III
THE DIRECT EVIDENCE AS TO AUTHORSHIP

IN approaching the question of whether this Gospel, besides being early, comes to us with the authority of an Apostle, I shall deal at some length with evidence which is rather familiar but of which the real bearing and weight seem to me to have been strangely overlooked. Some insistence on this point may have the advantage of making the early days of Christianity seem a little more real.

Our earliest information that this Gospel was the work of St. John comes from several writers in the close of the second century, by which time the Church (the numerous local congregations of Christians, acting with felt unity and much mutual correspondence and intercourse) had almost completed that gradual and informal process by which certain treasured books now forming the New Testament were set apart from all others, however early, as authentic records of the Apostles and their teaching. Among these writers were Irenæus, a diligent, experienced, much traveled man of practical good feeling and good sense; Clement of Alexandria, a man of much learning, a singularly interesting author, whose liberality secured him in the eighteenth century the distinction of being decanonized; and Tertullian, a less attractive person, but of marked intellectual and philosophical force. All of these men were capable of what now seems strange

-22-

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