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John - Introduction

INTRODUCTION

As to the readers for whom it was more immediately designed, that they were Gentiles we might naturally presume from the lateness of the date; but the multitude of explanations of things familiar to every Jew puts this beyond all question.

No doubt was ever thrown upon the genuineness and authenticity of this Gospel till about the close of the eighteenth century; nor were these embodied in any formal attack upon it till BRETSCHNEIDER, in 1820, issued his famous treatise [Probabilia], the conclusions of which he afterwards was candid enough to admit had been satisfactorily disproved. To advert to these would be as painful as unnecessary; consisting as they mostly do of assertions regarding the Discourses of our Lord recorded in this Gospel which are revolting to every spiritual mind. The Tubingen school did their best, on their peculiar mode of reasoning, to galvanize into fresh life this theory of the post-Joannean date of the Fourth Gospel; and some Unitarian critics still cling to it. But to use the striking language of VAN OOSTERZEE regarding similar speculations on the Third Gospel, "Behold, the feet of them that shall carry it out dead are already at the door" ( Acts 5:9 discernment that does not see in this Gospel marks of historical truth and a surpassing glory such as none of the other Gospels possess, brightly as they too attest their own verity; and who will not be ready to say that if not historically true, and true just as it stands, it never could have been by mortal man composed or conceived?

Of the peculiarities of this Gospel, we note here only two. The one is its reflective character. While the others are purely narrative, the Fourth Evangelist, "pauses, as it were, at every turn," as DA COSTA says [Four Witnesses, p. 234], "at one time to give a reason, at another to fix the attention, to deduce consequences, or make applications, or to give utterance to the language of praise." See John 2:20 John 2:21 John 2:23-25 ; John 4:1 John 4:2 ; 7:37-39 ; John 11:12 John 11:13 John 11:49-52 ; John 21:18 John 21:19 John 21:22 John 21:23 The other peculiarity of this Gospel is its supplementary character. By this, in the present instance, we mean something more than the studiousness with which he omits many most important particulars in our Lord's history, for no conceivable reason but that they were already familiar as household words to all his readers, through the three preceding Gospels, and his substituting in place of these an immense quantity of the richest matter not found in the other Gospels. We refer here more particularly to the nature of the additions which distinguish this Gospel; particularly the notices of the different Passovers which occurred during our Lord's public ministry, and the record of His teaching at Jerusalem, without which it is not too much to say that we could have had but a most imperfect conception either of the duration of His ministry or of the plan of it. But another feature of these additions is quite as noticeable and not less important. "We find," to use again the words of DA COSTA [Four Witnesses, pp. 238, 239], slightly abridged, "only six of our Lord's miracles recorded in this Gospel, but these are all of the most remarkable kind, and surpass the rest in depth, specialty of application, and fulness of meaning. Of these six we find only one in the other three Gospels--the multiplication of the loaves. That miracle chiefly, it would seem, on account of the important instructions of which it furnished the occasion ( John 6:1-71 tokens of divine power are distinguished from among the many recorded in the three other Gospels by their furnishing a still higher display of power and command over the ordinary laws and course of nature. Thus we find recorded here the first of all the miracles that Jesus wrought--the changing of water into wine ( John 2:1-11 the nobleman's son at a distance ( John 4:43-54 numerous cures of the lame and the paralytic by the word of Jesus, only one--of the man impotent for thirty and eight years ( John 5:1-9 of the many cures of the blind, one only--of the man born blind ( John 9:1-12 like Jairus' daughter, nor from a bier, like the widow of Nain's son, but from the grave, and after lying there four days, and there sinking into corruption ( John 11:1-44 resurrection, the miraculous draught of fishes on the Sea of Tiberias ( John 21:5-11 for the record of those astonishing discourses and conversations, alike with friends and with foes, with His disciples and with the multitude which they drew forth."

Other illustrations of the peculiarities of this Gospel will occur, and other points connected with it be adverted to, in the course of the Commentary.

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