The Early Christian Church - Vol. 1

By Philip Carrington | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 19
THE EPHESIAN GOSPEL

The question of philosophy, p.350. Epictetus, Plutarch, Apollonius, p.351. The higher paganism, p.352. Jewish unbelief, p.354. The literary relations, p.355. The theological task, p.356. The historical interest, p.358. The liturgical structure, p.359. The sayings of Jesus, p.360. The Paraclete, p.361. The advent in John, p.362. The Gospel and the Revelation, p.362. The Gospel Epilogue, p.364. The Johannine school, p.366. The production of the book, p.367 The death of the master, p.367. Note on the supposed martyrdom of John, p.369.


THE QUESTION OF PHILOSOPHY

The study of the Revelation of St John is a difficult one, and different minds come to different conclusions on debatable points, but it has the great advantage to the student of being in touch with external history at many points; with the churches of Asia, with the prophets and martyrs, with the old Jerusalem, with the imperial power of Rome, and with the tyranny of Domitian. It gives us an excellent idea of the kind of ferment out of which it arose, and by doing this, it forms an introduction to the second great document which issued from the same ferment at the same period: the Fourth Gospel.

But this document surprises us by its completely different character. It does not seem to have any points of contact with the history which is reflected in such lurid colours in the Revelation. It has abandoned the apocalyptic modes of thought which appear so massively there. It speaks in a new language; a language of the spirit. It speaks of word and life and light and truth; of the bread of life and the water of life; and of the spirit of truth which leads the disciples into all truth. These concepts are all to be found in the Revelation, it is true; but they do not provide the drama of the Revelation. On the whole the poetry of the Revelation brings the mind into contact with all kinds of external historical forces; the poetry of the Gospel brings us into contact with the inner life of the church and the inner life of the believer.

All great literature is in contact with life, and the Fourth Gospel is no exception. It is in touch, as we have said, with the inner life of the church, which it illuminates with deep spiritual insight. It develops a

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