The traditional view that John was familiar with the first three Gospels has recently been challenged. His knowledge of Mark is strongly affirmed by recent critics, but his knowledge of Luke, and still more of Matthew, is questioned. On this view the Fourth Gospel enters the series of relations ordinarily studied under the title Synoptic Problem; but the case is not proved.
A survey of the evidence that John used Mark, and either attributed greater authority to, or was more familiar with, his story than that of either of the others.
This conclusion would seem to preclude the theory that John was written in Aramaic; but it in no way weakens the case for the view that he naturally thought in that language.
The case for John's knowledge of Luke depends mainly on the way in which he introduces, and the details that he connects with, the names of Martha and Mary. But the probability is also high that John knew Luke's Passion story. John's interest in identifying persons and places mentioned by Mark and Luke.
Was the source used by John, Luke, or Proto-Luke?
The points of contact between John and Matthew are extremely minute, and
a closer study suggests that many of them, like the Minor Agreements between
Matthew and Luke against Mark, are either
(a) deceptive agreements, or
(b) due to scribal alterations of text.
From Apocalypse and Papias fragment we infer Matthew had reached Ephesus; but John, whose own theology was largely an endeavour to spiritualise prevalent Apocalyptic ideas, viewed its emphasis on a visible Parousia and its Judaistic element with suspicion.
Dependence on Mark and Luke will not account for all the phenomena of the Fourth Gospel. But neither will the hypothesis of a third written source.
The masterful handling of Synoptic materials, and especially of the Synoptic Chronology, taken in connection with the evidence that the author had a first-hand knowledge of the topography of Jerusalem and of Jewish usage, suggests that the author had a recognised claim to write as one having authority.
The possibility that the Johannine Chronology is based on an attempt to piece together scattered pieces of information picked up in Jerusalem.
A suggestion to account for the position assigned in the Johannine Chronology to the Cleansing of the Temple and the Raising of Lazarus.
On the whole the Johannine Chronology solves more difficulties than it raises. Illustrations of this thesis.
Fallacy implicit in the comparison of Johannine and Synoptic Chronology. Strictly speaking, a "Synoptic Chronology" does not exist. In the last resort all we have is, Mark versus John; and there is no reason to suppose that Mark's arrangement professes to be in any strict sense chronological. John attempts a chronology, but, in view of the difficulties involved in a pioneer attempt, it may well contain serious inaccuracies. It cannot be simply dismissed.
Mark, Luke, and John form a series, with a progressive tendency to emphasise the universal element in Christianity and to minimise the Apocalyptic. Matthew represents an independent development, which, as compared with Mark, shows a movement in the reverse direction in regard to both these points.
The dependence of the Fourth Gospel upon Mark and Luke is a fact, which
militates against the acceptance of Apostolic authorship for the Gospel.
But certain other phenomena in the Gospel would be easier to explain on the
hypothesis that the author was a personage who had a claim to write with
THAT John was familiar with the first three Gospels was taken for granted by the early Fathers, and was until recently assumed as axiomatic by modern critics. Of late that assumption has been questioned, as the following quotations will show. In 1910 Professor B. W. Bacon of Yale, after a careful review of the discussion up to date, pronounced the considered judgement that John is to Mark in a relation of direct literary dependence; that, although. Mark is the only Synoptic quoted verbally by him, John's narrative has been largely modified by knowledge of Luke; but that Matthew is "practically ignored" by John. In 1912 Mr. E. R. Buckley wrote:
I have not been able to discover any cases of close resemblance between St. John and passages peculiar to the First Gospel ... while it seems clear that the author of the Fourth Gospel knew St. Mark and St. Luke's non-Marcan source.
Lastly, writing in 1920, Dr. Stantonconcludes a careful study of all the relevant passages with the words:
The parallels with St. Mark certainly seem to afford evidence of an amount and kind sufficient to prove that the Fourth Evangelist knew that Gospel fairly well. That he knew either of the others seems more than doubtful.
Between Matthew and John the points of contact are, on any view, extremely
slight. But John has so much in common with Luke that, if he
did not use our Third Gospel, we must conclude that John and Luke had a common
source, either in the form of a written document or of oral tradition. On
that assumption an important result follows. The Fourth
Gospel enters the series of relations, which we ordinarily study under the
title of the Synoptic Problem. The relation of John to Luke becomes
comparable to that of Luke to Matthew. In both cases there are
two sources in common—Mark and another. The difference is that, whereas
Matthew and Luke use Mark and Q, Luke and
John use Mark and a third source.
The common factor is Mark.
This leads at once to the conception of Mark as the primitive Gospel, circulated in all the Churches, and of Matthew, Luke, and John as three independent local attempts to enrich and enlarge that gospel by traditions and documents current in the particular region in which they were severally produced. This conception is in itself extremely interesting; and, if correct, it is one which carries with it consequences historically of the most far-reaching character. The critical conclusion, therefore, formulated by Mr. Buckley and Dr. Stanton demands the most careful examination. Before reading Dr. Stanton's book I had provisionally arrived at the same conclusion; and finding the conception of the relation of the primitive Marcan to the three later Gospels, which I have outlined above, aesthetically and historically attractive, I had worked out it and its implications at some considerable length. To make quite sure of my ground I proceeded to subject the phenomena to a second and more microscopic examination. The result of this I submit to the judgement of the reader. To my own mind it materially strengthens the case for the contention that John did not use Matthew; but, to my personal regret— since it meant the jettisoning of much that I had written—it decidedly favours the view that John is dependent on Luke as well as on Mark.
Matthew and Luke, desiring to tell their story faithfully, copied their sources with only such verbal alteration as the exigencies of adaptation, abridgement, and literary embellishment suggested; and, as we have seen, each of them reproduces over 50% of the actual words used in Mark. John, the preacher, the thinker, the mystic, aiming avowedly at writing, not a biography, but a message meant to burn —
that believing ye may have life in his name
— was not likely to write, like the other Evangelists, with a copy of Mark or any other document in front of him. The materials he uses have all been fused in the crucible of his creative imagination, and it is from the image in his mind's eye, far more vivid than the written page, that he paints his picture. Accordingly, when he tells a story that occurs in Mark, not 20 % of the words he uses are the same — but that is precisely what makes it specially significant that he often reproduces some of the more out-of-the-way phrases of Mark.
Of these I select six, whose occurrence in both Mark and John can hardly be explained as accidental:
δηναρίων διακοσίων ἄρτους Mk.vi.37 = δηναρίων διακοσίων ἄρτοι Jn.vi.7.μύρου νάρδου πιστικῆς πολυτελοῦς ... τριακοσίων δηναρίων Mk.xiv.3 and 5 = μύρου νάρδου πιστικῆς πολυτίλου ... τριακοσίων δηναρίων Jn..3 and 5. N.B. πριστική in this sense is not found elsewhere in Greek literature, except in allusions to this passage.
ἐγείρεσθε ἄγωμεν Jn.xiv.31 recalls Mk.xiv.42 — identical words used at identically the same point in the story.
ὁ Πέτρος ... θεραινόμενος Mk.xiv.54 = Πέτρος ... θεραινόμενος Jn.xviii.18.
Pilate's question "θέλετε ἀπολύσω ὑμῖν τὸν βασιλέα τῶν Ἰουδαίων;" Mk.xv.9 = "βούλεσθε οὖν ὑμῖν ἀπολύσω τὸν βασιλέα τῶν Ἰουδαίων;" Jn.xviii.39.
ἆρον τὸν κράββατόν σου ...
καὶ ἦρε τὸν κράββατον
αὐτοῦ καὶ περιεπάτει Jn.v.8-9
= ἔγειρον ... ἆρον τὸν
κράββατόν σου ... καὶ ἆρας
τὸν κράββατον ἐξῆλθεν Mk.ii.11-12.
Notable for two points.
Firstly, the grammarians condemn κράββατον as a vulgarism, and both Matthew and Luke alter it wherever it occurs in Mark. Secondly, in John the phrase occurs in the story of the lame man at Bethesda, in Mark in that of the paralytic borne of four. But Christ did not speak in Greek; the identity, therefore, of the Greek phrase seems most naturally explained if the vocabulary of Mark was familiar to John. Analogous instances of this trick of memory by which a phrase used in one incident by Mark is transferred to another are specially frequent in Matthew, who also knew Mark almost by heart . Similarly εἷς ἐκ τῶν δώδεκα (εἷς ὢν א ς) Jn.vi.71, cf. xx.24, may be a recollection of the phrase in Mk.xiv.20 and 43.
The close agreement of John with Mark in these particular passages is the more noticeable since the phrases used in the parallels in both Matthew and Luke happen on all these occasions to be quite different from Mark's. Besides, agreements of a less striking character of Mark and John against one or both of the other two Gospels occur wherever John and the Synoptics run parallel. To appreciate the full force of this point the student must be at the pains to work through all the passages in John which have close parallels to Mark, and to underline all words which occur in any of the Synoptics, using different colours according as the words are found in one, two, or three of them. Or, as an alternative, he may study the parallels carefully in Rushbrooke's Synopticon, where words are differently printed according as they appear in one, two, three, or four of the documents.
[The important parallels are as follows:
The Baptist (Jn.i.19-34 = Mk.i.7-10);
the Cleansing of the Temple (Jn.ii.13-22 = Mk.xi.15-19);
the Feeding of the Five Thousand (Jn.vi.l-15=Mk.vi.31-44);
the Walking on the Water (Jn.vi.15-21 = Mk.vi.45-52);
the Anointing at Bethany (Jn..1-11 = Mk.xiv.3-9);
the Triumphal Entry (Jn..12-19 = Mk.xi.1-10);
certain details in the story of the Last Supper, including the foretelling in sentences verbally identical of Judas' betrayal (Jn.i.21= Mk.xiv.18) and of Peter's Denial (Jn.i.38 = Mk.xiv.30);
the Arrest (Jn.xviii.3-10 = Mk.xiv.43-50);
Peter's Denial (Jn.xviii.15-18, 25-27 = Mk.xiv.54, 66-72);
certain details in the Trial, including "Art thou the King of the Jews?" (Jn.xviii.33 = Mk.xv.2), "Thou sayest" (Jn.xviii.37 = Mk.xv.2);
Barabbas (Jn.xviii.39-40 = Mk.xv.6-15);
the Mocking (Jn.xix.2-3 = Mk.xv.16-20);
the Crucifixion (Jn.xix.17-24 = Mk.xv.22-27);
the Entombment (Jn.xix.38-42 = Mk.xv.43-46);
and the Discovery of the Empty Tomb (Jn.xx.1-2 = Mk.xvi.1-8).
Of these the Walking on the Water and the Anointing at Bethany, though found in Mark and Matthew, are absent from Luke.
Besides this, John has a few sayings which occur in the Synoptics in a different context: Jn.iv.44 = Mk.vi.4; Jn..25 = Mk.viii.35; Jn.i.20 = Mk.ix.37; Jn.i.16 = Jn.xv.20 = Mt.x.24 = Lk.vi.40.]
It will be noticed that John always has a certain number of verbal agreements with Mark; hence wherever either Matthew or Luke have reproduced Mark's wording exactly John agrees with them also. But, though he frequently supports Mark where the others have deserted him, he very rarely agrees with either of them when they depart from Mark. To this rule there are a few exceptions, real or apparent, which I shall discuss shortly. Agreements, of course, which are obviously accidental, like the substitution of εἰπεν for λέγει, or the addition of ὁ Ἰησοῦς, or any other name implied in the context, for this purpose may be ignored.
Another point on which Stanton Op. cit. pp. 215, 220.] lays special stress is the fact that, whereas
both Matthew and Luke (and therefore Q) have
much fuller accounts than Mark of the teaching of John the Baptist, the only
instance here of verbal resemblance between the Fourth Gospel and the Synoptists
is in a sentence where John agrees with Mark against the other two. Similarly
in regard to the teaching of Christ. There are very few sayings of Christ
in John which are verbally at all like sayings found in the Synoptics; all
but one (Jn.i.16 = Mt.x.24 = Lk.vi.40) occur in Mark, and the wording of
John's version is usually a shade nearer to Mark than it is to the others.
Seeing that Matthew and Luke are so infinitely richer than Mark in sayings
of Christ, the large proportion of sayings derived by John from Mark is remarkable. It
seems to prove that Mark was either much better known to John or much more
highly valued by him than the others.
οὐκ ἔθελεν ἵνα τὶς γνῷ, Mk.ix.30, with οὐ φανερῶς, ἀλλ’ ὡς ἐν κρυπτῷ, Jn.vii.10), that the order of events in the section Jn.vi.1-vii.10 is dependent on that in Mark (vi.31-x.1)—in which case we note incidentally John's copy of Mark included Luke's Great Omission. The argument cannot be done justice to if presented briefly, but if, as I am inclined to think, it is sound, it affords strong confirmation of John's use of Mark.]
Clearly the facts so far stated amount to little short of a demonstration that John knew the Gospel of Mark, and knew it well. But they suggest doubts as to his acquaintance with the other two Synoptics.
I must, however, digress for a moment to point out that this evidence for
John's use of Mark cannot easily be fitted in with the hypothesis, recently
put forward by Dr. Burney.], that the Fourth Gospel
is a translation from the Aramaic. The only way it could be done would be to
assume that Mark and John are independent translators of the same Aramaic
original. Not being an Aramaic scholar myself, I asked a friend who is expert
in the language to examine the verbal differences between Mark and John in
the accounts of the Feeding of the Five Thousand and the Walking on the Water,
which obviously are test passages, in order to ascertain whether or no they
were explicable as translation variants. He reported that they were not.
There is a further consideration. Mr. G. R. Driver has pointed out that the
phenomena, on which Dr. Burney's argument is based , occur most frequently in the
discourses and are comparatively rare in the narrative portions of the Gospel.
The existence of a linguistic distinction between the discourses and the
narrative is a remarkable fact, and one that calls for an explanation.
We may seek it in any one of three directions. (1) We may conjecture that the discourses, though not the narrative, have been translated from an Aramaic document. (2) We may surmise that the discourses are by the author of the Gospel, but embody a larger proportion of authentic sayings of Christ, originally spoken in Aramaic, than is generally supposed. (3) The author of the Gospel belonged to that order of "prophets" which was so conspicuous and influential in the Apostolic age. The discourses came to him "in the Spirit." In that case, it would be psychologically credible that the Greek, which he wrote or dictated when under this influence, should reflect strongly the idiom of his native Aramaic tongue— just as today a Highlander or Welshman, who has lived most of his life in England, may in moments of excitement speak with the accent of earlier years. In view of the arguments adduced in the previous chapter that John was a prophet, I am personally inclined to favour this explanation. But I would point out that the second and third of these hypotheses are not really mutually exclusive. Genuine sayings of Christ, which had sunk down into the depths of memory, might well emerge again amplified and re-orientated by the subconscious workings of the prophet's mind. And the supposition that there was at work a combination of these two influences would give an added meaning to the reiterated emphasis in the Gospel on the work of the Spirit as illuminating and interpreting at some later time the actual teaching of the historic Christ.
I have many things to tell you,
but ye cannot bear them now.
The case for a literary dependence of John, either on Luke or on a source embodied in Luke, rests in the first instance on the remarkable points of contact between these Gospels in regard to the sisters Martha and Mary. Too much stress ought not to be laid on the fact that the two sisters are suddenly named, xi.1, as if they were well-known characters, though that is not without significance. But the description in this same verse of Lazarus as "of Bethany, of the village of Mary and Martha" is very difficult to explain unless John's readers were familiar with the story of the two sisters told in very much the same words as in Luke. For, since Bethany is named four times in Mark in connection with striking incidents, it did not require to be identified. The point, then, of John's words "of the village of Martha and Mary" must be, not to identify Bethany by connecting it with the sisters, but rather to identify the "certain village" unnamed, where according to Luke (x.38) the sisters lived, with the well-known village of Bethany.
Again, in this same passage (xi.1) John, when introducing Lazarus for the first time, takes that opportunity, not only of giving a name to the unnamed village, but also to the unnamed woman who, according to Mark, anointed our Lord's head in that place. She is Mary, the sister of Martha. And this is what gives point to the addition later on of the words "and Martha served" in John's account of the anointing (.2); they are meant to clinch the identification by a further allusion to the Lucan story. But this elaborate cross-identification of persons, places, and incidents as between Mark and Luke is natural if both these Gospels were standard works read in the Church; it is not equally natural if the Martha and Mary story was merely extant in floating tradition.
What is still more remarkable, John introduces into the story of this Anointing certain details derived, not from Mark (xiv.2 ff.) but from the story of the Anointing by a sinner during the Galilean ministry (Lk.vii.36 ff.), which Luke substitutes for the Marcan Anointing at Bethany in the last week at Jerusalem. Mark (xiv.3) says the woman "poured the ointment on his head," John (.3) agrees with Luke in saying she anointed his feet and wiped them with her hair. And this is not an accident, it is implied in the preparatory allusion to the incident (xi.2). The natural explanation of these phenomena is that in John's mind a combination has been effected between persons and details mentioned in Mark's and Luke's versions of the Anointing and in the anecdote about Martha and Mary related by Luke.
The above examples of the assignment by John to definite persons or places of incidents left vague in Mark and Luke cannot be considered apart from evidence as to the same tendency elsewhere. In Mark and Luke the person who cuts off an ear of the high priest's servant in Gethsemane is unnamed; so is the servant; John gives the names of Peter and Malchus. In Mark (vi.37) the disciples protest that two hundred pennyworth of bread would not suffice to feed the multitude; in John (vi.7) it is Philip who says this. There is reason to think that the author of the Fourth Gospel, if not himself a Jew of Palestine, at least had a good "pilgrim's knowledge" of the country. Accordingly, some of these identifications, for instance that of Bethany with the village of Martha and Mary, or of Mary with the anointing woman, may possibly rest on a Jerusalem tradition. The possibility, however, that the identifications are made on good authority does not affect our argument. The fact that the identifications required to be made suggests that the public for whom John wrote was already familiar with the persons and incidents in question, and for that reason would be interested in the further details that he adds.
In the light of this conclusion we proceed to examine the resemblances between the accounts of the Passion in Luke and John. And for the sake of brevity I shall for the time being ignore the distinction between Luke and a source embodied in Luke. But we have learnt the lesson that it is unwise to draw wide conclusions in the sphere of higher criticism without being sure of the text we use. Three of the most remarkable points of contact in the Passion Story of Luke and John are Peter's visit to the Empty Tomb (Lk.xxiv.12), the salutation "Peace be with you" (Lk.xxiv.36), and the sentence, reminiscent of the Thomas story, "He showed them his hands and his feet" (Lk.xxiv.40). These constitute three of the eight Lucan major "Western non-interpolations" definitely rejected by Hort as absent from D and the Old Latin. Whether or not we agree with Hort, it is clear that, the evidence for omission being what it is, they cannot be used to prove a literary connection between the two Gospels.
The outstanding coincidence between John and Luke is the representation of the first Resurrection Appearance to the Twelve as taking place in Jerusalem, not (as in Mark and Matthew) in Galilee. But agreement on a point of this magnitude, though very natural if John knew and used Luke, cannot in itself, simply because of its magnitude, be quoted as evidence that he did know him. For a fact of this character, divergence between Mark and Luke implies a divergence in the early tradition, and John and Luke might be drawing independently on the same tradition. The same thing applies to John's mention of the name Judas, not Iscariot, which otherwise would imply a preference of the Lucan to the Marcan list of the Twelve. To prove literary dependence, we must find examples of the use of language more or less identical, where the resemblance is of a kind not readily explicable by coincidence; or we must be able to detect in some story additions or modifications of quite minor details of a kind not likely to have been preserved apart from the context in which they are embodied.
Of these there are several: the observation that Judas's offer to the high priests to betray Jesus was a direct suggestion of the devil (Lk.x.3; Jn.i.2); Pilate's three times repeated formula, "I find no fault in him" (Lk.xi.4, 14, 22); the detail that it was the right ear of the high priest’s servant that was cut off (Lk.x.50; Jn.xviii.10); the point that the tomb was one "in which no one had ever yet been laid"; the statement that two angels—not one as in Mark and Matthew—were seen by the women at the tomb. Still more evidential is the prophecy by our Lord of Peter's denial (Mk.xiv.30; Lk.x.34; Jn.i.38).
ἀμὴν λέγω σοι
ὁτι σὺ σήμερον ταύτῃ τῇ
νυκτὶ πρὶν ἢ δὶς
λέγω σοι, πέτρε, οὐ φωνήσει σήμερον ἀλέκτωρ ἑως τρίς με ἀπαρνήσῃ εἰδέναι.
ἀμὴν ἀμὴν λέγω σοι, οὐ μὴ ἀλέκτωρ φωνήσῃ ἑως οὗ ἀρνήσῃ με τρίς.
It will be observed that the Johannine wording is almost identical with the Lucan just where that differs from Mark, but it is prefixed by the word amen as in Mark. This suggests an unconscious conflation of the Marcan and Lucan versions.
The above passages, added to the impression made by the Martha-Mary incidents, make it difficult to deny some literary connection between Luke and John. That being so, certain infinitesimal points of contact, which if they stood alone would prove nothing, carry weight as confirmatory evidence. With ἆρον ἆρον, Jn.xix.15, compare αἶρε τοῦτον, Lk.xi.18. The double "crucify him" occurs both in Jn.xix.6 and Lk.xi.21. The description of the women at the cross opens with ἱστήκεισαν, Jn.xix.25, cf. Lk.xi.49, as the first word of the sentence.
But once the dependence of John upon Luke (or a source embodied in Luke) is established, certain other features in the Johannine story assume a new significance. They point to the working of a tendency similar to that noted above in the allusions to Martha and Mary. An enhanced definiteness and vividness is given to incidents, recorded separately in Mark or Luke, by bringing them into connection with one another; and they are further elucidated by modifications and additions derived either from the author's own reflection or from independent tradition.
(1) Mark describes the death of our Lord by the word ἐξέτνευσεν.
Luke uses the same word, prefaced by the saying,
Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit,
παρατίθεναι τὸ πνεῦμά μου,
which (except for the word "Father") is a quotation from Ps.xxxi.5. The phrase in which John describes the death παρέδωκε τὸ πνεῦμα is explicable as a conflated recollection of Mark and Luke.
(2) The discrepancy between the Marcan and Lucan accounts of the Mocking
is striking—still more so if we accept the suggestion that Herod gave the
robe as a compliment The suggestion does not quite convince
me.]. According to Luke this was done by Herod before Pilate
had condemned Jesus; Mark places it after Pilate's condemnation and makes
it a spontaneous act of Pilate's soldiers.
Now Luke represents Pilate, hoping to placate the Jews,
as twice making the offer
I will chastise him and let him go,
as an alternative to the death penalty.
John makes Pilate, with the same hope, actually chastise Jesus and bring Him out before them clothed with the purple robe. Thus John agrees with Luke in placing this incident before Pilate's final condemnation, and in connecting it with Pilate's effort to induce the Jews to accept less than the death penalty. But, in the actual details of the incident, John's version approximates more nearly to Mark's, especially in assigning the mocking to Pilate's soldiers instead of to Herod. This again suggests that John is conflating the two accounts.
(3) Assuming that Hort is right in omitting from the text of Luke (xxiv.12) the description of a visit of Peter to the tomb, there remains in Luke (xxiv.24) the statement by the Apostles to the two from Emmaus,
Some of them with us went to the tomb
(after the women had announced their discovery that it was empty) and found it empty,
but him they saw not.
The visit of Peter and another disciple to the tomb recorded by John gives detail and precision to this Lucan statement. Our view on this point will depend on our view of the contents of the lost ending of Mark. It certainly looks as if this told that the women, in fear, "told no man" that they had found the tomb empty, and that the Twelve first saw the Lord in Galilee. If that is what happened, then the visit of Peter and the other disciple to the tomb looks like an attempt by conjecture to give the names of the disciples mentioned as visiting it in the Lucan story, comparable to the identifications of persons or places left nameless in Mark and Luke which have been already discussed.
To sum up.
The interest shown by John in identifying and connecting persons and places, or in elaborating incidents, mentioned in Luke is more likely if they occurred in some document regarded by his readers as a standard account of the life of Christ rather than in a mere floating tradition.
But we have still to ask whether the source known to John was our Gospel of Luke or the source Proto-Luke, which we have seen reason to believe was incorporated in it. The difficulty of answering this question lies in the small number of passages that show points of contact between Luke and John where we can be quite sure that Luke is not using the source Proto-Luke. Suppose, for example, that we could be certain that Luke's version of Peter's Denial and of the Entombment was dependent on Mark alone, then the fact that John adopts some of Luke's verbal modifications of Mark would prove that he used our Luke. I am inclined to think that Proto-Luke either omitted these incidents or treated them very briefly (cf. p. 217); but the possibility being open that Luke's modifications of Mark may be due to a parallel version of the incidents in Proto-Luke, we desiderate further evidence. But from the nature of the case we have only infinitesimals to go upon.
(1) Objectors ask (Jn.vii.41-42):
What, doth the Christ come out of Galilee?
Hath not the scripture said that the Christ cometh of the seed of David,
and from Bethlehem, the village where David was?
No reply is given;
yet the foundation stone of early Christian apologetic was the exact correspondence of details in the life of Jesus with Old Testament Messianic prophecy. But if every one of John's readers knew that, though His father was a carpenter of Nazareth, He was of the royal seed, and by a seeming accident had been born in Bethlehem, we have a delicate piece of what in Greek tragedy is called εἰρωνεία. That which is alleged as an objection to His Messiahship is really its confirmation. But could John have presumed this knowledge in his readers except in a Church where Luke (or Matthew) was read?
What then if ye should behold the Son of man ascending where he was before?
This is addressed to murmuring disciples.
It gains much in point if we assume that the story of the Ascension was familiar to John's readers. We have seen (p. 142) that the words in Lk.xxiv.51, which mention the Ascension as taking place in sight of the Twelve are probably original. In any case the Acts, by the same author, describes the event.
(3) The Feeding of the Five Thousand is placed by John on the East side
of the Lake of Galilee, by Mark (followed by Matthew) on the West. It
is suggested below that John may have introduced into it details from Mark's
Feeding of the Four Thousand which takes place near Decapolis. But
the definite statement in Luke that the miracle took place near Bethsaida,
which is on the East bank of the entrance of the Jordan into the Lake, would
at least be an additional reason for John's supposing it took place on the
There is another consideration.
John's version of the Feeding of the Five Thousand exhibits two of those Minor Agreements of Matthew and Luke against Mark which we have already discussed (p. 313)—the allusion to the healing immediately before the miracle, and the word περισσεύσαντα (Jn.vi.2, 12). The natural explanation of this would be that John had read the story, not only in Mark, but also in either Matthew or Luke. Seeing, however, that his knowledge of Matthew is extremely doubtful, knowledge of Luke is the simplest explanation.
Neither singly nor together do these points amount to demonstrative proof
that what John knew was, not Proto-Luke, but our Gospel of Luke; yet, to
my mind, they make the balance of probability incline still very decidedly
in that direction.
The points of contact between Matthew and John are extremely few;
fewer still are those that are of a material character,
(a) John twice has the saying
The servant is not greater than his master
(Jn.i.16, xv.20; cf. Mt.x.24 = Lk.vi.40).
John's phrase is slightly nearer to Matthew than to Luke, and the corollary in John,
If they persecuted me they will also persecute you,
resembles that in Matthew,
If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub,
how much more shall they call those of his household?
But in view of the great differences of the Lucan, Matthean, and Johannine
versions of the saying and also of its epigrammatic character — epigrams
easily circulate by word of mouth — there is no need to postulate a written
source. The sentiment that Christians could not expect the world to
treat them better than their Master must have been replete with practical
consolation to the average Christian, and a saying of Christ which put this
in a pithy form is likely to have been part of the stock-in-trade of many
a Christian preacher,
(b) Twice (iii.35 and i.3) John has the phrase
The Father has given all things into his hands,
which has close affinities to
All things have been delivered to me by my Father
(Mt.xi.27 = Lk.x.22).
But as this saying occurs in Luke it is no evidence that John used Matthew,
(c) Again, the healing from a distance of the Nobleman's Son (βασιλίκος perhaps = king's officer) at Capernaum (iv.46 ff.) has a general resemblance to the story of the Centurion's Servant (Mt.viii.5 ff. = Lk.vii.2 ff.). But, even if John is describing the same incident, his representation of the details is so different that he may well be giving a version of the incident preserved in a different line of tradition, or may, after his manner, be conflating it with another incident. John's verbal agreements with Matthew and Luke are so slight as to be easily explicable by accident — but, such as they are, they are about evenly distributed between the two. In no case is the verbal agreement between John and either Matthew or Luke close enough to prove literary dependence. But, even if this were otherwise, it would not be evidence that John knew Matthew, for the incident in question seems to have stood in Q; so that John could have derived it either from Luke or from Q.
There remain to be considered a few minor agreements of Matthew and John against Mark. These are of very much the same order as the Minor Agreements of Matthew and Luke discussed in Chapter XL, and I believe they are to be explained in exactly the same way.
(a) The story of the Walking on the Water does not occur in Luke, but there
is one small verbal agreement of John with Matthew against Mark. Mark (vi.47)
says the boat was "in the midst of the sea," John (vi.19) that
it was "about twenty or thirty furlongs from the land,"
Matthew (xiv.24) (in the text of W.H.) that it was distant "many furlongs
from the land." This reading in Matthew is found in B,
the Ferrar Group, and the Old Syriac.
But א C L, with the support of D and the Old
Latin, read "in the midst of the sea." Clearly assimilation
has been at work, either in B or in א and
their respective supporters. If B is right, א has
assimilated Matthew to Mark; if א is right, B has assimilated Matthew to John.
Which is the more probable?
Obviously, since Mark was the least read and John the most valued of the Gospels, assimilation of Matthew to the text of John is more probable than to that of Mark; while, since Matthew indubitably copied Mark, an agreement of Matthew with Mark does not look like assimilation. But if we accept the text of א D Old Lat., we then find, on comparing the parallel versions, that the outstanding point is the agreement of Mark and John against Matthew in saying nothing whatever about Peter's attempt to walk on the water to meet Jesus, with the notable moral it involves. John's ignoring of this striking addition tells decidedly against his knowledge of the Matthean form of the story.
The poor ye have always with you,
but me ye have not always.
This occurs word for word in Mark, Matthew, and John.
But Matthew and John concur in omitting the words
and when ye will ye can benefit them,
which Mark inserts between the two halves of the antithesis. Coincident omission, especially where the construction facilitates it, is not enough to prove literary dependence. But since the whole verse in John is omitted by the strong combination of D with Syr. S., we seem to have evidence that even this slight agreement of Matthew and John is due to textual assimilation.
Matthew and John each add many details not found in Mark's account of the
Passion. In particular both are concerned to throw the responsibility of
the Crucifixion on to the Jews, and, as far as possible, to exculpate Pilate.
Here, then, especially, if there was any literary connection between the
two Gospels, we should expect to find agreements in incident or language.
But the only points of contact I have noted are insignificant.
(c) Matthew (xxi.5) and John (.15) agree in connecting with the triumphal entry the passage in Zechariah ix.9,
Behold, thy king cometh,
sitting on the foal of an ass.
Seeing that Christians were in the habit of ransacking the Old Testament for Messianic prophecies, concurrence in such an obvious instance proves nothing. What is significant is that the words as quoted by John are so different from Matthew that they must either represent a different translation of the Hebrew or be free quotations from memory.
(d) Matthew (xxvi.52) and John (xviii.11) agree in saying that Jesus commanded the person who cut off the ear of the high priest's servant to put up his sword, ἀπόστρεψόν σου τὴν μάχαιραν σου εἰς τὸν τόπον αὐτῆς (Mt.xxvi.52), βάκε τὴν μάχαιράν σου εἰς τὴν θήκην (Jn.xviii.11). But they do not use a single word in common except that for "sword "; while the reason given by our Lord in Matthew,
They that take the sword shall perish by the sword,
is quite different from that given in John,
The cup which my Father hath given me,
shall I not drink it?
(e) In the parallel Mk.xv.17 = Mt.xxvii.29 = Jn.xix.2, speaking of the crown of thorns, Mark says they put it "on him," Matthew and John agree in saying "on his head." Since crowns are made to be worn on the head, the coincidence is not remarkable. What is remarkable, however, is the difference between Matthew and John in this very same verse. Matthew's account differs from Mark's in adding the detail that the soldiers put the reed (as a mock sceptre) into our Lord's hand. This striking departure from Mark is not reproduced by John—which makes it very unlikely that the quite colourless addition of the word "head " was suggested to him by familiarity with this verse of Matthew.
There was in the place where he was crucified a garden,
and in the garden a tomb,
καινόν, ἐν ᾧ οὐδέπω οὐδείς ἐτέθη.
In Mt.xxvii.60, Joseph puts the body ἐν τῷ καινῷ αὐτοῦ μνημείῳ. Has
the fact that Matthew and John agree in using the common adjective καινός ( = new)
any significance? If we examine the passages more closely, we note that the
point of Matthew's statement is that the tomb belongs to Joseph, it was his
own new tomb; but the language of John implies that he did not know to whom
it belonged. This makes decidedly against John having read Matthew.
But there is a further point.
Dsupp. 69 and several other MSS. read κενόν (= empty) for καινόν in John. The confusion of αι, and ε is one of the commonest errors in MSS., and even in inscriptions; in late Greek they were, as in Modern Greek, pronounced alike. But if we ask which of the two adjectives is more likely to be the original in this passage, at once it is obvious that a scribe with the phrase of Matthew running in his head would be more likely to alter κενόν to καινόν than vice versa. Again, so far as the sense is concerned, κενόν, "empty," is slightly more appropriate than καινόν, "new"; for the words which follow,
in which no man had yet been laid,
are a mere reiteration if preceded by καινόν, whereas they add a new point if κενόν preceded—the tomb was, not only one that happened to be empty, but one that had never yet been used.
(g) There is one minor agreement which differs from those so far discussed, insomuch as the contexts in which the words occur are not exactly parallel, since in John they occur in the introduction to the Feeding of the Five Thousand, while in Matthew they occur immediately before the Feeding of the Four Thousand.
and going up into the hill country,
and Jesus went up into the hill country,
This passage cannot be discussed apart from the observation that there are several small points in which John seems to combine the accounts of the Four Thousand and Five Thousand. In the account of the Five Thousand in Mark and Matthew, the disciples take the initiative in asking Jesus to deal with the multitude, but with the Four Thousand the initiative is His; also in the Four Thousand εὐχαριστήσας is substituted for εὐλόγησε καὶ. John introduces both these modifications into his version of the Five Thousand. Such modifications are so trifling and obvious that, if they stood alone, they would prove nothing; but, taken in connection with "went up into the hill country, and sat there," they suggest that in John recollection of the details from the one miracle had become confused with the other. But the words "went up into the hill country" stand in Matthew, but not in Mark. At first blush we seem at last to have found definite evidence that John knew Matthew.
Not so, however, if the words in question originally stood in the text of Mark. And the hypothesis that this was the case seems to me much the easiest explanation of the fact that they do occur in Matthew—a thing which, to the student of the Synoptic Problem, really does demand an explanation. Note the last lines of the parallels printed below—each of 26 letters.
καὶ πάλιν ἐξελθὼν ἐκ τῶν ὁρίων Τύρου ἦλθεν διὰ Σιδῶνος εἰς τὴν θάλασσαν τῆς Γαλιλαίας ἀνὰ μέσον τῶν ὁρ ίων Δεκαπόλεως.
καὶ μεταβὰς ἐκεῖθεν ὁ Ἰησοῦς ἦλθεν παρὰ τὴν θάλασσαν τῆς Γ αλιλαίας, καὶ ἀναβὰς εἰς τὸ ὀρος ἐκάθητο ἐκεῖ.
Matthew's suppression of the geographical details about Tyre and Decapolis is quite in accord with his general tendency to compress Mark. Not so the line that he substitutes. Wherever Matthew adds anything to Mark, it is a saying or an incident of some special interest, or a turn of phrase that removes a difficulty. The statement "He went up into the hills, and sat there" is not at all like the explanatory editorial amplifications he is in the habit of making; nor, again, is it a fact of sufficient moment to be preserved in floating tradition. I suggest that the words stood in the text of Mark used by Matthew. If a line beginning ἀνάβας; was followed by one beginning ἀνὰ μένον, an omission by homoioteleuton would be easy. Or suppose, as in א, the average line in an early copy of Mark had 13-14 letters, it might read:
Two lines, both beginning with ΑΝΑ and ending with ΟΡ, afford an invitation for an omission by homoioteleuton, which a copyist inclined to that error could hardly decline.
The suggestion that the words in question stood in the original text of Mark is attractive for another reason. "Transference of formulae," that is, the repetition in more than one context of phrases found in his source, is a notable characteristic of Matthew. If the words "going up into the mountain, he sat there" stood in this place in the copy of Mark used by Matthew, we have the original of the phrase "He went up into the mountain, and when he had sat down," which provides the narrative framework of the Sermon on the Mount. Lastly, conflation in John's memory of the Five Thousand with the Four Thousand in Mark's rather than Matthew's version would help to explain the fact that John places the Five Thousand on the East of the Sea of Galilee, although Mark appears to place it on the West shore. The Four Thousand is placed by Mark on the shore of the lake adjacent to Decapolis, which is on the East side; but Matthew omits the mention of Decapolis and does not give the slightest hint that the miracle took place on that side of the lake.
(h) Matthew and John stand alone in representing the first Appearance after the Resurrection as being to a woman. In Matthew there is a mention of an Appearance to the two Maries on their way from the tomb with the angel's message to the Apostles, and our Lord's command,
Go, tell my brethren that they depart into Galilee,
and there they shall see me.
In John, after they have announced the angel's message to the Twelve, and after Peter and another disciple have visited the tomb, Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene alone in the garden, and uses the words,
Go unto my brethren, and say unto them,
I ascend unto my Father. ...
Nowhere else does Jesus use the phrase "my brethren" of the Twelve; but apart from the coincidence in this rare expression, there is little that favours a literary connection, since the first Appearance after the Resurrection is the kind of incident in regard to which parallel versions in oral tradition would be likely to exist.
But this coincidence depends upon the authenticity of the word ἀδελφοῖς in Matthew; and μαθηταῖς is substituted for this in 157, 1555, and a citation by Cyril of Alexandria. The possibility must be faced that ἀδελφοῖς in the accepted text of Matthew is an assimilation to John; and, but for the fact that μαθηταῖς might also be explained by assimilation to Mt.xxvii.7, I should use a stronger word than "possibility." If, however, the suggestion tentatively put forward above (p. 357 ff.) be accepted, that the lost end of Mark contained an account of an Appearance to Mary, Matthew and John will both be dependent, either on the lost conclusion of Mark, or on an oral tradition which represented what people could remember of its contents. To sum up, the evidence that can be adduced to prove John's knowledge of Matthew is quite inconclusive.
Professor Bacon, taking it for granted that the Gospel of Matthew cannot have been unknown to John, suggests that he "ignored it" as being "the most anti-Pauline of the Gospels." I am inclined to agree with this verdict in substance, but would express it differently. Matthew cannot, I think, as a whole be described as "anti-Pauline "—only the source M. But the author of the Fourth Gospel, who had lived through the later stages of the Judaistic controversy, would have been acutely sensitive to the implications of commands—emphatic from their position as the opening words of Great Discourses—like
Go not into any way of the Gentiles (Mt.x.5),
The Scribes and Pharisees sit in Moses' seat:
all things therefore whatsoever they bid you,
these do and observe (Mt.x.2 f.).
Again, since in John's own interpretation of Christ's teaching the spiritual
Presence of the Paraclete is practically substituted for the visible Return
of Christ, there is another element conspicuous in the Discourses of Matthew
that he could not possibly accept as authentic. But if (as on the whole I
think probable) Matthew was known to his contemporary, the author of the
Apocalypse (cf. p. 469 n.), it must have been already read in Asia. I recall
the interpretation (p. 19 f. above) of the Papias fragment on Matthew: the
discourses (τὰ λόγια)
in the Greek Gospel are characterised as being "only a translation,
and that unauthorised," of whatever it was that the Apostle Matthew
wrote. If this is correct, the Gospel of Matthew has just reached Ephesus,
but John the Elder, a personage of great weight in that Church, declines
to accept it as having apostolic authority. Now if John the Elder was
himself the author of the Fourth Gospel he could adopt no other attitude. Himself
convinced that Christ came to supersede the Law and that the Parousia is
to be understood spiritually, he could not accept as Apostolic a Gospel
conspicuous for Apocalyptic and Judaistic sayings.
The above comparison of John and the Synoptics leaves on the mind the impression that besides Mark and Luke (or conceivably Proto-Luke instead of Luke) John used no other documentary source. Deduct from John what seems to be derived from Mark and Luke and only a few odd incidents remain. Accordingly the departures from the Synoptic order and chronology, which are such a notable feature of the Fourth Gospel, cannot plausibly be explained by the influence of a third written source; for, if so, that source should have accounted for a larger proportion of his total narrative matter. It is in the direction, then, of the personality of the author that we must look for an explanation of the major divergences of the Fourth Gospel from the Synoptics. A standing difficulty of New Testament scholarship has always been to explain why the author of the Fourth Gospel goes out of his way, as it were, to differ from the Synoptics on points having no theological significance. First and foremost there is his adoption of a chronological scheme glaringly at variance with the other Gospels. To a large matter like this, or like the day of the Last Supper, he may have attached special importance. But he also contradicts them on what seem quite trivial points; affirming, for instance, that Bethsaida (not Capernaum) was the city of Andrew and Peter, or that the Anointing at Bethany took place four days earlier than the other Gospels put it, and that Jesus departed and hid Himself (Jn..36) between Palm Sunday and the Passion. But John's main purpose in writing was clearly not historical but doctrinal. He is anxious to commend to the Church a particular religious and theological attitude. Now people who wish to gain a hearing for an unfamiliar, and possibly controverted, doctrinal position are usually particularly careful to emphasise when possible their agreement with what is already familiar to, and accepted by, their hearers; they only dispute the accepted where it is necessary for their purpose. Scholars who hold that John freely altered or invented narratives for dogmatic ends have been curiously blind to the consideration that the more the difference between the theological standpoint of John and the Synoptics is stressed, the more inexplicable becomes John's policy of contradicting them on details of history on which doctrinally nothing turns. But from any point of view the historical discrepancies between John and the Synoptics constitute a difficult problem.
The difficulty is considerably reduced in magnitude by the result, to which a critical comparison of the documents seems to point, that the only Synoptics used by John were Mark and Luke. Where John throws over the Synoptic chronology, or modifies their story in smaller details, he is not flying in the face of a universal Church tradition embodied in three separate Gospels, one of them ascribed to an Apostle; he is only correcting Mark and Luke, neither of which was reputed to be the work of eyewitness. But if the author of the Fourth Gospel had himself visited Jerusalem—which would naturally be regarded in the Church at large as the fountain-head of authentic tradition— he might consider himself to be in a position to correct or explain, as one having authority, the story as told in these two Gospels. While the difficulty of explaining his boldness in so drastically correcting the lives of Christ hitherto known in the Church for which he wrote would disappear completely, if we could suppose that he could claim in any sense to be himself an eye-witness— even if that meant no more than that, as a boy of twelve, taken by his father to the Passover, he had been one of the multitude who beheld the Crucifixion. At any rate the hypothesis that the author of the Gospel had a personal acquaintance with Jerusalem tradition would considerably ease the critical difficulties arising from a documentary comparison of this Gospel with the Synoptics.
There can be no reasonable doubt that the author of the Fourth Gospel had
a first-hand knowledge of the topography of Palestine, and especially of
the city of Jerusalem. He was, moreover, a Jew versed in Rabbinic tradition
and the usages of the Temple system. Scholars of recent years have generally
admitted this. B. W. Bacon, Fourth Gospel in Research
and Debate, 1910, p. 385 ff.]; but if any doubt on that point
remained, it has been removed by the linguistic evidence adduced by Dr. Burney
in the book to which allusion has already been made. That evidence does not,
in my opinion, justify Dr. Burney's own conclusion that our Gospel is a translation
from the Aramaic; but it puts it beyond reasonable doubt that the author
was a man whose thoughts naturally fell into the idiom of that language.
It does not, however, necessarily follow that he was a Jew of Palestinian
origin. Every Jew of the Dispersion endeavoured to visit Jerusalem at one
of the great Feasts to offer the sacrifice— once at least in his life, oftener
if possible. The career of Paul shows that in the first generation conversion
to Christianity in no way lessened the inborn passion of the Jew to see Jerusalem.
The question whether the author of the Gospel had more than a pilgrim's knowledge
of the city is one that cannot be answered apart from a consideration of
the date of writing and the personality of the writer, but that he had at
least a pilgrim's acquaintance with Jerusalem may be taken as established.
A pilgrim who visits sites hallowed by sacred association always takes the opportunity of asking questions on the spot in regard to persons or events connected with them. The answers he gets are not always correct, but they are accepted as authoritative. A Jewish Christian pilgrim any time during the first century would be able to gather much information of value; but it would not all be equally authentic. The identity of the village of Martha and Mary, the name Malchus, the day of the Last Supper, the fact of previous visits to Jerusalem, are the kind of details that such an one would learn. Exact chronology is not a matter in regard to which popular local tradition is apt to be concerned; nevertheless the Johannine chronology may be based on a conscientious attempt by the author to piece together scattered bits of information picked up in Jerusalem. If the visits of our Lord to Jerusalem were connected in the minds of his informants with His appearances at feasts, the imperfect recollections of two different persons might easily connect the same visit with two different feasts; one visit might then be counted twice in John's chronology. Again, if John started with the idea that the Cleansing of the Temple occurred at our Lord's first public appearance at the Passover, and subsequently, learnt that He had been present at more than one Passover, he might infer that the incident had been wrongly placed by Mark. The greatest difficulty in his chronology would then be explained.
And is it not possible that John had information that Jesus the very first time He came to Jerusalem, after having at the Baptism felt the call to Messiahship, vehemently denounced the Temple traffic? We should certainly expect Him to make some protest, although on the 'first occasion He may not have followed His words by action. Assuming that he had information to this effect, John would at once relate it with the prophecy in Malachi iii.1-3,
The Lord whom ye seek shall suddenly come to his temple ...
he shall purify the sons of Levi ...;
he would then be quite sure that Mark had misplaced the incident.
The a priori principle that a particular action of the Messiah is more likely than not to show close conformity to some Old Testament prophecy is certainly not one by which a modern critic would be swayed in determining the choice between two apparently conflicting traditions. But to admit that an author's estimate of probabilities is influenced by a priori principles does not prove that he is indifferent to fact or to evidence. At least, we do not usually say this of the Tubingen School because they undertook to correct the traditional dates of documents or events in the light of the no less a priori principle that history advances by "thesis, antithesis, and synthesis." A mistaken conclusion as to what actually happened on a particular occasion by no means argues a general indifference to fact. Again, if we suppose that the source from which John derived the story of Lazarus was without precise indication of date, but contained a remark that the priests took alarm at the consequent reputation of our Lord and His growing influence with the people, it would be very natural for John to infer that the story belonged to Passion Week, especially as, with the removal of the Cleansing of the Temple, some other incident adequate to account for the alarm of the authorities seems required to explain the course of events.
A minor difficulty is solved if we accept the suggestion (p. 381) that chaps, v. and vi. have got accidentally transposed, which removes the allusion to an unknown Feast of the Jews (John v.1) which has always puzzled commentators, by making it refer to the Passover mentioned vi.4; this would combine into a single visit to Jerusalem what now appears as two.
Apart from these instances the Johannine chronology solves more difficulties than it raises.
(1) According to the tradition embodied in Matthew, Christ was born under Herod, who died 4 BC. According to Luke he was "about thirty years old when he began to preach." According both to patristic tradition and most modern calculation He was crucified AD 29 or 30. Simple arithmetic shows that these three data can be reconciled with the 2½ years' ministry implied in John, but not with the one year that the Synoptics—though they never actually name a period—are supposed to imply.
(2) In Mark, Jesus is consistently represented as going to Jerusalem, expecting to be rejected. Similarly Luke's peculiar source has
It cannot be that a prophet perish out of Jerusalem,
If only thou hadst known even in this thy day.
How often would I have gathered thy children ...
That is to say, three independent Synoptic sources agree in representing our Lord as approaching Jerusalem anticipating rejection. But this surely is not the attitude one would expect of Jesus, who was wont to hope the best of every man—unless, indeed, it was based on the experience of failure on one or more previous visits.
(3) Mark explicitly says that the preaching in Galilee that he records began after John the Baptist had been imprisoned (Mk.i.14). The author of the Fourth Gospel represents John as still baptizing as late as the events in John iii.23. Seeing that he wrote for a Church, which regarded Mark as an authority, this can hardly be accidental. He intends to indicate that his story opens at an earlier date than that of Mark. Calculations about the season of the year implied in "the green grass" in Mark's account of the Feeding of the Five Thousand (Mk.vi.39) show that, unless the event underlying this story is misplaced in Mark, there must have been another Passover between it and the Last Passover, as John says was the case. The story of the Mission of the Twelve implies that the whole group of twelve was not always with Jesus. It is indeed improbable that He ever went to Jerusalem accompanied by the whole band before the last visit; but that is no reason why He may not have gone there with one or two (T. & T. Clark, 1904).]. If Peter was not one of these, Mark's silence on the subject is explicable. It is at any rate a remarkable coincidence—if it is mere coincidence—that John never mentions Peter in connection with Jerusalem until the last week. The incident of the apparently prearranged signs by which the disciples would recognise the man who would take them to the upper chamber (Mk.xiv.13) πρὸς τὸν δεῖνα, xxvi.18, makes still more clear the point that it was a specified person.] is slightly more intelligible if Jesus had in Jerusalem friends, gained on previous visits, to whom the Twelve were unknown.
(4) The majority of scholars have for a long while been agreed that, on grounds of intrinsic probability, the representation of John, that the Crucifixion took place on the morning of the day when the Passover was killed, is to be preferred to that of the Synoptics, which identify the Last Supper with the Passover. It is unnecessary to repeat the familiar arguments as to the improbability of secular business like the Arrest, the Trials, the buying of spices, etc., being possible during the most solemn twenty-four hours of the Festival. The language of Paul,
Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us ...,
has been regarded as having supplied John with a dogmatic motive for correcting the Synoptic date. But if, on other grounds, we accept John's date as correct, then Paul's language becomes collateral evidence for the Johannine story. Again, the words in Luke,
With desire I desired to eat this Passover, but I shall not eat it ...,
suggest, though they do not quite compel, the view that in his source the Last Supper was conceived as taking place on the day before the Passover. If so, Luke, in conflating his special source with the Marcan tradition, has misunderstood and obscured its original purport. In that case John and Proto-Luke were in agreement, but John preserves the original tradition in a clearer form. Personally I incline to think that the Johannine incident of the Washing of the Disciples' Feet by Jesus at the Last Supper is similarly authentic. The saying,
I am among you as one that serves, Lk.x.27,
is an echo of it, which has attracted to this context the saying about the kings of the Gentiles that Mk.x.42 gives in its true historical setting.
But to talk at all of comparing the Johannine and Synoptic chronology is really unmeaning. There is no "Synoptic chronology." Matthew, in the second half of his Gospel, follows the order of Mark; in the first half, while copying the narrative of Mark closely, he rearranges the order of events in a way which shows, either that he was completely indifferent to chronology, or that he did not regard the order of incidents in Mark as chronological. Luke takes Proto-Luke as his base, and—apparently without appreciably altering the relative order of events in either of his sources—fits extracts of Mark into the scheme of that document. But there is no reason for supposing that Luke possessed, or thought that he possessed, any key to the original order of the sayings and events he records. The "order" which he speaks of in his preface does not mean chronological order so much as literary form, or, as we should say, "construction."The resultant scheme is a threefold division of the Gospel into a Galilean, a Samaritan, and a Judaean section. The long non-Marcan section, Lk.ix.51-xviii.14, is somewhat vaguely represented by Luke as a series of wanderings through Samaria in the general direction of Jerusalem. The notion that Luke thinks of it as the journey through Peroea that Mark records, is a misconception.
To speak, then, of a Synoptic chronology, as though there were a three-to-one agreement against John, is quite misleading. The chronology of the Life of Christ is simply a question of Mark against John. Now of the last journey to Jerusalem, and the events of Passion Week, Mark presents a clear, detailed, and coherent account; and this, dealing with the events of, at the outside, three weeks, occupies about one-third of the whole Gospel. The rest of the Gospel is clearly a collection of detached stories— as indeed tradition affirms it to be; and the total number of incidents recorded is so small that the gaps in the story must be the more considerable part of it. Mark probably had information, which enabled him roughly to fix the position of certain outstanding incidents like Peter's confession at Caesarea Philippi, but the term chronology is really a misnomer in connection with a work of this character.
John is the first and the only one of the Evangelists who attempts a chronology.
It may be that his chronology is not a very good one
—but it is the only one we have.
Chronology is a very difficult art.
Success in it depends, not only on the existence of abundant evidence, but also on complicated calculations, synchronisms, and inferences. In antiquity it was even more difficult than it is now; and it is only to be expected that John's pioneer attempt at a chronology of our Lord's life contains serious inaccuracies. But to admit that is a very different matter from saying that it is a wholly ideal construction.
The Gospels of Mark, Luke and John form, it would seem, a series—Luke being dependent on Mark, and John on both the others. This conclusion of documentary analysis is confirmed by its correspondence with a parallel evolution in the doctrinal emphasis in the several Gospels. Here also Mark, Luke and John form a progressive series the characteristic direction of which is a tendency to make more and more of the idea of Christianity as the universal religion, free from the limitations of its Jewish origin, and, along with this, to lay less and less stress on the original Apocalyptic expectation of an immediate visible Return of the Master. The Fourth Gospel is thus the climax reached in the development of theology in the New Testament towards the naturalisation of Christianity in the Hellenic world.
Matthew, on the other hand, though even more indebted to Mark, represents an independent line of development. In regard both to the universalistic tendency and to the Apocalyptic Hope, Matthew, as compared with Mark, shows a movement in the reverse direction to that shown in Luke and John. Matthew introduces, doubtless from his Jerusalem source, sayings of a distinctly Judaistic and legalistic character. At times he even modifies the actual text of Mark in this direction—adding, for example, the demurrer
I was not sent but unto the lost sheep of the House of Israel
to Mark's account of the Syro-Phoenician woman, and the words "neither on a Sabbath" in the little Apocalypse.Still more noticeably he goes out of his way to elaborate the apocalyptic detail in the same discourse and to emphasise the expectation of a visible Parousia within the lifetime of the Twelve.
The dependence of the Fourth Gospel upon two earlier Lives of Christ, neither of which purports to be the work of eyewitnesses, would make it hard to accept the tradition that ascribes it to an apostle, even if that ascription involved no other difficulties. On the other hand, as we have seen, the masterful way in which the author deals with the narrative of his predecessors—considered in connection with his evident familiarity with the topography of Jerusalem and Rabbinic usage, and also with the fact that in some points his corrections have a look of superior authenticity—is much easier to explain on the hypothesis that he was a personage who possessed, and was recognised as possessing, a claim to write with independent authority.
It is with these conclusions in mind that the study of the purpose and the
authorship of the Gospel must be approached.