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6.  The Fourfold Gospel.  John’s the First Fruits of the Four.  Qualifications Necessary for Interpreting It.

Now the Gospels are four.  These four are, as it were, the elements of the faith of the Church, out of which elements the whole world which is reconciled to God in Christ is put together; as Paul says, 4477 “God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself;” of which world Jesus bore the sin; for it is of the world of the Church that the word is written, 4478 “Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world.”  The Gospels then being four, I deem the first fruits of the Gospels to be that which you 4479 have enjoined me to search into according to my powers, the Gospel of John, that which speaks of him whose genealogy had already been set forth, but which begins to speak of him at a point before he had any genealogy.  For Matthew, writing for the Hebrews who looked for Him who was to come of the line of Abraham and of David, says: 4480   “The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.”  And Mark, knowing what he writes, narrates the beginning of the Gospel; we may perhaps find what he aims at in John; in the beginning the Word, God the Word.  But Luke, though he says at the beginning of Acts, “The former treatise did I make about all that Jesus began to do and to teach,” yet p. 300 leaves to him who lay on Jesus’ breast the greatest and completest discourses about Jesus.  For none of these plainly declared His Godhead, as John does when he makes Him say, “I am the light of the world,” “I am the way and the truth and the life,” “I am the resurrection,” “I am the door,” “I am the good shepherd;” and in the Apocalypse, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.”  We may therefore make bold to say that the Gospels are the first fruits of all the Scriptures, but that of the Gospels that of John is the first fruits.  No one can apprehend the meaning of it except he have lain on Jesus’ breast and received from Jesus Mary to be his mother also.  Such an one must he become who is to be another John, and to have shown to him, like John, by Jesus Himself Jesus as He is.  For if Mary, as those declare who with sound mind extol her, had no other son but Jesus, and yet Jesus says to His mother, “Woman, behold thy son,” 4481 and not “Behold you have this son also,” then He virtually said to her, “Lo, this is Jesus, whom thou didst bear.”  Is it not the case that every one who is perfect lives himself no longer, 4482 but Christ lives in him; and if Christ lives in him, then it is said of him to Mary, “Behold thy son Christ.”  What a mind, then, must we have to enable us to interpret in a worthy manner this work, though it be committed to the earthly treasure-house of common speech, of writing which any passer-by can read, and which can be heard when read aloud by any one who lends to it his bodily ears?  What shall we say of this work?  He who is accurately to apprehend what it contains should be able to say with truth, 4483 “We have the mind of Christ, that we may know those things which are bestowed on us by God.”  It is possible to quote one of Paul’s sayings in support of the contention that the whole of the New Testament is Gospel.  He writes in a certain place: 4484   “According to my Gospel.”  Now we have no written work of Paul which is commonly called a Gospel.  But all that he preached and said was the Gospel; and what he preached and said he was also in the habit of writing, and what he wrote was therefore Gospel.  But if what Paul wrote was Gospel, it follows that what Peter wrote was also Gospel, and in a word all that was said or written to perpetuate the knowledge of Christ’s sojourn on earth, and to prepare for His second coming, or to bring it about as a present reality in those souls which were willing to receive the Word of God as He stood at the door and knocked and sought to come into them.



2 Cor. v. 19.


John i. 29.




Matt. i. 1.


John xix. 26.


Gal. ii. 20.


1 Cor. 2:12, 16.


Rom. ii. 16.

Next: Chapter VII