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8 He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light.
was the Messiah of the Christian and the Jew, or the Angel Jehovah of the Old Testament; while, on the other hand, the Trinitarian writers have considered him, from the age in which he lived, as the great strength and support of their
The inconsistency is plainly to be traced to this circumstance; Philo, as a Jew, had imbibed all the opinions of the orthodox and learned of his own countrymen, and believed with them and their Church that the Logos was personal, and had been and could be visible, both in his person and in his actions, and he has accordingly, in some places, endowed his Logos with personal attributes. But Philo was a philosopher also, and, with the assistance of a very fertile imagination and fancy, devised the conceptual Logos; which he delineates as something resembling an abstract idea, which can be manifested only to the intellect. In various parts of his work he has blended these descriptions, and by confusing his own associations or trains of thought, he confounds himself as well as his readers. But the book was well known in the time of St. John: and the Apostle, to correct the erroneous opinions of Philo, that the Logos was conceptual, and in order to substantiate the undoubted personality of the Logos, begins his Gospel in these simple but forcible words—the Word was made flesh-it was not a conceptual Logos, as the philosophers vainly imagine; it was a true and real Being, who took our nature, appeared in our flesh-He was made flesh. He was tangible and visible, and we beheld visibly his glory.
The same opinion of a double signification of the Logos, a conceptual and a personal, has occurred to some of the German Scripture critics. “In the phrase used by the Chaldee paraphrasts, most critics suppose that nothing is comprehended but a designation of the Deity: but it has been admirably demonstrated, chiefly from the Targums, by Dr. Charles Aug. Theoph. Keil in the Essay de Doctoribus Vet. Eccl. culpâ corruptæ per Platonicas Sententias Theologiæ liberandis) that the Jews, by their Memra Jah, designed to convey the notion of a Divine Subsistence, which they held to be begotten of God, and to be in the highest sense near and like to God. The same learned writer shews that the doctrine of Philo contained the notion of a two-fold Logos, the one comprehended in the divine intellect, the other begotten of God: just as the conception in one's mind is different from the word uttered in speech."-Rosenmuller, in Joann. i. 1. The following abstract from the German Commentaries of the celebrated Dr. H. E. G. Paulus, Theological Professor in the University at Jena, is given by Dr. Kuinoel, in the Prolegomena to his Commentary on the Gospel of John. “ Paulus maintains that Philo was not the author of this doctrine of the Logos as a subsistence emanating from God, most like to God, and intimately united with him ; but that it was generally received, by the Jews of Alexandria, in the time of Philo. He is of opinion that it was invented by the philosophizing Jews of that city, with a view to obviate the arguments of the Gentile philosophers, who defended their popular system of a multitude of inferior deities, by affirming that the care of the material world, a particular Providence, and the government of the affairs of men, were objects too low for the majesty and purity of the Supreme Deity. He thinks that the Alexandrine Jews might the more readily adopt this opinion of the Logos being an intelligent nature, because of their own doctrine of angels and guardian spirits, and because the Jews of Palestine were
9 9 That was the true Light, which lighteth every man A.D. 97. that cometh into the world.
q ver. 4
in the habit of using, as expressions for the Divine Being, the phrases Memra of Jah, Word of God, Wisdom of God; as also they personified the wisdom of God, Prov. viii. 22. Therefore, as Paulus has observed, the form of expression 8 Aóyos toŰ REDŪ, the Word of God, was used in the age of the Evangelist John in a twofold sense. The Jews of Palestine employed the expression merely as a periphrasis for the Deity, and very often as a personification of the power and wisdom of God. But, on the other hand, Philo, and with him many of the Alexandrine Jews, understood by“ The Word," an intelligent subsistence, absolutely unique, an emanation from God, and next to the Supreme God. Professor Paulus further remarks, that the Evangelist did not deliver his doctrine of “ The Word," (as an intelligent nature emanating from God, and next to God, and that this intelligent nature had united itself with the man Jesus) because the Alexandrian Jews professed the same sentiments with respect to their Word; but because Christ had in express terms made almost the identical attributions of dig. nity and honour to himself, which those Alexandrians were accustomed to ascribe to their “ Word of God.” Kuinoel, vol. iii. p. 80. 82. Smith's Scripture Testimony, &c. note c, to chap. vii. book ii. vol. i.
John Benedict Carpsovius, and Stephen Nye, an English clergyman, have also maintained the hypothesis of the twofold notion of the Logos in Philo's writings. The one derived from the doctrines of Plato, Nows Ó TÁVtwv airios—denoting merely the conception formed in the divine mind, and then emanating as a model from which the earth was to be framed. The other doctrine is of a more exalted nature, and is derived from the genuine Principles of the Jewish Religion (6).
The works of Philo became so popular, that although the writer was a Jew, and therefore obnoxious to the Roman nation, they were enrolled in the public libraries at Rome. From this circumstance we may infer, that his ideas of the Word of God, the Jehovah Angel of the Old Testament, called by Philo, in his native language of Alexandria, dóyos tã , were as well known to the heathen or gentile converts, as the term "9 X720,“ Memrah Jah," or “ Word,” was familiar to the Jews of Palestine: and as the same actions in the Targums, and in the works of Philo are given to this divine Personage, which the Scripture itself ascribes to the Angel Jehovah, we may justly conclude that the Targumists and Philo intended to express the same idea, and to give to the Jehovah of the Old Testament the attributes of Godhead, assigned to the Word. Philo confused the two ideas of a personal and conceptual Logos, because he derived his opinions from the two opposite sources of Heathenism and Judaism. The Logos of the Old Testament is plainly personal, the Logos of Heathenism conceptual. The same error was committed by the Targumists; their notions of a Logos being derived from two sources—one of which was from the corrupted, the other the purer traditions of their Fathers; and so confused was the popular opinion on this point, that we may almost say it was necessary, considering the importance of the subject, that an inspired teacher should correct the prevalent errors. St.
() See Vitringa de Synag. veteri, p. 634. I have extracted this account of the opinion of the German critics, on the twofold nature of the Logos, from Dr. Pye Smith's Testimony to the Messiah, vol. i. p. 452.
A.D. 97. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made by
him, and the world knew him not. Written at Ephesus. Het i. 2. & John, therefore, writing at a period when the public opinions on the subject were xi.
so unsettled, begins his Gospel by declaring to the Jews, that both the Logos of one party, and the Memra Jah of the other, possessed the very same attributes ascribed in the Jewish Scriptures to Jehovah, or the Angel Jehovah, who the Evangelist asserts was in the beginning with God—that all things were made by Him, and without Him was not any thing made that was made: an article of faith which the Jews and Philo alike acknowledged.
After establishing this truth, concerning which there may be said to have been (excepting in the confounding a personal and conceptual Logos) no real difference of opinion, St. John proceeds to the application of the wonderful doctrine. He proceeds to affirm that the Jehovah of the Old Testament, the Memra Jah of the Targumists, the Logos of Philo, when rightly explained, was the promised Messiah of the Christian Church-that he had lived among them—that he had become flesh—that they had beheld his glory, the glory as of the only-begotten of the Father, (another title given by Philo to the Logos) full of grace and truth (p).
The double signification of the word Logos unavoidably produced many heresies and divisions in the Christian Church. The Church, says Tillemont (9), was from the beginning disturbed with two opposite heresies, each of which produced different sects. Simon, the founder of the Gnostics, or Docetæ, held two principles, and taught that our Saviour was man in appearance only. The other heresy was that of the Cerinthians, who embraced Christianity in part only. These acknowledged one principle, and one God, and the reality of the human nature in Jesus Christ ; but they denied his divinity, and were fond of the ceremonies of the law. Contrary as these opinions are to each other and to truth, the Cerinthians found means to unite them, and they were adopted in different forms, and with different variations by many others; to whom it will be necessary to allude.
It is possible that these contending opinions had begun to agitate the Church as early as the first date assigned to St. John's Gospel. But it is more probable
(p) The propriety of the term ** *9 used by the Targumists, of the term nn 127 Psalm xxxiii
. 6, (rendered by the Septuagint as in other places by the term o Nóyos, used by St. John in his preface,) and of Logos by St. John and the Platonists—(Obs. Ps. xxxiii. of the Hebrew, corresponds with Ps. xxxii. in the Sept.) appears from the connexion, or the analogy, or relation which speech bears to an act of the mind. As language may be called an embodied thought, or the manifester of the acts of the understanding, so may the divine Personage, which bears the above names, be considered as the manifester of the designs of Deity. Language, in another sense, may be said to be the same, the self, the same very self as thought, or any act of the mind. So may the Logos be called by the like analogy, what it is represented in Scripture, the same, the self, the same very self, as God. It must in all these cases be remembered, that we cannot comprehend God : we cannot by searching find him out. But he is revealed to finite beings through the medium of language, which is seldom able to express, adequately the efforts of the human mind, when it would endeavour to understand, in this stage of being, subjects so much beyond us; to this imperfection of language may be principally ascribed much of the varieties of metaphysical opipions, both in ancient and modern times. (9) Tillemont, Mem. Ec. tom. ii. ap. Lardner, vol. iv. 4to. p. 567.
11 He came unto his own, and his own received him A.D. 97. not.
that they did not become sufficiently formidable to disturb its peace till towards the conclusion of the first century, when the Gospel of St. John is more generally allowed to have been written. The time when Cerinthus lived is uncertain ; but the earliest date assigned to him is after the year 70, with the exception of Baronius, who speaks of him as living within some few years after our Lord's ascension. Le Clerc asserts, that he flourished in the year 80; Basnage, 101. Lampe (r), from the discrepancies in the accounts of Irenæus and Epiphanius, entertains the very erroneous opinion, that the Gospel of St. John was valued by the Cerinthians; and endeavours to prove that Cerinthus was a heretic of the second century. Even this, however, does not invalidate the argument that St. John's Gospel was written to oppose the principles professed by Cerinthus ; for they are said by Irenæus to have been inculcated by the Nicolaitans. Yet, as Irenæus, who asserted that St. John wrote against Cerinthus, was a disciple of Polycarp, who was personally acquainted with St. John, his testimony, which was given a hundred years after, appears most likely to be correct. The best evidence, therefore, that the scanty records of antiquity have handed down to us, corroborates the presumption that Cerinthus sowed the seeds of his principles during the life of the excellent Evangelist St. John, and, we might well suppose, that the Apostle would be most anxious to refute and repress them.
Michaelis therefore observes, with equal force and justice, that “ if Irenæus had not asserted that St. John wrote his Gospel against the Gnostics, and particularly against Cerinthus, the contents of the Gospel itself would lead to this conclusion. The speeches of Christ, which St. John has recorded, are selected with a totally different view from that of the three first evangelists, who have given such as are of a moral nature, whereas those which are given by St. John are chiefly dogmatical, and relate to Christ's divinity, the doctrine of the Holy Ghost, the supernatural assistance to be communicated to the Apostles, and other subjects of a like import. In the very choice of his expressions, such as • light,' 'life,' &c. he had in view the philosophy of the Gnostics, who used, or rather abused these terms. That the fourteen first verses of St. John's Gospel are merely historical, and contain only a short account of Christ's history before his appearance on earth, is a supposition devoid of all probability. On the contrary, it is evident that they are purely doctrinal, and that they were introduced with a polemical view, in order to confute errors, which prevailed at that time respecting the person of Jesus Christ. Unless St. John had an adversary to combat, who made particular use of the words ' light,' and life,' he would not have thought it necessary, after having described the Creator of all things, to add, that ‘in him was life, and the life was the light of men,' or to assert that John the Baptist' was not that light.' The very meaning of the word “light' would be extremely dubious, unless it were determined by its particular application in the oriental Gnosis. For without the supposition that St. John had to combat with
A. D. 97.
12 But as many as received him, to them gave he
an adversary who used this word in a particular sense, it might be applied to any divine instructor, who by his doctrines enlightened mankind. Further, the positions contained in the fourteen first verses are antitheses to positions maintained by the Gnostics, who use the words λόγος, ζώη, φώς, μονογενής, anpwua, &c. as technical terms of their philosophy. Lastly, the speeches of Christ, which St. John has selected, are such as confirm the positions laid down in the first chapter of his Gospel: and therefore we must conclude that his principal object throughout the whole of his Gospel was to confute the errors of the Gnostics” (s).
That we may understand the design and order of St. John's Gospel, it will be necessary to take a brief review of the tenets of Cerinthus, in opposition to which the Evangelist purposely wrote it. This will not only reflect considerable light on particular passages, but make the whole appear a complete work-regular, clear, and conclusive.
Cerinthus was by birth a Jew, who lived at the close of the first century: having studied literature and philosophy at Alexandria, he attempted at length to form a new and singular system of doctrine and discipline, by a monstrous combination of the doctrines of Jesus Christ with the opinions and errors of the Jews and Gnostics. From the latter he borrowed their Pleroma or fulness, their Æons or spirits, their Demiurgus or creator of the visible world, &c. and so modified and tempered these fictions, as to give them an air of Judaism, which must have considerably favoured the progress of his heresy. He taught, that the most high God was utterly unknown before the appearance of Christ, and dwelt in a remote heaven called Pleroma, with the chief spirits or Æons :- That this supreme God first generated an only begotten Son, who again begat the Word, which was inferior to the first-born :- That Christ was a still lower æon, though far superior to some others :- That there were two higher æons, distinct from Christ; one called Life, and the other Light:- That from the æons again proceeded inferior orders of spirits, and particularly one Demiurgus, who created this visible world out of eternal matter:-- That this Demiurgus was ignorant of the supreme God, and much lower than the Æons, which were wholly invisible:That he was, however, the peculiar God and protector of the Israelites, and sent Moses to them; whose laws were to be of perpetual obligation :—That Jesus was a mere man, of the most illustrious sanctity and justice, the real son of Joseph and Mary:-that the Æon Christ descended upon him in the form of a dove when he was baptized, revealed to him the unknown Father, and empowered him to work miracles :- That the Æon Light entered John the Baptist in the same manner, and therefore that John was in some respects preferable to Christ :- That Jesus, after his union with Christ, oppposed himself with vigour to the God of the Jews, at whose instigation he was seized and crucified by the Hebrew chiefs, and that when Jesus was taken captive and came to suffer, Christ ascended up on high, so that the man Jesus alone was subjected to the pains of an ignominious death ; that Christ will one day return upon earth, and, renew
(s) Michaelis, vol. iii. part i. p. 280.