SILANUS MEETS CLEMENS

We walked on together, both of us silent, till we came to Glaucus’s
rooms. “Farewell,” said he. I replied that I would come in to see whether
I could help him to make arrangements for his journey. He said nothing,
but suffered me to enter. For some time I busied myself with practical
matters. So did Glaucus. But every now and then he stopped, and sat down
as though dazed. I questioned him about his journey and time of starting.
Finding that only two or three hours remained, I urged him to rouse
himself. “It will be of no use,” he said, “but you are right.” Then he
exclaimed bitterly, “Am I not obeying Epictetus? Am I not making myself
a stone?” “Not quite,” said I, “for a stone feels nothing. You are worse
than a stone. For you feel much, yet do nothing to help those for whom
you feel.” “Thank you for that,” said he. Then he roused himself. He did
injustice to Epictetus, yet I perceived, as never before, how harmful
this “stone-doctrine”—if I may so call it—might prove to many people.

I have no space, nor have I the right, to describe more fully Glaucus’s
private affairs, the courage, affection, and steadfastness with which he
bore the burdens of his family and saved his father and sister from their
worst extremity. His course was different from Arrian’s. Arrian remained
outside the fold. Glaucus found peace as I did. And I know that many
a suffering soul in Corinth suffered the less because Glaucus, having
experienced such a weight of sorrow himself, had learned the secret of
lightening it for others. He died young, thirty years ago, but he lived
long enough to “fight the good fight.”

Our last words together, as he was in the act of departing, I remember
well: “What was that you said to me, Silanus, about waiting and having
one’s strength renewed?” It was from Isaiah. I repeated it. Then I
added, “But I spoke the words, I fear, because I had once felt them
to be true. I did not quite feel them to be true at the moment when I
repeated them to you. Perhaps I was not quite honest, or at least not
quite frank.” “Then you don’t hold to them now?” said he. “God knows,”
said I. “Sometimes I do, sometimes I do not. For the most part I think I
do. I believe that there is good beneath all the evil, if only we could
see it, or at least good in the end, good far off.” “Then” replied he,
“you believe, perhaps, in a good God?” “I hope I may hereafter believe,”
said I, “nay, I am almost certain I believe in a good God now. But, if I
do, it is in a God that is fighting against evil, a God that may perhaps
share in our afflictions and in our troubles.” “What?” said he, “you,
a pupil of Epictetus, believe that God Himself can be troubled! Then
of course you believe that a good man may be troubled?” “Indeed I do,”
said I. “At least I half believe it about God, and wholly about man.”
“Then you think I have a right to be troubled. You are a heretic.” “We
are heretics together,” said I. “You have a right to be troubled, and I
to be troubled with you.” “Thank you, and thank the Gods, for that at
least!” said he. “Do you know,” said I, “that I am certain that Epictetus
felt troubled too, for your sake? I saw him when he did not see me, as I
was leaving the room; and I could not be mistaken.” “Ah!” said Glaucus,
drawing in his breath. Then suddenly, as we were clasping hands in our
last farewell, he added “Do not think too much about those scrawls!” And
before I had time to ask his meaning, he had ridden away.

Returning to my rooms, I put away my lecture-notes and took out the
gospels. But I could not read, and longed to be in the fresh air. As
I rose from my seat to go out, my first thought was, “I will take no
books with me.” But Mark happened to be in my hand, the smallest of the
gospels. “This,” I said, “will be no weight.” But it weighed a great deal
in the rest of my life, as the reader will soon see.

Before long, unconsciously seeking familiar solitudes, I found myself on
the way to the little coppice where some days ago I had seen Hesperus
above the departed sun, and Isaiah had shed on me the influence of his
promise of peace. “Now,” said I sadly to myself, “I have with me a book
that calls itself the fulfilment of that promise. But it fulfils nothing
for me.” As I spoke, and drew the book from the folds of my garment,
several pieces of paper fell on the ground. When I picked them up, I
found—what I had completely forgotten—Glaucus’s “scrawls.” I thought they
would contain some requests to perform commissions for him in Nicopolis,
or to convey messages to friends, and that he might have written these
in the lecture-room when he expected to hear news that might call him
suddenly away. But they were something quite different. The first that I
opened was entitled “A Postscript,” written in verse, rallying me upon my
advice about “waiting.” It shewed me how Glaucus, too, had been affected,
not only by the lecture that drove him from the room, but also by that
saying of Epictetus concerning Zeus (“He would have if he could have”)
which had disturbed me so much. It was wildly written as Glaucus himself
confessed: but I will give it here, because—besides being a rebuke to me,
and to all teachers that preach a gospel they do not feel—it shews how
Epictetus himself, the perfection of honesty, stirred up in an honest
and truthful pupil questionings and doubts that he could not satisfy or
silence:

_POSTSCRIPT._

_If you, my Silanus_
_(Who think hopelessness heinous,_
_And lectured me lately_
_So sweetly, sedately._
_Discussing, dilating,_
_I will not say “prating,”_
_On the great use of waiting,_
_You, whom I respected_
_But never suspected,_
_Never, no never,_
_Of being so clever)_
_Would but do your endeavour_
_To find more rhymes for “ever,”_
_Then cease would I never_
_But rhyme on for ever,_
_Like that horrible lecture,_
_Our Master’s conjecture,_
_About Zeus, a kind creature,_
_Whose principal feature_
_Was his frankly regretting_
_That the Fates keep upsetting,_
_By their cruel preventions,_
_His noble intentions;_
_“’Tis not that I would not,_
_But I could not, I could not,”_
_So said Zeus in a lecture_
_Our Master’s conjecture._

_P.S. Mad, isn’t it? But isn’t the lecture madder?_

_P.P.S. I do hope and trust the Master is mad. I must go out._

The larger “scrawl” touched me more nearly because it condemned those who
indulge in “self-deceiving” and “call it believing”—a thing that Scaurus
dreaded, and taught me to dread; and I was in special dread of it at that
time. I have been in doubt whether to give this in full. But I am sure
Glaucus, now in peace, would not take it amiss that his wild words of
trouble should be recorded if they may help others who have lost peace
for a time. So I give it to the reader just as Glaucus gave it to me.
Outside was written, in large letters, “RUSTICUS EXPECTAT.” Before the
verses came a letter in prose as follows:

_Rusticus sends greeting to Silanus._

_I am scrawling you a little poem, Silanus, to distract myself
from this accursed lecture, lest Epictetus should make me
absolutely sick with his nauseating stuff about the duty of
sons not to be troubled by the troubles of their parents. Some
days ago you gave me some edifying advice. Here is the answer
to it—a little drama._

_Dramatis personae only two:—(1) Rusticus, for shortness called
Hodge, i.e. Glaucus the Rustic, or perhaps Glaucus persuaded by
Silanus, so that Glauco-Silanus is the true Rustic, unless you
like to take the rôle entirely for yourself. Anyhow Hodge is
a great fool; (2) The River, i.e. Destiny, alias Fate, alias
Zeus, alias the God of Epictetus, alias the Whirlpool of the
All, alias Nothing in Particular._

_The metre is appropriate to the subject matter, i.e.
whirlpooly, eddyish, chaotic. There is no villain. The River
would be if it could. But it can’t—not being able to help being
what it is—like Zeus, you know, who said in our lecture-room
recently, “I would if I could but I couldn’t.” Hodge starves or
drowns. This should make a tragedy. But he is such a fool that
he turns it into a comedy—for the amusement of the Gods. They
are intensely amused—which perhaps should turn the thing back
again into a tragedy. Comedy or tragedy? Or tragicomedy? Or
burlesque? I give it up. The one thing certain is, Chaos!_

_RUSTICUS EXPECTAT._

_Hodge sits by the river_
_Awaiting, awaiting._
_Across he is going_
_If it will but stop flowing._
_But when? There’s no knowing._
_He dare not try swimming_
_In those waves full and brimming._
_On foot there’s no going,_
_And there’s no chance of rowing._
_So there he sits blinking_
_And calling it “thinking”!_
_God nor man can deliver_
_His soul from that river,_
_But Hodge won’t believe it_
_His soul can’t receive it!_
_Himself he’s deceiving,_
_But he styles it “believing”!_
_So this simpleton artless_
_To a THING that is heartless_
_Prays!—yes, takes to praying_
_In the hope of its staying_
_His soul to deliver:_
_“Good river, kind river,_
_Across I’d be going_
_If you would but stop flowing_
_Stay! pity my moping!_
_I’m hoping, I’m hoping_
_That you won’t flow for ever._
_Oh, say, will you never_
_Cease flowing, cease flowing?_
_Across I’d be going,_
_Rest! Flow not for ever!”_
_Says the river, deep river:_
_“I care not a stiver_
_For all your long waiting_
_And praying and prating_
_And whining and pining_
_And hoping and moping._
_Wait, if you like waiting,_
_Prate, if you like prating,_
_Pray, if you like praying,_
_But think not I’m staying,_
_Dream not I’m delaying_
_For a man and his praying,_
_For his smiling or frowning,_
_His swimming or drowning._
_Hope, if you’re for hoping,_
_Mope, if you’re for moping,_
_I’m not made for consoling_
_But for rolling and rolling_
_For ever._
_Time’s stream none can sever._
_Then cease your endeavour_
_Your soul to deliver_
_By coaxing the river._
_Cease shall I never_
_But flow on for ever_
_FOR EVER.”_

I was walking slowly onward, with the paper in my hand, my eyes bent on
the ground. Suddenly a shadow, and a courteous salutation, made me aware
that a stranger had met me and was passing by. Surprised and startled, I
recovered myself after a moment and turned round to answer his greeting.
He, too, turned, a man past threescore as I guessed, but vigorous, erect,
with a dignity of carriage that appeared at the first glance. He bowed
and passed on. The face reminded me of someone, but I could not think
who it was. I turned again to Glaucus’s paper. “Don’t think too much of
those scrawls” had been his last words. But how could I help thinking of
them? How many myriads were in the same case! The myriads did not say
what Glaucus said. But how many of them felt it! They had not suffered
perhaps as he had, but they had suffered enough—crushed, maimed,
forsaken!

Yes, FORSAKEN! As I uttered the word aloud, there came back to me both
the face of the stranger and the face like his, the face that I had not
been able to recall. I had been thinking of old Hermas, whom I had seen
as a child of five or six and had never forgotten. Scaurus’s letters had
recently brought him back to my memory again and again, depicting him
just as I remembered him, and suggesting to me all sorts of new questions
as to the mystery that lay behind those quiet eyes and that strong gentle
look, which even in my childhood had left on me an indelible impression.
I had been asking myself, What was the secret of it? Now I knew. Hermas
was _not_ “_forsaken_.” And this man, the man I had just met, he too
looked _not_ “_forsaken_.” “Yet I wonder,” said I, “what that stranger
would think if Hermas were to invite him to worship a Son of God whose
last words to the Father were, ‘Why hast thou forsaken me?’ Epictetus,
I know, would declare that the words expressed an absolute collapse of
faith. How would old Hermas explain them? And what would Scaurus say if
I confessed that I found no God anywhere in heaven or earth to whom my
heart was so drawn as this ‘forsaken’ Christ? What would the Psalmist
say if I used his words thus, ‘Whom have I in heaven but thee? And there
is none on earth that I should desire in comparison with thee, O, thou
FORSAKEN SON OF GOD!’”

By this time I had reached the wood. Pacing up and down, full of
distracting thoughts, I came on the place where I had had my first vision
of peace. There, tired out in body and mind, I threw myself down to rest.
Presently, feeling in the folds of my garment for the gospel of Mark,
I could not find it. Yet I had felt it when I first drew out Glaucus’s
paper. There was nothing for it but to retrace my steps as exactly as
possible in the hope of hitting on the place where I must have dropped
it. But I had not gone a hundred paces before I heard a rustling in the
bushes, and the tall stranger reappeared and a second time saluted me.

I returned his salutation. Then we were both silent. Nothing was in
his hand, yet I felt sure that he had found my book, and I waited for
him to speak. But a moment’s reflection shewed me his difficulty. Was
he, a stranger, to ask a Roman knight whether he had dropped one of the
religious books of a proscribed superstition? It was for me, if for
either, to begin. I liked the stranger’s look even better than before
and felt that he could be trusted; so I told him of my loss. He at once
placed the volume in my hands saying that he had come back to restore
it, believing me to be the owner. I thanked him heartily. He replied
that I was welcome, then waited a moment or two, as though to allow me
to say more if I pleased. I stood silent, wanting to speak, but as it
were tongue-bound—not so much afraid as ashamed. At last, I stammered
out something about the wood and its distance from Nicopolis. He smiled
as though he understood my embarrassment. Then he repeated that I was
welcome and moved away.

I had suffered him to go a dozen paces when a voice said within me, “Why
do you let him go? Scaurus let Hermas go and repented it. You said that
this man did not look ‘forsaken.’ Why do you let him ‘forsake’ you? Why
do you make yourself ‘forsaken’? Perhaps he can help you.” I called
him back. “Sir,” said I, “pardon me one question. Doubtless you looked
at this roll to find some clue to its owner?” “I did,” he replied. “I
am interested,” said I, “in this little book”⸺. Then I paused. I had
grown into the habit of adding—in writing to Flaccus, to Scaurus, and in
speaking to myself too—“from a literary point of view,” “as a historical
investigation,” and so on. But now I could not say such things. In
the first place, they would not be true. In the second place, I knew
instinctively that the man would know that they were not true. Moreover
I had a presentiment that he was to be to me what Hermas had almost been
to Scaurus. On the other hand, had I the right to ask a perfect stranger
whether he had studied a Christian gospel? He read my thoughts. “You
desire,” he said, “to ask me something more. Am I acquainted with this
book? That, I think, is your question? If so, I say, ‘Yes’.” “There
are,” said I, very slowly, and almost as if the words were drawn out of
me by force, “some few things that I greatly admire and many things that
greatly perplex me, in this little book. I think I might understand some
of the latter, had I some guidance.” “I am but a poor guide,” he replied.
“Nevertheless, if it is your will, I am quite willing. I have an hour’s
leisure. Then I must go on my business. Shall we sit down here?”

So we sat down, and I began to question him about Mark and the other
gospels. But before I describe our conversation, I must remind my readers
that at that time, forty-five years ago, in the second year of Hadrian,
the gospels of Mark, Matthew, and Luke, were not regarded as on the
same level as scripture, nor as entirely different from other writings
composed by pious Christians such as, for example, the epistle of Clemens
Romanus to the Corinthians. No doubt, some Christians, even at that date,
were disposed to rank the three gospels by themselves as superior to all
others past or future; and some of them may have asserted that the number
three was, as it were, predicted in the Law. For Moses said, “Out of
the mouth of two witnesses” (that might be Mark and Matthew) “or three
witnesses” (that would include Luke) “shall every word be established.”
But if they spoke thus, I do not know of it.

On the contrary, I have heard, that about the very time of our
conversation, that is in the second year of Hadrian, there were
traditions about Mark (current in the neighbourhood of Ephesus) placing
him on a very much lower level than the Hebrew prophets. Some used to
accuse him (as I have confessed above that I was perhaps too prone to
do) of being disproportioned and lengthy in unimportant detail. An Elder
near Ephesus defended Mark. He laid the blame on the necessities of the
case, saying that Mark recorded what he had heard from Peter, and that
Peter adapted his teachings to the needs of the moment, so that “Mark
committed no error” in writing some things as he did. Whether this Elder
was right or wrong, his words shewed that neither he, defending Mark,
nor his opponents, attacking Mark, regarded the evangelist as perfect.
Indeed his gospel was generally underrated, being placed far below that
of Matthew and Luke, because people did not perceive that Mark often
contained the account that was the truest—although expressed obscurely or
in such a way as to cause some to stumble.

At that time it would have been thought profane to put Mark or Luke
on the same level with Moses, Samuel, David, Solomon, Isaiah and the
prophets, to whom “the word of the Lord” is said to have “come.” Luke
never says, “The word of the Lord came to me,” but, in effect, this: “I
have traced things back carefully and accurately, and have thought it
well to set them forth in chronological order.” Matthew, as being an
apostle, might have been placed on a different footing. But as he wrote
in Hebrew, and his gospel was circulated in Greek, it was not thought
that we had the very words of the apostle. Moreover Matthew’s words often
differed in such a way from Luke’s, that even a child could perceive that
two writers were describing the same words of the Lord in two different
versions, so that both could not be exactly correct. And, very often,
Luke’s version appeared better than Matthew’s.

Yet even in the reign of Trajan there had perhaps been springing up
among a few people the belief that the three gospels above-mentioned
were not only superior to others then extant but also to others that
might hereafter be written. These men thought that Luke had said the last
word on the things that were to be believed, correcting what was obscure
in Mark and adding what was wanting. Perhaps it was natural that those
who thus favoured Luke’s gospel should be for a time averse to a fourth
gospel. I believe that my friend Justin of Samaria, who suffered as a
martyr in this very year in which I am now writing, always retained a
prejudice of this kind, favouring the three gospels, and especially Luke.
Even though he could not sometimes avoid using some of the traditions
that had found a place in the fourth gospel, he disliked to quote it
as a gospel, and, as far as I know, never did quote it verbally in his
writings.

On the other hand, some of the younger brethren now go into the opposite
extreme, and maintain, not only that the fourth gospel is to be accepted,
but also that the number four was, as it were, predestined. This seems
to me as unreasonable as it would have been to maintain, in Trajan’s
time, that the gospels must be three because of the “three witnesses”
prescribed by Moses on earth, and the three in heaven (the Father, the
Son, and the Holy Spirit) and the three angels that visited Abraham,
and so on. Yet I have actually heard the teacher Irenæus—the young man
about whom I spoke above—asserting that the gospels must needs be four to
correspond with the four quarters of the globe, the four elements, the
four living creatures in Ezekiel, and other quadruplicities.

However, I thank God that, when I was a young man, no such
stumbling-block as this lay between me and my Saviour. Nor was any such
belief in the necessity of four gospels entertained by my new friend
Clemens—for that was his name, though he was not a Roman but an Athenian.
He had long accepted the three gospels as containing the truth about
Christ and about His constraining love. Recently, he had accepted the
fourth gospel as also containing the same truth. But he neither believed
nor expected me to believe that every word in these four writings was so
inspired as to convey the unmixed truth. It was in these circumstances
and with these preconceptions—or perhaps I should rather say freedom from
preconceptions—that Clemens and I began our conversation.

I explained to Clemens that I had been attending the lectures of
Epictetus. He had taught us, I said, to neglect external things, and to
value virtue, as being placed by God in our own power and a possession
open to all. “This,” said I, “has strengthened me—this and the influence
of his character—in the determination to lead a life above the mere
pleasures of the flesh. But, on the other hand, Epictetus teaches us that
we are never to be troubled, not even by the troubles or misdoings of
those nearest and dearest to us. We are to say, ‘These things are nothing
to us’.” I then explained to Clemens how this doctrine had repelled me,
and how I had been led by an accident to study the letters of Paul, in
which I found a very different doctrine.

“Paul,” said I, “counts many external things as evil, and especially
the errors and transgressions of his converts. These he feels as evils
and pains to himself. Yet he always seems hopeful and helpful, full of
strength both for himself and for others. I have felt drawn towards him,
and, through him, to the prophet Jesus, or Christ, whom he calls Son of
God. Paul speaks of himself as led towards this Jesus by a ‘constraining
love’ filling the heart with joy and peace. I have felt something of
this, or at least have felt the possibility of it. In my childhood,
‘Christus’ was called one of the vilest of the vile, and I believed
it. Now I have come to regard him as—I know not what. Just now I said
‘prophet.’ But Epictetus calls Diogenes God’s ‘own son.’ Christ, in my
judgment, stands far above Diogenes and perhaps even above Socrates. When
I say ‘above Socrates,’ I do not mean in reason, but in feeling, and in
the power to draw men towards kindness and steadfast welldoing. I think I
had come almost to the point of calling this Jesus ‘God’s own son’ in a
very real sense, as being above all other men, yes, and more—more than I
could understand. And then⸺.”

“And then?” said Clemens. I had paused. He waited an instant longer,
questioning, or rather interpreting me, with his eyes. “And then,” said
he, “something threw you back?” “Yes,” said I, “something threw me back.
And what do you think it was? Paul drew me on. But the author of this
little book, he, and Matthew, and Luke—these threw me back. It happened
in many ways. I must tell you the last first. A friend, a fellow-student,
has just now left me for Corinth, crushed to the earth by the most
shameful outrages on his family. I wished to give him some comfort, to
point him towards some hope, to give him what you Christians—for surely
you are a Christian?” He assented. “Well, what you Christians call ‘good
tidings’ or ‘gospel.’

“Now if I could believe Paul, I should have a ‘gospel.’ For then the
spirit of Jesus, having risen from the dead, would be travelling about
the world everywhere at hand to strengthen His disciples, and to comfort
their hearts, and to assure them that all will be well in the end. ‘I
have prevailed over death’—so His Spirit would say to us—‘I will always
help the poor and oppressed. I will never forsake them till I have made
them sharers in my eternal kingdom.’ This it would say to each one of
us, ‘You, Gaius, or you, Marcus, I will be with you always. I will never
forsake you.’ But how can I believe these beautiful assurances, when I
find Mark declaring (and Matthew agreeing with him) that Christ’s last
articulate utterance was, ‘My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?’
How can I assure my friend that God never forsakes the oppressed, if He
forsook His own Son? And how can I deny that ‘forsaking,’ when the Son
Himself says, _Why hast thou forsaken?_? Epictetus forbade us to admit
that we are ever alone. ‘God,’ said he, ‘is always within you.’ Is not
that the better and nobler doctrine? If the better and nobler doctrine
is not true, does it not follow that the truth is bad and ignoble, and
that, in real truth, there is no good and noble power controlling the
world? Which of the two is right, Epictetus or Christ?”

“Both, I think,” said Clemens. He had been listening with attention
and manifest sympathy, but without any change in that steadfast look
of peace and trust which his face habitually wore. I seemed to read in
his countenance at once pain and faith, pain for my burden, faith that
he could help me to bear it or to cast it away. Presently he added, “Do
not suppose that by answering so briefly and quickly I wished to cut
short your objection or to deny the difficulty. Far from it. You have
asked, I think, one of the hardest questions, perhaps the very hardest,
that could be put to a worshipper of Christ. Often have I thought of it,
and I should not like to answer it hastily. You know perhaps that Luke
omits these words, and that he mentions, instead, something about the
‘sun’?” “Yes,” said I, “but that seemed to me only to shew that Luke was
willing to accept a version that removed the difficulty in the original.”
“I agree with you,” said Clemens, “and, if so, that indicates that the
difficulty was recognised before Luke compiled his gospel. Certainly,
certainly, those wonderful words were really uttered.”

Then he said, “First let me give you an explanation that is not
unreasonable and may have some truth in it. You know, I dare say, that
the words are from the Psalms?” “Yes,” I replied, “but the Psalmist
changes his mood. He goes on to say, ‘He hath not hid his face from
him, but, when he cried unto him, he heard him,’ and afterwards, ‘All
the ends of the earth shall remember and turn unto the Lord’.” “You
have mentioned,” said Clemens, “the very words that seem to some of our
brethren to answer your question; for they say that the Lord had in mind
the whole of the Psalm when He quoted the first words, and that He meant
this, ‘I cry unto thee, O Father, in the words of scripture _Why hast
thou forsaken me?_ knowing that thou hast not indeed hidden thy face from
me, but thou art hearing me: and all the ends of the earth shall remember
my crying and thy hearing and shall turn unto thee’.”

“And are not you content with this explanation?” said I. “Not quite,”
said Clemens. “For, though this may be true, more may be true. I have
read in another gospel, later than these three, that the Son did no work
on earth and uttered no word, without looking up to the Father in heaven
and listening to the Father’s voice, which told Him from time to time
what to do and to say. And I have heard one of the brethren, a man full
of spiritual understanding, and well read in the scriptures, interpret
the question as though it were a real question, not an exclamation—the
Son questioning the Father as to His will. If that were so, the Son might
be conceived as saying, ‘For what reason, O Father, hast thou forsaken
me for a while and hidden the light of thy countenance from me? Teach
me, O Father, in order that I also may be willing to be forsaken, and
may desire to be deprived of the light of thy countenance.’ And then the
Father replies, ‘I forsake thee, O my Son, because thou must needs die,
and in my presence is the fulness of life. The time hath come for thee to
give up thy life, that is, to lose my presence for a brief space, that
all men may gain for ever by thy brief loss and be saved from death by
thy sacrifice of life.’ And after this, said the brother, the Lord cried
out a second time. What He said then, Mark and Matthew have not recorded;
but they write that He then expired or sent forth His Spirit. The brother
I am speaking of believed that the Son, by crying aloud ‘Why hast thou
forsaken?’ prepared Himself to be willingly forsaken, and to be under the
darkness of this momentary forsaking just before He gave up His life as a
sacrifice for men.”

“But you say,” said I, “that Epictetus, too, is right.” “Certainly,”
replied Clemens. “Epictetus says that men, God’s children, are never
‘alone.’ And that is true. Indeed I can shew you presently a new
Christian gospel—the one I mentioned just now—which represents Christ
as saying this very thing, ‘Ye shall leave me alone—and yet I am _not
alone_, because the Father is with me.’ Look at the matter thus. Do we
not know that God may be regarded as being in all places at once, so that
to speak of Him as ‘here and not there’ is no less a metaphor than to
speak of His ‘hiding His countenance,’ or ‘bearing us in His arms’? God
therefore is, as Epictetus often affirms, ‘within us.’ But is He not also
(as I think Epictetus seldom or never affirms) ‘outside us’? Is not the
Psalmist’s metaphor right when he says that God, being outside us, hides
His face sometimes from His children? Sometimes He does this because
they have sinned, in order that they may seek His face and cease to sin.
But does He not also do this when men have not sinned, in order that the
righteous may become more righteous and the pure more pure, by longing
more than ever for the sight of His countenance and by thirsting anew for
His presence?

“I do not quite like to explain the dealings of God with men by anything
that frail human creatures do in sport. And yet there is something so
sacred (at least I think so) in the relations between parents and young
children, that I have been sometimes led to liken God hiding His face
from His children to a mother hiding her face from the babe in her arms.
She hides it, but only for a moment, only that the child may be the more
joyful afterwards. And the arms never let go their embrace.” Then, after
a pause, he added, “But perhaps you say, ‘Do not you Christians believe
that Christ was already perfectly righteous, and perfectly pure, and that
He already rejoiced to the utmost in the Father’s love? Why then should
God forsake such a Son? Why should He hide His face from the Holy One,
even for a time?’ That, I think, is the question you would like to ask?”

Reading assent in my face, he proceeded, “Some might reply that this
question has been answered by the brother above-mentioned, who says, in
effect, ‘The Son was forsaken by the Father, not that the Son might be
made purer, or freed from sin, but that He might know the Father’s will
and might prepare Himself for His imminent self-sacrifice.’ But is that—I
will not say a complete answer, for who will venture to say that he knows
completely all the purpose of the Father in causing the Son to feel
forsaken?—is it even an answer that ought rightly to satisfy us? Will you
be patient with me, my friend—for friends we are already (are we not?)
in our joint search after truth⸺” “We are indeed,” said I, “and I would
gladly hear your fullest thoughts on this matter.” “Permit me then,”
said he, “to put another thought before your mind, namely, that the Son
of God, being Son of man, may have been forsaken by the Father in order
to learn, as a man, the heights and depths of human nature, and to what
an abyss of darkness the purest and most faithful saint may sometimes
sink; and how even in that abyss, the saint may feel, through faith,
that there are still beneath him the arms of God, not indeed supporting
him but ready to support him; and that he is—as the prophets say about
Israel—‘forsaken’ yet ‘not forsaken.’ No height in saintliness is higher
than such a faith as this.

“The scriptures tell us,” he continued, “that man is to love God with
all his heart and with all his soul and with all his power, and with all
his understanding. You know this?” I nodded assent. “Consider then how
you and I will feel in the moments or hours before our departure, if God
has decreed that we shall pass away by a slow and tedious passage, with
a gradual weakening of our mental and spiritual powers, a chill of the
heart, a deadening of the understanding, and a fading away of the fire of
the soul; so that it is no longer possible for us, no longer permitted
to us by God Himself, to love Him with all our human powers, because our
powers themselves are becoming powerless. May we not then perhaps feel
our grasp on the hand of the heavenly Father loosening, and our souls
slipping back from the supporting strength of His presence, downward, and
still downward, into the darkness of the infinite abyss? Should that hour
of trial come upon us, would it not be a very present help in our trouble
to know that the Lord, the Saviour, the Eternal Son of God, in the form
of man, was troubled likewise?”

Indeed I thought it would—_if_ only I “knew” it. I suppose my face must
have shewn this, for Clemens, without waiting for an answer, continued
with a kindling countenance, “And now, dearest brother, be still more
patient with me while I put one more thought before you. You have been
talking to me about ‘trouble’ and about your friend’s ‘trouble’: and
you said that it made you, as well as your friend, feel ‘forsaken’.” I
assented. “And you were not ashamed,” he continued, “of feeling his
‘trouble’ to some extent as yours, nor was your friend ashamed of feeling
the ‘trouble’ of his family? Well, then, believe me, the Lord Jesus
Christ felt the troubles of all His disciples, friends, followers, yes,
all the troubles of all the sinful children of men, as though they were
His own troubles. And in feeling ‘troubled’ along with others I venture
to think that He also felt ‘forsaken’ along with others.

“This is sacred ground. I fear even to kneel, much less to tread upon
it. But I think the Lord Jesus meant this also, amidst a multitude of
meanings, ‘O Father, why hast thou forsaken me, making me feel one with
the sinners whom thou forsakest? Is it that thou art breaking for a time
the sensible bond between me and thee in order to bind me to them? Is it
that I may be made one with them, so as to make them one with me? Wouldst
thou make me to be sin that the world may be made to be righteousness?’”

I remembered the words of Paul, “Him that knew not sin God _made sin_ in
our behalf”: but I had never understood them before. Nor did I now, but I
thought I caught a glimpse of their meaning. It was only a glimpse, and
I sat silent, afraid as it were to move lest I should lose it. I seemed
in a new world, or rather, in a mixed world, in which the old and the new
were contending. I could neither see clearly nor move freely as yet. I
felt that light and freedom were around and very near, forcing their way
towards me, if I would but reach out my hand to them. But I could not do
it.

“I feel,” said I, “as though, in time, these hard words might become
intelligible, or rather, I should say, beautiful and full of comfort to
me. But how different they are from the last words of Socrates!” “Most
different,” replied Clemens. “Often have I pondered on the difference.
I was born in Athens, and I admire the literature and language of my
native city. But my mother was of Jewish extraction; and when I worship,
and pray, and feel sorrow, and seek consolation, it is in the thought
and phrase (though not in the language) of my mother’s people. And again
and again have I reflected on the strange contrast between the two ‘last
words,’ the Jewish and the Greek. These ‘last words’ represent last
thoughts. Socrates felt righteous, and happy, and not ‘forsaken,’ and
not at all anxious about his friends nor about his doctrine. The Lord
Jesus felt forsaken—doubly forsaken. First He sorrowed for His disciples
because He knew that they would forsake Him; and He prayed for them that
they might not utterly fail. Afterwards He Himself felt forsaken by the
Father.

“Perhaps, so far, Socrates may seem to have the advantage. But what has
followed? Socrates is enshrined in books, a companion and dear friend of
students for ever, but in books. He is not for the crowd in the street,
nor for the ploughman in the field, nor for the poor, the simple, and
the unlettered. And though he may fortify some of us against the fear
of death, he does not bring the deepest consolation to those who are
suffering under a perpetual burden of pains or sorrows. But the Spirit
of the Lord Jesus moves among all sorts and conditions of life in all
the races of mankind, bringing joy to them that rejoice righteously, and
wholesome sorrow to those that sin, and strength to the heavy laden, and
comfort to all that mourn, and freedom from all servile fear. Yes, He
brings freedom, even to those enemies against whom He makes war, turning
their consciences against themselves and making them His willing captives
to lead others captive in turn. For indeed this captivity is no captivity
but an embracing with the arms of a Father revealed in the Son according
to the words of Hosea ‘I taught Ephraim to walk. I took him in my arms.
He knew not that I healed him. I drew him with cords, with bands of
love.’ Dear friend, it is my firm conviction that those only can relieve
pain of the heart who have felt pain of the heart. Those only can save
the forsaken who have felt forsaken. It was in fact because Christ had
been forsaken that He was enabled to draw Paul towards Him with the cords
of His constraining love.”

“But,” said I, “if love was the foundation of Christ’s doctrine, how is
it that Mark hardly ever mentions it? Should I be wrong in saying that
Mark never mentions ‘love’ at all except in one place where Jesus, being
asked what is the greatest commandment, quotes from the scripture the
ancient commandment to love God and one’s neighbour?” “Alas,” replied
Clemens, “you would be only too right! Yet believe me, Christ’s doctrine
of doctrines was ‘love’—and that, too, not the old commandment, but a new
commandment, because Christ introduced into the world a new kind of love,
a more powerful love, a constraining love. This He imparted through His
blood to His disciples, as is made clear in this new gospel”—and here he
took a roll out of his garment—“about which I spoke to you lately, and in
a letter, by the same author, which is an appendix to the gospel.” And
then he read to me, from John’s gospel, the words, “A new commandment
give I unto you that ye love one another,” and “By this shall all men
know that ye are my disciples if ye have love one to another”; and he
pointed out the newness and greatness of the love, reading the words,
“Greater love hath no man than this that a man lay down his life for his
friends.” Lastly, he added, from the epistle, “God is love.”

All this astonished me not a little, and I replied, “Here at last, it
seems to me, we have the only true gospel, Paul’s gospel, the gospel of
the constraining love of Christ. But how came it to pass that, whereas
this was the true gospel, such a gospel as Mark’s, full of marvels, and
portents, and exorcisms, should be the first published to the world—so I
have been told on good authority—a gospel that gives a whole column to
the dancing of the daughter of Herodias and not one line to ‘love one
another’?”

“Often and often,” replied Clemens, “have I asked myself the same
question. I think, though I am not sure, that the reason is this. After
the resurrection of the Lord, the apostles went forth to the world to
attest the resurrection, and to preach the gospel, saying, in effect,
what we find Peter and Paul actually saying in their epistles. But
perhaps you have not read Peter’s epistle?” I had not. “If you had, you
would have found that Peter, like Paul, teaches this commandment of love.
Doubtless all the apostles did the same. Consequently, before any gospels
were written, all the churches were familiar with this doctrine of love,
and with the doctrine of the resurrection. These were the important
things. These had been handed down by the apostles to the elders, and
by the first generation of the elders to the second. These, therefore,
the churches knew. But the unimportant things, as Paul deemed them, the
things that concerned Christ in the flesh, and His works of healing and
of casting out spirits, and His sayings in the flesh to the disciples,
and His discussions and controversies with the Pharisees, and how He was
delivered over to Pilate, and how He suffered this and that particular
humiliation (such as ‘spitting’ and ‘smiting’) in exact accordance with
the scriptures—these things the churches had not committed to memory in
any kind of detail. These therefore the earliest evangelist wrote down.
Hence it came to pass that he recorded, in large measure, not the most
important but the least important things.”

“I understand now,” said I, “but is it not to be regretted?” “For all
reasons but one,” replied Clemens, “I think it is to be regretted. I
am often sorry that Mark does not give us the Lord’s Prayer. I suppose
he omitted it, as being known to everybody. But, as it is, we have two
versions, and Matthew’s is very different from Luke’s. A version by Mark
might have taught us whether the two versions are from one original,
or whether the Lord gave His disciples two prayers at two different
times—perhaps one before the resurrection, one after it. Again, Mark does
not give us any account of the Lord’s resurrection. Some think that a
page of the manuscript of his gospel was lost. I, too, once thought so;
but now I am disposed to think that he stopped short here, saying, ‘Here
begins the testimony of the apostles. It is their part to testify to the
Lord’s resurrection.’ In any case it is to be regretted.”

“But,” said I, “your expression, just now, was, ‘to be regretted for _all
reasons but one_.’ What did you mean by that?” “I meant,” said Clemens,
“that if all the evangelists had agreed exactly in their reports of all
Christ’s words, there might have been, amidst many advantages, this one
disadvantage, the danger that the letter of the words of the Lord might
have become a second law, like the law of Moses, to be interpreted by
lawyers. In that case, what the Lord said about divorce, and marriage,
and about the manner of life of the evangelists, and their sustenance,
and about giving up or retaining one’s possessions—all these things might
have been collected into a small code. On this code might have been
written a large commentary; on that, perhaps, another commentary, still
larger. Thus the Church of Christ might have drifted into the legalities
of men far away from the one true law of Christ, as it is defined in
Paul’s epistles ‘Bear ye one another’s burdens,’ and (in the new gospel
that I shewed you just now) ‘Love one another with the love with which I
have loved you’.”

“Tell me more about that new gospel,” said I. “I would gladly do so,”
said Clemens, “if time permitted. But the shadows are lengthening and
the hour we were to spend together is past. Most willingly would I stay
with you, but my work calls me away. Tomorrow, however, if you would
like to come to my lodging in the house of Justus, at the corner of the
market-place, soon after sunset, I shall have returned to Nicopolis,
and you shall have a sight of the new gospel and such aid as I can give
you in explaining it.” So we parted for the time, after I had eagerly
accepted his invitation.

“How many things I should have asked him if he could only have stayed!”
was my first thought, as Clemens disappeared behind the bushes. My
next thought was, “How many new things I already have to think about!”
Mechanically I turned homewards and took a few steps on the way to the
city. Then I sat down to reflect.

Not many minutes had elapsed before I heard footsteps behind me.
Presently, a little on my left, Clemens, without noticing me, passed
striding hastily onwards in the direction of Nicopolis. I called to him.
He turned and came up to me with an exclamation of joy, “I am thankful to
have found you so soon. It has been on my mind that I ought to have at
least explained to you why I did not offer to lend you this new gospel.”
“I would not have lent it to anyone had I been in your place,” said I.
“Yes,” said Clemens, “you would have. Trust me, dear friend, if you
believed this gospel, as I do, you would long to lend it to those who did
not as yet believe it. But the truth is, I did not wish to lend it to you
without a few words of introduction, for which I feared there would be no
time. I forgot that the moonlight would suffice to guide me to the end of
my journey. Have you leisure and desire for a little more conversation?
Without it, I fear this little book might make you stumble, might even
repel you. It is entirely different from the other three gospels both
in its style and in its language. Whether reporting Christ’s sayings or
relating His actions, it almost always differs from the earlier accounts.
It is also largely different in the facts related. What say you?”

“I say ‘Thanks,’ with all my heart,” replied I; then, as we sat down
together, “May I ask first, who wrote it?” “You not only may, but ought,”
he replied. “It is just the question I expected from you, and, alas! just
one of the questions that I cannot answer in the usual way by saying ‘A
the son of B.’ It seems to hint the authorship in dark expressions. At
the end of the book it says, ‘This is the disciple that beareth witness
of these things and he that wrote these things’; but the texts vary and
it is not quite clear whether the ‘writer’ and the ‘bearer of witness’
are one and the same. Nor does it give any name to the witness or the
writer, nor any means of ascertaining the name or names, except that
it describes him, a little before, as being ‘the disciple whom Jesus
loved, who also leaned on His breast,’ i.e. at the last supper. Also,
going back further, I find it written concerning a certain flow of blood
and water from the side of the Saviour on the cross, ‘He that hath seen
hath borne witness and his witness is true, and he knoweth that he saith
true, that ye may believe.’ Going back further still, and comparing the
beginning with the end of the gospel, the reader is led indirectly to the
conclusion that the disciple that ‘hath borne witness’ is John the son of
Zebedee.

“This John is often referred to as one of the chief apostles, in the
three gospels; but his name is not so much as once mentioned in the
fourth. Whenever ‘John’ occurs in this gospel, it is always John the
Baptist, even though ‘Baptist’ is not added. Not till the last chapter
does it become clear that the author is one of the ‘sons of Zebedee’.”
“But might it not be James?” said I. “It might,” replied Clemens, “but
for the following fact. The gospel goes on to say, in effect, that,
whereas Peter was to be crucified hereafter, this disciple was to live
so long that a report sprang up in the church that he would never die.
Now this could not apply to James, as he was beheaded quite early in the
history of the church. It follows therefore that the author was John,
who, though he became a martyr, or witness, for the Saviour, survived his
martyrdom and lived to a great age.”

This seemed to me an unsatisfactory way of writing history, and not
quite fair to readers. For ought they not to be partly guided, in
their judgment of the historian’s statements, by their knowledge of his
character, and of his opportunities for obtaining information? “How much
more satisfactory,” said I, “is the honest straightforwardness of the
Greek writer, ‘This is the third year of the history that Thucydides
compiled’.” “You are right,” replied Clemens, “I cannot deny it. It
would have been more satisfactory—if it could have been written with
truth—that we should read at the end of this little roll, ‘I John, the
son of Zebedee, wrote this work.’ But what if he did not write it yet
had a great part in originating it? What if there was some kind of joint
production, revision, or correction, of the work, so that it would not
have been true to say, ‘I John wrote it’?”

“Is there any evidence of this?” I asked. “A little,” he replied.
“It is the only one of the four gospels that contains ‘we’ in its
conclusion, thus, ‘_We_ know that his testimony is true.’ I have also
heard a tradition that it was revealed to Andrew that John was to write
the gospel and that his fellow-disciples and bishops should revise it.
But the following is more important evidence: John the son of Zebedee
wrote a book called the Apocalypse—have you seen it?” I said that I had
glanced at it. “It was written when he was a very old man, after he had
been sent to the mines in Patmos by Domitian, and it is written in, I
will not say bad Greek, but a dialect of Greek entirely different from
that of any of the gospels or epistles. Now the fourth gospel is written
in very fair Greek and in a style as different as possible from that
of the Apocalypse. It is quite impossible that John, after writing the
Apocalypse when he was eighty or ninety, should then write a gospel in a
style so absolutely different.”

“Then why,” said I, “should the gospel be called by his name?” “I explain
it thus,” said Clemens. “When John returned from Patmos a very old man,
saved from the fiery trial of the sufferings he had undergone—both before
his condemnation and also afterwards in the mines—it was natural that
every word uttered by him should be treasured up. I have heard it said
that he could hardly be carried into the church, and that, when there,
he repeated nothing but ‘Little children, love one another.’ In time,
the brethren grew weary of this and remonstrated with him. This seems to
have gone on for a long while. For (as I have said above) a report was
current about him that he would ‘never die’ but would wait for the Lord’s
coming. There is no record (known to me) of any time, place, or manner,
of his departure. I infer that, during the period of his decrepitude,
the brethren at Ephesus would collect traditions from him and preach his
gospel for him as far as they could. Afterwards, when it was clear that
he would die, the gospel would be reduced to writing.” “But this,” said
I, “greatly lowers the value of the gospel as history.” “It does,” said
he, “and its historical value may also be lowered by the fact that, even
before the gospel was written, the apostle was a great seer of visions. A
seer is not the best kind of historian. He is liable to mix vision with
fact. Especially might this be done by a seer that had seen Christ both
before and after Christ’s death. But still I greatly value this gospel
because, like the epistles of Paul, it seems to me to go to the root
of the matter. I told you just now that the old man, when he could say
nothing else, repeated over and over again the words ‘Little children,
love one another.’ When they asked him to say something else, he said
‘that was enough.’ And the old man was right. It is ‘enough’—if we can
receive strength to do it.”

“This greatly attracts me,” said I. “But, if your explanation is true, a
great deal depends upon the apostle’s friend, or friends, who wrote down
the substance of his traditions and arranged them as a gospel.” “A great
deal, as you say,” replied Clemens. “I have been informed that there was
a great teacher near Ephesus, who was called preeminently ‘_the Elder_’—a
name given, I believe, by students to their teacher, even in some of the
schools of the Stoics. Has that ever fallen within your experience?”
“Something of the kind,” I replied. “I remember that Epictetus lately
spoke of himself as ‘_the Elder_.’ It seemed to me a modest way of saying
‘I whom you call your Teacher, or your Master, but I merely call myself
your Elder.’ He said we ought to be so superior to the fear of death
that his great business ought to be to keep us from dying too soon,
not to make us fearless of death. ‘This,’ he said, ‘ought to engage the
attention of _the Elder_ sitting in this chair.’ And then he added, ‘This
ought to be the great struggle of _your Teacher_ and _Trainer_, if indeed
you had such a one’—as though Elder and Teacher were much the same thing.”

“That,” said Clemens, “is exactly to the point. Well then, you must know
that John the son of Zebedee is commonly supposed to have written not
only a gospel but also an epistle, or perhaps three epistles. The first
epistle is quite in the style of the gospel, but it mentions not ‘John,’
nor even ‘I,’ at the beginning, but ‘_we_,’ ‘That which _we_ have heard.’
The two other letters, which are very short, begin, ‘_The Elder_ to
so-and-so.’ These two letters are in style similar to that of the first,
but some doubt exists as to their authorship, and I have seen it written,
in connexion with them, that the Wisdom of Solomon was not written by
Solomon but ‘by his friends to do him honour.’ Whoever wrote that, seems
to have believed that ‘_the Elder_’ mentioned in the two epistles was not
John the son of Zebedee but one of his ‘friends’.”

“What was the Elder’s name?” said I. “The two epistles do not mention
it,” replied Clemens. “But the Elder near Ephesus of whom I spoke
above, was called by the same name as the son of Zebedee, ‘John’; and
the tradition that mentions him (along with another teacher named
Aristion) appears to distinguish the two Johns, mentioning both in the
same sentence. I ought to add that I mentioned this same Elder above as
defending Mark on the ground that he was the mere interpreter of Peter.
‘Mark,’ said the Elder, ‘made it his single object to leave out nothing
of the things that he heard and to say nothing that was false therein.’
Now you will find—I think I have already mentioned the fact—that this
new gospel frequently intervenes, where Luke omits, or alters, anything
that is in Mark, so as to explain Mark’s obscurity or set forth Mark’s
tradition in different language. This points to the conclusion that the
writer of the fourth gospel agreed with the Elder called John in his
verdict on Mark, which is, in effect, ‘Not erroneous in fact though
imperfect in expression.’ My own belief is that this tradition about
two persons of the same name is accurate; and that, besides John the
Apostle, there was also the Elder John, residing in or near Ephesus about
the same time.”

“But,” I asked, “might not ‘John the elder’ naturally be taken to mean
‘older in age’ as opposed to ‘John the younger’? And is it not strange
that, in view of the great age of John the Apostle, such a distinctive
appellation should be given to his namesake?” “Perhaps it would be,”
replied Clemens. “But it is not given. Have you not noticed that I did
not speak of ‘_John the Elder_’ but of ‘_the Elder, John_’? The two are
quite different. The former (at least among Christians) would simply mean
‘John the Presbyter or Elder’ as distinct from ‘John the Deacon,’ ‘John
the Bishop,’ and so on. But ‘the Elder, John’—a phrase twice repeated in
my tradition—may imply that the teacher was known during his life among
his pupils as ‘_the Elder_,’ and that, after his death, ‘John’ was added
for the sake of clearness. I believe it was the custom to describe the
elders near Ephesus in this indefinite way.”

The view here taken by Clemens has been somewhat confirmed of late
years by a practice that I have noticed—a bad practice, I think—in the
young Irenæus. In the course of his lectures, when referring to his
authority—instead of mentioning an elder by name, Polycarp, Aristion,
Papias, John, as the case may be—he used such expressions as “He that is
greater than we are,” “The divine old man and herald of the truth,” “He
that is superior to us,” and all these, as far as I could gather, about
elders in the province of Ephesus. Concerning this indefiniteness I am
in the same mind now as I was when I replied to Clemens, “It is very
unfortunate.”

“It is,” said he, “but I believe it is fact. Well then, according to my
view, one particular elder of these Johannine elders—I mean the elders in
the region of Ephesus collected round the aged apostle, John the son of
Zebedee—was so much superior to the rest that he was called preeminently
‘_the_ Elder.’ If ‘the Elder’ preached and wrote for John the Apostle,
and if the Elder’s name was John, there would be an additional reason why
the writer of the gospel would avoid the name John (except in connexion
with John the Baptist) throughout the gospel.

“But my conviction is that the aged apostle, besides preferring oral
tradition to books (as you will see from the last lines of his work),
shrank from putting himself forward as the author by the name of
‘John,’ and insisted that, if he was to be mentioned at all, it was to
be only by the title, ‘the disciple whom Jesus loved.’ John the Elder
may have accepted this condition because he felt it to express a deep
truth—namely, that the Lord Jesus is best known through some one whom He
has loved.

“You know how carefully the Greeks distinguish ‘voice’ or ‘sound’ from
‘word.’ Well, this new gospel introduces John the Baptist as testifying
to Christ and saying that he was a mere voice, ‘I am the _voice_ of one
crying in the wilderness, _Make straight the way of the Lord_.’ To the
inferior and preparatory witness is given a distinctive name ‘John.’ The
superior and perfected witness was also called ‘John’ after the flesh;
but the writer of the gospel preferred that the name after the flesh
should be dropped, yes, and even his distinctive personality merged, as
it were, in the title, ‘the disciple whom Jesus loved’.”

“But you spoke, above, about ‘brethren’ as perhaps preaching John’s
gospel for him during his decrepitude. Now you seem to incline to think
that only one man wrote it?” “Yes,” replied Clemens, “I used ‘brethren’
first, to leave the question open. Then I endeavoured to give reasons
for thinking it was one brother; and this conclusion is supported by
the style. There are some slight differences in this gospel between the
words of the Lord and the words of the evangelist, in respect of style.
That is natural; indeed, one would expect many more. But, taken as a
whole, the gospel does not shew many styles, as Luke’s does, but only one
style—extending to the words of all characters introduced in the book, so
that it is sometimes hard to say where a speaker ceases to speak and the
evangelist begins to comment.”

“But this is surely astonishing,” said I, “that the author should have
so little regard for the words of the Lord as not to make it absolutely
and always clear where they end, and where his own comments, or the words
of someone else, begin.” “It is astonishing,” said Clemens, “but I am
disposed to think that John the Apostle himself may in some cases have
left his friends in doubt; and the Elder—or whoever it was that wrote
the gospel—may have thought it best to leave the ambiguity as he found
it. I pointed out to you above how the differences between the three
gospels had this advantage that they forced the reader to think of the
spirit rather than the letter of the words of the Lord. But they also
had a danger, namely, that men might be puzzling their brains as to the
differences of scribes and reporters instead of refreshing their hearts
with the Spirit of Christ. Now if the Elder had, so to speak, simply
added a fourth parallel column to the three existing parallel columns
of the sayings of the Lord, the result might have been to increase that
danger.

“You may say that if the Elder felt sure that he had received the exactly
correct form of the Lord’s words from John the Apostle, he ought to
have set them down thus, whatever might be the consequences. But I do
not believe that he did feel sure. More probably he knew that it was
impossible, from the old man’s reminiscences, to restore the words
exactly, as uttered by Jesus, and that it was best not to attempt a
restoration, but to prefer paraphrase, giving their spiritual essence.
Or else, in cases where the three evangelists differed seriously among
themselves, the Elder might think it best to substitute an entirely new
tradition on the same subject.”

“Is it not possible,” said I, “that some part of the gospel may have been
written at an earlier date? Are there for example any expressions that
shew the Temple to have been still standing at the time of writing?”
“I have looked through the volume, searching for such evidence,”
replied Clemens, “and can find absolutely nothing except a phrase in a
rather obscure and corrupt passage about the existence of a pool, an
intermittent pool, near Jerusalem. Now of course a pool is not destroyed
even when a neighbouring city is utterly destroyed; and parts of
Jerusalem continued to be inhabited, after its capture by Titus, although
the walls, and a large part of the city, were razed to the ground. The
gospel says, ‘There _is_ in Jerusalem a pool … having five porches.’ I
have not ascertained whether this pool is still used (as the narrative
says it was then) for medicinal purposes, and whether the ‘porches’
still exist. I must also confess my belief that this is one of several
narratives in which perhaps allegory may have modified history. But in
any case the phrase ‘there is a pool’ seems to me to afford no basis,
worth calling such, for a hypothesis of date. It seems to me of little
more importance than if a writer said ‘There _is_ a mountain called the
Mount of Olives’ or ‘There _is_ a brook called Kedron.’ I could, if you
liked, discuss the passage with you more fully.”

“Let me rather ask you,” said I, “about a matter that greatly interests
me. The words of Christ at the last supper—does John give them as Mark
and Matthew do, or as Luke, or as Paul?” “That is a case,” said Clemens,
“where John does not correct but substitutes. He does not give these
words at all. But he inserts a narrative about Christ’s washing the feet
of the disciples, and a precept that the disciples are to do the same.
The ‘washing of feet,’ as I could shew you if time allowed, is connected
with sacrifice, in Leviticus. As to the partaking of the bread and wine,
he says expressly that the Saviour gave some of it to Judas—meaning (I
think) to shew that there was no efficacy for good in the food, apart
from faith and love.”

“And what,” I asked, “as to the words about ‘forsaking’ uttered on the
cross, where Luke again differs from Mark and Matthew?” “Here,” replied
Clemens, “I do not feel sure whether John introduces a new saying
altogether, or gives the substance of the old saying in Mark. Certainly
he does not agree with Luke. And let me add that I have examined a great
number of passages where words of Mark, being obscure or difficult, are
altered or omitted by Luke, and I find that in almost every case John
intervenes to support Mark—only expressing Mark’s meaning more clearly
and spiritually.

“Concerning the ‘forsaking,’ I suggested to you before that it is a
metaphor. If so, the reality may be expressed by other metaphors in the
scriptures, such as ‘I have lost the light of thy countenance,’ ‘I am
cast away from the joy of thy presence,’ ‘My soul is deprived of the
fountain of thy light.’ The Psalms say, ‘O God, my God … my soul is
athirst for thee,’ and again, ‘My soul thirsteth for God, … when shall
I come and appear before God?’ The ‘thirst’ implies absence from God.
It will be satisfied by ‘coming’ to God. Well, John represents Jesus as
saying, ‘I thirst,’ in accomplishment of ‘the scriptures.’ Then (as I
take it) the soldiers misunderstand this thirst as meaning simply literal
thirst. They offer Christ vinegar. Christ ‘took it,’ says the gospel.
Then He said, ‘It is finished’ and ‘rested His head’—that is to say, on
the bosom of the Father, and ‘delivered over His spirit’.”

“‘Rested His head’ is a strange expression,” said I. “It is,” said
Clemens, “but it occurs in Matthew and Luke as follows, ‘The Son of
man hath not where to rest His head,’ meaning ‘He hath no home, no
resting-place, on earth, but only with the Father above.’ One of the
ablest Greek scholars among the brethren assures me that John also uses
the phrase to mean this; and I believe it is not used in Greek in any
other sense. So, too, ‘delivered over His spirit’ signifies that in the
supreme moment the ‘delivering over’ of the Suffering Servant was not
passive but active. He delivered Himself over. But I ought to add that,
in Aramaic, the same verb means (in different forms) ‘finish,’ ‘deliver
over,’ and—the word used here by Mark and Luke—‘expire’.”

Scaurus had said something of this kind concerning the three gospels, and
had argued that it increased the difficulty of ascertaining what Christ
actually said. But I had supposed that it would not extend to a gospel
written in a Greek city like Ephesus and so long after the other gospels,
when Greek traditions might be expected to predominate. I was depressed
by this frank avowal on the part of Clemens, and remained in silence for
a moment or two weighing its consequences.

Clemens waited patiently for me to resume our conversation. Soon it
occurred to me that I had been unreasonable in my expectations if the
circumstances were as he had described them. Suppose this new gospel
to have originated from the reminiscences of John the son of Zebedee,
a fisherman of Galilee, and the aged author of such a book as the
Apocalypse. How could such traditions, if set down exactly as they came
from the old man’s lips, fail to abound in Jewish phrases and thoughts
such as I had met with in the apocalyptic work? But these would have
made the gospel very unsuitable for Greeks and Romans and indeed for
almost all except Jews. It was therefore natural, and indeed almost
necessary, that the old man’s recollections, after being imparted to his
friends, who would probably be the elders of Ephesus, should be freely
interpreted, or perhaps paraphrased, in a form fit for all readers. Such
interpreters, or such an interpreter, might not always be perfectly
successful.

It was foolish of me not to have foreseen this. But still I was
disappointed. “This,” said I, “adds a new element of uncertainty, if John
has sometimes preserved traditions of Christ’s words translated from
the Jewish tongue.” “It does,” said Clemens, “and so does another fact
that applies both to Greek and to Hebrew or Aramaic. You know that, in
Greek, ‘he _said_’ or ‘_used to say_,’ or ‘it _says_,’ often signifies
‘he _meant_’ or ‘it _means_.’ The same is true in Hebrew. Hence if an
evangelist or scribe, after giving Christ’s actual words, for example,
‘_Do righteousness_,’ were to add ‘But he meant, _Do alms_’—because,
in Hebrew, ‘righteousness’ often means ‘alms’—it would be possible to
misinterpret the addition as meaning ‘But he [also] _said_ (or, _used to
say_) _Do alms_,’ thus erroneously creating a second precept. For these
and other reasons I cannot feel sure that the saying ‘I thirst,’ about
which we were just now conversing, may not be a paraphrase of the Lord’s
words about being ‘forsaken.’ John the son of Zebedee may have known
that the latter words were misunderstood from the first by the soldiers,
and also that they were misinterpreted by some Christians. Hence I think
the aged apostle may have prayed for a revelation as to the true meaning
of the words, and it may have been revealed to him, ‘The Lord said—that
is, He really said, His real meaning was—that He “_thirsted_”.’ This
indeed would be a surprise or paradox compared with what the gospel says
elsewhere. But the scriptures are full of such paradoxes.”

“But how ‘elsewhere’?” said I. “Do you mean that here Christ feels thirst
whereas ‘elsewhere’ He quenches thirst? I do not remember that.” “I
forgot,” replied Clemens, “that you had not read the new gospel. That
gospel represents Christ as saying to a sinful woman, ‘Give me to drink,’
and afterwards, to the same woman, ‘He that believeth on me shall never
thirst,’ and, after that, to the Jews, ‘If any one be athirst, let him
come unto me and drink.’ This same gospel says that the ‘food’ of the Son
is to do the will of the Father. This, then, may be described as His meat
and drink. If, therefore, He ‘thirsts,’ He is athirst to do the Father’s
will, so that He hungers and thirsts for righteousness in the souls of
sinful men and women, thirsting to free them from thirst by giving them
the water of life. All through His life He has not thirsted because the
living water has been passing freely from the Father to Him and from
Him to others. But now, on the point of death, the Giver of the water
of life is Himself caused to thirst for it! The Father, in His infinite
love, causes the Son Himself to thirst for that love! Instead of helping
others, the Son is constrained to ask as it were to be helped—in order
that He may help others better. This is perhaps the deepest and most
wonderful of all the Lord’s deep sayings—‘I thirst for the righteousness
and love of God, that I and mine may be in the Father, and that the
Father may be in me and mine.’ In the end, this will be one of the Lord’s
words that ‘will never pass away.’ But what was its effect at the time?
When Socrates uttered his last wishes, Crito was at hand to say, ‘This
shall be done.’ But when Christ cried ‘I thirst,’ no friend was at hand
to satisfy that thirst, and the cry was taken by the soldiers as meaning,
‘I thirst for a little of your sour wine’!”

“It seems to me,” said I, “that you regard this gospel, not exactly as
history, but as history mingled with poetry or with vision?” “Not quite
so,” said Clemens. “I should prefer to say, ‘as history _interpreted_
through spiritual insight or poetic vision.’ I take the historical fact
to be that there came into the world, as man, a divine Being, endowed
with a power of drawing man and God into one, by drawing the hearts of
men towards Himself, and, through Himself, to the Father. Making men one
with Himself, He also made them one with each other in Himself. This is
the great historical fact, the fact of facts, foreordained before the
foundation of the world. This, then, is the fact that needs to be brought
out clearly in the history of Christ—not the facts (though they are
facts) that the Pharisees often washed their hands and that the daughter
of Herodias danced before John the Baptist was beheaded. Well, then, put
yourself in the position of—whoever it was that wrote this fourth gospel,
say, ‘the Elder.’ Imagine him returning fresh from an interview with the
old man John, the son of Zebedee, who will not allow himself to be called
a ‘son of thunder’⸺.”

“But why,” said I, “should he not have allowed himself to be called
John the son of Zebedee? And why should he object to be called one of
the sons of thunder, if Jesus called him so?” “As to the latter name,”
replied Clemens, “I very much doubt whether Mark has translated the term
correctly; I will tell you why, another time: but assuredly he was not a
noisy ‘son of thunder’ as we should understand the phrase in the west.

“As to the former name, you will find in this gospel that ‘Simon son of
John’ is thrice mentioned as Peter’s name, in a passage where Peter is
rebuked for having denied his Master. It is, so to speak, his name after
the flesh, his unregenerate name. ‘Peter,’ or ‘stone,’ is his regenerate
name. So, ‘_John son of Zebedee_’ would be this disciple’s unregenerate
name. The fourth gospel never uses that name except once, in the phrase
‘the sons of Zebedee,’ on the same occasion on which Peter is rebuked
as ‘_Simon son of John_.’ For the most part John the son of Zebedee is
described (in this gospel) as ‘the other disciple’—that is, the one as
yet unheard, the one whose testimony is still to be given. Or else, the
name is connected with Christ’s love—‘the disciple that Jesus loved.’
He feels that he owes all that he has, his very being, to the fact that
Jesus _loved him_, that Jesus made him what he now is. Moreover Jesus
gave him, by perpetual visions after His death, an insight into the
meanings of His words uttered before death. Hence he might feel that
Christ’s words, once dark sayings, have now become clear. From being old,
they have become quite new, so as to require an altogether new record.”

“I am not sure,” said I, “that I understand your meaning. Do you hold
that the fourth gospel differs from the three because of the special
character of John the son of Zebedee, or because of the special
interpretation of ‘the Elder’?” “Because of both,” said Clemens. “Then,”
said I, “you think that John the son of Zebedee, far from being a
‘son of thunder’ in the sense in which Pericles might be so called by
Aristophanes, was a man of a retiring and vision-seeing nature, who
merged himself in Christ; and that his namesake, the Elder, believed
that the aged apostle was as it were a mirror, in whom, and in whose
traditions, it was possible to discern more of Christ’s real expression
than in the ancient document of Mark.”

“That comes near the truth, I think,” replied Clemens. “And yet I
should be very far from denying that Mark, and the other early gospels,
are right in several features apparently omitted by John—for example,
Christ’s love of ‘the little ones,’ and His anxiety lest they should
be caused to stumble, and His insistence on the necessity of receiving
the Kingdom of God as little children. But it seems to me that some of
these precepts about ‘little ones’ may have been misunderstood so that
the brethren needed Paul’s warning, ‘Be _not little children_ in your
minds,’ and again, ‘In malice be babes, but _in understanding be men_.’
The root of all these precepts was the divine feeling of ‘littleness,’ or
‘childhood,’ or ‘sonship.’ This is realised in the Son of God doing the
will of the Father. In order to do that will on earth, He must be always
keeping His eyes on the Father in heaven. The earlier gospels represent
Christ with His eyes fixed on the ‘little ones’ on earth, the sick, the
sorrowful, the ignorant, the sinful. That also is true. The new gospel
appears to me to attempt to shew how the two truths are combined.”

“But you surely do not mean to say,” I exclaimed, “that Jesus, in the
new gospel, never makes mention of the ‘little ones’ or the ‘little
children,’ so frequently mentioned by the earlier evangelists!” “I do
indeed,” replied Clemens. “He does not make mention of either term
once, except that, after the resurrection, seeing the disciples engaged
in labour that has lasted through the night and effected nothing, He
calls to them and says ‘Little children!’ But yet, although He does not
elsewhere use the word ‘children,’ He has the thought constantly before
Him. At the beginning of the gospel, He teaches that men must be ‘_born
from above_,’ that is, become little children in the eyes of God. Towards
the end, He uses a mother’s word to them (‘_teknia_,’ ‘darlings’). He
also says, ‘I will not leave you _orphans_,’ and declares that His
disciples are to be in Himself, the Son. Now to be in the Son, means to
be made ‘a little child’ in the perfect sense of Christ’s meaning.”

“Perhaps,” said I, “this explains why Paul seldom mentions the word
‘little children’.” “‘Seldom’,” said Clemens, “is not the right word.
Paul _never_ mentions it, except in the warning I mentioned above.
Moreover John, in his epistle, says, ‘I have written unto you little
children, _because ye have known the Father_.’ That word ‘_known_’
goes to the root of the matter. The essence of ‘little childhood,’ in
Christ’s sense, is _not ignorance, but knowledge_—‘knowing the Father.’
And ‘knowing the Father’ implies loving the Father, or desiring the
Father. There are cases where ‘desire’ may perhaps be well substituted
for ‘love,’ so as to indicate that kind of love which leads one onwards
to the object desired. This gospel seems to me to attempt to express—if
I may so speak in accordance with the prophets of Israel—a desire of God
for man, producing a desire of man for God. The work of the Son of God is
to unite these two desires. This is a great mystery, a mystery past mere
logic, that God, the Creator, should ‘desire.’ Yet I accept it—as it has
been expressed by a certain holy woman of Athens, whom I verily believe
to have been inspired by God, ‘The Son of God chose to be lifted up upon
the tree of the Cross that we might receive the food of angels. And what
is this food of angels? It is the desire of God, which draws to itself
the desire that is in the depths of the soul and they make one thing
together’.”

This saying was beyond me at the time. But I felt that it contained
truth, and that I should grow into some apprehension of it. And what
Clemens had said, though very strange at first, had been gradually
growing to seem possible and even reasonable, if one may use the word
concerning that which accords with the spiritual Logos—namely, that the
Son of God, being human, was caused to feel forsaken by God, and to
desire God, and to ask why this strange feeling of forsakenness, this
unwonted, unsatisfied desire, was brought upon Him by the Father. Then,
according to the saying of this holy woman of Athens, the answer of
the Father was, “In receiving this forsakenness and this desire for my
presence, thou art receiving from me my desire, which draws up to me thy
desire, and they two make one together.”

But to return to Clemens, whom I began to trust all the more because I
felt that he was keeping back nothing from me. “What I am attempting,”
said he, “to express, but expressing very feebly, is this. I am trying
to put myself in the position of the Elder, preaching the gospel for
John the son of Zebedee in Ephesus, some time after the aged apostle
returned from his martyrdom in Patmos, when he was quite decrepit and no
longer able to be carried into the midst of the congregation, to utter
even a few words. If I came into that old man’s presence and heard
from him traditions about the Master, whom he loved and who loved him,
I might say, ‘Here indeed is a revelation of Christ. Here I feel Christ
Himself.’ Nevertheless, on going out, I might find it very hard to make
a chronological and consecutive history out of his utterances. Sometimes
he might be describing past fact; sometimes he might be prophesying the
future; sometimes he might speak of the past as if still present—as
though he were even now with his Master in Cana or Jerusalem; sometimes
he might be rapt in a present ecstasy; sometimes he might be describing
ecstatic visions of the past; sometimes he might speak in poetic
metaphor, sometimes in literal prose; but always he would be penetrated
and imbued with the love of Christ. The result—for me, I confess it—would
be that I should go out, thinking, ‘This is not history in the common
sense of the term. But it is something, I will not say better, but more
needed by the church, than a mere history of facts such as a writer like
Mark could have given with fuller information. It gives glimpses into a
divine and human personality that includes in itself a real history—a
history of a great invisible war of good against evil, a great invisible
redemption, God coming down to earth to lift man up to heaven’.”

“But,” said I, “do not Matthew and Luke give these glimpses in their
description of the incarnation?” “I should rather have said,” replied
Clemens, “that, instead of giving glimpses, they attempt to describe a
spiritual fact in the language of material history. John, you will find,
does not make this attempt. He simply says that ‘the Logos became flesh.’
Then he introduces disciples believing in their Master as Messiah,
undeterred by their supposition that He is ‘the son of Joseph’ and ‘from
Nazareth.’ John assumes all through his gospel that Jesus came down from
heaven and is to go up thither again. He refuses to recognise that this
coming down and this going up are impossible for the Son of God incarnate
as the son of Joseph. All this appears to me true. And in many respects
I admire this little book more than I can find time or words to express.
Yet I must deal frankly with you and confess that this new gospel, like
the rest, appears to me inadequate. What gospel would be otherwise?
All the written records of Christ’s words and acts seem to me to have,
as their main use, the awakening in us of a want of something more, a
sense of something insufficient and imperfect and unjust to the reality,
so that we cry vehemently to God for the reality, the living truth, the
spiritual light—such light as no words or books can give us. The Spirit
alone can bestow it, crying within us Abba, Father. Some interpreters,
however, seem in a special degree to have ‘the mind of Christ.’ Among the
foremost of these seems to me to stand ‘the disciple whom Jesus loved’.”

“I understand,” said I, “at least I think I do, a little. You mean that
the written biographies must first make the reader feel that they are
dead in comparison with the living person. Then the reader is to feel
drawn towards his ideal of the living person, and more and more drawn,
so that in the end⸺.” “In the end,” said Clemens, “assuredly the living
Person will come to him, or draw him to Himself, if he will but be
patient in waiting, walking according to the light he already has.” On
this he rose to depart. “One word more,” said I. “You told me that John
gives nearly a quarter of his gospel to the doctrine of the Lord on the
night on which He was delivered over. Does he give much space to the
period after the resurrection? And what does he say about that? Does he
agree with Matthew and Luke?”

“No,” said Clemens, “he differs greatly, and, as it appears to me,
deliberately, intending to correct them. For example, Matthew represents
certain women as taking hold of Christ’s feet, before He sends them
to carry word to His ‘brethren.’ John says that Jesus said to Mary
Magdalene, ‘Touch me not for I am not yet ascended to my Father,’ and
then sends her to His ‘brethren.’ Luke says that Christ said to all the
disciples, ‘Handle me,’ to shew that He was not a bodiless spirit. John
says that an offer of this nature was made to Thomas, but mentions no
such offer to any other disciple. Luke says that the disciples gave Jesus
food and He ate. John says that Jesus gave food to the disciples. In all
these points John appears to me to be nearer than Matthew and Luke to the
truth. And sometimes I think that the touching of Christ’s body by the
disciples in the Eucharist, that is to say, the touching of the bread and
tasting of the wine in our sacred meal, has been taken by Luke (if not by
Matthew) in a literal sense”—here Clemens agreed with Scaurus—“whereas
John understood the meaning correctly. But at the same time I think that
the Saviour may have been visibly present at the Eucharist, shewing the
wounds in His body, though it was not a body that could be touched.”

“Does it not seem to you,” I asked, “that this agrees better with Paul’s
descriptions of the manifestations of Jesus after death?” “Yes,” said
Clemens, “and in other respects John seems to me to be nearer the truth.
For he apparently represents Christ as having ascended to the Father
before He could be ‘touched,’ that is to say, before His spiritual body
and blood could be imparted to the disciples. Moreover, whereas Matthew
places before the Resurrection a tradition relating how Christ imparts to
the disciples authority to bind and to loose i.e. to forgive sins, John
places it afterwards. And John also describes Peter as plunging into the
water and coming to Jesus after the Resurrection,—which seems to me a
symbol of Peter passing through the waters of temptation to the Saviour
whom he had denied. But Matthew places it before the Resurrection and
takes it literally, as though Peter tried to walk on literal water and
was nearly drowned, but for the Lord’s help.”

“Then,” said I, after a long pause—for I was not prepared to find Clemens
so far in agreement with Scaurus, an unbeliever, concerning the facts
of the Christian histories—“you are very far indeed from saying, ‘I
believe in every word of the gospels of Mark, Matthew, and Luke, as being
historically accurate.’ Nay, I can hardly think you would say that, even
about the gospel of John?” “Assuredly,” he replied, “I would not say that
about any of the gospels. Indeed, dear friend, do you yourself think you
would venture to say as much as that, even about the history of your
favourite Thucydides? And does it not seem to you that, in any book that
describes the life of a man, the greater the man, and the more living the
life, the greater must be the failure of the book, and the deadness of
the book, as compared with the inexpressible spirit, not to be expressed
in any book, no, not in a universe of books?”

Then, rising, and pointing seaward, “Look!” he said, “the moon is up
already! Now indeed I must stay with you no longer. I have done my best
to deal fairly with you, even to the point perhaps of being not quite
fair to this little book, which I now hold in my hand, and am about to
place in yours, if you desire it. But are you sure that you do still
desire it? If you do indeed, I shall most gladly lend it, and you can
return it to me, this time to-morrow, at the house of Justus. But be
honest with me as I have tried to be with you. Do not take it as yet
if you are not prepared to read it as a book that comes from the east
through a western medium; a book that mingles, so as not always to be
clearly distinguished, words of the Lord with words of the evangelist,
facts and visions, histories and prophecies, metaphors that may be
misunderstood, and poems that may be taken as literal prose. It will make
you feel perhaps irritated, certainly unsatisfied. Perhaps you may end
in saying, ‘I want much more, I want to see the person to whom this book
points, but whom no book can make me feel.’ Then it will have done you
good. But perhaps you will put it aside and say, ‘I want no more’.”

He paused, and looked anxiously at me. “In that case,” continued he,
“I shall have done you harm. But what say you? After this warning, do
you—a Roman with Greek training, a reader of Homer and Thucydides—do you
still desire to see this little volume that is neither a true poem nor
a true history, a biography that hardly professes to draw the life of
Jesus as He was, but only to make us feel that it must be felt, if at
all, through ‘a disciple whom Jesus loved’?” I assured him that I greatly
desired to read it and thanked him with all my heart for the loan, and
for the frankness of his warning. “Farewell,” said he, placing the book
in my hand, “my friend, my brother—brother in the search after truth,
farewell!” “Your help,” said I, as he turned away from me, “has been more
like that of a father.” He stopped and looked round at me for a moment.
“Would indeed,” said he, “that it might prove so! Farewell!”