How could it possibly have happened that a record of the highest value, on account both of its fulness and extreme antiquity, should have perished, and have been superseded by four later and utterly unauthentic productions, one its junior by at least 120 years, and each one of these deriving from it only a part of its teaching; the first three, for no conceivable reason, rejecting all that peculiar doctrine now called Johannean, and the fourth confining itself to reproducing this so-called Johannean element and this alone? It is only necessary to state this to show the utter absurdity of the author’s hypothesis.
But the marvel is that a person assuming such airs of penetration and research [63:1] should not have perceived that, if he has proved his point, he has simply strengthened the evidence for the supernatural, for he has proved the existence of a fifth Gospel, far older and fuller than any we now possess, witnessing to the supernatural Birth, Life, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus.
The author strives to undermine the evidence for the authenticity of our present Gospels for an avowedly dogmatic purpose. He believes in the dogma of the impossibility of the supernatural; he must, for this purpose, discredit the witness of the four, and he would fain do this by conjuring up the ghost of a defunct Gospel, a Gospel which turns out to be far more emphatic in its testimony to the supernatural and the dogmatic than any of the four existing ones, and so the author of this pretentious book seems to have answered himself. His own witnesses prove that from the first there has been but one account of Jesus of Nazareth.
The principal witness on our lord’s godhead.
The author of “Supernatural Religion” has directed his attacks more particularly against the authenticity of the Gospel according to St. John. His desire to discredit this Gospel seems at times to arise out of a deep personal dislike to the character of the disciple whom Jesus loved. (Vol. ii. pp. 403-407, 427, 428, &c.)
On the author’s principles, it is difficult to understand the reason for such an attack on this particular Gospel. He is not an Arian or Socinian (as the terms are commonly understood), who might desire to disparage the testimony of this Gospel to the Pre-existence and Godhead of our Lord. His attack is on the Supernatural generally, as witnessed to by any one of the four Gospels; and it is allowed on all hands that the three Synoptics were written long before the Johannean; and, besides this, he has proved to his own satisfaction, and to the satisfaction of the Reviewers who so loudly applauded his work, that there existed a Gospel long anterior to the Synoptics, which is more explicit in its declarations of the Supernatural than all of them put together.
However, as he has made a lengthened and vigorous attempt to discredit this Gospel especially, it may be well to show his extraordinary misconceptions respecting the mere contents of the Fourth Gospel, and the opinions of the Fathers (notably Justin Martyr) who seem to quote from it, or to derive their doctrine from it.