« PreviousContinue »
suggesting occasionally a reconsideration of some question, or a fuller treatment of difficult passages, and the like.
Beyond this he has not attempted to interfere, feeling it better that each Commentary should have its own individual character, and being convinced that freshness and variety of treatment are more than a compensation for any lack of uniformity in the Series.
THE LAST YEÅRS OF S. JOHN.
A SKETCH of the life of S. John as a whole has been given in the Introduction to the Fourth Gospel. Here it will not be necessary to do more than retouch and somewhat enlarge what was there said respecting the closing years of his life, in which period, according to all probability, whether derived from direct or indirect evidence, our three Epistles were written. In order to understand the motive and tone of the Epistles, it is requisite to have some clear idea of the circumstances, local, moral, and intellectual, in the midst of which they were written.
(i) The Local Surroundings-Ephesus. Unless the whole history of the century which followed upon the destruction of Jerusalem is to be abandoned as chimerical and untrustworthy, we must continue to believe the almost universally accepted statement that S. John spent the last portion of his life in Asia Minor, and chiefly at Ephesus. The sceptical spirit which insists upon the truism that well-attested facts have nevertheless not been demonstrated with all the certainty of a proposition in Euclid, and contends that it is therefore right to doubt them, and lawful to dispute them, renders history impossible. The evidence of S. John's residence at Ephesus is too strong to be shaken by conjectures. It will be worth while to state the main elements of it.
(1) The opening chapters of the Book of Revelation are written in the character of the Metropolitan of the Churches of Asia Minor. Even if we admit that the Book is possibly not written by S. John, at least it is written by some one who knows that S. John held that position. Had S. John never lived in Asia Minor, the writer of the Apocalypse would at once have been detected as personating an Apostle of whose abode and position he was ignorant.
(2) Justin Martyr (c. A.D. 150) probably within fifty years of S. John's death writes: “Among us also a certain man named John, one of the Apostles of Christ, prophesied in a Revelation made to him, that the believers of our Christ shall spend a thousand years in Jerusalem.” These words occur in the Dialogue with Trypho (LXXXI.), which Eusebius tells us was held at Ephesus : so that ‘among us' naturally means at or near Ephesus.
(3) Irenaeus, the disciple of Polycarp, the disciple of S. John, writes thus (c. A. D. 180) in the celebrated Epistle to Florinus, of which a portion has been preserved by Eusebius (H. E. v. XX. 4, 5): "These doctrines those presbyters who preceded us, who also were conversant with the Apostles, did not hand down to thee. For when I was yet a boy I saw thee in lower Asia with Polycarp, distinguishing thyself in the royal court, and endeavouring to have his approbation. For I remember what happened then more clearly than recent occurrences. For the experiences of childhood, growing up along with the soul, become part and parcel of it: so that I can describe both the place in which the blessed Polycarp used to sit and discourse, and his goings out and his comings in, the character of his life and the appearance of his person, and the discourses which he used to deliver to the multitude; and how he recounted his close intercourse with John, and with the rest of those who had seen the Lord.” That Polycarp was Bishop of Smyrna, where he spent most of his life and suffered martyrdom, is well known. And this again proves S. John's residence in Asia Minor. Still more plainly Irenaeus says elsewhere (Haer. III. i. 1): "Then John, the disciple of the Lord, who also leaned back on His breast, he