PIUS X 1903-1914

The Author and Historical Truth of the Fourth Gospel *


[Response of the Biblical Commission, May 29, 1907]


2110 Question I: Whether from the constant, universal, and solemn tradition of the Church coming down from the second century, inasmuch as it is taken chiefly a) from the testimonies and allusions of the Holy Fathers, ecclesiastical writers, even heretics, which, since they must derive from the disciples and first successors of the apostles, are necessarily closely connected with the very origin of the work itself; b) from the acceptance always and everywhere of the name of the author of the fourth Gospel in the Canon and in the catalogues of the Sacred Scriptures; c) from the oldest manuscripts, codices, and versions in various languages of the same Books; d) from the public liturgical practice obtaining in the whole world from the beginnings of the Church; prescinding from theological proof, it is demonstrated by such strong historical proof that John the Apostle and no other is to be recognized as the author of the fourth Gospel, that the reasons adduced by critics in opposition by no means weaken this tradition?–Answer: In the affirmative.


2111 Question II: Whether the internal reasons also, which are taken from the text of the fourth Gospel, considered separately, from the testimony of the author and the manifest relationship of the Gospel itself with the First Epistle of the Apostle John, are to be considered as confirming the tradition which undoubtedly attributes the fourth Gospel to the same Apostle?–And whether the difficulties which are assumed from a comparison of the Gospel with the other three, the diversity of the times, purposes, and audiences, for whom and against whom the author wrote, being kept in view, can be reasonably solved, just as the most Holy Fathers and exegetes have shown in different places?–Answer: In the affirmative to both parts.


2112 Question III: Whether, not withstanding the practice which flourished constantly in the whole Church from the earliest times, of arguing from the fourth Gospel as from a truly historical document, in consideration, nevertheless, of the peculiar nature of the same Gospel, and of the manifest intention of the author to illustrate and to prove the divinity of Christ from the very deeds and words of the Lord, it can be said that the deeds related in the fourth Gospel are totally or partially so invented that they are allegories or doctrinal symbols; but that the words of the Lord are not properly and truly the words of the Lord himself, but theological compositions of the writer, although placed in the mouth of the Lord?–Answer: In the negative.

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