By Charles H. Welch
There is, in John Ryland's Museum, Manchester, a small piece of papyrus, dated by those who are experts in this subject, about the end of the first quarter of the second century A.D. This we have seen and examined. It is a portion of the Gospel of John, and its discovery has for ever shattered the critical attacks upon the authenticity of the Gospel, for if a copy could be found in Egypt in the first quarter of the second century, then the original cannot have been written later than the close of the first century.
The Gospel of John has been more severely criticized than the other three, and' its genuineness has been denied. It is not our intention here to load our pages with ancient names, or with many extracts from antiquity. We give, however, a few pointed references. Clement of Alexandria (A.D. 150-215) writes:
One of the earliest and most important witnesses in this connexion is Irenaeus (born A.D. 98), who knew and had conversed with Polycarp, a disciple of John himself. Irenaeus unhesitatingly ascribes the fourth gospel to John, and speaks of this belief as of universal acceptance in his day. Victorinus of Pettan wrote of John and his gospel:
In connexion with this quotation it is interesting to note that Cerinthus taught that Christ was a man, and nothing more, and that He was the son of both Joseph and Mary-a doctrine that is most definitely refuted in the opening of John's gospel.
Irenaeus also writes of John as being "willing, by the publication of his Gospel, to take away the error which Cerinthus had disseminated amongst men". He tells us, moreover, that John remained at Ephesus up to the time of the Emperor Trajan.
The relationship of John's gospel to the Synoptics may be set forth thus:
The evidence that John wrote for "the world" and not for readers acquainted with the language and customs of the Jews is very great. We summarize them in the following eight-fold presentation:
After the prologue, which occupies the first eighteen verses, the Gospel proper is related to a series of "signs" thus:
The Eight Signs
c 2:1-12. 1st SIGN. MARRIAGE AT CANA
c 4:43-52. 2nd SIGN. NOBLEMAN'S SON. "Except ye see signs"
c 5:1-15. 3rd SIGN. IMPOTENT MAN
c 6:1-25. 4th and 5th SIGNS. THE 5,000 FED. WALKING ON SEA
c 9:1-41. 6th SIGN. MAN BORN BLIND
c 11:1-46. 7th SIGN. SISTERS' BROTHER RAISED
c 21:1-14. 8th SIGN. DRAUGHT OF FISHES.
The Prologue of John's gospel occupies the first eighteen verses. It meets the quasi-philosophic reader with the familiar term "The Logos" (The Word), but proceeds throughout the bulk of the narrative to show that the Logos is He Who is named Jesus, the Christ, the Son of God, and declares that his purpose in writing this gospel, and selecting these eight signs was to lead his readers to believe that "Jesus is the Christ the Son of God, and that believing they might have life through His name" (John 20:31).
Coming to the structure of this prologue, it is at once dear that verses 1 and 18 are in correspondence.
a In the beginning was the WORD
Here the "Word" "declares", and the term "with God" finds its echo in "in the bosom of the Father". The reading "God only begotten" echoes the statement that the "Word was God".
The structure of the complete section is as follows:
The Prologue (John 1:1-18)
A John 1:1. a THE WORD. In the beginning
B 1:2. The same was in the beginning with God
B 1:18. No man hath seen God at any time
A 1:18. c GOD. God only begotten (The Word was God)
The reader is asked to note the correspondence in this outline.
We have already drawn attention to the balancing members at the beginning and the end. Passing to verse 3, we see that it corresponds with verse 17, the two passages revealing Christ as Creator both in nature and in the realm of grace. The words egeneto dia, "came to be through", are used in each case. In the two members marked "E" we have a double reference to the witness of John the Baptist, while erchomen "coming", in 1 :9,is echoed by eskenosen, "dwell" or "tabernacle", in verse 14.
The central passages revolve around the thought of reception.
We do not take this study further, but conc1ude with achart which indicates the relationship of John with the Mystery.
The Gospel of John differs from the Synoptic Gospels in that it was written after Acts twenty-eight, and in full consciousness of Israel's rejection; "He came unto His own, and His own received Him not; but as many as received Him, to them . . ." (John 1 :11,12).
If we examine the parable of the marriage of the King's Son, in Matthew twenty-two, we find that it deals with three invitations to the marriage. First during the earthly ministry of the Lord, then again to the same people during the Acts, and a third time after the rejection of Israel and the burning up of their city in A.D. 70. It is in connexion with this third invitation to the wedding that John's Gospel has its place.
At the present time there is a small inner circ1e who respond to the prison ministry of the apostle Paul, and a large worldwide company who find their gospel and hope in that according to John. The one ministry is building up the perfect man, the other is gathering the guests for the marriage, while during the Acts the company that constitute the Bride was in formation.
That John's Gospel was not written for Jewish readers is manifest. No Jew needed to be told that the Passover was a "Feast of the Jews". No Jew was ignorant of the feud that existed between them and the Samaritans; no Jew needed the interpolation of the meaning of "Rabboni" in the record of the Resurrection.
While the dispensational position of the two companies differs as the Body differs from the Guests, and there is no idea that John taught anything concerning the Mystery; yet seeing that he wrote after Paul's message had been given to the church, he was obliged, in the nature of the case, to minister the same aspect of the offices and glory of Christ that now fills our vision, rather than the Christ of the early Acts. This is c1ear from the comparison suggested between Paul's revelation of Christ as the "Image", and John's revelation of Christ as the "Word". These would run together, whereas Christ as the "King of the Jews" would not. So also the other items which are set out for comparison. John alone of the gospels mentions the period "before the foundation of the world", and he more than the other evangelists stresses the ascension. The other sheep are c1early not of Israel, and provide a sphere for the "pastors" who have a place in the church of the One Body.