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Treasury of Scriptural Knowledge, by R.A. Torrey, [ca. 1880], at

John Introduction


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John, who, according to the unanimous testimony of the ancient fathers and ecclesiastical writers, was the author of this Gospel, was the son of Zebedee, a fisherman of Bethsaida, by Salome his wife (compare Mat 10:2, with Mat 27:55, Mat 27:56 and Mar 15:40), and brother of James the elder, whom "Herod killed with the sword," (Act 12:2). Theophylact says that Salome was the daughter of Joseph, the husband of Mary, by a former wife; and that consequently she was our Lord's sister, and John was his nephew. He followed the occupation of his father till his call to the apostleship (Mat 4:21, Mat 4:22, Mar 1:19, Mar 1:20, Luk 5:1-10), which is supposed to have been when he was about twenty five years of age; after which he was a constant eye-witness of our Lord's labours, journeyings, discourses, miracles, passion, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension. After the ascension of our Lord he returned with the other apostles to Jerusalem, and with the rest partook of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, by which he was eminently qualified for the office of an Evangelist and Apostle. After the death of Mary, the mother of Christ, which is supposed to have taken place about fifteen years after the crucifixion, and probably after the council held in Jerusalem about ad 49 or 50 (Acts 15), at which he was present, he is said by ecclesiastical writers to have proceeded to Asia Minor, where he formed and presided over seven churches in as many cities, but chiefly resided at Ephesus. Thence he was banished by the emperor Domitian, in the fifteenth year of his reign, ad 95, to the isle of Patmos in the Agean sea, where he wrote the Apocalypse (Rev 1:9). On the accession of Nerva the following year, he was recalled from exile and returned to Ephesus, where he wrote his Gospel and Epistles, and died in the hundredth year of his age, about ad 100, and in the third year of the emperor Trajan. It is generally believed that St. John was the youngest of the twelve apostles, and that he survived all the rest. Jerome, in his comment on Gal VI., says that he continued preaching when so enfeebled with age as to be obliged to be carried into the assembly; and that, not being able to deliver any long discourse, his custom was to say in every meeting, My dear children, love one another. The general current of ancient writers declares that the apostle wrote his Gospel at an advanced period of life, with which the internal evidence perfectly agrees; and we may safely refer it, with Chrysostom, Epiphanius, Mill, Lev. Clerc, and others, to the year 97. The design of St. John in writing his Gospel is said by some to have been to supply those important events which the other Evangelists had omitted, and to refute the notions of the Cerinthians and Nicolaitans, or according to others, to refute the heresy of the Gnostics and Sabians. But, though many parts of his Gospel may be successfully quoted against the strange doctrines held by those sects, yet the apostle had evidently a more general end in view than the confutation of their heresies. His own words sufficiently inform us of his motive and design in writing this Gospel: "These things are written that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing, ye might have life through his name" (Joh 20:31). Learned men are not wholly agreed concerning the language in which this Gospel was originally written. Salmasius, Grotius, and other writers, have imagined that St. John wrote it in his own native tongue, the Aramean or Syriac, and that it was afterwards translated into Greek. This opinion is not supported by any strong arguments, and is contradicted by the unanimous voice of antiquity, which affirms that he wrote it in Greek, which is the general and most probable opinion. The style of this Gospel indicates a great want of those advantages which result from a learned education; but this defect is amply compensated by the unexampled simplicity with which he expresses the sublimest truths. One thing very remarkable is an attempt to impress important truths more strongly on the minds of his readers, by employing in the expression of them both an affirmative proposition and a negative. It is manifestly not without design that he commonly passes over those passages of our Lord's history and teaching which had been treated at large by other Evangelists, or if he touches them at all, he touches them but slightly, whilst he records many miracles which had been overlooked by the rest, and expatiates on the sublime doctrines of the pre-existence, the divinity, and the incarnation of the Word, the great ends of His mission, and the blessings of His purchase.

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