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Yah'shua (Jesus)




    The Word of the Cross to Hindus
    Part 1, Chapter 1: An Event in Time

      "Suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead and buried" (The Apostles Creed).

    1. Let us start with the fact. Yah'shua (Jesus) died and He died upon a cross. His death in this manner is an historical event which will not be denied or even challenged by the greatest number of reasonable men who have the materials for framing a judgment and a sense of history. I am assuming throughout this lecture that Yah'shua of Nazareth was an historical person. One may ask to be excused from entering into an argument with those few and abnormal individuals who reduce Yah'shua to a creature of the human imagination, and equate all the story of Him with allegory, myth and legend. Yah'shua was born in an historical age - into a society the order of which we are well able to reconstruct, and among persons who are known to us in ways other than by their relation to Him. The common sense of the literate and civilized world today accepts that the birth of Yah'shua took place about the date traditionally assigned to it - a difference of a year or two in the reckoning there may be, but this is a matter of small importance; and Yah'shua lived and did His work in the generation that followed. That He rose again from the dead must provoke a doubt and inquiry. Such an event is altogether removed from ordinary happening - it is outside the general experience of mankind; but that Yah'shua died, sharing our common lot, meeting that end which awaits us all, and that he died upon a cross, cut off in early manhood, no one can deny with good and sifficient reason. Why did He die upon the cross? What were the historical causes, explicable in terms of human experience, which led up to that event?

    2. We are seeking now for causes in the dear and familiar world, which is made known to us by our senses, and not in another world, invisible and remote. Our investigation lies among such men as we ourselves are. The contemporaries of Yah'shua - the people, among whom He moved and spoke and wrought - are not shadowy inventions: they are men and women of our own flesh and blood. They are urged by the sase motives and passions that stir and throb in our breasts. We can share their prejudices and doubts, and enter into and follow their processes of judging and deciding.

    3. We are not sarting this inquiry with abstract conceptions of God - His essential attributes, His justice and love; or of man - his free-will, moral consciousness and sin. We do not begin with a consideration of righteousness and forgiveness, of punishment and penitence in their ideal and perfect forms. The Church fathers and great Christian thinkers and teachers have erected systems of doctrine and theories of the Atonement by this method and upon the foundation of these ideas. They have lifted us up off this earth into another world which was of their own intellectual construction. Sometimes they have shown us there things rare and beautiful; and we have been grateful to them for vision and for inspiration. At other times they have taken us into a region where we found ourselves little at home in strange, artificial, and inhuman surroundings. We were perplexed, or even repelled, by what was offered in the name of Theology for our acceptance. The theory of the Atonement and the plan of salvation which were proposed lay like a burden upon our reason and conscience.

    4. The present endeavour is more modest and limited in scope. We intend a strictly historical inquiry. We are not suggesting that there can be a long divorce between the story of the Cross and the doctrine of it, between the fact and the theory of the death of Yah'shua. Interpretation and theorising began when the first sermon was preached at Shavuot (Pentecost), when Peter stood up and said: "Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death" (Acts 2:23). For the moment, however, we may overlook the theory that is advanced in the former hald of this statement and confine ourselves to the historical fact alleged in the latter half. Let us at least begin with the fact, and ask: Why did the Judeans (Jews) procure the death of Yah'shua? What are the reasons discoverable in history for His being crucified and slain?

    5. I cannot stress to strongly the importance and the significance of an historical inquiry such as this for Hindus. If a student of Hinduism were asked to single out any one form of it which is more characteristic of the genius of Indian thought and has exerted a greater influence on India than any other, he might unhesitatingly select the Advaita (Monistic) Vedãnta. Let it be understood and remembered always that there are other schools of Hindu religion and philosophy which are radically opposed to this Vedãnta. They claim both to interpret more faithfully the ancient scriptures of Hinduism and to give more satisfaction to the dictates of the human reason and the cravings of the human heart; but the Advaita has surpassed them all in prestige and in power. Even those, who are not confessedly followers of the school, often show its influence upon themselves in their habitual modes of speech and action, and in their whole attitude to life and the world. We cannot enter here into the questions at issue between the Advaita Vedãnta and its critics and rivals. It is impossible to do more than give the barest outline of the system which has its roots back in the Upanishads in the centuries before the birth of the Messiah (Christ), and reached its full and authoritative exposition in the Commentaries of Sankara in the 9th Century of our era.

    6. The main features of the Advaita are its doctrines of God, or the Absolute, and of the World. The Absolute is the neuter Brahma, which is the sole Existent (Sat) - 'One without a seconf' (Ekameva advitíyam). This abides for ever - the sole unity, changeless and unmodified. The world, on the other hand, is the scene of the manifold - of fleeting changes and innumerable modes. Brahma exists in no real relation, either of subsistence or of causality, to the phenomenal world; for this is being priduced without beginning and without end by the principle of Mãyã, which defies description. Western scholars have commonly rendered the term Mãyã by the English world, 'Illusion', though Hindus are beginning to protest against the translation. It appears, however, to be as exact a rendering as we can find in the English language; and it does no wrong to the Advaita conception. The whole world, therefore, lies in the realm of the Non-existant, the unreal (Asat). The appearances of a multitude of separate or individual souls - from the Personal Creator Himself and the Great Gods down the the meanest out-caste - as of the infinite variety of material objects in all the worlds, are the products of Mãyã. As an eternal principle, neither existent nor non-existent, enveloping Brahma and causing the semblance of manifoldness when there is in truth unity, and of difference when there is identity, and of change where there is no change at all, Mãyã is likened to a great conjurer. Objectively regarded, it is the creative principle of the pehnomenal universe: it keeps the weary cycle of vanity (Samsãra cakra) in ceaseless revolution.

    7. Mãyã, however, may be considered in a subjective aspect as enveloping the individual soul in man and causing him to see a distinction of persons and things. So regarded, Mãyã may be called Igtnorance (Avidyã or Ajñãna). It deludes the soul into thinking of I, and Thou (You), and He, and It; of father, mother, wife, and child; of this and that. In place of the One which alone exists, the soul, under the influence of Mãyã, sees a manifold of namkes and forms. It may be said, therefore, that Ignorance is the parent of all that becomes and appears. When the Veil of Ignorance is lifted and taken away from the Individual Soul (Jívãtma), it becomes one with the Universal and Supreme Spirit (Paramãtma); and all these images of time and space flee away into nothingness like the images of a dream when a man lapses into dreamless slumber. This is Release (Mukti, moksha); and Release from the futile round of phenomenal life is Salvation.

    8. We have said already that it is not for us here to enter into the controversy about the right interpretation of the ancient texts; nor would we ignore or belittle the efforts which are being msde by modern exponents of the Vedãnta to mitigate the rigour of this pessimistic doctrine of God and the world and put a nobler and more cheerful content into the terms, Brahma and Mãya. It must be recognised, however, that two evil consequences have ensued from the traditional and orthodox view.

    9. First, the natural and inevitable tendency of the Advaita doctrine has been to blur the difference between fact and fiction, between what really happens and what is merely imagined. It has not developed and sharpened the historical sense, but rather its effect has been to weaken and atrophy that faculty. When the whole world is regarded as belonging to the realm of falsehood and unreality, the distinction between events which occur objectively in the order of space and time and a train of images or ideas in the mind of a man becomes of minor importance: the only difference there can be is in the degree of falsehood and reality. It has been recognised by Sankara and his followers that a sort of temporary and provisional reality must be allowed to the world for convenience's sake. So long as a man has to live in the world, he must live and do as the worldly; but, all the while, the wise man is aware that he is obeying an inferior knowledge (Aparã vidyã), until such a time as he can devote himself to the higher (Parã vidyã). Hinduism, therefore, has neglected the physical sciences, and the science of History.

    10. Two generations ago (before 1933 when this book was first written), and even one generation ago, before the spread in India of the new knowledge and the introduction of new methods of research and canons of truth, there was an unwillingness or inability among learned Hindus to discriminate between the legendary accound of some Hindu divine or semu-divine hero and the story of Yah'shua. It is, however, profoundly distressing to hear a man like Professor Rãdhakrishnan say today: "When the downward materialist tendency dominates life, a Rãma or a Krishna, a Buddha or a Jesus, comes upon the scene to restore the disturbed harmony of righteousness." We may readily grant that there is a considerable element of historical value in what the Buddhist tradition has to say of the founder of the religion. Western scholars have done much notable service in extricating from this much unreliable material and in reconstructing the life of the Buddha. Yet, even so, the biographies of Yah'shua and Gauntama cannot be placed upon the same level in respect of historicity or fulness of historical detail. As for the tales most commonly related of Rãma and of Krishna, they are by no means equal in romantic attractiveness or in freedom from offence, but they are alike in not belonging to history at all. There are still Hindus, who adppt the view that just as all religions are equally right and equally wrong, so all religious narratives are equally true and equally false: all, without distinction, may be regarded as relations of fact or as the fictions of the religions imagination. In their estimation the Hindu epic (Itihãsa) and Ancient Story (Purãnha) take rank with the Gospels of the New Testament. We do not err in charity when we insist that the day for this type of judgment is gone. Hindu scholars and thinkers, who believe that they have a message for the modern world, ought to have passed beyond this indolent and shallow syncretism - the "undiscriminating comprehensiveness of Hinduism". The story of the Passion of Christ cannot be treated as though it were of the same order as the legend of the Buddhas's offering his body as a meal to a starving tiger. His death was not the invention of the fervid piety of a disciple - with no existence outside the imagination of its creator. It was an event in the objective order of the world, with all the significance which can be attached to an historical fact.

    11. Secondly, even though it should grant that the death of Yah'shua was an event in time, the Advaita Vedãnta would empty it of sublime significance. According to its doctrine no incident in time, no happening in this world can stand in any significant relation to the Absolute - to that Brahma which exists sole and apart from all becomings. These do not occur by exercise of its will. There is no divine purpose running through and fulfilling itself in the course of history. The affairs of men - human character and human conduct - are no concern of Highest Being; and they cannot be even an imperfect likeness or interpretation of what God the Ultimate is. Between these two an unbridgeable gulf has been fixed. No predictable attribute can be attached to Brahma. It is without any conceivable quality (nirgunam). We can only say of it - Neti, neti - "It is not thus; it is not this". "Nor eye nor word nor mind goes thither. We do not know it" (Na tatra caskshurgacchati na vãggacchati na mano na vidmah - Kena Upanishad 1.3).

    12. There is a sense in which Christians share in this view of God. We believe in His transcendence - that He is greater and better than all things and than all men; and that our highest thought of Him cames far short of His perfection and infinitude. But, at the same time, we believe that there is a relation of truth between God and this world, which is His; for He made it and He is in it. We see, as in a metal mirror, dimly, but we do see: we know, in part only, but we do know. Without being philosophers ourselves, we can sympathise with and understand what Professor Campbell Fraser defined as Bishop Berkeley's "lifelong philosophic thought":

      "A sublime intuition of the phenomenal realities of sense, inorganic and organic, as established media for the intellectual education of finite spirits by means of physical sciences; for intercourse between individual moral agents; and for a revelation of the Eternal Spirit, in whom merely things of sense, and moral agents too, have their being."

    14. This lecture is not a philosophical treatise: it is a simple discourse for plain men and women. I suggest, on their behalf, that when any philosophy has arrived at a conclusion which denies the reality of all individual distinctions, makes little or nothing of the difference between the actual and the imaginary, and leaves human history without a meaning, it has missed its way and must retrace its steps from this dead end [1]. That is the plight of the Advaita Vedãnta. The massive common sense of mankind is not to be explained away: it is to be explained. If Yah'shua really did die upon a cross, that means something: it means much more than if somebody had simply invented the tale.

    15. Let us look at this difference between fact and fiction from another point of view. We exhaust, comparitively soon, the meaning of a character of a work of fiction, fashioned though it may have been by the genius of a great poet, dramatist or novelist. The human artist, as it were, paints a picture in the flat, in two dimensions only. His portrait of a man must be viewed from one stance. On the other hand, a person, who has actually lived, resermbles a figure in the solid. He can be regarded from many various positions and angles of vision, and he presents a different aspect from each. The illustration is too poor and weak; for in truth a single historical fact, as contrasted with an imaginary event, has an infinite number of facets of truth. Any event in time has its roots running back into an inconceivably remote past which an infinite dispersion and manifolding of causes. It is both a fruit of the past and a seed of future events bgeyond our power to forecast and enumerate. A real historical event is a part of the handwriting of God - however we define God - whether we think of God as personal intelligence, love and will, or as the blind, unfeeling and unknowing force which has brought our world and us into a temporary existence. Is not this one of the reasons why the personality and character of Yah'shua have proved of so inexhaustible interest and meaning? He was a real man - an historical person. His death is part of His true history. We can put that event into relation with other events and with many kinds of men - the Roman procurator and the Temple cohort; Herod of the Herodians and Jewish Nationalists; the officials and great Council of organised Jewish religion; its reputed saints and teachers, and the irreligious outside the pale; the dull and fickle crowd, and the inner circle of the disciples of Yah'shua; the simple common folk with their diseases, poverty and sorrows; the mother and brothers of Yah'shua Himself. And whether we see Yah'shua over against or in the midst of these, we are continually finding something fresh. This was a real man who like ourselves worked and suffered and died in a real world of men and women.

    16. Last year [1932], an Educational Committee of which Dr.Linday, the Mastor of Baliol [Oxford], was head, visited India. In their Report they make a strong plea for giving History a central place in the curriculum of a Christian College in India. Let me quote from the Report a few sentences which are notable as coming from a group of Indian, American, and Bitish educationists surveying modern India:

      "The Vedãnta with its consequences of apathy in the face of an unreal world, its indifference to the problems of life which is illusion, and its desire to fly from them rather than to solve them - that ancient system still rules India and forms the background from which its deepest motives issue ... The dominant figure in the Indian landscape is still the Hindu ascetic and sceptic, sitting by the Jumma's bank, watching and phantasmagoria of existence with indifference mingled with contempt ..." (Christian Higher Education in India, pp.50-51).

      "The view that all religions are the same, that everything in Christianity is already contained with Hinduism, depends in the last resort on an entire failure to understand the significance of an historical religion. If we try to get at the ultimate distinction which lies behind the conflict between Hinduism and Christianity, it is surely that Christianity is an historical religion, a religion laying stress on the all-importance of an historical revelation, petmeated through and through by the belief that the purposes of God are made manifest in human history ... Only the study of history can make men appreciate the exclusiveness of truth" (Ibid., pp.148-9).

    17. A word or two must be spoken about our documents. In any historical enquiry consideration must begin with our records, whenever these supply much of the evidence. In our case these are the Gospels, the reliability of which must be examined and tested. I should not feel competent to discuss in detail the allied problems of the Synoptic Gospels and of the Fourth Gospel. My predecessor in this lectureship and beloved Indian colleague, the Rev. W.W.Holdsworth, dealt summarily with both some years ago; and last year, as we all remember, Dr. Howard took as his subject, The Fourth Gospel in Recent Criticism and Interpretation. These questions are highly technical in their nature and require a detailed knowledge and the training of the expert for an authoritative treatment. Both the minister in the pulpit and the man in the pew might despair of religious certainty and salvation, if they were required to seize themselves of all the minutae of the evidence and to follow every fluctuation of critical opinion. Most intelligent persons, however, are capable of following the general lines of evidence and of assessing the main conclusions at their rightful value.

    18. Happily the argument in this chapter stands clear above many of the controversies about authorship, modes of compilation, and exact date. It is sufficient for my purpose that one will allow that in the Gospels, particularly in the Triple Record, we have a considerable body of material, which is early in origin, near to the events described, and of indisputable evidential value. I would not suggest that these records have come down to us in text miraculously intact or uniform; or that they are entirely free from historical error. There are thousands of various Greek readings, although altogether these do not amount to much in an estimate of the experience and personality of Yah'shua. In some matters of fact we find the Greek translations of the Gospels at variance one with another. But, as a whole, the Gospels constitute a body of evidence of immense historical interest and significance to the historian.

    19. We sometimes grow weary of textual and historical criticism. It seems to lay upon us in this generation a burden greater than we can bear. With some good people we may almost wish that Yahweh had given us the New Testament that was whole - without a flaw in the Greek versions that we have, and had simply to read it and believe it. We all wish that we had the original Hebrew and Aramaic New Testament Gospels and Epistles. And it was not until the 21st Century that these started becoming available to English readers.But for many centuries we were left with New Testament Greek manuscripts that were neither word-perfect nor fact-perfect. Yahweh has honoured our faculties of learning, and knowing, and judging. He has not put upon us the compulsion of a flawless book. He has left us room for inquiry and research and for the possibility of belief and unbelief. Our faith here, as in all things, is made dependent upon our effort and our disposition towards truth. Our processes of mind have been greatly benefited and developed by the manner in which the Bible has come down to us. Textual criticism in the field of the profane, not less than of sacred, literature and the whole science of history owe an incalculable debt to the methods which have been employed - under the stress of the necessity to find religious assurance and truth - in the study and evaluation of the Christian Scriptures, and especially of the Gospels.

    20. In any case, it would be manifestly ineffective and unfair for the Indian missionary to offer his Memoirs of Yah'shua to the Hindu and to demand a total and immediate acceptance of them as an inerrant and divinely dictated record, at least in our Greek and English translations. He would at once provoke the retort that the Hindus too have their infallible Veda of Sãstra, which for them are the source of all truth and the rule of conduct. The Muslim, in his turn, would maintain that he had a Book superior to either Bible or Veda, for it had come down to earth (so they claim), complete and perfect in every letter and point, from the throne of Allah himself. I assume nothing here, then, more than that in the first three Gospels we have records, separated by only a brief interval of time from the events which they describe and containing indubitably historical material. In so saying, one has the support of the mass of critical opinion, even of the most destructive. The three Synoptic Gospels agree not simply in informing us that Yah'shua died, but also in exhibiting the causes and the manner of His death.

    21. But what are we to say about the Fourth Gospel, and what use may we make of it in this inquiry? Every reader must be conscious of a difference between it and the Synoptic Gospels. This is more than a difference in vocabulary and style, revealing itself in an English or an Indian vernacular version no less than in the the Hebrew original or the extant Greek translations we have for the most part today: the difference extends to the method of the writer and to the substance of the matter. The layman today, as wella s the professional Christian teacher, is aware of and deeply concerned in the questions raised by this Gospel - its authorship, its historical value, and its doctrinal purpose. We may say that the Fourth Gospel is distinguished from the preceeding three by the prominence of the subjective elements in it. These do not merely consist of its preface, its confession of a didactic aim, and the testimonials of its witness. Throughout the book long discourses of Yah'shua are reported in a style which is the author's own - and that is inevitable; but, further, the words of Yah'shua seem to run into it and to be merged with the author's comment and interpretation. The Yah'shua of this Gospel, so it is said, is engaged, from the first day of His ministry, in a self-declaration and self-vindication which provoked the unbelief and the hostility of those who heard it. And this seems very unlike the gradual revelation by Yah'shua Himself which may be observed in the Synoptics.

    22. This subjective element in the Fourth Gospel contrasts strongly with the singular objectivity of the first three, in which the authors, with the notable exception of Luke's preface, do not obtrude themselves. In the main these Gospels are a simple record of whither Yah'shua went and how He fared, and what He said and what He did. Yah'shua is not a subject of the writer's praise or dispraise: there is no evident attempt at an appreciation of Him. The facts are put before the reader, and he is left to make what he can of them: they tell their own story and convey their own moral. Of course, a statement of this nature must be qualified by a recognition of the psychological principle that every record of a fact, of necessity, contains a subjective element. Something of the observer has passed into every obdervation. In the writing of any history the author's personality has affected the resultant work, first in the selection of things to be recorded, and then in the presentation of them. When three friends walk together through the fields, though the landscape by the same, they do not see the same things. One of them may be a farmer, another a naturalist, and the third a poet. Out of the whole complex of the visible offered to their eyes, one will notice and remember some things, and his friends others. Ecah will choose and store up in memory according to his previous experience and his aptitude. The Gospel of Matthew is directed and tinged by the Messianic faith of its Jewish compiler; and the Gospel of Luke shows traces of the humanism and universalism of Paul. Yet, when this allowance has been made, a difference remains between the Fourth and the Synoptic Gospels in the degree of apparent objectivity. In the former the reader, as a rule, is not conscious of the author: he has the sense of looking at Yah'shua through his own eyes without the help or intervention of another. One can imagine a reader of Mark, in particular, going through the Gospel with a breathless interest - asking, Who is this Yah'shua? and wondering what the end will be, Is He a good man or an imposter, one of the prophets or the Messiah, and if Messiah, what then is the Messiah? It is impossible to conceive this process taking place in the same way in the reading of John. The author puts forward a thesis of his own an d develops it. He tells us at the beginning when his view of Yah'shua is, and we follow him in the unfolding and proof of the theme announced upon the threshhold of the book. We must admit, then, that the Fourth Gospel claims to be more than a record of events: it is also, by the confession of its author, an interpretation of events. 'The transitory here appears as the symbol of the eternal'. The works of Yah'shua are 'signs' of the Kingdom of God. What He says and does as man is a showing of His eternal self and of His invisible Heavenly Father. So definite an impression of this kind does the method of the Gospel create that some critics are ready to treat it as an allegory rather than as history.

    23. We ought to hesitate to adopt this view, if only for the reason that allegory has often been called in to the rescue of bad history and bad morality. When a story, hitherto accepted as a narrative of fact, is seen to be so outrageously improbable and absurd that it can no longer be regarded as history, then the attempt is made to salve it as allegory: or when natural and legitimate inferences from the story, regarded as a narrative of fact, are felt to be so gross an offense against good taste or the moral sense that they would destroy the fair name of a religion, then the cloak of allegory is thrown over it and it is retained as emblem and imagery. Modern Hinduism under the pressure of the new standards of historical truth and ethical holiness has many times resorted to this expedient. An outstanding example of this type of apologetic is the defence and explanation of the story of Krishna [2].

    24. Moreover, there are dangers latent in the allegorical method. It seems to be history and it is not: whereby many have been led astray and confounded. No one has been deceived by John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress; but consider the number of victims of the Book of Jonah. It was hung as a mill-stone on the neck of the faith of our fathers instead of being to them a fountain of gladness and comfort. Only in this generation are we beginning generally to recognise the delicate humour and tenderness, the biting irony and the moral indignation, the compassion and breadth of sympathy of both what is literal history but - more importantly in this respect - a prophetic parable in which the Old Testament reaches its summit of tolerance and love for all men. It is the great foreign missionary book of the Hebrew Scriptures. Our concern, however, at the moment, is to know whether the Fourth Gospel is nothing more than an allegory - the vehicle of its author's ideas about Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ): on the face of it it appears and claims to be much more. The question is not trivial. It matters to us greatly whether or not Yah'shua actually said, "I and the Father are one", or words with that significance. If this and the similar outstanding "I am" passages were not spoken by Yah'shua but have been put upin His lips by the Evangelist, our world has suddenly gone darker and poorer. We have not, as we supposed, the fact the Yah'shua held and expressed these thoughts about Himself, but only the inferior fact that His disciple so thought of Him. We could only excuse the author of the Fourth Gospel for casting his book into the shape and semblance of history by the standard of his age. We know that the intellectual conscience was less exigent than in insisting on the distinction between fact and fuction; and even when history was written, more was left than is allowed today to the resourses of the writer's mind. He filled out the story of the doings of his heroes and he composed their speeches as seemed to him most fitting. And none thought that he did wrong. None the less we shall have been misled by the Fourth Evangelist; and we shall have suffered.

    25. We have advocated above the mystical view of history with which we are in complete sympathy; but it brings its own peril. We know, by vulgar experience, that it is possible to be so set upon 'improving an occasion' as to improve it out of existence. The teacher may be so addicted to the drawing of morals that he invents his anecdote in order to append his moral. The very strength and nobility of our faith in and devotion to a person may impair the historicity of our account of him. Did anything of this sort happen to the Fourth Evangelist?

    26. There is no sufficient reason to doubt the tradition which connects the Fourth Gospel with Ephesus as its place of origin. It was produced in and for a Hellenistic society into which the streams of Judaism, Greek philosophy, and Oriental mysticism were flowing. It was addressed to men of such a society, for it speaks their language. The writer of this Gospel lay under the obligation 'to explain and defend his doctrines with special reference and adaptation to the necessities of the times'. The Indian missionary today has a similar duty to perform. He hears on every side the terms of the Hindu philosophies and systems of religion; and a part of his sacred business is tor relate the religion of Yah'shua to whatever is of common need or eternal truth in these. In the desire to propitiate and to persuade, the advocate of Christianity may pervert "the truth that is in Yah'shua". Did the writer of the Fourth Gospel, then, stretch the facts to prove his theory, and corrupt the history of Yah'shua of Nazareth in the interests of his new Theology? Did he impose his thought-scheme upon the life of Yah'shua and compel that life to fit in with his framework? Did he square events by his preconceived ideas of what ought to have happened? Or, on the other hand, does the figure of Yah'shua in the Fourth Gospel rise up inevitably and majestically out of the facts with a sublime and universal meaning attaching to it? Is the foundation of the Evangelist's faith and propaganda what he actually saw and heard? Dr. Howard has written:

      "The essence of the problem can be put in one short sentence - 'How far is it possible for us to use the Fourth Gospel as a reliable witness to the earthly life and teaching of Jesus Christ?'" (The Fourth Gospel in Recent Criticism and Interpretation, p.18).

    27. Now there are two considerations which may be adduced in support of the view that we have in this Gospel a residuum at least of historical material of great value. It is impossible to read it without being struck by the writer's familiarity with the country of Palestine - with the conditions of the age in which Yah'shua lived, and the manners and beliefs of the Jews. He knows the topography of Galilee and Judea, and here and there puts in curious little and exact details of time and place. It is not possible to suppose that they are inserted with deliberate intent to give verisimilitude to a false narrative. They seem rather to be the vivid recollections of an old man who had been a witness and a disciple. The Gospel, as a rule, supplements the story of the Synoptics; but in some things it does not shrink from correcting them. That is notably true of the account of the last days of Yah'shua. It has been daid, for example, that the Johannine ccount of the trial of Yah'shua is barely intelligible by itself: it presupposes familiarity with the Synoptics, but it add details of information of its own. On the other hand, there is the outstanding difference in its placing of the Last Supper on the night before the Passover and not, as the Synoptics do, on the Passover evening itself. There are strong reasons for thinking that the Fourth Gospel is here the more accurate. On the whole. the impression is made by this Gospel that it has a source of information separate from and independent of the Synoptic sources, and that it contains material of first-rate historicity. If it was not the work of an Apostle, then at least some of its passages have been delivered from a disciple who had companioned with the Lord and was an eye-witness and an auditor, who drew out of the treasury of his experience for the benefit of the writer.

    28. Secondly, when we consider some of the sayings, attributed to Yah'shua by this Evangelist and not to be found in any other Gospel, we feel that they do perfectly express the mind of Yah'shua. So far from contradicting or being out of harmony with the views of Him which are disclosed in the Synoptic Gospels, they confirm these and shed a flood of light upon them. They give us the sense of looking into and discerning the interior thought of Yah'shua. We are enabled to see and know what once we dimly imagined lay behind His outward actions and His conversation with the multitude. Some of the great words of Yah'shua in explanation of Himself seem to spring out of the heart of things: they belong to the truth of the situation and the personality of Him who was in it. Later on we may cite one or two examples of this aptness and illuminating power in the sayings. Whoever he was that supplied materials for this Gospel, he appears to have been one who had been admitted to the innermost circle of discipleship and was a rare and faithful interpreter of the mind of Christ. In all periods of the Christian era the Fourth Gospel has made its appeal to the devout and to the mystical. There is a profound suggestiveness in its correlation of divine and human personality, which has been attractive especially to the cultured Hindu.

    29. I do not assume, then, that the Apostle John was the author of the book (even though the overwhelming evidence suggests that he was), but ask only that we shall allow that the Gospel contains matter of the highest historical value. It is a Gospel which links together time and eternity, history and theology, man and God. And both East and West recognise this, and esteem the book accordingly [3].


    [1] The Advaita Vedãnta enumerates three kinds of existence: (1) Pãramãrthika- the true or absolute existence, which is Brahma alone; (2) Vyãvahãrika - practical or phenomenal existence, to which order belong all things or ordinary life, commonly thought of as real; (3) Prãtibhãsika - imaginary, like the water in a mirage, a horse which a man mounts in a dream, a snake which one sees through faulty perception of a rope. Only the first truly is; the second and third are the products of Illusion or Ignorance, and constitute the realm of falsehood. The third is an illusion of an illusion,a false image of falsity, a double-dyed non-existent. The old and learned Brahman convert Nehemiah Nilakantha Sãstri Goreh spends much space on the distinguishing of these three orders in A Mirror of the Hindu Philosophical Systems.

    [2] This is told at great length in the Epic - the Mahãbhãrata and in the Bhãgavata Purãna. English readers will find a convenient presentation of it in the English rendering of the Hindu Premã Sãgara (Ocean of Love), published by Constable & Co. An idea of the nature of the book may be gained by a mention of some of its contents - the exploits of the infant Krishna, his sporting with the female cowherds, his marriages to various princesses, his slaying of demons and other acts of prowessm the bliss of his city of Dwãraka, where he dwells with his 16,108 young wives. It is in truth a dreary waste of erotic and grostesque tales, without aesthetic beauty or moral significance, because without relation to an actual world.

    [3] Dr.A.J.Appasamy has written: "It is argued that Mysticism has run riot in India, often with disasterous results. The Fourth Gospel, however, shows how, accepting the historical Christ, we may live in eternity. In it history and metaphysics are woven together. This correlation between time and eternity ought to prove of the greatest importance to us in India. We in India have lived in metaphysics at the expense of history, and have lived in other worlds than this ... Now a reaction has set in: we are keen on the present and eager to set in motion swift currents of thought which will work their way into politics. The danger now is that, absorbed in the things that happen, we may lose sight of the profound issues in them ... If it can base itself on the Fourth Gospel, Indian Christianity will, we may hope, avoid the danger of neglecting history" (Christianity as Bhakti-Mãrga, pp.14-15).

    With this we may compare Dr. Howard's sentences: "We have the strongest emphasis upon the historic fact on the Incarnation and the reality of the experience of this human life on earth. In this Gospel record we find the historical and the symbolical intextricably interwoven ... There is a sense in which we might say that this Gospel offers us theology teaching by biography ... The Christian religion, the perfect revelation of God, was rooted in history ... The supreme message of the Gospel is that all these abstractions become concrete in the incarnate life of Jesus ... And so the story of His life was told again that the true and living way might be found by those who thought of Jesus as a fading memory of the irrevocable past, and also by those whose religious speculation needed the control of the historic Christ" (The Fourth Gospel in Recent Criticism and Interpretation, pp.26, 236-7, 242).

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