Prologues to the Gospels – John

We are examining two prologues – Anti-Marcionite and the Monarchian. Most agree that an early date, c200 for the Anti-Marconite Prologues while the latter has a date which ranges from 200-400. We will be using Ben C. Smith’s translation.

The Johannine prologue:

John the apostle, whom the Lord Jesus loved very much, last of all wrote this gospel, the bishops of Asia having entreated him, against Cerinthus and other heretics, and especially standing against the dogma of the Ebionites there who asserted by the depravity of their stupidity, for thus they have the appellation Ebionites, that Christ, before he was born from Mary, neither existed nor was born before the ages from God the father. Whence also he was compelled to tell of his divine nativity from the father. But they also bear another cause for his writing the gospel, because, when he had collected the volumes from the gospel of Matthew, of Mark, and of Luke, he indeed approved the text of the history and affirmed that they had said true things, but that they had woven the history of only one year, in which he also suffered after the imprisonment of John. The year, then, having been omitted in which the acts of the tribes were expounded, he narrated the events of the time prior, before John was shut up in prison, just as it can be made manifest to those who diligently read the four volumes of the gospels. This gospel, then, after the apocalypse was written was made manifest and given to the churches in Asia by John, as yet constituted in the body, as the Hieropolitan, Papias by name, disciple of John and dear , transmitted in his Exoteric, that is, the outside five books. He wrote down this gospel while John dictated. Truly Marcion the heretic, when he had been disapproved by him because he supposed contrary things, was thrown out by John. He in truth carried writings or epistles sent to him from the brothers who were in Pontus, faithful in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Note the mention of Papias of Hierapolis.

Here we find the traditional reasoning of John’s Gospel – first to combat Gnosticism and it is this purpose which directly contradicts the gnostic heresy of Marcion.We also find that the the Synoptic Gospels comprise roughly a year of ministry for Christ, that John’s Gospel is given a very late date by the Church (post 96). Further, he combats the Ebionites, the Messianic Jews of the day who obeyed the Law, but saw Christ as a mere man.

The theology here is simple – Christ was born of Mary and had God as His Father. Again, it preserves that the Church is the follower of the disciples because it connects John’s gospel through Papias to John himself.

Monarchian –

The Johannine prologue:

This is John the evangelist, one from the twelve disciples of God, who was elected by God to be a virgin, whom God called away from marriage though he was wishing to marry, for whom double testimony of his virginity is given in the gospel both in that he was said to be beloved by God above others and in that God, going to the cross, commended his own mother to him, so that a virgin might serve a virgin.

This added bit of Tradition has to demand that this prologue is a very later date.

Furthermore, manifesting in the gospel that he himself was starting up the work of the incorruptible Word,* he alone testifies that the word was made flesh and that light was not comprehended by darkness, placing the first sign which God did in a wedding so as to demonstrate to those reading, by showing what he himself was, that where the Lord is invited the wine of weddings ought to cease and also that all things which have been set up by Christ, now that the old things have been changed, might appear new.

Concerning this the reason for the gospel to those seeking shows the separate things which were done or said in a mystery. Moreover, he wrote this gospel in Asia, after he had written the apocalypse on the island of Patmos, so that, to whom the incorruptible beginning was attributed in the beginning of the canon, in Genesis, to him also the incorruptible end through a virgin in the Apocalypse might be attributed, since Christ says: I am the alpha and the omega.

The one tangible piece of real theology here, I believe, further we have evidence of a solid canon which demands that we date this in the 4th century.

And this is the John who, knowing that the day of his departure had come upon him, his disciples having been called together in Ephesus, producing Christ through the many signs that were accomplished, descending into the place dug out for his sepulcher, after a prayer was made, was laid with his fathers, as much a stranger to the pain of death as he was found alien to the corruption of the flesh. And, if he is said to have written the gospel after all , he is however placed after Matthew in the disposition of the canon as it is ordered, since in the Lord those things that are newest are not as if last and rejected for their number, but rather have been perfected by the work of fulness; and this was due to a virgin. Neither the disposition of the writings by time nor the order of the books, however, are exposited by us in the details, so that, when the desire to know has been settled, both the fruit of labor and the doctrine of teaching for God might be reserved for those who seek.

* Theron takes incorruptibilis on its own, modifying John, which yields the translation, …that he himself was incorruptible beginning the work of the word. But in my own translation before reading Theron I took incorruptibilis with verbi, and Theron notes that Corssen and Chapman do too, so I have left my translation as it stands. However, Theron makes a very good point in that John himself will further down be said to be found alien to the corruption of the flesh (a corruptione carnis invenitur alienus).

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