
The Philonic doctrine, therefore, is not accepted by John without essential modifications. His impression of the actual life of Christ reacts on the philosophical hypothesis from which he sets out, and fills it with a new content. His Logos is not an abstract principle, but a Person; not a cosmic, but a spiritual agent; not creative reason, but the revealing Word of God. None the less, when he borrows the Philonic term he undoubtedly intends that it should bear the same general connotation as it does in Philo. Jesus Christ was one with that divine Logos in which Greek and Alexandrian thinker's had recognized the highest object of knowledge. All that had been predicated of the Logos could likewise be predicated of him. He was not only the Jesus of history, but a pre-existent being, Sevre/jos 0eo?, the supreme agent and manifestation of God. . •
The question whether the; Johannine view of the Logos corresponds at all points with the Philonic
160 THE FOURTH GOSPEL
view, is in the last resort comparatively unimportant. Probably John himself did not think out his conception with any clearness or fullness. He availed himself of the Logos idea for a practical purpose,— to make more intelligible to his own mind and the minds of his readers the divine nature of Jesus Christ. In accepting it, therefore, he does not commit himself to the precise interpretation that Philo placed upon it; on the contrary, he departs, whether consciously or not, from the characteristic lines of Philo's thinking. But when all this is granted, we have still to reckon with the main fact that he rests his account of the Christian revelation on a speculative idea, borrowed, with whatever differences, from Philo. Into the historical tradition of the life and teaching of Jesus he works a hypothesis which in its origin had nothing to do with Christianity, and which had come into being to meet a philosophical rather than a religious need. The consequences of this will become more and more apparent as we pursue our study of the Gospel.
The Philonic doctrine, then, is appropriated with important changes of which John himself does not appear to be fully conscious. "It was no part of his intention to reason out the philosophical idea of the Logos, and he passes at once to his grand thesis that "the Word became flesh" in Jesus Christ. How does he conceive of this union of the Logos nature with the human Person? The answer, doubtless, is that here again he makes no attempt to formulate his thought in precise Theo-
THE DOCTRINE OF THE LOGOS 161
logical terms. There is no indication that the problem of the two natures, which entered so largely into later theories of the Incarnation, ever presented itself to his mind. He assumes the presence of the eternal Logos in Jesus Christ as a fact incapable of further definition. "The Word became flesh," —appeared in Christ as a human personality. How and when this union of natures was effected, and to what extent the divine could be distinguished from the human,—these are questions which John does not try to answer, and which probably he never asked himself. His silence is partly to be explained by the practical intention with which he wrote. It was not his purpose to discuss the divinity of Christ as a theological idea, but to impress it on his readers as a fact, by the knowledge of which they "might have life." There was no need to inquire in what way the power of God was able to manifest itself in a human Person. It had actually done so. The whole life of Christ was evidence that God dwelt in Him, and all that was required of men was to believe in this revelation of God. At the same time,, the vagueness with which John states his doctrine of the presence of the Logos in Christ is capable of another explanation. He had set himself to combine ideas which were radically incompatible, and could only do so by a certain confusion of thought. The questions that arose later in the . great controversy regarding the two natures are all legitimately suggested by the simple statement, "The Word became flesh." How were the divine and human so blended in Christ that each element
THE FOURTH GOSPEL
should fully subsist in Him without neutralizing the other? Which of them constituted His will, the real core of His personality? How far was the Logos emptied of its divine attributes during the sojourn in the flesh, and being so emptied did it still continue to be the true Logos? John does not trouble himself with such questions, which would doubtless have seemed to him futile and meaningless, but they were involved in his doctrine, and duly emerged when it was subjected to strict analysis. We are compelled to admit that in the great thesis "The Word became flesh" two judgments, different in kind, are forced together. On the one hand there is the conviction, based on an actual religious experience, that God was manifest in Christ. Through the life of Jesus a new power had entered the world, which evidenced itself, to all who had felt it, as the authentic power of God. But this judgment of faith is stated in terms of an arbitrary theological idea. Jesus was the revelation of God because the Logos, the divine principle of Philonic speculation, became incarnate in Him. He was one with God in a metaphysical sense, through His identity with the eternal Word. In the later theology this speculative theory of the Person of Christ was carried out to its logical issue, and resulted in endless confusion, and in the substitution of a barren dogma for a living faith. The idea of the Logos, when all is said, was an artificial hypothesis, and was utterly inadequate to set forth the true significance of the revelation in Christ. John accepts the hypothesis, but does not press it
THE DOCTRINE OF THE LOGOS 163
to its full extent. He is saved from the vain speculations of later teachers, because along with the Logos theory another conception is present to his mind, and in the last resort determines all his thinking. Jesus, by His life and death, by the spirit of love and holiness that dwelt in Him, had revealed God. Apart altogether from abstract questionings about His nature, faith recognized Him as divine. The Logos doctrine as John accepted it was only an attempt, and necessarily a vain attempt, to define by reason a truth which he had apprehended by faith.
Two conceptions of the life of Christ are thus latent in the thesis of the prologue, " The Word became flesh." In the body of the Gospel John makes no further mention of the specific theory of the Logos, and appears to concern himself entirely with the historical Person of Jesus. He abandons, it might seem, the speculative idea, and seeks to reproduce the impression made on him by the actual life. But while it is partly true that the explicit doctrine of the prologue passes out of sight, the Endeavour is still maintained to discover the presence of the Logos in the earthly life of Jesus. His humanity is different in essence from that of the men around him. Through all His acts and words a "glory " shines out and reveals Him as the Only-begotten of the Father. In several clearly marked directions we can trace this conception of Jesus as the Logos in the picture presented to us of the actual life.
164 THE FOURTH GOSPEL
(I) Peculiar stress is laid on the miracles performed by Jesus. The Synoptic writers also insist on this aspect of our Lord's activity, but between their narratives and that of John there are essential differences. In the first place, the very word a-rifieiov, applied by John to the works of Jesus, indicates his view of their character. They were the " signs " of His divinity ; He "manifested forth His glory" (ii. n) by these displays of supernatural power. It is noticeable that the motive of compassion, to which the miracles are for the most part ascribed in the Synoptic, is kept in the background by John. As he conceives them, the works, even when most beneficent, are sheer exhibitions of power, intended by Jesus to inspire belief in His divine claims. The man born blind is restored to sight in order that "the Light of the world" may declare Himself; not only so, but his blindness was inflicted on him for this very purpose, that "the works of God should be manifest" in the miraculous healing (ix. 3). The appeal of the nobleman on behalf of his dying son is only answered because the people will not believe on Christ without the witness of signs and wonders (iv. 48). Even in the story of Lazarus, where the motive of pity and human friendship is made most prominent, Jesus waits until His friend is dead and buried, for the sake of enhancing the splendor of the ensuing miracle. Its meaning as a work of compassion is altogether secondary to its higher significance, as the supreme manifestation of the " glory of God " to those who would believe (xi. 40).
THE DOCTRINE OF THE LOGOS 165
The miracle at Cana is in this connection the most instructive of all. No ethical motive can possibly be forced into it; the sole end for which it was performed was to reveal the "glory," the divine, creative power of Christ. It belongs to this view of the miracles as a-r^ela that their wonderful, superhuman character is strongly emphasized. The Johannine narratives, as compared with the Synoptic, uniformly heighten the marvelous element, so that any attempt to resolve the miracle into a natural event is rendered impossible. The nobleman's son is healed from a distance by the bare word of Christ. The blind man is blind from his birth. Lazarus is not newly dead, like J aims' daughter and the young man of Main, but has been in his grave four days, and his body has undergone corruption. So when the Synoptic are closely followed, as in the feeding of the five thousand and the walking on the sea, the miracles chosen are of a specially wonderful character, and could not in any case be explained except as the works of a divine power. Thus it is everywhere apparent that the miraculous activity of Christ had a peculiar, we might almost say a specific, import to the Fourth Evangelist. He found proof in it that Jesus, as the incarnate Logos, exercised a power that belonged distinctively to the divine character.
(2) Apart from direct works of miracle, certain attributes are ascribed to Jesus which point conclusively to His possession of the Logos nature. He partakes even in His earthly life of the omniscience of God. " He knew all men, and
166 THE FOURTH GOSPEL
needed not that any should testify of man, for He knew what was in man" (ii. 25). The secret of Nathaniel's life was open to Him, although He looked upon him for the first time. He could tell the woman of Samaria "all things that ever she did." He was aware from a distance that Lazarus was sick, and at what time he died. As He is omniscient, so, in spite of the material limitations to which He has submitted Himself, He appears where He will with something of a divine omnipresence. He comes to His disciples walking on the sea. He makes Himself invisible, and so passes unharmed through the midst of His enemies (viii. 59). He presents Himself suddenly before the man whom He has restored to sight (ix. 35). Moreover, there is a majesty about His presence which quells and overawes. The officers sent by the Pharisees are afraid to touch Him (vii. 46). The Greeks, desirous to see Him, dare not approach Him except through the intervention of the disciples (xii. 21). The band of soldiers sent to arrest Him fall to the ground as if suddenly paralyzed (xviii. 6). An impression is borne home to us, in every episode of the history, that while He tabernacled with men He was more than human,—that He was a heavenly being who could exercise at will the prerogatives of God.
(3) The aloofness of Jesus, as of one who belonged to a different world, is everywhere brought into strong relief by the Fourth Evangelist. In the Synoptic narratives, that which separates the Lord from other men is His matchless wisdom and serenity and moral purity. He mingles freely with
THE DOCTRINE OF THE LOGOS 167
every kind of society; He shares the common sympathies, and enters into the common struggle, and all the while stands out as a man apart. The more He assimilates Himself to the ordinary life of men, the more He asserts the unique grandeur of His moral personality. John accounts for His difference from other men as a radical difference of nature. Belonging to a higher world, He cannot associate on equal terms with the people round about Him, and holds Himself aloof and solitary. In two respects more particularly the Synoptic record is vitally modified in the interest of this new conception. First, there is no allusion to any intercourse on the part of Jesus with publicans and sinners. Standing aloof from the world, He is furthest of all removed from the impure, unworthy elements in the world's society. Such communion as He has with men is with His own disciples or with those who are qualified to approach Him by their superior virtue and piety. As for the others the evangelist appears to hold with the blind man (ix. 31),—" We know that God heareth not sinners ; but if any man be a worshipper of God and do His will, him He heareth." Again, the sympathy and compassion of Jesus, which are evident in every chapter of the Synoptic narratives, fall out of sight in the Fourth Gospel. We have seen that in the case of the miracles mere pity for human, suffering ceases to be a prominent motive; and little stress is laid on it in the portrait of Jesus as a whole. He stands separate from the world in the majesty of His divine nature. He does not participate in
168 THE FOURTH GOSPEL
human weaknesses and distresses, and looks down upon them from a tranquil height at which they cannot reach Him. The famous verse (xi. 35), "Jesus wept," might seem for a moment to disturb this picture, but does so only in appearance. The feeling expressed in that verse is not human compassion, as of a man with his fellow-sufferers, but the sorrow of a divine being who stands apart and contemplates the earthly tragedy. The Jews misinterpret the tears as the sign of unavailing regret over a lost friend, but we are meant, in the light of the approaching miracle, to understand them better. They do not mark the humanity of Jesus, but rather His divine exaltation. From His own untroubled height He surveyed the misery of our mortal lot, and wept. So even in the intercourse of Jesus with His own disciples, His separate-ness is never forgotten. When He girds Himself to wash their feet at the Last Supper, He is conscious that He has come forth from God and returns to God (xiii. 3, 4). The example of humility and service depends for its power on the infinite condescension implied in it. This is true likewise of all the friendship of Jesus with His disciples, as it is set before us with a matchless beauty and tenderness in the Supper discourses. The friendship has begun with a marvelous condescension on the part of Christ, who admits to His very heart those who were rightly His servants (xvi. 15). The knowledge that He had stretched out His hand to them across a great gulf, and taken them to be His friends, was to be the motive henceforth of their adoring love.
THE DOCTRINE OF THE LOGOS 169
(4) A still more remarkable feature in the Gospel is the emphasis laid on the absolute freedom, the self-determination of Jesus. The evangelist starts from the assumption that He who submitted Himself for a time to earthly limitations was possessed of a divine dignity. Even while submitting, He vindicated His authority by acting in everything on His own sovereign will, with no compulsion from without. In accordance with this view, the whole progression of events assumes a different character from that which it bears in the Synoptic. There is no indication of a change in the outlook or the programme of Jesus. The influence of outward circumstances is strictly excluded, so that there is no historical development, in the proper sense, at all. From the beginning, Jesus, as master of His own fate, has fixed His "hour," and Himself ordains all the conditions that will lead up to it. His enemies are powerless until the " hour " willed by Himself has come (vii. 30, viii. 20); and meanwhile He goes about His work in perfect security (xi. 9). Naturally, it is in connection with the death of Christ that the idea of His free self-determination is made most prominent. The chief stumbling-block to a belief in His divinity was the fact of the Cross, and John sets himself in his own fashion to remove the difficulty. He maintains that although Christ died for men, it was by His own consent, His own ordinance. " I have power to lay down my life, and I have power to take it again." " No man taketh it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself" (x. 18). "Thou couldest
THE FOURTH GOSPEL
have no power at all against Me, except it were given thee from above" (xix. n). But apart from the immediate references to the death, we can trace everywhere in the Gospel this same desire to assert the perfect freedom of Christ. He acts on His own initiative, and no counsels or suggestions from the outside have power to move Him [cf. His reply to His mother at Cana (ii. 4), and to His brethren before the feast of tabernacles (vii. 6)]. If He appears to seek advice from others on an occasion of difficulty, it is only to try their faith, " for He himself knew what He would do " (vi. 5, 6). His very emotions do not come over Him involuntarily [cf. the significant erdpal-ev eavrov (xi. 33)]. Other examples might be adduced from almost every page of the Gospel, for the whole picture of Jesus is dominated by this idea that He was never merely passive. He had come forth from the Father, and was come into the world (xvi. 28) in order to fulfill His self-appointed work. He ordered the events which seemed to human eyes to be coercing Him. In this well-marked strain of Johannine thought, we have little difficulty in discerning the influence of the Logos idea penetrating the actual reminiscence of the life of Christ. He who became flesh was not only allied to God by the glory of His moral nature, but partook of the divine essence. He was sovereign as God Himself was, and asserted His divine prerogative, in spite of the earthly conditions that seemed to constrain and limit Him.
(5) The Logos character of Jesus which is thus
THE DOCTRINE OF THE LOGOS 171
illustrated on various sides by His actions, comes to clear expression in His spoken words. John attaches a peculiar value and significance to the words of Jesus, and the miracles themselves are subordinated to the words. A faith that demands signs and wonders is an inferior kind of faith, and Jesus asks to be accepted, not as a miracle-worker, but as the speaker of divine words. The words are the crowning proof of His higher origin, and they also possess in themselves a direct power and efficacy. " My words are spirit and life " (vi. 63) ; " Ye are clean through the word that I spake to you" (xv. 3), " Thou hast the words of eternal life " (vi. 68). Something else is implied in such references than a recognition of the supreme worth of our Lord's teaching, by which, even more than by His miracles, He approved Himself the true messenger of God. In the Johannine discourses the element of teaching is conspicuously absent. Little is said by way of ethical precept or even of spiritual illumination. The words are concerned almost wholly with the assertion, under many different types and forms, of the divine character of the speaker Himself. They express Christ's own self-consciousness of His relation to God, and His life-giving purpose towards men. This appears to be the reason why such a central place is assigned to them in John's presentation of the work of Jesus. They convey more clearly and emphatically than actions could do the inner secret of His personality, proclaiming Him to be one with the Father, the Light and Life of the world, the Bread which came
THE FOURTH GOSPEL
down from heaven. It is never said in definite terms, " I am the eternal Word," but this is the implied meaning of the discourses when we read them in connection with the prologue. They repeat with a fuller elaboration the great thesis from which the Gospel started, that in Jesus the divine nature became incarnate, and that He had power to impart the higher life because He was Himself one in essence with God. Indeed, it is not improbable that the insistence on the "words" of Jesus is bound up with the conception of Himself as Logos. The Word of God which had become incarnate in Him found utterance through His words, and they had therefore a mysterious value and efficacy. The divine nature imparted itself by means of them. They passed into the hearts of those who would receive them like the very breath of God, and were found to be spirit and life.
In all these directions, then, John gives effect to the idea of the prologue, that the nature of Christ was a Logos nature. The acceptance of this idea involves a wide departure from the traditional view of the life of Jesus. It becomes necessary to think of Him as a heavenly being, different in kind from the men around Him, and the facts of the Gospel history have to be adapted throughout to the new conception. Jesus as Logos was incapable of human weakness, and all traces of a moral struggle in His life, as in the stories of the Temptation and the Agony, are obliterated. He belonged to a higher world, and could not enter
THE DOCTRINE OF THE LOGOS 173
into those familiar relations with men of which we have evidence in the earlier Gospels. Even His manner of speech required to be consonant to His divine dignity ; so that the parables disappear and the simple incisive sayings give place to vague and oracular utterances. In so far as the Synoptic narrative is followed, its incidents are consistently heightened in order to be more in keeping with the divine character of the Person. Although He lived on earth and conformed Himself in outward seeming to the limitations of our human lot, He was all the time the eternal Word.
There can be little doubt that by thus importing the doctrine of the Logos into the Gospel record, John is not only compelled to do violence to historical fact, but empties the life of Christ of much of its real worth and grandeur, while seeming to enhance it. The moral attributes, trust, pity, forgiveness, infinite sympathy, are replaced by certain metaphysical attributes, which are supposed to belong more essentially to the divine nature. Jesus is the revelation of God because He is the Logos, and exemplifies in His earthly life the absolute being and self-dependence of God. But this is to deprive the revelation of its true value. What men desire to know, and what was actually revealed to them through Christ, is the moral character of God, in His mercy and providence and Fatherhood. These are the Divine attributes in a far higher sense than any formal principles of being, and the Logos doctrine, by its very nature, can offer no account of them.
174 THE FOURTH GOSPEL
The attempt to construe the Person and work of Christ by means of a metaphysical theory was from the outset impracticable. If it had been carried out with any strictness and consistency, it would have destroyed the whole meaning of the Christian message. Instead of the real Person who has drawn all men unto Him, there would have remained only a philosophical abstraction, clothed with an apparent life, like a figure in an allegory. John does not press his identification of Jesus with the Logos to this full extent. Behind all his speculative thinking there is the remembrance of the actual life which had arrested him as it had done the first disciples, and been to him the true revelation of God. His worship is directed in the last resort not to the Logos, whom he discovers in Jesus, but to Jesus Himself. Nevertheless, the adoption of the Logos idea involves him in a mode of thought which is alien to his deeper religious instinct. On the one hand, he conceives of Jesus as manifesting God to men, and raising them to a higher life, by the might of His ethical personality. On the other hand, he is compelled to think of the revelation under metaphysical categories. Jesus was the Light of the world and the Life-giver, because He was Himself the Logos, one in essence with God. The Gospel wavers throughout between these two parallel interpretations of the life of Christ—that suggested by the history and that required by the Logos hypothesis. Superficially the two conceptions are blended together, but they are disparate in their nature and cannot be brought
THE DOCTRINE OF THE LOGOS 175
into any real harmony. The doctrine of the Logos, born of philosophical theory, has nothing to do with the historical revelation in Jesus, and is wholly inadequate to explain it. It will become more and more apparent, as we examine the teaching of the Gospel, that the evangelist is working with two different views of the Christian message. He seeks to interpret, under the forms of the current philosophy, what has been given to him in the experience of faith.
CHAPTER VI "THE CHRIST, THE SON OF GOD"
" 'I ^HE Word became flesh, and dwelt among JL us." In this great thesis which marks the central idea of the prologue we have also a transition to the subject of the Gospel proper. The evangelist has effected his purpose of finding a ground for the nature of Christ within the divine being, and henceforth, while he assumes the Logos hypothesis, he does not revert to it in express terms. He recognizes that the Word made flesh, manifest in a human personality, was not simply identical with the pre-existent Word. His religious instinct, moreover, is stronger than his metaphysic, and he feels the insufficiency of the bare Logos category to interpret the whole meaning of the revelation of God in Christ. So from this point onward the philosophical theory remains in the background, a powerful but secondary influence, and the nature of Jesus is defined by means of other conceptions more adequate to a personal and historical life.
There were three names by which, according to the Synoptic Gospels, JesuS was wont to express the significance of His Personality. He was the Christ, the Son of man, the Son of God. The
"THE CHRIST, THE SON OF GOD" 177
Fourth Evangelist takes up the Synoptic tradition, and accepts these three names as normative for his own theology. A century, however, had intervened since Jesus bore witness to Himself under these names, and in the meanwhile their original import had been partly forgotten, partly overlaid by theological reflection. John accepts them, not in the sense which they had conveyed to Jesus Himself, or to the first disciples, but in that which they had assumed, after various modifications, in the Church doctrine. Not only so, but the conception of the Logos reacts, as we have seen, on his view of the historical life, so that he reads it continually into the authentic self-witness of Jesus. The apparent identity of the names by which our Lord describes Himself in the earlier Gospels and in the later one, must not conceal from us the essential differences of thought.
It is necessary, first of all, to determine the Synoptic sense of these three titles,—Christ, Son of man, Son of God. The question is an obscure and difficult one, reaching back as it does into that problem of our Lord's self-consciousness which is in its nature insoluble. An approximate answer, however, will be sufficient for our present purpose of marking the difference between the view presented in the Synoptic and that of John.
(I) The name "Christ" is in the first instance national, and connects Jesus with the history and the hopes of Israel. He knew Himself as the Christ to be the final outcome of the religious de-
178 THE FOURTH GOSPEL
velopment of the Jewish people. He took on Himself the Messianic task of inaugurating that Kingdom of God which had been dimly prefigured in the ancient theocracy. In the mind of Jesus, however, the purely national significance of the title of " Messiah" was far transcended. The kingdom of God as He conceived it was a spiritual magnitude, and the name by which He expressed His relation to it assumed, therefore, an entirely new value. As the Christ He was the representative of a new moral order which had nothing to do with racial and political divisions. He had come to fulfill the theocratic ideal, not by restoring the kingdom to Israel, but by revealing the will of God and bringing all men into obedience to it. This contradiction between His own sense of the Messianic calling and the traditional conception, explains His reluctance to proclaim Himself as the Christ. He was conscious of the inadequacy of this title, which was yet imposed upon Him by the historical conditions under which He appeared. Before He finally adopted it He sought to transform its meaning, at least in the minds of His disciples. In the light of His own life and message they were taught to associate it with a new order of ideas—ethical and religious instead of political
(2) It was only in the latter part of His ministry that Jesus declared Himself openly as the Christ. The name which He used most commonly while He was preparing His disciples for the Messianic proclamation, was that of Son of man. The
"THE CHRIST, THE SON OF GOD" 179
precise intention of this name is still one of the disputed questions of New Testament criticism, but the evidence would seem to point, almost conclusively, to its derivation from the passage in Daniel (vii. 13) which describes how, after the imperfect shapes, typifying the inferior kingdoms, there appeared in the prophet's vision "one like unto a Son of man." Already in Jewish Apocalyptic literature this mysterious figure of the " Son of man" had been identified with the Messiah. Indeed, the attempts which had thus far been made by Jewish thinkers to substitute a larger and more religious view of the Messiah for the crude popular view, had taken their main departure from this passage in Daniel. The Messiah was no mere King of the house of David, but an angelic being. He would come down from the heavenly world. He would appear in the last days on the clouds of heaven as the Judge appointed by God. In these speculations we have probably the key to the meaning of the name as employed by Jesus. Conscious of Himself as the Messiah, and yet desirous of assigning a higher connotation to the misleading title, He kept it in abeyance till near the close of His ministry, and replaced it by the other name of "Son of man." He thus transferred the emphasis from the merely national side of the Messianic idea to the religious side. As Son of man He had come forth from God in order to inaugurate a heavenly kingdom. He was possessed of a divine authority, in virtue of
180 THE FOURTH GOSPEL
which He would exercise judgment when He returned " in the clouds, with power and great glory." To the name " Son of man " as assumed by Jesus we cannot, indeed, ascribe the whole meaning which belonged to it in the current Apocalyptic literature. There is nothing to indicate that Jesus regarded Himself as an angelic being or laid claim to an eternal pre-existence. He adopted this title, like that of the Messiah, as a traditional form which partially corresponded with His own thought, and yet required to be re-interpreted before it could serve His purpose adequately. At the same time, it answered more closely to His conception of His Person and mission than the name " Messiah." It presented the Messianic idea in a purer form, and brought it into harmony with larger hopes and interests. By describing Himself, in the first instance, as the " Son of man," He was able to impress on the minds of His disciples the essentially spiritual nature of His vocation, so that the name " Messiah," when He finally claimed it, did not confuse or mislead them. It taught them to see in Jesus the fulfillment of ancient prophecy, while recognizing also that He was much more. He had founded a kingdom which was not of this world. He had answered the hope of Israel, not in the manner anticipated, but far more fully
(3) The third name by which Jesus is designated in the Synoptic is that of " Son of God." It is true that He does not Himself
"THE CHRIST, THE SON OF GOD" 181
claim the title, though He appears to do so by implication in at least one passage (Matt. xi. 27 = Lk. x. 22). Nothing, however, is more certain in the life of Jesus than that He was conscious of a special relation to God,—a relation of unique closeness and dearness which He could only describe as one of Son ship. The proof of this does not depend on isolated passages of perhaps doubtful authenticity, but is given us in our whole knowledge of His life and teaching. The story of the Gospel is simply unintelligible without this primary assumption that Jesus was conscious of a unique relation between Himself and God. This consciousness, by its very nature, does not admit of analysis. It was given to Jesus immediately, like the sense of His own personality, and He does not say how it came to Him or how He explained it to Himself. Indeed, so far as we can penetrate this central mystery of our Lord's life, He was conscious not so much of His own Son ship as of God's Fatherhood. He did not look inward on His own nature and seek to discover its ultimate origin and affinities, but forgot Himself entirely in the absorbing sense of God. It was left to later Christian reflection to draw out the full meaning implicit in the "Abba, Father" of Jesus, and emphasize the element of Son ship as well as that of Fatherhood. Thus in the Synoptic Gospels we have the seeming paradox that " Son of man " is the divine title on which Jesus bases His dignity and authority, while " Son of God " carries
82 THE FOURTH GOSPEL
with it no such claim. It simply expresses His personal relation to God, His self-surrender, in ilial trust, to the higher will. He bases no prerogative on His Son ship to God. On the contrary, His absolute faith in God as His Father is the secret of His humility, His obedience, His Cross.
Turning now to the Fourth Gospel, we have these three Synoptic names presented to us with meanings entirely different. Here, as elsewhere, the evangelist reads back into the historical data his own characteristic ideas, so that under the familiar titles we have a new conception offered us of the Person and life of Jesus. (I) The name of "Christ" loses its special significance, and becomes simply an equivalent for " Son of God." It is true that the references to the Messianic title are somewhat complicated by the Jewish controversy, which runs as a subordinate motive through the Gospel. The claim of Jesus to be the Christ was naturally the crucial issue in all discussion with the Jews, and it was necessary to maintain the claim in its strict traditional sense. Jesus was the " King of the Jews," "He of whom Moses in the law and the prophets did write" (I. 45). The objections put forward by the synagogue are dealt with, point by point, in a great controversial passage (vii. 26-53). But even in this passage the real aim of the writer is to interpret the Messianic idea in a higher and more spiritual sense. Jewish objections are not so
"THE CHRIST, THE SON OF GOD" 183
much answered as shown to be empty and trivial, and therefore thrown aside. The claim of Jesus to be the Messiah was not founded on descent from David, or birth in Bethlehem, or mystery in the mode of His appearance, or even on the strict fulfillment in His life of Old Testament prophecy (vii. 42, 27, 52). He was sent from God, and knew God; He had the water of life for all who were athirst; He spoke as no mere man could speak. So throughout the Gospel the Messianic title denotes nothing more definite than the higher nature and dignity of Jesus as the Son of God. It is still retained, in accordance with the consecrated tradition, but its meaning is entirely merged in that of the other title. " The Christ" and the " Son of God" are again and again co-ordinate as simply equivalent terms (xi. 27, xx. 31, I. 49). In this interpretation of the Messianic name by a higher and more comprehensive one, John gives effect, no doubt, to our Lord's own purpose. He also was conscious that the ancient title was not fully adequate, and sought to inform it with a new content before He claimed it. But it still retained its theocratic significance, marking His place in the new kingdom which was at hand. He never used it to express His peculiar relation to God, much less to convey a theological doctrine regarding His Person, such as we find in the Johannine idea of Son ship.
(2) In his use of the name " Son of man " John approximates more closely to the Synoptic. The
title, with its suggestion of a mystery and a unique dignity in the human life of Jesus, lent itself naturally to the Johannine conception, and is employed with much the same general effect as in the earlier Gospels. But a more careful analysis of the twelve passages in which the name occurs, discloses an essential modification in the meaning assigned to it. With the Synoptic it is an official name, by means of which Jesus brings into prominence a particular aspect of His Messiah ship. He declares that although man, He is the heavenly man of the prophet's vision, who was entrusted by God with the inauguration of His kingdom and would one day appear in glory to judge the world. With John the import of the name is in a manner inverted. It has reference not to the higher claims of Jesus, but to the fact of His manhood. Although He was the Word, existing eternally with God, He was yet the Word made flesh, manifesting Himself under the conditions of human life. So in several passages the contrast is expressly marked between the present revelation of Jesus as Son of man and the true glory of His divine nature. " Hereafter ye shall see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man" (I. 51). " Ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where He was before " (vi. 62). " The Son of man which is in heaven" (iii. 13). "The hour is come that the Son of man should be glorified" (xii. 23). " Now is the Son of man glorified, and God is glorified in Him" (xiii. 31). The significance of
CHRIST, THE SON OF GOD
the name in all these verses lies in the suggestion that the human nature of Christ was united with a higher nature which was present in it even now, and would at last become fully manifest. He who appeared to be only the "Son of .man " would be revealed in His true dignity as " Son of God." The same thought can be discerned in three striking passages which associate the "lifting up" of Christ with His coming to the world as "Son of man." The two ideas of death by the Cross and ascension to heaven are both conveyed in these allusions to the " lifting up, " and the use of the name " Son of man " has thus a double suggestiveness. It implies, on the one hand, that by His suffering and death our Lord fulfilled to the uttermost the conditions of His human nature ; while, on the other hand, "the Son of man was lifted up," — passed out of His human limitations and re-entered on His state of glory. A similar pregnancy of meaning attaches to the name, in the passage where Jesus declares that " authority is given Him to execute judgment because He is the Son of man " (v. 27). He has said immediately before that He will summon men to judgment as "Son of God," but the thought suddenly changes, and assumes a deeper moral import He who will judge men has Himself been man. His authority rests not merely on divine prerogative, but on His victory over temptation, His knowledge of human needs and weaknesses, His brotherhood with men. In verses such as this we touch the underlying thought which gives power and reality to the teaching of the
186 THE FOURTH GOSPEL
Fourth Gospel. The interpretation is more difficult in the saying which sums up the great Eucharistic discourse: " Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink His blood, ye have no life in you" (vi. 53). Here it might appear as if the name were used arbitrarily, or only to add a Synoptic coloring to words which in themselves have little in common with the recorded teaching of Jesus. But on closer examination we find that the allusion to the " Son of man " has a definite bearing on the prevailing idea of the passage. Jesus is speaking of His "flesh and blood,"—His human personality, through which He has come near to men. In order to communicate the divine life He has allied Himself to our humanity, and we are able to lay hold of Him on this human side of His revelation, and so receive His gift. Thus throughout the Gospel a consistent idea is traceable in the use of the title " Son of man." Its original meaning has fallen out of sight, and it denotes the acknowledgment on the part of Jesus of a human nature united with the divine. It brings to a point the implicit argument of the Gospel against those who had resolved the earthly history into a mere appearance. The Word had become flesh, had assumed the true attributes of manhood, though still remaining the Son of God.
(3) We come, then, to the name which belongs distinctively to Jesus in the Fourth Gospel, and determines the whole Johannine conception of His nature and work. He was the " Son of God," or more simply "the Son." In several places (I. 14,
"THE CHRIST, THE SON OF GOD" 187
18, Hi. 16, 18) the name is further defined by the epithet "only-begotten," a Philonic epithet, which in John, however, bears an emphatic meaning. It serves to remove all doubt as to the unique character of the Son ship of Jesus. John, like the Synoptic, acknowledges a sense in which men have a filial relation to God (x. 35). He believes that Christ " has given power to as many as received Him to become the sons of God." But the relation of Christ Himself to God was different in kind from the Son ship attainable by men. He was the "only-begotten," the Son "who is in the bosom of the Father." It is at first sight not a little surprising that, holding this view of the unique Son ship of Jesus, the evangelist makes no allusion to the doctrine of the miraculous birth. From one passage (vi. 42) it might even be inferred that the doctrine is expressly controverter, although it would be rash to derive this conclusion from words assigned to the unbelieving Jews. The fact remains, however, that John passes over in silence the tradition of the Virgin Birth, which must certainly have been known to him, and which might seem to be in harmony with his own doctrine of the "only-begotten Son." In order to explain his silence, we must remember his strict exclusion of all that might imply a passivity in the divine Logos. It was by His own free act that the Son of God entered the world as man. The evangelist shrank from any theory of His origin that might impair the central idea of full activity, from the beginning of His work to the end. There was also another con-
188 THE FOURTH GOSPEL
sideration which must have weighed with him still more decisively. The current tradition of the birth of Christ seemed to cast a doubt on His pre-existent Son ship. It might appear as if He came into being as Son of God at a given moment of time by an act of the divine will; and thus the hypothesis of a miraculous birth, so far from supporting, might be so construed as to deny the doctrine of His essential divinity. It is therefore replaced by the theory set forth in the prologue, that the earthly life of Jesus was only the continuance of a Son ship which had subsisted from all eternity. "In the beginning the Word was with God." This to John was the fundamental truth concerning the Person of Christ, and he was careful not to confuse or obscure it by any attempt to combine it with the birth stories in Matthew and Luke. These are not, indeed, set aside. More probably they were accepted by John as a part of the orthodox tradition, in which, as a member of the Church, he acquiesced. But in view of his larger conception of the Son ship of Christ they had lost all doctrinal significance. It mattered little by what mode the Incarnation was accomplished, whether through ordinary generation or by way of miracle. For the relation of Christ to God did not depend on the birth in time. Already in the beginning he was " the only - begotten Son who was in the bosom of the Father " ; and so He continued when He became flesh.
The conception of the Son ship of Jesus, as presented in the Synoptic, is not, however, to
"THE CHRIST, THE SON OF GOD" 189
be sought in the introductory narratives of the birth. We have seen that in the teaching which is preserved to us in those Gospels the emphasis is laid throughout on our Lord's inward sense of God's Fatherhood. He does not reflect on His own Son ship, and the supreme dignity and authority with which it invests Him, but only on the divine Fatherhood, with its demand upon Him for the complete surrender of His own will. The one grand exception is the passage Matt. xi. 27, Luke x. 22, where there appears to be a distinct claim to Son ship, based on the assurance of God's Fatherhood. But even allowing that this passage, which stands solitary in the Synoptic Gospels, has come down to us in its original form, it cannot be construed as a theological statement. Jesus, in a moment of exaltation, has realized with peculiar vividness that the Lord of heaven and earth is also His Father. He feels that no one before Him has so known God, that the fellowship between Himself and God, as close and real as that of Son and Father, is something altogether unique. The thought uppermost in His mind throughout is simply that God is inexpressibly near to Him, His Father whom He knows perfectly, and in whose power He can do all things. So this passage, singular as it undoubtedly is, does not necessarily clash with the uniform Synoptic witness as to the mode in which Jesus apprehended His relation to God. He did not begin with reflection on Himself, and thus from the knowledge of His Son ship infer God's Fatherhood. His mind was from first to
190 THE FOURTH GOSPEL
last possessed with the thought of God, to whom He surrendered Himself in entire obedience. In the Fourth Gospel the centre of gravity is shifted from the Fatherhood of God to the Son ship of Christ. Jesus is conscious, from the beginning, of His divine nature, and in virtue of this consciousness He reaches out to God and claims affinity with Him. His thought of the Father is only the other side of His own self-knowledge, and is derived from it and serves to illuminate and define it. This change of emphasis from the Fatherhood to the Son ship marks the crucial difference between the Johannine and the Synoptic interpretations of the mind of Christ.
The full significance of the change becomes apparent when we find it associated with an entirely new conception of the divine Son ship. In the Synoptic, so far as they reproduce our Lord's own teaching, the name " Father" as addressed to God does not imply a definite theological doctrine. God is "our Father" in the sense that He cares for us and demands our absolute trust. The closest of human relations helps us to realize, in some faint measure, the love and nearness of God. Jesus Himself is conscious of a fellowship with God so unique and profound that He can declare that "no man knoweth the Father but the Son," yet here also He uses language which is approximate, figurative. It expresses, however inadequately, His sense of a perfect communion with God and His entire obedience to the divine will. In the
"THE CHRIST, THE SON OF GOD
Fourth Gospel the filial relation is taken literally as defining the nature of the fellowship between Jesus and God. The names " Father " and " Son " are worked out theologically in their whole implication. Jesus as the Son was of the same essence with God, had shared His glory before the world was, and even in His earthly life was mysteriously united with Him. In virtue of His Son ship He lays claim to a supreme status and dignity. He requires the obedience due to God, and exercises the divine prerogatives, and mediates to men the things given Him by His Father. All the ideas which are involved in literal son ship are now transferred to the mysterious relation subsisting between Jesus and His Father in heaven.
The doctrine of the Son ship of Christ as it thus appears in the Fourth Gospel was part of the inheritance which John had received from Paul. It is, indeed, sufficiently evident from the Pauline epistles that " Son of God" was already a recognized title of Jesus. The earliest Christian thought, it must be remembered, expressed itself in the moulds of Aramaic idiom, which employed the term " Son" in a large and vague sense. To describe Jesus as the "Son of God" was simply to acknowledge the divine character of His life and teaching. His disciples were conscious that He had brought God nearer to them, that the Spirit of God had rested on Him, and revealed itself through all His words and works. They summed up the undefined impression which His life had made on them in a name equally indefinite—" Son of God."
Trinity College of Biblical Studies
THE FOURTH GOSPEL UNIT TWO