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chapter 20, v. 31, is shown to be threefold; “ To prove, 1. That Jesus is the promised Messiah ; 2. That His person is truly Divine; and, 3. That eternal life may be obtained through faith in His Name."
In singular contrast (which is an undeviating characteristic of Renan's style of writing) with his sentiments respecting John as quoted in the preceding chapter, Renan proceeds: “When old he wrote that strange Gospel which contains such precious teachings, but in which in our opinion the character of Jesus is falsified upon many points. How is it that, connected with a general plan of the life of Jesus, which appears much more satisfactory and exact than that of the synoptics, these singular passages occur in which we are sensible of a dogmatic interest peculiar to the compiler, of ideas foreign to Jesus, and sometimes of indications which place us our guard against the good faith of the narrator ? Stripped of their coloured surroundings, on other pages he proceeds in the same style :-“The discourses given us by the fourth Gospel are compositions intended to cover with the authority of Jesus certain doctrines dear to the compiler. The style of the discourses attributed to Jesus by the fourth Gospel, presents the most complete analogy with that of the Epistles of St. John. We see that in writing the discourses, the author followed not his recollection, but rather the somewhat monotonous movement of his own thought.”! The writing of a book does not destroy men's individuality, Renan; and each evangelist therefore has a style peculiar to himself." " In attributing these new ideas to Jesus,” proceeds John's detractor," he only followed a very natural tendency.
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Considering Jesus as the incarnation of truth, John could not fail to attribute to Him that which he had come to consider as the truth.” 1 Base insinuations !- What a reflection upon the character of the man who makes them !-How "very natural" the "tendency” in some to ascribe to others the depraved traits which are characteristic of themselves. What gives Renan so much uneasiness about certain parts of John's Gospel, is evidently the “strange modifications” he professes to have discovered in it; "the perpetual argumentation ” of which he speaks ; "these long arguments after each miracle," so uncongenial to "the man of taste"—the sentimentalist; together with what he calls “the barrenness of metaphysics, and the darkness of abstract dogma,” embracing the nature of the Godhead, the Divinity of Christ, &c. These are the peculiarities of this Gospel which give him so much uneasiness and trouble. Such "argumentation" bears heavily on the various articles of the proud man's creed, and he winces, impatiently winces under the galling pressure.
"Is it indeed,” he asks in amazement, “John, the Son of Zebedee, who is able to write in Greek these lessons of abstract metaphysics ? For myself, I dare not be sure that the fourth Gospel has been entirely written by the pen of a Galilean fisherman." The lessons of “abstract metaphysics” John's Gospel contains, Renan thinks beyond the compass of the fisherman's abilities. It puzzles him, and well it might; but it becomes easy of comprehension to those who consider that it was not beyond the capacity of the God that inspired him. Renan forgets the classical and philosophic training John got on the day of Pentecost, and subsequently.
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germs of theology," &c., that he complainingly speaks of as being in “the discourses which the fourth Gospel attributes to Jesus," does not prevent him from quoting John as often as it suits his purpose to do so. As he has himself intimated, he frequently gives him the preference to what he calls “ the three synoptic Gospels." We will here, however, give a specimen of his manner of dealing with such quotations from John.
It clearly indicates the defective judgment of the man who is determined to make everything bend to his scheme.
. Quoting from John in reference to Christ's having “ formed some valuable friendships,” he gives as authentic history that, “very early he attracted the attention of a certain Nicodemus, a rich Pharisee, a member of the Sanhedrim, and a man occupying a high position in Jerusalem. This man, who appears to have been upright and sincere, felt himself attracted towards the young Galilean. Not wishing to compromise himself, he came to see Jesus by night, and had a long conversation with Him. He doubtless preserved a very favourable impression of Him, for afterwards he defended Jesus against the prejudices of His colleagues." To this narrative which Renan gives as authentic, he adds in a note referring to the conversation between our Lord and Nicodemus :-“We are certainly free to believe that the exact text of the conversation is but a creation of John's.” In other words, liberty must be conceded M. Renan to select and prune from the narrative according as it may best suit him in the accomplishment of his most unreasonable and unholy purpose, as he has also done in other of John's narrations. That this is his meaning and design here might be confirmed by many passages from his
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work, but one may suffice :-“All these discourses,” he says, “ bear too strongly the imprint of the style peculiar to John for them to be regarded as exact. The anecdote related in chapter six of the fourth Gospel, cannot, however, be entirely stripped of historical reality.” But by what possible rule of reason or right, I would ask, may he accept one part of the narrative of our Lord's conversation with Nicodemus as true history, and regard the other as false—the one as veritable facts; and the other a fictitious' “ creation of John's "? It is perfect nonsense. The secret, as in all similar cases, is this :-A portion of the narrative clashes with his creed; it involves the supernatural—" Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” This is the distasteful part; this is the sentiment that his proud heart, his haughty spirit, cannot brook.
At one time, comparing John's Gospel with the “synoptics," unfavourably to the former, he
says, “ Between these two
authorities no critic hesitate ;' at another, unfavourably to the latter, imagining that John helps him to the proof of a point, he unhesitatingly affirms that John's narrative of this portion has a greater authority.”3 The conversation of Jesus with the woman at the well as related in John 4, suits him, because, he says, "the anecdote certainly represents one of the most intimate thoughts of Jesus, and the greater part of the circumstances have a striking appearance of truth... The day on which he uttered this saying, he was truly Son of God.” 4 In his rejecting particular passages solely because they interfere with the general religious theory which he has invented for himself
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ticated as other passages that he receives—we recognize a practical exemplification of one of his favourite principles, and one which he dares to apply to the holy Jesus :—“To conceive the good, in fact,” he says, “is not sufficient; it must be made to succeed amongst men. To accomplish this, less pure paths must be followed.” 1 Renan thinks
thinks he has conceived a good theory of religion ; but this is not enough ; "it must be made to succeed among men,” and to accomplish this, “less pure paths must be followed.” The influence of Christ's name in the present state of society is essential to its success; if by any means possible therefore, Jesus must be made to give it His sanction, or at least, not to so pointedly condemn it-right or wrong, true or false, it must if possible be backed by the influence of His name; and if the apostles, His biographers, make Him speak otherwise, they must be silenced and made to give place to His 19th century biographer, who is, of course, a more competent person, and withal furnished with more authentic information respecting Him than they were !
Renan tells us (page 29) that the Gospels contain “contradictions.” To which I reply :-Contradiction is the work of man. Scripture cannot contradict itself; and if any one thinks he has discovered a contradiction in the Bible, there must be a flaw somewhere, if not in the passage before him, then in his own understanding of it, which is by far the more likely of the two. A degree of Divine light and spiritual wisdom, even the scholar would doubtless find to be a material help to him at such times; aye, and a properly cultivated and unprejudiced judgment would be no impediment to a proper understanding of the seeming and supposed contradiction. But the
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