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were done, must have been speedily informed of them, either by the eye-witnesses, or by the subjects of the miracles, who did not fail to publish them every where, or by the general reports which nobody presumed to contradict. Wherefore, as Matthew and Mark published their gospels while the fame of Christ's actions in Jerusalem was every where fresh, and the witnesses of them were living in all parts of the country, they had the same reason with Luke for writing the history of the principal period only of our Lord's ministry. Moreover, composing their gospels while the disciples had the conversion of the Jews much at heart, as a matter of great importance to the success of Christianity, even among the Gentiles, it was entirely agreeable to their purpose to adopt Luke's plan, that, by supplying what he had omitted, they might make their countrymen as well acquainted as possible with that part of our Lord's history which comprehended the substance of his public life, and which was, at least, known. That the conversion of their own nation was long the principal object of the apostles' study, is evident from the general strain of their labours in preaching, which, for a good while, were confined wholly to the Jews. The evangelists, Matthew and Mark, indeed, speak little of cur Lord's ministry in Perea, which Luke has related at some length. But the reason, perhaps, was this, his sermons and parables in Perea being many of them the same with those preached in Galilee, which they have supplied, they judged it needless to repeat them. What they had to do was only to inform us that those parables and sermons were delivered also in Galilee, because Luke had omitted to mention them in his account of Christ's ministry there. The three historians were directed to treat of Christ's life on so narrow a plan, and in so succinct a manner, not only that a sufficient number of Jews might be converted, but for other reasons ; and this among the rest, that to find the disciples silent where they might have told things greatly to the honour of their Master, adds not a little weight to their testimony, and beautifully displays the modesty with which they wrote. Wherefore, the world has suffered no loss by the brevity of the first historians; especially as the Holy Spirit, from the very beginning, intended to raise up one to write a history of Jesus, in which some of the principai transactions of his life, omitted by the former historians, should, be supplied, to the great praise of their modesty, to the recommendation of their work, and to the edification of the church. Besides, that the three first evangelists should have formed their gospels upon one and the same plan was highly proper, in order that by the joint concurrence of their several testimonies, the accounts which they gave of him might be fully confirmed, and gain the greater credit in the world.
This account of the plan upon which the three evangelists formed their histories is the more probable, as it appears they composed them in Judea for the use of the Jews, and to forward their conversion. We have already observed, that the three evangelists, in their accounts of things, all along suppose their readers perfectly acquainted with the Jewish affairs. For example, when they happen to speak of matters peculiar to their own country, however remote those things might be from the apprehension of foreigners, they generally give no explication of them; besides, they are at no pains to obviate the objections which might be made to their story by persons unacquainted with it, nor are the general circumstances of time marked by two of them. I now add, that in all their computations of the hours of the day, the three make use of the Jewish form and division of it. It is quite otherwise with John; for he supposes his readers ignorant of the Jewish affairs, and, for that reason, never mentions any thing peculiar to the Jews without giving such an explication of it as he knew was necessary to make himself understood. Thus, [chap. v. 2.] speaking of Jerusalem, he says, there is at Jerusalem, by the sheep-market, a pool, which is called in the Hebrew tongue, Bethesda, having five porches. [chap. vi. 4.] Speaking of the
tells us that it was a feast of the Jews. In like manner he describes the feast of tabernacles, [chap. vii. 2.] The Jews' feast of tabernacles was at hand; and, verse 37, he informs his readers that the last day was the great day of the feast. Chap. xix. 13, he gives both the Roman and the Jewish names of the place where Jesus was tried by the governor. But as remarkable as any, is the explication found chap. xix. 31. The Jews, therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the sabbath-day, for that sabbath-day was an high day, &c. Likewise, verse 42, There laid they Jesus, therefore, because of the Jews' preparation day. This manner of writing, every reader must be sensible, John would not have made use of, had he composed his gospel for the use of the Jews, or published it in Judea. On the other hand, the three evangelists would hardly have written in the manner they have done, had they originally designed their works for the Gentiles, or published
them out of Judea.
From what has been said, it clearly appears that John wrote his gospel for the use of the world in general, and published it in some of the Gentile countries after the writings of the other evangelists were sent abroad. Hence, in forming his history, he followed a different plan from theirs. For, as he lived to see a new generation arise in Judea, which was not personally acquainted either with our Lord himself or with those who had heard and seen him, he judged it proper to record Christ's ministry in Judea, but especially his sermons and miracles at the great festivals, lest the memory of these things should have died with the witnesses, who, by that time, were mostly taken off the stage. Moreover, he had the pleasure to see the Christian religion propagated into countries far distant from Judea, where Jesus had lived; in which distant countries his history could not be known, but by the gospels already published, or by the reports of those who were personally acquainted with him. Wherefore, the other evangelists having altogether omitted it, he judged it absolutely needful to give the world a specimen of Christ's ministry in Judea, that we might thereby know more of his doctrine and miracles, be able to form a better notion of his consummate prudence, and behold with admiration the courage and zeal wherewith he acted in the capital, under the eyes of the great men, the priests, the scribes, and the elders, before whom he was not afraid to assume the character of one sent by God, and to act accordingly. Such were the plans upon which the four gospels were composed, and such the views with which they were published. Taken together, they contain as conpicte an account of our Lord's life as was necessary to be left on record; and each, in its order, was adapted to the circumstances of mankind at that time, the subsequentgospels supplying what was wanting in the precedent ones, till the history was conpleted.
John was the son of Zebedee, a fisherman, who had a boat, and nets, and hired servants, [Mark i. 20.] and followed his occupation on the sea of Galilee. From Matthew xxvii. 55, compared with Mark xv. 40, it appears that the name of Zebedee's wife was Salome; for, in the former of these passages, she is called the mother of Zebedee's children, who, in the latter, is named Salome. Zebedee had another son, whose name was James, and who seems to have been clder than John. Both of them were fishers like their father, and assisted him in his business till they were called to follow Jesus. They seem all to have lived in one family, in the town of Bethsaida, which, being situated near the sea of Galilee, was a convenient station for fishers.
Because the mother of Zebedee's children is mentioned among the women who followed Jesus from Galilec to the last passover, ministering to him, as related Mat. xxvii. 56, Lardner conjectures that Zebedee was then dead, and that the two brothers lived in separate houses. For when our Lord upon the cross recommended his mother
to John, it is said, [John xix. 27.] From that hour that disciple took her unto his own home. Perhaps John and his mother Salome lived together. Theophylact was of opinion that John's mother was related to our Lord; and Lardner supposes that that relation encouraged her to ask the two chief places in Christ's kingdom for her sons, and that it was the occasion of our Lord's committing the care of his mother to John. But there is no evidence in scripture of Zebedee's children being related to our Lord by their mother.
John had not the advantage of a learned education. For we are told [Acts iii. 14.] that the council perceived Peter and John were unlearned men. Nevertheless, like the generality of the Jewish common people of that age, they may have been well acquainted with the scriptures, having often heard them read in the synagogues. Aud as, with the rest of their countrymen, they expected the coming of Messiah about that time, they lent a willing car to the Baptist when he published that Messiah was actually come, though the people did not know him. [John i. 26.] Afterward, when the Baptist pointed out Jesus to his disciples, [verse 29.] as the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sin of the world, he said to them, [verse 33.] 1 knew him not to be Messiah, but he who sent me to baptize with water, the same said to me, upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending and remaining on him, the same is he who baptizeth with the Holy Ghost. [verse 34.] And I saw and bare record that this is the Son of God. If the sons of Zebedee were of the number of those to whom John testified that Jesus was the Son of God, we may believe they attached themselves early to him, and were among those who are called his disciples, and to whom he manifested his glory at the marriage in Cana, by turning water into wine. [John ii. 11.
After the miracle in Cana, the sous of Zebedee seem to have followed their ordinary occupation, till Jesus called them to attend on him constantly, as mentioned Mat. iv. For the evangelist, having related the calling of Peter and Andrew, adds, [verse 21.] And, going on from thence, he saw other two brethren, James, the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in a ship with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and he called them; [22.] And they immediately left the ship and their father, and followed him, namely, when he went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness, and all manner of disease among the people.
Some time after this, Jesus chose twelve of his disciples to be with him always, that they might be eye and ear-witnesses of all he did and said, and be qualified to testify the same to the world; and, in particular, be qualified to bear witness to his resurrection from the dead. These chosen persons Jesus named apostles; and the sons of Zebedee being of that number, he surnamed them Boanerges, or sons of thunder, to mark the courage with which they would afterwards preach him to the world as Christ, the Son of God. How well James fulfilled his Master's prediction may be known from his being put to death by Herod Agrippa, not long after our Lord's ascension, on account of his boldly testifying the resurrection of Jesus from the dead; so that he became the first martyr among the apostles. Cave, in his life of James, says, the sons of Zebedee had the surname of Boanerges given them on account of the impetuosity of their tempers. And it must be acknowledged, that they shewed too much anger in their proposal to have the Samaritans destroyed by fire from heaven, because they refused to receive Jesus as he was going up to Jerusalem to worship. [Luke ix. 54. Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, even as Elias did.
But although James aud John shewed improper zeal on the occasion mentioned, they were highly esteemed by their Master for their other good qualities, as appears from
this, that of all the apostles, they only, with Peter, were admitted by him to be the witnesses of the resurrection of Jairus' daughter, and of our Lord's transfiguration, and of his agony in the garden. John, more especially, was so much beloved of Jesus, that he was called the disciple whom he loved. His benevolent disposition John manifested in his first epistle, by the frequency and earnestness with which he recommended! mutual love to the disciples of Christ. With benevolence, John joined great fortitude and constancy in his attachment to his Master. For he only of the twelve attended him during his crucifixion, and saw the blood and water issue from his side when the soldier pierced it; and was, probably, present when his body was laid in the sepulchre, and saw the sepulchre closed with a stone. He, with Peter, ran to the sepulchre when Mary Magdalene brought word that the Lord's body was taken away. He was present also when Jesus shewed himself to the apostles on the evening of the day of his resurrection, and on the eighth day thereafter. He, with his brother James, was present when Jesus shewed himself to his disciples at the sea of Tiberias, and to the five hundred on the mountain in Galilee, mentioned Mat. xxviii. 16. Moreover, he was present with the rest of the apostles when our Lord ascended into heaven from the mount of Olives. So that, with the greatest propriety and truth, he could begin his first epistle with saying, That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen, &c. we declare unto you, referring to his gospel, in which he hath narrated the crucifixion, miracles, sufferings, death, and resurrection of the living Word, his appearances to his disciples after his resurrection, and, last of all, his ascension into heaven. To conclude: John was one of the hundred and twenty upon whom the Holy Ghost descended on the day of Pentecost, which immediately followed our Lord's
After the effusion of the Holy Spirit, John displayed the greatest boldness in maintaining his Master's cause, when, with Peter, he was brought before the council, and was strictly charged not to teach in the name of Jesus. For, on that occasion, he made the noble auswer recorded Acts iv. 19. Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you rather than unto God, judge ye. For we cannot but speak the things which we have heard and seen.
We are told, [Acts viii. 14.] that when the apostles who were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent to them Peter and John, that they might receive the Holy Ghost. It seems, none could confer that gift but apostles.
From Gal. ii. 9, it appears that John was present at the council of Jerusalem, which met A. D. 49, or 50, to determine the great question agitated in the church of Antioch, namely, whether it was necessary to the salvation of the believing Gentiles that they should be circumcised. And if, as is probable, John had his ordinary residence in Jerusalem till that time, he had his share in working the many signs and wonders which are said to have been done by the hands of the apostles. [Acts ii. 43, iv. 33, v. 12.]
John, according to Mill, Fabricius, and Le Clerc, wrote his gospel at Ephesus, after his return from the isle of Patmos, A. D. 97, at the desire of the Christians in Asia. Wetstein thought that this gospel might be written about thirty-two years after our Lord's ascension. Basnage and Lampe, together with Dr. Lardner, fix the date of its composition in the year sixty-eight, just before the destruction of Jerusalem. This hypothesis brings its date very near to that of the other three gospels, which was about the year sixty-four or sixty-five; and, in the opinion of some, the gospel itself, the leading design of which was to shew how inexcusable the Jews were in not receiving Jesus as the Christ, and to vindicate the providence of God in the calamities
already befallen or now coming upon them, was peculiarly suitable to the circumstances in which the Jewish nation was then placed. The antients assign two reasons which induced John to compose his gospel: the first was, because that in the other three gospels there was wanting the history of the beginning of our Lord's preaching, until the imprisonment of John the Baptist, which, therefore, he applied himself particularly to relate: the second reason was, in order to remove the errors of the Corinthians, 、 Ebionites, and other sects. Mr. Lampe, however, and Dr. Lardner, have brought forward several important reasons, to shew that John did not write his gospel against Cerinthus, or any other heretic.
The last chapter of John's gospel may be considered as a supplement, which was added principally with the view of giving the reader some account of the author, Some of the early Christians had imbibed the notion that St. John the evangelist would live till the day of judgment, a notion to which a false interpretation of a saying of Christ, and the great age which the evangelist actually attained, bad given rise. For this reason, John has related at full length, in the last chapter, the conversation which took place between Christ, Peter, and himself, after the resurrection; and has shewn in what connection and in what sense Christ said of John, If I will that he tarry till I come, tchat is that to thee?
Grotius and several other critics have contended, that the last chapter was added, not by John himself, but by some other person or persons, and, probably, by the elders at Ephesus after John's decease. Their principal argument is founded on verse twentyfour. "This is the disciple which testifieth of these things, and we know that his testimony is true." But as this inference is not supported by the testimony of the antients, Dr. Campbell does not think it admissible. The style of the whole of the twenty-first chapter is exactly the same as that of the rest of the gospel; and as to the twenty-fourth verse in particular, he can see no reason for supposing that even that alone is an addition; for the phrase, "we know that his testimony is true," is nothing. more than a figure of rhetoric, called communicatio, and expresses the same as "every Christian knows that his testimony is true." Besides, if this addition had been made by the Ephesian elders, they would probably have inserted their names; for the testimony of "we know," made by unknown persons, could add no authority to John's gospel.
The historians with whom we are here concerned, as Dr. Campbell observes, in their own character, do neither explain nor command, promise nor threaten, commend nor blame; but preserve one even tenor in exhibiting the facts entirely unembellished, reporting in singleness of heart both what was said and what was done to Christ by either friends or enemies. Not a syllable of encomium on the former, or of invective against the latter. As to their Lord himself, they appear to regard his character as infinitely superior to any praise which they could bestow; and as to his persecutors, they mingle no gall in what they write concerning them; they do not desire to aggravate their guilt in the judgment of any man, either by giving expressly, or by so much as insinuating, through the severity of their language, their opinion concerning it.
Nay, which is more remarkable, the names of the high-priest and his coadjutor, of the Roman procurator, of the tetrarch of Galilee, and of the treacherous disciple, are all that are mentioned of the many who had a hand in his prosecution and death. In regard to the four first, it is manifest that the suppression of the names, had the facts been related, would have made no difference to contemporaries; for, in offices of so great eminence, possessed by single persons, as all those offices were, the official is equivalent to the proper name, which it never fails to suggest; but such a suppression