Essays on "Supernatural Religion"
by J. B. Lightfoot
VII. THE LATER SCHOOL OF ST JOHN.
It has been stated in a former paper that at the fall of Jerusalem a remnant of the Apostolic company, together with other primitive disciples, sought a new home in Asia Minor [217:1]. Of this colony Ephesus was the head-quarters, and St John the leader. Here he is reported to have lived and laboured for more than a quarter of a century, surviving the accession of Trajan, who ascended the imperial throne A.D. 98 [217:2]. In this respect his position is unique among the earliest preachers of Christianity. While St Peter and St Paul converted disciples and organized congregations, St John alone was the founder of a school. The prolongation of his life after the Church was firmly rooted, and his fixed residence in the midst of a compact Christian society, combined to give a certain definiteness to his personal influence, which would be wanting to the labours of these more strictly missionary preachers. Hence the traditions of St John are more direct, more consistent, and more trustworthy, than those which relate to the other Apostles.
Thus we may, without any great impropriety, speak of the 'school of St John.' The existence of such a body of disciples gathered about the veteran teacher is indicated by notices in various writers. The author of the Muratorian fragment, for instance, speaks of this Apostle as writing his Gospel at the request not only of his fellow-disciples, but also of his 'bishops' [218:1]. Clement of Alexandria again, among whose teachers was one from this very district, and probably of this very school [218:2], represents him as going about from place to place in the neighbourhood of Ephesus, appointing bishops and providing in other ways for the government of the Churches [218:3]. More especially IrenŠus, who had received his earliest lessons in Christianity from an immediate disciple of St John, appeals again and again to such a body as preserving and handing down the correct tradition of the Apostolic doctrine and practice. He describes these persons in one place as 'the elders who in Asia associated with John the disciple of the Lord' [218:4]; in another as 'all the Churches which are in Asia,' specifying more particularly the 'Church in Ephesus ... the true witness of the Apostolic tradition' [218:5]; in a third as 'those who saw John face to face' [218:6], or 'the elders who saw John the disciple of the Lord' [218:7]; in a fourth as 'the elders who were before us, and who also were pupils of the Apostles' [218:8]; in a fifth 'as the elders who have their succession from the Apostles' [218:9]; in a sixth as 'the elders, disciples of the Apostles' [218:10], with similar expressions elsewhere. The prominent members of this school in the first age were Polycarp of Smyrna and Papias of Hierapolis, of whom the former survived beyond the middle of the century, and the latter probably died not many years before. In the next generation the most famous names are Melito of Sardis and Apollinaris of Hierapolis, who flourished in the third quarter of the century. They again are succeeded by other writers, of whom the most celebrated was Polycrates of Ephesus, already an old man, when in the last decade of the century a controversial question obliged him to take up his pen in defence of the traditions of his Church.
Asia Minor appears to have been far in advance of the other Churches of Christendom in literary activity, during the second century. This pre-eminence was due mainly, we may suppose, to the fact already mentioned, that it had become the second home of the Apostles and primitive teachers of Christianity. But the productiveness of the Asiatic Christians in this respect was doubtless stimulated by the pressure of opposition. This region was the hot-bed of heresies and the arena of controversy. Nor is it unimportant to observe that the main subjects of discussion were of such a kind as must necessarily have involved questions intimately connected with the Canon. Montanism, with its doctrine of the Paraclete and its visions of the New Jerusalem, would challenge some expression of opinion respecting the Gospel and the Apocalypse of St John, if these writings were disputed. The Paschal controversy courted investigation into the relations between the narratives of the Synoptists and the Fourth Evangelist. Marcionism, resting as it did on the paramount and sole authority of St Paul's Epistles and of the Pauline Gospel, would not suffer friend or foe to preserve silence on this fundamental question. And so again, though in a less degree, the disputes with Cerinthians, with Ophites, with Basilideans, with Valentinians, with all the various sects of Gnostics, could not have been conducted, as we see plainly from the treatises of IrenŠus and Hippolytus, without constant appeals to the testimony of written documents--thus indicating, at all events roughly, the amount of authority which the writers accorded to the more prominent books of our New Testament Canon. To men like IrenŠus or Eusebius, who had this extensive literature in their hands, the teaching of this Church generally, as well as of the more prominent individual writers belonging to it, could not have been open to question. Their approval of its orthodoxy therefore, either by silent assent or by studied panegyric, is a fact of real moment.
Over and above this relation to the books of the New Testament generally, the two points to which modern controversy directs attention, and which therefore deserve special consideration in any review of the writers belonging to the school of St John, are--_first_, what indications the extant fragments and notices contain, that they recognized or rejected the Fourth Gospel; and _secondly_, what can be learnt from these same sources as to the degree of authority which they accorded to the Apostle of the Gentiles.
Polycarp and Papias have been discussed in my earlier articles [220:1]. In the case of both these fathers, a recognition of the Fourth Gospel has been inferred from the use made of the First Epistle; in the case of the latter, from other indications also. As regards St Paul the testimony of Polycarp is as full and explicit as it well could be; while, on the other hand, the meagre fragments of Papias do not in themselves warrant any inference on this point.
The next extant document in chronological order is the account of Polycarp's martyrdom, written immediately after the occurrence (A.D. 155), and addressed to the Churches of the neighbouring province of Pontus, more especially to the Christians of Philomelium. In this letter the brethren of Smyrna draw a parallel between the sufferings of their martyred friend and the Passion of our Lord, which is suggested by some remarkable coincidences. 'Nearly all the incidents,' we are told at the outset, 'which preceded (his death) came to pass that the Lord might exhibit anew to us a martyrdom after the pattern of the Gospel; for Polycarp remained that he might be betrayed, as did also the Lord' [220:2]. This account is thus the earliest instance of a favourite type of hagiology, which sees the sufferings of Christ visibly reflected and imaged in detail in the servants of Christ, and of which ancient and mediŠval biography furnishes numerous examples. This idea of literal conformity to the life and Passion of Christ runs through the document. Some of the coincidences are really striking; but in other cases the parallelism is highly artificial. The name of the convicting magistrate is Herod, and special stress is naturally laid on this fact [221:1]. The time of the martyrdom is the passover--'the great sabbath,' as it is here called [221:2]. Polycarp's place of refuge is ascertained from information elicited by torture from a youth, apparently a slave in his employ. This poor boy, much more sinned against than sinning, is cruelly compared to Judas; and we are told accordingly that Polycarp, like our Lord, was 'betrayed by them of his own household' [221:3]. When apprehended, he is put upon an ass, and thus taken back to the city [221:4]; and this is of course intended as a parallel to the triumphal entry into Jerusalem. His pursuers come on horse-back and in arms, 'as against a robber' [221:5]. When he is apprehended, he prays, 'The will of God be done' [221:6]; and so forth. These parallels, at the same time that they show the idea dominant in the mind of the narrators, are a valuable testimony to the truth of the narrative itself, where so much violent treatment is necessary to produce the desired effect [221:7].
Most of the incidents have their counterparts in the circumstances of the Passion, as recorded by the Synoptic Evangelists alone or in common with St John. This is natural; for they refer to external events, in which the Synoptic narrative is rich. But there are exceptions, where the writers obviously have the account of the Fourth Evangelist in their mind. Thus we are told that at the crisis of Polycarp's fate a voice came from heaven, saying, 'Be strong, and play the man, Polycarp' [221:8]. 'And the speaker,' it is added, 'no man saw; but the voice those of our company that were present heard.' This corresponds to the voice which St John records as addressing our Lord from heaven, and as imperfectly apprehended by the bystanders [222:1]. Again, Polycarp, in consequence of a vision, predicts that he shall be burnt alive [222:2], though at the time the intention obviously is to throw him to the wild beasts, as the games are going on. A fortuitous circumstance frustrates this intention, and brings about a fulfilment of his prophecy as to the manner of his death [222:3]. Just in the same way in the Fourth Gospel Jesus is represented as 'signifying by what death He should die' [222:4]. Death by crucifixion seemed altogether unlikely at the time, for His enemies were the Jews, and this was not a Jewish mode of punishment; but by an accidental turn of circumstances He was transferred from the Jews to Pilate, and so His prediction was fulfilled [222:5]. Again, it is related that when the fire would not consume the body of the saint, his persecutors 'ordered an executioner to go up to him and thrust a small sword into him. When he had done this,' we are told, 'there came forth [a dove and] a quantity of blood' [222:6]. The parallel to the incident recorded in St John's account of the crucifixion is obvious [222:7]; and just as the Evangelist lays stress on his own presence as an eye-witness of the scene, so also do these hagiologers, when relating a strange occurrence at his martyrdom. 'We saw a great marvel,' they say, 'we to whom it was given to see; and we have been saved that we might relate to the rest what happened' [222:8]. And lastly, as St John emphasizes the fact that everything was accomplished in the death of Jesus [222:9], so also they declare of Polycarp, that 'every word which he uttered out of his mouth hath been and shall be accomplished' [223:1]. To these facts it should be added that the dying prayer of Polycarp contains two coincidences with the phraseology of the Fourth Gospel--'the resurrection of life,' 'the true God' [223:2].
MELITO, bishop of Sardis, flourished soon after the middle of the second century. This fact appears from two of his works, to which we are able to assign an approximate date. His treatise 'On the Paschal Festival,' he himself tells us, was written while Sergius Paulus was proconsul of Asia [223:3]; and the recent investigations of M. Waddington into the fasti of this province have led to the result that this proconsulate should probably be dated about A.D. 164-166 [223:4]. Again we are informed that he addressed his 'Apology' to M. Antoninus (A.D. 161-180) [223:5]. It appears however from an extant fragment, that L. Verus, the colleague of M. Antoninus, was no longer living; for Melito speaks of prayer on behalf of the emperor's son (Commodus), without mentioning his brother and co-emperor (Verus). Now Verus died in the very beginning of the year 169. On the other hand ancient authorities assign the Apology to the year 169 or 170; and, as there is no reason for rejecting their statement, we may suppose that it was written soon after the death of Verus. Probably its date was ascertainable within a year or two from internal evidence. This Apology however is regarded by Eusebius as the latest of Melito's writings [223:6]; and, as the catalogue of his works comprises some twenty treatises at least, his literary activity must have extended over a considerable period of time, so that we shall probably not be far wrong if we place the commencement of his career as an author about the middle of the century. He appears to have died soon after the Apology was written. In the last decade of the century Polycrates mentions him among other worthies of the past who had gone to their rest [224:1]. He was buried at Sardis. From the context it may be inferred that he did not suffer martyrdom, like so many of his famous contemporaries, but died a natural death.
These chronological notices suggest that Melito was born in the early part of the second century, within a very few years after the death of St John. During the greater part of his life at all events, he must have been a contemporary of St John's disciple Polycarp, who was martyred at an advanced age in the year 155 or 156; and likewise of Papias, who had conversed with personal disciples of Christ, and seems also to have survived till towards the middle of the century. As the communications between Sardis on the one hand, and Smyrna and Hierapolis on the other, were easy, a prominent man like Melito, whose religious zeal led him on one occasion to undertake a distant journey to Palestine, would be sure to cultivate the acquaintance of these older teachers, even if circumstances did not throw him directly in their way.
Thus Melito is a significant link of connection with the past. At the same time he holds an equally important position with respect to the succeeding age. It can hardly be doubted that among the Asiatic elders, whose authority IrenŠus invokes so constantly, Melito must have held a prominent place. It may be suspected that he was the very Ionian whom Clement of Alexandria mentions among his earlier teachers [224:2]. It is quite certain that his writings were widely known and appreciated in the generations next succeeding his own. He is quoted or referred to by Polycrates at Ephesus, by Clement and Origen at Alexandria, by Tertullian at Carthage, by Hippolytus at Rome.
I have already mentioned that he was a very voluminous writer. Eusebius gives a catalogue of his works, which however he does not profess to be complete. The historian's knowledge was obviously limited by the contents of the library which his friend Pamphilus had gathered together at CŠsarea. The titles of these works are as follows:--_On the Paschal Festival_ (two treatises) [225:1], _On the Life of the Prophets_, _On the Church_, _On the Lord's Day_, _On the Nature of Man_, _On Creation_, _On the Obedience of Faith and on the Senses_, _On the Soul and Body [and Mind]_, _On Baptism_, _On Truth_, _On the Creation and Generation of Christ_, _On Prophecy_, _On Hospitality_, _The Key_, _On the Devil and on the Apocalypse of John_, _On a Corporeal Deity_, _An Apology to Antonius_, _Selections from the Law and the Prophets_ [225:2]. Besides these works here enumerated, other writings of Melito axe quoted elsewhere under the titles, _On the Incarnation of Christ_, _On the Passion_, _On the Cross_, _On the Faith_ [225:3], though some of these may perhaps represent the same works to which Eusebius refers under other names. Comprising this wide range of subjects, doctrinal, exegetical, practical, and controversial, the works of Melito must have furnished the next succeeding generations with ample data for determining his exact theological position. To them it must have been clear, for instance, whether he did or did not accept the Gospel of St John or the Epistles of St Paul. It was hardly possible for him to write on the Paschal question without indicating his views on the Fourth Gospel. It is almost inconceivable that he should have composed a controversial treatise against Marcion without declaring himself respecting the Apostle of the Gentiles. The few meagre fragments which have come down to us supply only incidental notices and resemblances, from which we are left to draw our own inferences; but where we grope in the twilight, they were walking in the broad noonday.
Eusebius has happily preserved Melito's preface to his _Selections_, which is of considerable interest. The work itself comprised passages from the Law and the Prophets relating to the Saviour and to the Christian faith generally ([Greek: peri tou S˘tŕros kai pasŕs tŕs piste˘s hŕm˘n]), arranged in six books. It seems to have been accompanied with explanatory comments bringing out the prophetical import of the several passages, as Melito understood them. In the preface, addressed to his friend Onesimus, at whose instance the work had been undertaken, he relates that having made a journey to the East and visited the actual scenes of the Gospel history, he informed himself respecting the books of the Old Testament, of which he appends a list. The language which he uses is significant from its emphasis. He writes that his friend had 'desired to be accurately informed about the _old_ books' ([Greek: mathein tŕn t˘n palai˘n bibli˘n eboulŕthŕs akribeian]). He adds that he himself during his Eastern tour had 'obtained accurate information respecting the books of the _Old_ Testament ([Greek: akrib˘s math˘n ta tŕs palaias diathŕkŕs biblia]).' From these expressions Dr Westcott argues that Melito must have been acquainted with a corresponding Christian literature, which he regarded as the books of the New Testament. To any such inference the author of _Supernatural Religion_ demurs [226:1], and he devotes several pages to proving (what nobody denies) that the expressions 'Old Testament,' 'New Testament,' did not originally refer to a written literature at all, and need not so refer here. All this is beside the purpose, and betrays an entire misunderstanding of the writer whom he ventures to criticize. The contention is not that the expression 'Old Testament' here in itself signifies a collection of books, and therefore implies another collection called the 'New Testament,' but that the emphatic and reiterated mention of an _old_ Biblical _literature_ points naturally to the existence of a _new_. To any one who is accustomed to weigh the force of Greek sentences, as determined by the order of the words, this implied contrast must, I think, make itself felt. It is impossible to read the clauses, having regard to the genius of the language, without throwing a strong emphasis on the recurrent word _old_, which I have therefore italicized, as the only way of reproducing the same effect for the English reader. Dr Westcott therefore is perfectly justified in maintaining that the expression naturally implies a recognized New Testament literature.
And if this reference is suggested by strict principles of exegesis, it alone is consonant with historical probability. It is a fact that half a century, or even more, before Melito wrote, the author of the epistle bearing the name of Barnabas quotes as 'Scripture' a passage found in St Matthew's Gospel, and not known to have existed elsewhere [227:1]. It is a fact that about that same time, or earlier, Polycarp wrote a letter which is saturated with the thoughts and language of the Apostolic Epistles [227:2]. It is a fact that some twenty or thirty years before Melito, Justin Martyr speaks of certain Gospels (whether our Canonical Gospels or not, it is unnecessary for my present purpose to inquire) as being read together with the writings of the prophets at the religious services of the Christians on Sundays, and taken afterwards as the subject of exhortation and comment by the preacher [227:3]. It is a fact that about the same time when Justin records this as the habitual practice of the Church, the heretic Marcion, himself a native of Asia Minor, constructed a Canon for himself by selecting from and mutilating the Apostolic and Evangelical writings which he found in circulation. It is a fact that Dionysius of Corinth, a contemporary of Melito, speaks of certain writings as 'the Scriptures of the Lord,' or 'the Dominical Scriptures.' and denounces those who tamper with them [228:1]. It is a fact that IrenŠus, who had received his early education in Asia Minor, writing within some ten or twenty years after the death of Melito, quotes the Four Gospels, the Acts of the Apostles, the great majority of the Apostolic Epistles, and the Apocalypse, as Scripture, declaring more especially of the Four Gospels, that they had been received by the Churches from the beginning, and treating all these writings alike with the same deference which they have received from subsequent generations of Christians ever since. The inference from these facts (and they do not stand alone) is obvious. If Melito knew nothing about books of the New Testament, he must have been the only bishop of the Church from the banks of the Euphrates to the pillars of Hercules, who remained in this state of dense ignorance--Melito, who could refer to the Hebrew and the Syriac while interpreting a passage of Genesis, and who made careful inquiries respecting the Canon of the Old Testament Scriptures in the very land where those Scriptures had their birth.
The extant fragments attributed to Melito are meagre and scattered [228:2]; but, supposing them to be genuine, they afford ample evidence of the theological views of this father, while indirectly they indicate his general relation to the Canon in a way which can hardly be mistaken. The genuineness of many of these fragments however has been seriously questioned. In one or two instances the grounds of hesitation deserve every consideration; but in the majority of cases the objections must be set aside as groundless. Thus it is sought to throw discredit on all those writings which are not named by Eusebius. The author of _Supernatural Religion_, for instance, says that 'Eusebius gives what he evidently considers a complete list of the works of Melito' [228:3]. On the contrary, Eusebius carefully guards himself against any such interpretation of his words. He merely professes to give a list of 'those works which have come to his own knowledge.' Obviously he either suspects or knows that there are other writings of Melito in circulation, of which he can give no account. Again, other fragments have been discredited, because they contain false sentiments or foolish interpretations, which are considered unworthy of a father in the second century. I cannot think that this is any argument at all; and I may confidently assume that the author of _Supernatural Religion_ will agree with me here. There is much that is foolish in Papias, in Justin Martyr, in IrenŠus, in Tertullian, even in Clement of Alexandria, and Origen. Only it is frequently mixed up with the highest wisdom, which more than redeems it. Again others (and among these our author) would throw doubt on the genuineness of the Greek and Syriac fragments which were certainly in circulation some six centuries before, because some mediŠval Latin writers attach the name of Melito to forgeries or to anonymous writings, such as the _Clavis_, the _Passing away of the Blessed Virgin Mary_, and the _Passion of St John_ [229:1]. A moment's reflection will show that the two classes of writings must be considered quite apart. When these groundless objections are set aside, the great majority of the Greek and Syriac fragments remain untouched. Otto, the most recent editor of Melito, takes a sensible view on the whole. I do not agree with him on some minor points, but I am quite content to take the fragments which he accepts, as representing the genuine Melito; and I refer those of my readers, who are really desirous to know what this ancient father taught and how he wrote, to this editor's collection.
We have fortunately the evidence of two writers, who lived in the next age to Melito, and therefore before any spurious works could have been in circulation--the one to his style, the other to his theology. On the former point our authority is Tertullian, who in a work now lost spoke of the 'elegans et declamatorium ingenium' of Melito [229:2]; on the latter, a writer quoted anonymously by Eusebius but now identified with Hippolytus, who exclaims, 'Who is ignorant of the books of IrenŠus and Melito and the rest, which declare Christ to be God and man' [230:1]. The fragments, and more especially the Syriac fragments, accord fully with both these descriptions. They are highly rhetorical, and their superior elegance of language (compared with other Christian writings of the same age) is apparent even through the medium of a Syriac version. They also emphasize the two natures of Christ in many a pointed antithesis.
Of the Greek fragments, not mentioned by Eusebius, the following quoted by Anastasius of Sinai as from the third book on the Incarnation of Christ [230:2] is important in its bearing on our subject:--
The things done by Christ after the baptism, and especially the miracles (signs), showed his Godhead concealed in the flesh, and assured the world of it. For being perfect God, and perfect man at the same time, He assured us of His two essences ([Greek: ousias])--of His Godhead by miracles in the three years after His baptism, and of His manhood in the thirty seasons ([Greek: chronois]) before His baptism, during which, owing to his immaturity as regards the flesh ([Greek: dia to ateles to kata sarka]), He concealed the signs of His Godhead, although He was true God from eternity ([Greek: kaiper Theos alŕthŕs proai˘nios huparch˘n]).
The genuineness of this fragment has been impugned, partly on the general considerations which have been already discussed, partly on special grounds. It has been said, for instance, that Anastasius must here be reproducing the general substance, and not the exact words, of Melito's statement; but he at all events gives it as a direct quotation. It has been urged again, that linguistic reasons condemn this fragment, since the use of 'seasons' or 'times' for 'years' betrays a later age; but abundant instances of the use are found in earlier writers, even if so very natural a device for avoiding the repetition of the same word ([Greek: etos]) needed any support at all. It has been suggested that there may possibly be some confusion between Melito and Meletius. But the work from which this passage comes is distinctly stated by Anastasius to have been written against Marcion, who by his docetism attacked the true humanity of Christ. Now Melito lived in the very thick of the Marcionite controversy, and must have taken his part in it. On the other hand, Meletius, who held the see of Antioch in the latter part of the fourth century, was one of the principal figures in the Arian controversy and, as such, far too intimately involved in the questions of his own day to think of writing an elaborate work on a subject so comparatively dead as the docetism of Marcion. Moreover, there is no instance in any Greek writer, so far as I have observed, of a confusion between the names Melito and Meletius. Again it is suggested that the Christological views of the writer are too definite for the age of Melito, and point to a later date; but to this the distinct statement of Hippolytus respecting Melito's opinions, which has been already quoted, is a complete answer; and indeed the Ignatian Epistles, which (even if their genuineness should not be accepted) cannot reasonably be placed later than the age of Melito, are equally precise in their doctrinal statements.
But if this be a genuine fragment, the inference is obvious. The author of _Supernatural Religion_ will no doubt be ready here, as elsewhere, to postulate any number of unknown apocryphal Gospels which shall supply the facts thus assumed by Melito. The convenience of drawing unlimited cheques on the bank of the unknown is obvious. But most readers will find themselves unable to resist the inference, that for the thirty years of our Lord's silence this father is indebted to a familiar passage in St Luke [231:1], while, in fixing three years as the duration of His ministry, he is thinking of the three Passovers mentioned by St John.
Of the other fragments ascribed to Melito one deserves to be quoted, not only because the author has made it the subject of some criticisms, but because it exhibits in a concentrated form Melito's views of evangelical history and doctrine [232:1].
We have made collections from the Law and the Prophets relating to those things which are declared concerning our Lord Jesus Christ, that we might prove to your love that He is the perfect Reason, the Word of God: who was begotten before the light, who was Creator together with the Father, who was the fashioner of man, who was all things in all, who among the patriarchs was Patriarch, who in the law was Law, among the priests Chief-priest, among the kings Governor, among the prophets Prophet, among the angels Archangel, and among voices [232:2] the Word, among spirits the Spirit, in the Father the Son, in God God, the King for ever and ever. For this is He who was pilot to Noah, who conducted Abraham, who was bound with Isaac, who was in exile with Jacob, who was sold with Joseph, who was captain with Moses, who was divider of the inheritance with Joshua the son of Nun, who foretold His own sufferings in David and the prophets, who was incarnate in the Virgin, who was born at Bethlehem, who was wrapped in swaddling clothes in the manger, who was seen of the shepherds, who was glorified of the Angels, who was worshipped by the Magi, who was pointed out by John, who gathered together the Apostles, who preached the Kingdom, who healed the maimed, who gave light to the blind, who raised the dead, who appeared in the temple, who was not believed on by the people, who was betrayed by Judas, who was laid hold on by the priests, who was condemned by Pilate, who was transfixed in the flesh, who was hanged on the tree, who was buried in the earth, who rose from the dead, who appeared to the Apostles, who ascended into heaven, who sitteth on the right hand of the Father, who is the rest of those that are departed, the recoverer of those that are lost, the light of those that are in darkness, the deliverer of those that are captives, the guide of those that have gone astray, the refuge of the afflicted, the Bridegroom of the Church, the Charioteer of the Cherubim, the Captain of the Angels, God who is of God, the Son who is of the Father, Jesus Christ, the King for ever and ever. Amen.
This fragment is not in any way exceptional. The references to evangelical history, the modes of expression, the statements of doctrine, all have close parallels scattered through the other fragments ascribed to Melito. Indeed it is the remarkable resemblance of these fragments to each other in thought and diction (with one or two exceptions), though gathered together from writers of various ages, in Greek and in Syriac, which is a strong argument for their genuineness. But the special value of this particular passage is that it gathers into a focus the facts of the evangelical history, on which the faith of Melito rested.
And I do not think it can be reasonably doubted whence these facts are derived. The author of _Supernatural Religion_ of course suggests some unknown apocryphal Gospel. But this summary will strike most readers as wonderfully like what a writer might be expected to make who recognized our four canonical Gospels as the sources of evangelical truth. And, when they remember that within a very few years (some twenty at most) IrenŠus, who was then a man past middle life, who had intimate relations with the region in which Melito lived, and who appeals again and again to the Asiatic Elders as his chief authorities for the traditional doctrine and practice, declares in perfect good faith that the Church had received these four, and these only, from the beginning, it will probably seem to them irrational to look elsewhere, when the solution is so very obvious.
But the author of _Supernatural Religion_ writes that this fragment taken from a treatise _On Faith_, together with another which purports to be a work on the _Soul and Body_, though these two works 'are mentioned by Eusebius,' must nevertheless 'for every reason be pronounced spurious' [233:1]. Let us see what these reasons are.
1. He writes first:
They have in fact no attestation whatever except that of the Syriac translation, which is unknown, and which therefore is worthless.
The fact is that in a very vast number of literary remains, classical and ecclesiastical, whether excerpts or entire works, we are entirely dependent on the scribe for their authentication. Human experience has shown that such authentication is generally trustworthy, and hence it is accepted. In forty-nine cases out of fifty, or probably more, it is found to be satisfactory, and _Ó priori_ probabilities are very strongly against the assumption that any particular case is this fiftieth exception. If there is substantial ground for suspicion, the suspicion has its weight, but not otherwise. A man who would act on any other principle is as unreasonable as a visitor to London, who refuses to believe or trust any one there, because the place is known to harbour thieves and liars.
2. We come therefore to the positive grounds of our author's suspicions, and here he tells us that--
The whole style and thought of the fragments are unlike anything else of Melito's time, and clearly indicate a later stage of theological development.
It is to be regretted that he has not explained himself more fully on this point. I have already pointed out that the theology and the style of these fragments generally are exactly what the notices of Hippolytus and Tertullian would lead us to expect in Melito. And this is especially true of the passage under consideration. What the 'later stage of theological development' indicated may be, I am unable to say. On the contrary, the leading conception of this passage, which sees all theology through the medium of the Logos, and therefore identifies all the theophanies in the Old Testament with the Person of Christ, though it lingers on through the succeeding ages, is essentially characteristic of the second century. The apologists generally exhibit this phenomenon; but in none is it more persistent than in Justin Martyr, who wrote a quarter of a century before Melito. Even the manner in which the conception is worked out by Melito has striking parallels in Justin. Thus Justin states that this Divine Power, who was begotten by God before all creation, is called sometimes 'the glory of the Lord, sometimes Son, sometimes Wisdom, sometimes God, sometimes Lord and Word, while sometimes He calls Himself Chief-captain ([Greek: archistratŕgos]), appearing in the form of man to Joshua the son of Nun ([Greek: t˘ tou Nauŕ Iŕsou])' [235:1]. Elsewhere he states that Christ is 'King and Priest and God and Lord and Angel and Man and Chief-captain and Stone,' etc., and he undertakes to show this 'from all the Scriptures' [235:2]. And again, in a third passage he says that the same Person, who is called Son of God in the memoirs of the Apostles, went forth from the Father before all created things through His power and counsel,' being designated 'Wisdom and Day and Orient and Sword and Stone and Staff and Jacob and Israel, now in one way, and now in another, in the sayings of the prophets,' and that 'He became man through the Virgin' [235:3]. Nor do these passages stand alone. This same conception pervades the whole of Justin's _Dialogue_, and through it all the phenomena of the Old Testament are explained.
Only on one point has our author thought fit to make a definite statement. 'It is worthy of remark,' he writes, 'that the Virgin is introduced into all these fragments [the five Syriac fragments which he has mentioned just before] in a manner quite foreign to the period at which Melito lived.' What can this mean? In the passage before us the only allusion to the subject is in the words 'incarnate in the Virgin' (or 'a virgin'); and the references in the other fragments are of the same kind. It is difficult to see how any one, recognizing the statements of the Synoptic Gospels, could pass over the mention of the Virgin more lightly. Here again, if he will turn to Justin Martyr, he will find a far fuller and more emphatic reference [236:1].
3. But our author states also:
In the Mechitarist Library at Venice there is a shorter version of the same passage in a Syriac MS, and an Armenian version of the extract as given above, in both of which the passage is distinctly ascribed to IrenŠus.
This is a fact of some importance, to which he has rightly directed attention. It would have been well if he had been a little more accurate in his statement. The extract in the Armenian version (of which the shorter Syriac form is obviously an abridgment), though mainly the same as our passage, begins in quite a different way. While Melito commences, 'We have made collections from the Law and the Prophets relating to those things which are declared concerning our Lord Jesus Christ,' etc., as quoted above, the Armenian extract, ascribed to IrenŠus, runs thus: 'The Law and the Prophets and the Evangelists have declared that Christ was born of a virgin and suffered on the cross, and that he was raised from the dead, and ascended into heaven, and was glorified and reigneth for ever. The same is called the perfect Reason, the Word of God,' etc. [236:2]. Now it is obvious from a comparison of these two openings, that in the former, ascribed to Melito, we have the passage in its original setting, whereas in the latter, ascribed to IrenŠus, it has been altered to suit some other context or to explain itself independently. The reference to the author and the occasion of writing is omitted, while the 'Evangelists' are introduced by the side of 'the Law and the Prophets' for the sake of completeness. Melito, as we happen to know, did make such a collection of extracts from the Law and the Prophets as is here mentioned, and for the very purpose which is here stated; and the correspondence of language in this opening passage with the dedication of his collection to Onesimus, referred to above, is sufficiently striking. To Melito therefore evidence, internal and external alike, requires us to ascribe the passage. But, if so, how came the name of IrenŠus to be attached to it? Was this mere accident? I think not. Nothing would be more natural than that IrenŠus should introduce a passage of Melito, as a famous Asiatic elder, either anonymously or otherwise, into one of his own writings. I have already had occasion to refer to the free use which the early fathers made of their predecessors, frequently without any acknowledgement [237:1]. In this particular case, IrenŠus may or may not have acknowledged his obligation. I venture to think that this solution of the double ascription will appear not only plausible, but probable, when I mention another fact. In a second Armenian extract I find a passage headed, 'The saying of IrenŠus' [237:2]. I turn to the passage, and I find that it contains not the words of IrenŠus himself, but of Papias quoted by IrenŠus. In the Armenian extract the name of the original author has entirely disappeared, though in this case IrenŠus directly mentions Papias as his authority.
The attitude of Melito towards the Apostle of the Gentiles appears clearly enough from the title of one of his works, 'On the Obedience of Faith,' which is a characteristic expression of St Paul [237:3], and also from occasional coincidences of language, such as 'putting on the form of a servant' [237:4].
CLAUDIUS APOLLINARIS, bishop of Hierapolis, was a contemporary of Melito, but apparently a younger man, though only by a very few years. His date is fixed approximately by the extant notices. He addressed an Apology to the Emperor M. Aurelius, who reigned from A.D. 161-180; and as in this work he mentioned the incident of the so-called Thundering Legion, which happened between A.D. 172-174, it cannot have been written before that date [238:1]. At the same time there are some reasons, though not conclusive, for thinking that it should not be placed much later [238:2]. On the other hand, when Serapion writes towards the close of the century, he speaks of Apollinaris as no longer living; and judging from the language used, we may infer that his death had not been very recent [238:3].
Like Melito, he was a voluminous writer. Eusebius indeed only gives the titles of four works by this father, the _Apology_ (already mentioned), _Against the Greeks_ (five treatises or books), _On Truth_ (two books), _Against the Jews_ (two books), besides referring to certain writings _Against the Montanists_ [Greek: kata tŕs Phrug˘n hairese˘s], which he places later than the others. But he is careful to say that his list comprises only those works which he had seen, and that many others were extant in different quarters [238:4]. Photius mentions reading three works only by this father, of which one, the treatise _On Godliness_, is not in Eusebius' list; but he too adds, 'Other writings of this author also are said to be notable, but I have not hitherto met with them' [238:5]. Besides these, the author of the Paschal Chronicle quotes from a treatise of Apollinaris _On the Paschal Festival_ [238:6], and Theodoret speaks of his writing against the Severians or Encratites [238:7]. As in the case of Melito, the character and variety of his works, so long as they were extant, must have afforded ample material for a judgment on his theological views. More especially his writings against the Montanists and on the Paschal Festival would indicate his relations to the Canonical books of the New Testament. His orthodoxy is attested by Serapion, by Eusebius, by Jerome, by Theodoret, by Socrates, and by Photius [239:1], from different points of view.
Besides a reference in Eusebius to his Apology, which hardly deserves the name of a quotation, only two short extracts remain of these voluminous writings. They are taken from the work on the Paschal Festival, and are preserved, as I have already stated, in the _Paschal Chronicle_.
The first runs as follows:--
There are persons who from ignorance dispute about these questions, acting in a way that is pardonable; for ignorance is no proper subject for blame, but needs instruction. And they say that on the fourteenth the Lord ate the lamb ([Greek: to probaton]) with His disciples, but Himself suffered on the great day of unleavened bread, and they affirm that Matthew represents it so, as they interpret him. Thus their interpretation is out of harmony with the law ([Greek: asumph˘nos nom˘]), and on their showing the Gospels seem to be at variance with one another ([Greek: stasiazein dokei kat' autous ta euangelia]).
The second fragment is taken from the same book, and apparently from the same context.
The fourteenth was the true passover of the Lord, the great sacrifice, the Son of God substituted for the lamb, the same that was bound and Himself bound the strong man, that was judged being judge of the quick and dead, and that was delivered into the hands of sinners to be crucified; the same that was lifted on the horns of the unicorn, and that was pierced in His holy side; the same that poured forth again the two purifying elements, water and blood, word and spirit, and that was buried on the day of the passover, the stone being laid against His sepulchre.
If the publication of this work was suggested by Melito's treatise on the same subject, as seems probable, it must have been written about A.D. 164-166, or soon after. The references to the Gospels are obvious. In the first extract Apollinaris has in view the difficulty of reconciling the chronology of the Paschal week as given by St John with the narratives of the Synoptic Evangelists; and he asserts that the date fixed for the Passion by some persons (the 15th instead of 14th) can only be maintained at the expense of a discrepancy between the two accounts; whereas, if the 14th be taken, the two accounts are reconcilable. At the same time he urges that their view is not in harmony with the law, since the paschal lamb, the type, was slain on the 14th, and therefore it follows that Christ, the antitype, must have been crucified on the same day. I am not concerned here with the question whether Apollinaris or his opponents were right. The point to be noticed is that he speaks of 'the Gospels' (under which term he includes at least St Matthew and St John) as any one would speak of received documents to which the ultimate appeal lies. His language in this respect is such as might be used by a writer in the fourth century, or in the nineteenth, who was led by circumstances to notice a difficulty in harmonizing the accounts of the Evangelists. The second extract bears out the impression left by the first. The incident of the water and the blood is taken from the Fourth Gospel; but a theological interpretation is forced upon it which cannot have been intended by the Evangelist. Some time must have elapsed before the narrative could well be made the subject of a speculative comment like this. Thus both extracts alike suggest that the Fourth Gospel was already a time-honoured book when they were written.
But the author of _Supernatural Religion_ meets the inference by denying the genuineness of the extracts. I hardly think, however, that he can have seen what havoc he was making in his own ranks by this movement. He elsewhere asserts very decidedly (without however giving reasons) that the Quartodeciman controversy turned on the point whether the 14th Nisan was the day of the Last Supper or the day of the Crucifixion, the Quartodecimans maintaining the former [240:1]. In other words, he believes that it was the anniversary, not of the Passion, but of the Last Supper, which the Quartodecimans kept so scrupulously on the 14th, and that therefore, as they pleaded the authority of St John for their practice, the Fourth Gospel cannot have been written by this Apostle, since it represents the Passion as taking place on the 14th. As I have before intimated, this view of the Paschal dispute seems to me to be altogether opposed to the general tenor of the evidence. But it depends, for such force or plausibility as it has, almost solely on these fragments from ancient writers quoted in the _Paschal Chronicle_, of which the extracts from Apollinaris are the most important. If therefore he refuses to accept the testimony of the _Paschal Chronicle_ to their authorship, he undermines the very foundation on which his theory rests.
On this inconsistency however I need not dwell. The authorship of these extracts was indeed questioned by some earlier writers [241:1], but on entirely mistaken grounds; and at the present time the consensus among critics of the most opposite schools is all but universal. 'On the genuineness of these fragments, which Neander questioned, there is now no more dispute, writes Scholten [242:1]. Our author however is far too persistent to let them pass. Their veracity has once been questioned, and therefore they shall never again be suffered to enter the witness-box.
It may be presumed that he has alleged those arguments against their genuineness which seemed to him to be the strongest, and I will therefore consider his objections. They are twofold.
1. He urges that the external testimony to their authorship is defective. His reasoning is as follows [242:2]:--
Eusebius was acquainted with the work of Melito on the Passion, and quotes it, which must have referred to his contemporary and antagonist, Apollinaris, had he written such a work as this fragment denotes. Not only, however, does Eusebius know nothing of his having composed such a work, but neither do Theodoret, Jerome, Photius, nor other writers, who enumerate other of his works; nor is he mentioned in any way by Clement of Alexandria, IrenŠus, nor by any of those who took part in the great controversy.
Here is a tissue of fallacies and assumptions. In the first place, it is a _petitio principii_, as will be seen presently, that Apollinaris was an antagonist of Melito. Even, if this were so, there is not the smallest evidence, nor any probability, that Apollinaris would have written before Melito, so that the latter could have quoted him. How, again, has our author learnt that Eusebius 'knows nothing of his having composed such a work'? It is certain, indeed, that Eusebius had not seen the work when he composed his list of the writings of Apollinaris; but it nowhere appears that he was unaware of its existence. The very language in which he disclaims any pretension of giving a complete list seems to imply that he had observed other books quoted in other writers, which he had not read or seen himself. Theodoret does not 'enumerate other of his works,' as the looseness of the English would suggest to the reader. He only mentions incidentally, when describing the sects of the Severians and Montanists respectively, that Apollinaris had written against them [243:1]. There is not the smallest reason why he should have gone out of his way in either passage to speak of the work on the Paschal Festival, supposing him to have known of it. And if not, where else does our author find in Theodoret any notice which can be made to yield the inference that he was unacquainted with this treatise? Nor again does Jerome, in the passage to which our author refers in his note [243:2], allude to a single work by this writer, but simply mentions him by name among those versed in profane as well as sacred literature. Elsewhere indeed he does give a catalogue of Apollinaris' writings [243:3], but there he simply copies Eusebius. With regard to Photius again, the statement, though not so directly inaccurate, is altogether misleading. Photius simply mentions three works of Apollinaris, which he read during his embassy, but he does not profess to give a list; and he says distinctly that there were other famous works by the same author which he had not seen. Who the 'other writers' may be, who 'enumerate other of his works,' I am altogether at a loss to imagine. But the last sentence, 'Nor is he mentioned in any way by Clement of Alexandria, IrenŠus, etc.,' is the most calculated to mislead the reader. Of the treatise of Clement on the Paschal Festival only two short fragments are preserved. He does not mention any person in these, nor could he have done so without going out of his way. For the rest, Clement is reported by Eusebius to have stated in his work that he was prompted to write it by Melito's treatise on the same subject [243:4]. Eusebius is there discussing Melito, and any mention of Apollinaris would have been quite out of place. What ground is there then for the assumption that Clement did not mention Apollinaris, because Eusebius has not recorded the fact? When at a later point Eusebius comes to speak of Clement, he says of this father that in the treatise of which we are speaking he 'mentions Melito and IrenŠus and _certain others_, whose explanations also he has given' [244:1]. Why may not Apollinaris have been included among these 'certain others' whom Clement quoted? The same fallacy underlies our author's reference to IrenŠus. The work of IrenŠus is lost. Eusebius, it is true, preserves some very meagre fragments [244:2]; but in these not a single writer on either side in the Quartodeciman controversy is mentioned, not even Melito. IrenŠus may have quoted Apollinaris by name in this lost treatise, just as he quotes Papias by name in his extant work on heresies, where nevertheless Eusebius does not care to record the fact. All this assumed silence of writers whose works are lost is absolutely valueless against the direct and explicit testimony of the _Paschal Chronicle_.
2. But secondly; our author considers that the contents of these fragments are inconsistent with their attribution to Apollinaris. His argument is instructive [244:3].
It is stated that all the Churches of Asia, including some of the most distinguished members of the Church, such as Polycarp, and his own contemporary Melito, celebrated the Christian festival on the 14th Nisan, the practice almost universal, therefore, in the country in which Claudius Apollinaris is supposed to write this fragment. How is it possible, therefore, that this isolated convert to the views of Victor and the Roman Church could write of so vast and distinguished a majority as 'some who through ignorance raised contentions' on this point, when notably all the Asiatic Churches at that time were agreed to keep the fourteenth of Nisan, and in doing so raised no new contention at all, but, as Polycrates represented, followed the tradition handed down to them from their fathers, and authorized by the practice of the Apostle John himself?
with more to the same effect.
I will hand over this difficulty to those who share our author's views on the point at issue in the Quartodeciman controversy. Certainly I cannot suggest any satisfactory mode of escape from the dilemma which is here put. But what, if the writer of these fragments was not an 'isolated convert to the views of Victor,' but a Quartodeciman himself? What, if the Quartodecimans kept the 14th, not as the commemoration of the last Supper, but of the Passion, so that Melito himself would have heartily assented to the criticisms in these fragments? [245:1] This is the obvious view suggested by the account of the controversy in Eusebius, and in IrenŠus as quoted by Eusebius; and it gains confirmation from these fragments of Apollinaris. It seems to me highly improbable that Apollinaris should have been an exception to the practice of the Asiatic Churches. So far I agree with our author. But this is a reason for questioning the soundness of his own views on the Quartodeciman controversy, rather than for disputing the genuineness of the fragments attributed to Apollinaris.
After this account of Melito and Apollinaris, the two chief representatives of the later school of St John, it will be worth while to call attention to a statement of IrenŠus in which he professes to record the opinion of the Asiatic elders on a point intimately affecting the credibility of the Fourth Gospel, the chronology of our Lord's life and ministry [245:2].
The Valentinians, against whom this father is arguing, sought for analogies to the thirty Šons of their pleroma, or supra-sensual world, in the Gospel history. Among other examples they alleged the thirty years' duration of our Lord's life. This computation of the Gospel chronology they derived from the notices in St Luke as interpreted by themselves. At the commencement of His ministry, so they maintained, He had completed His twenty-ninth and was entering upon His thirtieth year, and His ministry itself did not extend beyond a twelve-month, 'the acceptable _year_ of the Lord' foretold by the prophet. IrenŠus expresses his astonishment that persons professing to understand the deep things of God should have overlooked the commonest facts of the evangelical narrative, and points to the three passovers recorded in St John's Gospel during the term of our Lord's ministry. Independently of the chronology of the Fourth Gospel, IrenŠus has an _Ó priori_ reason of his own, why the Saviour must have lived more than thirty years. He came to sanctify every period of life--infancy, childhood, youth, declining age. It was therefore necessary that He should have passed the turn of middle life. From thirty to forty, he argues, a man is still reckoned young (_juvenis_).
But from his fortieth and fiftieth year he is already declining into older age, which was the case with our Lord when he taught, as the Gospel and all the elders who associated with John the disciple of the Lord in Asia testify that John delivered this account. For he remained with them till the times of Trajan. But some of them saw not only John, but other Apostles also, and heard these same things from their lips, and bear testimony to such an account.
IrenŠus then goes on to argue that the same may be inferred from the language of our Lord's Jewish opponents, who asked: 'Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham?' This, he maintains, could not properly be said of one who was only thirty years of age, and must imply that the person so addressed had passed his fortieth year at least, and probably that he was not far off his fiftieth.
On this passage it must be remarked that the Valentinian chronology was derived from a _prima facie_ interpretation of the Synoptic narrative; whereas the Asiatic reckoning, which IrenŠus maintains, was, or might well have been, founded on the Fourth Gospel, but could not possibly have been elicited from the first three Gospels independently of the fourth.
On this question generally I have spoken already in a former paper [247:1]. Though it seems probable that our Lord's ministry was confined to three years, yet there is not a single notice in any of the four Gospels inconsistent with the hypothesis that it extended over a much longer period, and that He was some forty years old at all events at the time of the Passion. The Synoptic narratives say absolutely nothing about the interval which elapsed between the Baptism and the Passion. St John mentions three passovers, but he nowhere intimates that he has given an exhaustive list of these festivals. The account of IrenŠus therefore is not so unreasonable after all; and we need not have hesitated to accept it, if there had been any definite grounds for doing so.
It will be seen however, that IrenŠus, while maintaining that our Lord was forty years old, grounds his opinion mainly on a false inference from John viii. 57. At the same time he adduces the testimony of the Gospel and 'all the elders,' not for this particular view of our Lord's age, but for the more general statement that He was past middle life; and this vagueness of language suggests that, though their testimony was distinctly on his side as against the Valentinians, it did not go beyond this. It is very far from improbable indeed, that he borrowed this very interpretation of John viii. 57 from one of these Asiatic elders, just as we have seen him [247:2] elsewhere borrowing an interpretation of another passage of this Gospel (xiv. 2) from the same source. But, as he has here forced the testimony of the Fourth Gospel to say more than it really does say, so also he may have strained the testimony of 'all the elders' in the same direction. Yet the broad fact remains that he confidently appeals to them in support of a chronology suggested by the Fourth Gospel, but certainly not deducible from the Synoptic narratives.
And the extant remains of this school support the appeal so qualified. We have seen that its two most famous authors, Melito and Apollinaris, distinctly follow the chronology of the Fourth Evangelist, the one in the duration of the Lord's ministry, the other in the events of the Paschal week [248:1].
Of the special references to these fathers of the Asiatic Church, which appear elsewhere in IrenŠus, it is sufficient to say that in one instance an elder is represented as quoting a saying of our Lord contained only in the Gospel of St John [248:2] while the words ascribed to another are most probably suggested by the language of the same Evangelist [248:3]. This latter elder, whose speculations are given at great length, also introduces two direct quotations from St Paul's Epistles, and treats the Apostle's authority throughout as beyond dispute [248:4].
The last father of the Asiatic school, whom it will be necessary to mention, is POLYCRATES, bishop of Ephesus. When Victor of Rome in the closing years of the second century attempted to force the Western usage with respect to Easter on the Asiatic Christians, Polycrates wrote to remonstrate. The letter is unhappily lost, but a valuable extract is preserved by Eusebius [248:5]. In this the writer claims to speak authoritatively on the subject of dispute, owing to the special opportunities which he had enjoyed. He states that he had received the observance of the 14th by tradition from his relations, of whom seven had been bishops; he says that he had conferred with the brethren from all parts of the world; and he adds that he had 'gone through every holy scripture.' When we remember the question at issue, and recall the language of Apollinaris respecting the Gospels, in writing on the same subject, we see what is implied in this last sentence. The extract, which is short, contains only two references to the writings of the New Testament. The one is to the Fourth Gospel; St John is described in the very words of this Gospel, as 'he that leaned on the bosom of the Lord' ([Greek: ho epi to stŕthos tou Kuriou anapes˘n]) [249:1]. The other is to a book of the Pauline cycle, the Acts of the Apostles; 'They that are greater than I,' writes Polycrates, 'have said, _We must obey God rather than men_' [249:2].
We have now reached the close of the second century, and it is not necessary to pursue the history of the School of St John in their Asiatic home beyond this point. But in the meantime a large and flourishing colony had been established in the cities of southern Gaul, and no account of the traditions of the school would be adequate which failed to take notice of this colony. This part of the subject however must be left for a subsequent paper. Meanwhile the inferences from the notices passed under review cannot, I think, be doubtful. Out of a very extensive literature, by which this school was once represented, the extant remains are miserably few and fragmentary; but the evidence yielded by these meagre relies is decidedly greater, in proportion to their extent, than we had any right to expect. As regards the Fourth Gospel, this is especially the case. If the same amount of written matter--occupying a very few pages in all--were extracted accidentally from the current theological literature of our own day, the chances, unless I am mistaken, would be strongly against our finding so many indications of the use of this Gospel. In every one of the writers, from Polycarp and Papias to Polycrates, we have observed phenomena which bear witness directly or indirectly, and with different degrees of distinctness, to its recognition. It is quite possible for critical ingenuity to find a reason for discrediting each instance in turn. An objector may urge in one case, that the writing itself is a forgery; in a second, that the particular passage is an interpolation; in a third, that the supposed quotation is the original and the language of the Evangelist the copy; in a fourth, that the incident or saying was not deduced from this Gospel but from some apocryphal work, containing a parallel narrative. By a sufficient number of assumptions, which lie beyond the range of verification, the evidence may be set aside. But the early existence and recognition of the Fourth Gospel is the one simple postulate which explains all the facts. The law of gravitation accounts for the various phenomena of motion, the falling of a stone, the jet of a fountain, the orbits of the planets, and so forth. It is quite possible for any one, who is so disposed, to reject this explanation of nature. Provided that he is allowed to postulate a new force for every new fact with which he is confronted, he has nothing to fear. He will then "gird the sphere With centric and eccentric scribbled o'er, Cycle and epicycle, orb in orb,"
happy in his immunity. But the other theory will prevail nevertheless by reason of its simplicity.
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