John’s Gospel, According to Eusebius

Remember that scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark, where Harrison Ford holds up the medallion in the map room, the sun shines through it, and the location of the Ark of the covenant is revealed?Map Room

Aha! That moment when a clear path to the treasure you’ve been seeking finally opens up! Can you relate? On December 2nd, 2016, I placed my order for Eusebius’ “History of the Church”. Ever since its arrival 14 months ago, I’ve had one  ‘map room’ moment after another. Here’s just one, about John’s Gospel. Remember, I’m looking for the story behind the story of the New Testament. The “Who, What, When, Where, and Why”. In that regard, Eusebius doesn’t disappoint.

And when Mark and Luke had now published their gospels, John, we are told, …. , finally took to writing for the following reason.

From Book V.24

…Yet of them all, Matthew and John alone have left us memoirs of the Lord’s doing, and there is a firm tradition that they took to writing of necessity. Matthew had begun by preaching to Hebrews; and when he made up his mind to go to others too, he committed his own gospel to writing in his native tongue, so that for those with whom he was no longer present the gap left by his departure was filled by what he wrote. And when Mark and Luke had now published their gospels, John, we are told, who hitherto had relied entirely on the spoken work, finally took to writing for the following reason. The three gospels already written were in general circulation and copies had come into John’s hands. He welcomed them, we are told, and confirmed their accuracy, but remarked that the narrative only lacked the story of what Christ had done first of all at the beginning of His mission.

The three gospels already written were in general circulation and copies had come into John’s hands. He welcomed them, we are told, and confirmed their accuracy,

This tradition is undoubtedly true. Anyone can see that the three evangelists have recorded the doings of the Saviour for only one year, following the consignment of John the Baptist to prison, and that they indicated this very fact at the beginning of their narrative……

We are told, then, that for this reason the apostle John was urged to record in his gospel the period which the earlier evangelists had passed over in silence and the things done during that period by the Saviour, i.e. all that happened before the Baptist’s imprisonment;…….

Once this is grasped, there no longer appears to be a discrepancy between the gospels, because John’s deals with the early stages of Christ’s career and the others cover the last period

Once this is grasped, there no longer appears to be a discrepancy between the gospels, because John’s deals with the early stages of Christ’s career and the others cover the last period of His story; and it seems natural that as the genealogy of our Saviour as a man had already been set out by Matthew and Luke, John should pass it over in silence and begin with the proclamation of His divinity, since the Holy Spirit had reserved this for him, as the greatest of the four.

from page 132 & 133 of G.A. Williamson’s 1965 translation

Called “The father of ecclesiastical history”, Eusebius was born around 260 A.D.

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