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the Gnostics, Cerinthians, Ebionites, and other heretics; whose tenets, though they branched out into a variety of subjects, all originated from erroneous opinions concerning the person of Christ and the creation of the world. These points had been scarcely touched upon by the other Evangelists, though they had faithfully recorded all the leading facts of our Saviour's life, and his admirable precepts for the regulation of our moral conduct. St. John therefore undertook, at the request of the true believers in Asia, to write what Clement of Alexandria (1) called a spiritual Gospel ; and accordingly we find in it more of doctrine, and less of historical narrative (m), than in any of the others. He
chiefly Ebionites, who affirm that Christ had no being before Mary, for which reason he thought it needful to discourse concerning his divine nativity also.” De Script. Eccl. Joan.
(1) Eus. H. E. lib. 6. cap. 14.
(m) In St. John's Gospel there is no account of our Saviour's nativity, of his baptism by John, of his temptation in the wilderness, of the appointment of the twelve Apostles, or of their mission during our Saviour's life-time. Very little is said of the journies of our Saviour, recorded by the other Evangelists; nor does St. John record the predictions of our Saviour relative to the destruction of Jerusalem, or the institution of baptism, or of the Lord's supper. May we not conclude from the omission of so many things
chiefly confinés himself to those occurrences, which had been omitted by his predecessors, and which suited his design; and if at any time he relates what had been mentioned by them, it is generally with a view to introduce some important discourse (n)of our Saviour, or because it was particularly connected with the main scope of his Gospel. Of this last description are the crucifixion and resurrection, in which, as related by St. John, 'a discerning reader will find several circumstances not noticed by the other Evangelists. Let it be remembered, that this book, which contains so much additional information relative to the doctrines of Christianity, and which may be considered as a standard of faith for all ages, was written by that Apostle, who is known to have enjoyed in a greater degree than the rest, the affection and confidence of the Divine Author of our religion, and to whom was given a special revelation concerning the state of the Christian Church in all succeeding
generations. of great importante, particularly of the only two Sacraments instituted by Christ, that St. John supposes his readers to be acquainted with the other three Gospels? And is not this very omission a strong confirmation of the truth of those Gospels ?
(n) Vide the miracle recorded in the beginning of the 6th chapter, and the discourse which follows it. It is remarkable, that this miracle of feeding 5,000 people is the only one recorded by all the four Evangelists.
generations. The other Gospels having been written before any divisions arose among Christians, appear to have the evidences of Christianity for their principal object, and chiefly state the leading facts of our Lord's ministry, and the general instructions which he delivered, without any reference to heretical opinions. The acknowledged prevalence of the Gnostic and other heresies, at the time this Gospel was written, is itself a strong argument in favour of the date which has been assigned to it.
It has been remarked by Lardner (), that St. John has recorded more instances of the attempts of the Jews against our Saviour's life, than any other Evangelist; and that the events, mentioned in this Gospel only, took place chiefly in the early part of Christ's ministry. St. John has expressly mentioned three passovers (P); and in another place he says, “ After this there was a feast of the Jews (9).". Some authors think that this feast was also a passover ; but as in the other instances John tells us, that the feasts were passovers, and in this does not, the inference seems to be, that this was some other feast ("). :)
Upon ", (o) Vol. 6. p. 202.
(p) C. 2, v. 13. c. 6. v.4. c. 11. v.55.
(r) This inference is favoured by no article being prefixed to the word 'Eogra; since if St. John had been
speaking Upon this ground I am disposed to allow somewhat more than two years to John's history, and consequently to our Saviour's ministry (s.)
It is not a little surprising that so learned a man as Grotius, in opposition to the universal testimony of manuscripts and versions, and without the support of a single antient writer, should have thought that the 21st chapter of this Gospel was not written by St. John, because the 20th seems to conclude the history. Some few other moderns have thought the same: but as this opinion is destitute of all external evidence, it scarcely deserves any farther notice, and more
speaking of the passover as the feast of the Jews by way
of eminence, he would probably have said y 'Eogtn, as he does twice, c. 4. v.45, and once c. 2. v. 23; and also in the following places, c. 6. v. 4. c. 12. v. 12 and 20. C. 13. v. 29. Grotius thinks differently, and has quoted two passages, the one from St. Mark's, and the other from St. Luke's Gospel, in support of his opinion; but it is to be observed, that in those passages the Evangelists refer to the feasts of the passover which had been just before mentioned, and therefore no distinction was to be marked. I believe that no passage can be found in St. John's Gospel, where he calls the passover simply ‘Eogtn, without the article, even when he had been previously speaking of it. Chrysostom and Cyril both thought that the feast spoken of, c. 5. v. 1, was not the passover.
(s) Vide Lardner, vol. 2. p. 423, and vol. 6. p. 218. especially, as the style of this chapter is precisely the same as the rest of the Gospel.
St. John is generally considered, with respect to language, as the least correct writer of the New Testament. His style argues a great want of those advantages which result from a learned education ; but this defect is amply compensated by the unexampled simplicity with which he expresses the sublimest truths, and by the affection, zeal, and veneration for his divine Master, so conspicuous in every page of his Gospel.