Review of: Godet The Credibility of Christ's Discourses, transl. A. H. Neuman, (1874)
Godet on the Integrity of John: - John versus Synoptics
Quantifying the Difference: John versus Synoptics
Chart 1: Synoptics vs John
Unity and Development: change during Jesus Ministry
Two Kinds of Teaching: earthly and heavenly
Changes During Jesus Life: private growth, public ministry
Celestial Language: for heavenly thought and speech
Disciple Like Master : inheriting the mind of Christ
Jerusalem Temple: the location for Heavenly Teaching
The Synoptists not suitable for heavenly discourse
Peter and John: different men for different tasks
Nature of Pentecost: message appropriate for occasion
John as Chronicler: his task in preserving the discourses
The Impress of John : his mode of thinking
John's Form: his language and expression
Chart 2: John's Gospel versus Epistles
The Prologue: John's style in Gospel preface
Historical Integrity: John's witness to truth
Taken from: The Baptist Quarterly, Vol VIII, 1874
Headings have been added for clarity and navigation purposes.
The Credibility Of Christ’s Discourses
As Reported By John.
(Translated From The French Of Godet.)
"The degree of credence that is to be accorded to the discourses reported in John’s gospel depends, doubtless, very much upon the manner in which the question of authenticity is decided. 1 Still, the two questions are not inseparably connected as is evinced by the opinion of Reuss, who, admitting fully their authenticity, denies almost completely the historical character of the discourses.
Everyone has read and re-read in the recent works an exposition of the contrast which a more attentive study draws out between the teaching of Jesus in the Synoptics, and the discourses which the Fourth Gospel attributes to him.
There, variety of subjects, vivacity full of aptness; here, continual recurrence to himself and his mission.
There, a language truly popular, a style in keeping with that of the Jewish doctors of that time, the employment of generally received terms of the kingdom of heaven, of justice, of repentance, etc.; there, a metaphysical language, full of terms unused in Israel, such as these: Life eternal, the Father and the Son, etc.
There, all the eschatological views received in the Rabbinical schools; here, the ether of the purest spirituality. If we add to these characteristics the remarkable circumstances that in the fourth Gospel Jesus’ manner of thinking and expressing himself has the greatest resemblance to the style of the author himself in his other writings, the impression produced by these facts cannot be very favourable to the fidelity of the evangelist, at least as to the part of his narrative that occupies us.
Quantifying the Difference between John and the Synoptics
We recognize to a certain point the reality of the marked contrast, and we think that it is incumbent upon every serious defender of the fourth gospel to account for this contrast. But as this contrast has often been exaggerated we should begin by restoring it to its just limits. We have already shown that in the Synoptics also the person of Jesus is the central point of his teachings. “Only one thing,” says Renan, with a very just appreciation of the true sense of the Synoptics, “was necessary to become his follower – to love him.” He calls himself the Son in an absolute sense, as in the fourth gospel; and passages in these writings of a completely Johanistic coloring have been cited a hundred times, as also we meet in John a great number of expressions which are found almost the same in the Synoptics. We will give in a note a list of these parallel passages, which is much richer than is ordinarily believed:
Mt. 9:28-29: "Come to me all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and ye shall find rest for your souls."
6:37: "All that the Father gives to me will come to me; and him that comes to me I will not cast out."
Mt. 11:27 (Luke 10:21-22): "All things were delivered to me by my Father: and no one knows the Son if not the Father: nor does anyone know the Father if not the Son, and he to whom the Son is pleased to reveal him."
13:3: 'Jesus knowing that the Father has given all things into his hands...'
6:46: "Not that anyone has seen the Father, save he who is from God; he has seen the Father." (see also 1:18)
Mt. 5:6 (Lk 6:21): "Happy are they that hunger and thirst, for they shall be filled."
6:35: "He that comes to me shall never hunger, and he that believes on me shall never thirst."
Mt. 28:20: "I am with you always unto the end of the world."
14:18 "I will not leave you bereaved; I will come to you."
Mk 16:16 "He that believes and is baptized shall be saved; be he that believes not shall be condemned."
3:18 "He that believes on him is not judged; but he that believes not has already been judged."
Mt. 28:18: "All power was given to me in heaven and on earth."
17:2 "As you gave him authority over all flesh."
Mt. 16:19: "Whatever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven...."
20:23: "Whosoever sins you remit, they are remitted to them...."
Mt. 10:40: "He that receives you receives me; and he that receives me receives him who sent me."
13:20: "He that receives whomsoever I send, receives me; and he that receives me, receives him who sent me."
Mt. 10:22: "Ye will be hated by all for my name's sake."
15:21: "All these things they will do to you for my name's sake."
Matt 10:25, .......Jn 15:20
Mt. 26:55, ........Jn 18:20
Mt. 26:39 etc. .........Jn 17:11
Mt 10:39, 16:25 / Mk 8:35 / Lk 9:24, 18:33 ..............Jn 12:25
Mt 26:11, Mk 14:17...........Jn 12:8
Mt 16:46..............Jn 14:31
Mt 13:57/Mk 6:4............Jn 4:44
Mt. 10:24 / Lk 6:40.........Jn 13:16
Mt. 26:34 / Mk 14:30 / Lk 22:34.............Jn 13:38
Mt. 26:52..........Jn 18:11
The Discourses do not break unity of Any Gospels
It may be remarked that these words do not break the homogeneity of the discourse either in the Synoptics or in John, and that it would not occur to any reader to suspect the authenticity of either. Indeed, when words of a stamp so original and so profoundly marked as those of Jesus can thus take a place simultaneously in both without in any way altering their unity, we may well conclude that they are not so dissimilar as is pretended, either as to matter or as to form.
A second preliminary observation which we must here make is, that it is not correct to oppose the Synoptics to the fourth gospel as three to one. The three first gospels are drawn, in great part at least, from a common source, the oral preaching. They are three branches proceeding from the same trunk. They are then to that of John as one to one.
The Discourses evolve during Jesus' Ministry
Finally, let us remark that in the Synoptics themselves the teaching of Jesus undergoes, in the course of his ministry, considerable modification. These gospels mark expressly three phases of this teaching. The first is the period of overture. It comprises, essentially, exhortarions to repentance and moral preaching, of which the sermon on the mount is the type. It is immediately connected with the ministry of John the Baptist, and with the whole epoch of the law.
The second commences with the day positively indicated when Jesus began, to the great astonishment of his apostles, to preach in parables (Matt. xii. 1 sq,; Mark iv.1 sq.; Luke viii. 4 sq.). It is the time when he initiates those who had profited by his first teachings into the true nature of the kingdom of heaven which he is preparing to found.
The third phase whose commencement is just as well marked as that of the second (Matt. xvi. 21 sq.; Mark viii. 31 sq.; Luke ix. 21 sq.), is that in which he himself becomes the essential subject of his discourses, and prepares his disciples for his approaching sufferings and for the celestial glory which must follow these sufferings and for the celestial glory which must follow these sufferings. Accordingly it follows that Jesus’ mode of teaching varied considerably according to Synoptics themselves, and that consequently a fourth form of preaching which should have left only some less clearly marked traces in the oral preaching is not impossible.
Two Kinds of Teachings Acknowledged by Gospel
Jesus, we have seen (John iii. 12), draws a great contrast between two methods of teaching, very different and even opposite to each other; that which applies itself to earthly things, which does nothing but unfold the moral ideal inlaid in the depths of the human conscience, and that which has for its object to reveal to men what they could never know by themselves, the decrees of God for salvation of the world, the heavenly things. We cannot say, indeed, absolutely, that the discourses of the Synoptics correspond to the first form, and those of John to the second; but it is certain that the first predominates in those, the second in this.
After these preliminary remarks we can enter boldly upon the problem, and inquire whether there is any circumstance in the person of Jesus and in the method of his development capable of explaining the real difference which exists between John and the Synoptics.
Explaining the Real Differences between Gospels
Up to his baptism the life of Jesus, according to our conception of it, had been that of a perfect man and of a perfect Jew; but he had not passed that limit. His business, in fact, up to this moment was not to pass it, but to attain it. He lived upon the earth, referring everything to heaven; he had communication with heaven, applying everything that he received from on high to the earthly life. He observed with care what took place around him; to him nothing was indifferent. Even what might seem the most insignificant in the social relations and in the things of ordinary life: the leaven put into three measures of flour; the piece of new cloth sewed to an old garment; the new wine put into old vessels; the little birds sold at the market, and the price at which they were caught; the dramas of domestic life, the dissoluteness of young men and the embezzlements of stewards; nothing of this kind escaped his attention.
At the same time his eye plunged incessantly into the depths of moral life, both in himself and in others. While he discerned in all men, even the best, an open communication between them and a dark abyss of sin, he felt and maintained within him a relation not less active with infinity of light and of holiness. The Scripture, which formed doubtless all his library at Nazareth, was his guide in this incessant study of his own heart and of the hearts of men, of the eath and of heaven. Thus his human and Jewish consciousness was formed, enriched, ripened; so that, as Luke says, “He grew in wisdom.” In this state the vocabulary of his people was still his vocabulary; he certainly attached a profounder and more spiritual meaning than all the other Jews to expressions of law, of justice, of the kingdom of heaven, of Messiah; but these terms expressed none the less the more elevated ideal of his religious and moral consciousness, and they excited in him hopes no less vivid than in all his fellow countrymen.
The Baptism of Jesus
On the day of his baptism heaven was opened to him. At that instant, through the Judaic symbol, the eternal realities appeared to him, in a manner fully conformed to their essence. The divine law upon the earth was divested in his sight in the form of a code, and was presented to him as an internal and universal impulse of the divine will, the will of God done upon the earth as in heaven. The social conception of God’s kingdom was no more than the blossoming of a notion more profound, that of the eternal life, of God’s communion with every soul; and the prospect of an Israel to elevate and to glorify, is transformed into that of a humanity to vivify, of a world to save.
At the same time that the task was revealed to him in all its grandeur and beauty, the power to accomplish this task was communicated to him; the holy Spirit descended upon him. The unbounded aspiration which had hitherto formed the holiness of his soul, is changed into a state of complete possession; and the prayer of the prophets to which his heart had given the most ardent, the purest expression: “Oh that thou wouldest rend the heavens and come down!” was realized. That heaven which he used to contemplate even in its depths he thus received the power to realize here below. In fine, Jesus himself was revealed to himself.
At the moment when God’s voice was heard saying unto him, “Thou art my well-beloved Son,” when God inundated him with torrent of his paternal love, he understood himself; the mystery of his being before which he had doubtless often stopped for a long time, as in a holy astonishment, was external love, and he recognized God as his Father in a sense still more exhalted than when, at the age of twelve, he gave him this name. For the Jewish notion of the Messiah ascending the steps of David’s throne, was substituted that of the Son come from on high, and given to the world as the precious token of love divine.
A New Heavenly Language Given
This new comprehension of divine things must beget in him a world of new intuitions, consequently a new language, a celestial vocabulary, a γλωσσαις λαλειν ('glossais lalein'), of which that of Pentecost was the emanation. His human consciousness and his Jewish consciousness were not certainly absorbed by his filial consciousness of his childhood and of his youth and they were, from that moment, subordinated to the superior consciousness which he had of himself, and which, as a light proceeding from on high, illuminated all the inferior domains of his moral existence.
There must have been from this moment two sources of teaching always open to him. He could draw at will from the rich fountain of diverse experiences and of Scriptural knowledge which he had amassed while living constantly under God’s eye until his baptism, and use the vocabulary which corresponded to this. He could also, if he saw fit, open the treasures of his superior consciousness and reveal to the earth, in a language that had not yet been heard, the new things of himself which had been revealed to him. Was it not his own example that he had in view, when he depicted the perfect teacher under the image of a father who draws at will from his treasury things old and things new?
Earthly Language still Required
Of these two sources of teaching it is easy to understand that it was the first, as the more elementary, from which Jesus drew most habitually, especially in the beginning of his ministry. He was too skilful a teacher to do otherwise. Who, indeed, in the other case, would have understood him, would have followed him? One man, one only, perhaps, would have perceived the divine riches concealed under this mysterious language. Jesus would have had one adept, possessed one friend; he would have neither gathered disciples nor have founded a church.
Yet if he must begin and even continue this, he could not stop there. Whatever repugnance he might feel to lift with his own hand the veil that covered his glorious nature, and to proclaim himself his filial title, he must do it. Must not the Father be revealed, and could he be revealed otherwise than in revealing the Son? Had he not to make known to the world the love of God, and could he do it otherwise than in making known the greatness of the gift in which this love had blazed forth? Had he refused to take this decisive step, to raise himself at times from the domain of terrestrial things to that of celestial things, he would have done nothing but continue the work of John the Baptist; he would have been a Jewish Socrates; he would never have become the Christ, the living Mediator between God and men.
We understand, accordingly, that Jesus, though confining himself habitually to the lower domain, could in certain moments in which he heard the appeal of the Father, raise his testimony to the height of his true nature, and in language appropriate to the exalted subject, initiate men into the intimate communion in which he was united to his Father, and make them understand what he was for God, and what, as such he wished to be for the world. The language which he spoke in these supreme days of his ministry was that of his Pentecost, while ordinarily fulfilling the office of popular educator he spoke the language which he had leaned as man, and in commerce with men.
Christians are also like our Master and Lord
Such we can imagine to be the position of a Christian who, after having lived the life of a just and pious man, has passed at last by profound experience of conversion and of grace unto a state of communion with Christ; he knew before the beauties of the moral life; he understands now the holy emotions of the life in God; he has passed from servitude to adoption, from death to life; God has said unto him, “My Son,” and has poured into his heart the Spirit of his Son. He can respond, “Abba, Father!” Holiness has henceforth replaced in him morality.
Represent to yourself this man, this shepherd, called to give religious instruction to young children. Will he not draw his teaching from an order of ideas very different from that which actually controls his mind? If he is wise will he speak to these children of the lofty experience which he has had? Will he employ with them the terms that correspond to this experience, such words as conversion, regeneration, grace, adoption? Will he not rather seek to cultivate in them sentiments of honesty, of delicacy, of benevolence, which have been the point of departure of his own development and which must conduct them one day to the Christian experiences which he has undergone? Will he not converse with them of the conscience and of duty, of punishment, and of reward? This will he have in double consciousness that he has of God, two distinct sources of teaching and preaching.
He will have also two religious vocabularies corresponding to them, that of the moral and natural religious life, which will be that of which the catechist will avail himself, and that of the spiritual life which the new man in Christ will employ in conversing with his peers or with those whom he believes capable of becoming his peers. In a word he will have the language of the Old Testament and that of the New. These are precisely the two languages Jesus spoke, with this difference, that he had learned the first, and that he has created the second.
The Discourses climax in the Temple at Jerusalem
It is natural enough to think that the culminating points of Jesus’ testimony and of his Messianic manifestation coincide with his sojourns in Jerusalem. There he saw himself surrounded by the whole Jewish nation, officially assembled. There he was in the Temple, that normal theatre of the revelation of the Messiah. There above all the signification and the rites of the celebrated feasts revived the remembrance of the theocratic types, recalled all the great facts of the national history, and thus offered to Jesus the occasion to affirm himself by connecting closely the revelation of his person and of his work with the divine preparation of the Old Covenant.
The True Occasion for Celestial Teaching
This is so true that even in the single case where Jesus seems to have pronounced in Galilee one of those great Messianic testimonies which John’s gospel has preserved for us, he did it at the time and on the occasion of a feast, the feast of Passover. We have seen that the true title of chapter vi of out gospel would be:
“The Passover in Galilee. Forcibly kept away from Jerusalem, at the time when this feast is celebrated, Jesus distributes to his disciples, so far as he can do it then and there, the Pashcal lamb, offering to them, with the material bread due to the omnipotence of his love, his flesh to eat and his blood to drink.”
With this exception, then, which properly understood is not an exception, all the great discourses preserved by John were pronounced at Jerusalem on the occasion of one of the feasts: that of chapter v, at the Feast of Purim; those of chapters vii, and viii, and x (first part), at the Feast of Tabernacles; and that of chapter x (second part), at that of the Dedication. There is consequently, every reason to believe that Jesus pronounced no other discourses of this kind.
The Difficulty for the Synoptists of Repeating the Discourses
Would not this observation throw some light upon the question we are treating, as upon a fact difficult to explain and which is probably not unconnected with that which occupies us, the omission of the journeys to Jerusalem in the narrative of the Synoptics? It would be difficult in an extraordinary degree to reproduce such situations and sermons as those that occupied the rare but decisive days which Jesus passed at Jerusalem. To relate the circumstance of miracles, to report the words bearing the stamp of the most happy appropriateness, to reproduce even moral discourses, such as the sermon on the mount, were things relatively easy in comparison with such a task as that of which we here speak.
Let us imagine that after having read once, or even twice and three times, the discourses of Jesus after the healing of the impotent man (John v), and after the multiplication of the loaves (chapter vi), we should be called upon to put them in writing, not only for giving to the reader a general idea of these discourses, but for preserving officially their tenor and for publishing them in the world authentically in documentary form; the pen would fall from out hands a hundred times.
So the Synoptics after having narrated the multiplication of the loaves, would not even attempt to reproduce the discourse that followed it. There was necessary for performing a task like this a special predisposition, and a special predestination. A soul closely allied to the inmost being of Jesus was alone equal to this mission. The soul existed; is was that of the disciple whom Jesus loved, and whom he loved in a unique manner; because he had recognized in him the only being capable of comprehending him as of loving him perfectly.
The Uniqueness of Peter and John
Peter, the man of action, was especially impressed by the sight of works of power; this the narrative of Mark, which emanates in part from the preaching of this apostle, abounds in characteristics of this kind. Others of Jesus’ disciples collected with assiduity the moral sermons, the new spiritual code, or the revelations of divine grace towards sinners. The preponderance of these materials has given to the first and the third gospels their peculiar character.
John, whose heart burned with love for the person of his Master, and who concentrated upon this his whole attention, collected eagerly and impressed profoundly upon his soul those discourses in which Jesus bore testimony to his supreme dignity, and revealed what he was for God on the one hand, and, on the other, for the world and for every individual human soul.
“The words of the Master,” says Reuss, “contained an inexhaustible treasure of truth; each one could take his part of it in the measure of his intellectual and moral capacity.”
The part of the disciple whom Jesus loved, measured in this way, must have been much superior to that of the other witnesses of Jesus’ ministry. But if, at the moment when such discourses were pronounced, one had not even heard them with care, had not grasped them, had not engraved them, as with an instrument, upon the tablets of his heart, how were they to be retrieved afterwards? And how, in fine were they to be reproduced, if they had not passed thousands and thousands of times into the recollection of a soul devoted to the most intimate contemplation?
We are not astonished, then, that no other apostle has attempted a similar work. It was not really possible but for one alone. That was John’s true apostolic work, as essential to the foundation and the maintenance of the church as Peter’s preaching and Paul’s labours.
The Nature of Pentecost
There is still another circumstance which we must take into account. The evangelical narration immediately after Pentecost had for its sole object the popular evangelization. The materials that serve to compose this traditional catechesis, and which form doubtless the common source of our Synoptics, must have been what was most elementary in Jesus’ teaching. The higher elements of his testimony such as those which are included in the discourses preserved by John, would remain foreign to preaching under this primitive form, or enter into it only in a weak proportion, until the moment at last arrived when he who had without ceasing preserved them and revolved them in his heart, gave them to the church, with the account of the sojourns in Jerusalem of which they were the principal monument and which had disappeared with them from tradition.
Certainly if no analogous element was found in the Synoptics a suspicion might arise with regard to the authenticity of these discourses, and the reality of the journeys with which they are connected. But the materials all alike which have been authenticated in the Synoptic edifices, as well as the incontestable allusions which these gospels contain to other sojourns in Judea than that which they recount, vindicate fully John’s veracity and lead necessarily to an explanation of the kind that we propose.
John's Task in Condensing the Discourses
Yet one may ask how John could have preserved the exact remembrance of such discourses. It would be by no means inadmissible to suppose that he had committed them to writing when he had still the remembrance in all its freshness. It appears to us, however, more probable that it is, as we have already said, by repeating them and revolving them continually in his heart, that he has preserved so faithfully the memoire. The result of an elaboration of this kind is a condensation of the things heard. Everything secondary disappears; the quintessence alone remains. Now this is precisely the characteristic that the discourses of Jesus in John present.
The visit of Nicodemus could not have lasted only the few minutes that it takes us to read the account. It is the same way with other discourses. We possess only the leading words. This work of reproduction may doubtless be compared to that of a man who, having been vividly impressed by a religious discourse that had lasted a whole hour, should make a résumé of it in a few pages, without omitting any essential thought, any striking expression; guarding also against adding anything of his own.
John's Role as Preacher
We find the work of the preacher and that of the editor united in such a work by a kind of indefinable fusion. John himself reveals the nature of the work which he has effected and its place under the guaranty of the divine factor which presided over it, when he recalls this promise of Jesus of which his work has been the most remarkable fulfillment: “When the Holy Spirit shall have come, he will teach you all things, and will put you in remembrance of everything that I have said unto you.”
These remarks serve to resolve another objection. How happens it that the discourses of Jesus, in the fourth gospel, have so much resemblance to John’s epistle? No one assuredly would find anything astonishing or suspicious in the circumstance that a uniform coloring has been spread over the discourse thus edited and upon the original productions of the editor. There is, moreover, another circumstance of which we must take account.
Faithful Translation of the Intent of the Discourses
The evangelist did not reproduce the discourses of Jesus in the language in which they were uttered, but in another language of an altogether different, even opposite genius. In such a case, indeed, “literal translation would be treachery.” To the work of which we have just been speaking, must be added that which was indispensable for rendering faithfully into Greek what had been uttered in Hebrew; and would it be astonishing that in undergoing such a recasting the discourses of Jesus should have assumed under the pen of John a coloring analogous to that which we observe in the apostle’s own composition.
The Impress of the Apostle John's mode of Thought
Let us suppose a German writer translating, with the liberty that the differences of the two languages required, a French discourse; will we doubt the fidelity of his version because we remark in it certain analogies, as respects style, with his own writings? And if, furthermore, the translator were found to be a disciple of the author, and the relation which they have sustained for years were found to have been that of the most ardent receptivity on the one hand, and that of the most powerful productivity on the other; do we not see that the resemblance could be most fundamental without any well-founded suspicion being raised against the fidelity of the disciple?
Thus far we have reasoned on the supposition that there is no difference, fundamental or formal, between the epistle and the discourses of the gospel. But this supposition is by no means exact, and we may note here some differences which have not been sufficiently attended to, and which finish demonstrating the entire fidelity of John.
The Uniqueness of the Johannine Discourses
And first, fundamental differences. The doctrine of the expiatory sacrifice and of salvation through the blood of Christ plays a considerable part in the epistle (i. 7; ii. 1, 2; iv. 6; v. 6), as well as also in the Apocalypse. How happens it if John makes Jesus speak to his fancy, that there is no vestige of it in the gospel, and that the limit which Jesus marked out for himself and which he overstepped only in the institution of the Holy Supper, is as scrupulously respected in John as in the Synoptics themselves?
The eschatological notions that fill the New Testament, and particularly the Apocalypse, are found in full in the epistles (ii. 18, 28; iii. 2). On the contrary these notions occupy in the gospel only a place so inconsiderable that their very existence in this writing has been denied. The author, then, knew how to maintain the line of demarcation between his own convictions and the discourses which he proposed to himself to report.
The Thought Form of Johannine Discourses
Difference of form. The constant tone of the epistle is that of the religious aphorism. Not an expression, so to speak, is without this sententious and abstract character. 2 This form is almost entirely foreign to Jesus’ discourses in the gospel. Only a few examples of it can be cited, and these in the passages where he plays the part of a catechist, as in the interviews with Nicodemus and with the Samaritan woman (iii. 6; iv. 24). This difference becomes still more striking when we observe the relation between several of these apothegms which form the contents of the epistle, and certain expressions of Jesus, all full of appropriateness and actuality in the gospel. We will put them in parallel columns in order the better judge of the difference.
3:16: God so loved the world that he gave his only Son.
8:12, 9:5: "I am the Light of the World."
4:8,16 God is love.
1:5 God is Light.
8:44: "Your father is the Accuser."
3:19: 'Men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.'
15:21: He who commits sin is of the Accuser.
5:19: The whole world is immersed in evil.
15:16: "Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you."
4:10,19: We have not loved God; but God has loved us. ...We love him because he first loved us.
14:17, 15:26, 16:13:
"The Spirit of Truth."
5:6: The Spirit of Truth
14:7, 15:24: "If ye knew me you would know my Father also. ...They have hated both me and my Father."
2:23: He who denies the Son has not the Father.
5:34,36: " I seek not witness from men. ... I have a Greater Witness."
5:9: If we receive the witness of men, that of God is a Greater Witness.
We see it. The whole epistle seems like a system of religious and moral philosophy which John evolves from certain declarations of Jesus. The words of Jesus which, in the gospel, have an historic and occasional character, are elevated in the epistle to the height of general maxims, of absolute principles. Is not this the relation that must have existed between the teaching of the Master and that of the disciple? And is not this contrast a speaking proof of the fidelity of the one in the transmission of the other’s words?
Johannine Style in the Prologue
If there is one part of the gospel where this marked difference from the epistle is effaced, it is the prologue. There only we find the characteristic term by which John designates the divine nature of Christ both in the epistle and in the Apocolypse, that of the Word (1 John i. 1; Apoc. Xix. 13). There also is found the style of religious aphorism which dominates in the epistle (see especially John i. 16-18). Here it is not the Master that speaks, as in the rest of the gospel, but John himself.
All the observations that we have made upon the work of reproduction which the discourses of Jesus have had to undergo before taking their place in a Greek gospel, apply equally to the discourses of John the Baptist contained in chapter iii, and sufficiently explain their resemblance in form to those of Jesus. When in addition to the analogy of the ideas, we remember what the Precursor himself said, that the voice of the Bridegroom had come to the ear of the Bridegroom’s friend, and that it was this voice which had ravished him with joy, how could that Messianic hymn fail to be the echo of that celestial voice whose accents transporting had inspired him?
The Historical Integrity of the Johannine Narrative and Discourses
We have seen in the exegesis that the scrupulously historical character of Jesus’ discourses is established from the perfect appropriateness of each of them as a whole and in the details. Besides historical indications are often added as a guaranty to the discourses (v. 18; vi. 41, 52; vi. 59; vii. 28, 37; viii. 20; x. 22-24; xii. 21, 22). Compare also the passage, xiv. 31. The very sublimity of these discourses proves their authenticity; a relation with God such as is here displayed must have been really lived for it to be conceivable by the intelligence or expressible by words; the author of these discourses could have been no other than the holy one of God, the Saviour of the world. Finally, the sincerity of the evangelist and his faith itself in Jesus permit no other supposition.
The Discourses come from Jesus Himself
"Let no one say that the discourses thus composed (as when they are regarded as the meditations of John) belong to Christ in the mere sense that the apostle possessed the Spirit of Christ.
Since he does not give us discourses which could, in some sense, be attributed to Christ; but he gives us discourses which the Son of Man must have uttered in the days of his flesh.
To have mixed with them anything of his own would have been falsehood, even if this mixing proceeded from the Spirit of Christ; and it could not have proceeded from that Spirit precisely because it would be false."
It was, above all, through the discourses of Jesus that John arrived at the knowledge of his inmost being, of his hidden glory.
"What was from the beginning;
what we have heard…,"
says he in his epistle. Heard: this is his first word. What he had seen, touched, was in his view only secondary. It was in the Λογοι that he had especially recognized the divine Logos. And these discourses, his own composition! The supposition contains a moral contradiction which no serious mind could ever accept.
(Albert H. Newman. translator)
1. The author has discussed this question most ably, and has put the authenticity of John's gospel beyond reasonable doubt.
2. Compare more particularly i. 5, 6, 8; ii. 2, 6, 9, 10, 15-17, 29; iii. 3, 4, 7, 8, 9, 10, 14, 15; iv. 2, 7, 8, 16, 18, 20; v. 3, 5, 6b, 10, 12, 17, 19.