The Genuineness Of The Fourth Gospel -- By: George P. Fisher

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 021:82 (Apr 1864)
Article: The Genuineness Of The Fourth Gospel
Author: George P. Fisher


The Genuineness Of The Fourth Gospel1

George P. Fisher

The Gospel that bears the name of John is one of the main pillars of historical Christianity. Christianity would indeed remain were the apostolic authorship and the credibility of this Gospel disproved; for before it was written, Jesus and the resurrection had been preached by faithful witnesses over a large part of the Roman world. Christianity would remain; but our conception of Christianity and of Christ would be materially altered. The profoundest minds in the church, from Clement of Alexandria to Luther, and from Luther to Niebuhr, have expressed their sense of the singular charm and surpassing value of this Gospel. In recent times, however, the genuineness of the fourth Gospel has been impugned. It was denied to be the work of John by individual sceptics at the close of the last century; but their attack was not of a nature either to excite or to merit much attention. Not until Bretschneider published (in 1820) his Probabilia did the question become the subject of seri-

ous discussion. But the assault, which has been renewed by the critics of the Tübingen school, with Baur at their head, has more lately given rise to a most earnest and important controversy. The rejection of John’s Gospel by these critics is a part of their attempted reconstruction of early Christian history. Starting with the assertion of a radical difference and hostility between the Jewish and the Gentile types of Christianity,— between the party of the church that adhered to Peter and the original disciples, and the party that adhered to Paul and his doctrine,—they ascribe several books of the New Testament to the effort, made at a later day, to bridge over this gulf. The Acts of the Apostles proceeds from this motive, and is a designed distortion and misrepresentation of events connected with the conflict about the rights of the Gentile converts. And the fourth Gospel is a product of the same pacifying tendency. It was written, they say, about the middle of the second century by a Christian of Gentile birth, who assumed the name of John in order to give an apostolic sanction to his higher theological platform, in which love takes the place of faith, and the Jewish system is shown to be fulfilled, and so abolished, by the offering of Christ, the true paschal Lamb. We hold that the fundamental proposition, which affirms a radical hostility between Pauline and Petrine Christianity, can be proved to be false, even by the documents which are acknowledged by the Tübingen school to be genuine and trustworthy; and that the superstructure which is reared upon this foundation, can be proved, in all its main timbers, to be equally unsubstantial. In the...

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