The Knowing of the Son

And the Father himself which hath sent me, hath borne witness of me. Ye have neither heard his voice at any time, nor seen his shape. And ye have not his word abiding in you; for whom he hath sent, him ye believe not.
— John 5:37-38

We shall know one day just how near we come in the New Testament to the very words of the Lord. That we have them with a difference, I cannot doubt. For one thing I do not believe he spoke in Greek. That the thoughts of God would come to of the heart of Jesus in anything but the mother-tongue of the simple men to whom he spoke, I cannot think. Are we bound to believe that John Boanerges, who indeed best, and in some things alone, understood him, was able, after such a lapse of years, to give us in his gospel, the very words in which he uttered the simplest profundities ever heard in the human world? I do not say he was not able; I say, Are we bound to believe he was able? The gospel of John is the outcome of years and years of remembering, recalling, and pondering the words of the Master. We cannot tell of how much the memory, with God in the man, may be capable; but I do not believe that John would have always given us the very words of the Lord. God has not cared that we should anywhere have assurance of his very words; and that not merely, perhaps, because of the tendency in his children to word-worship, false logic, and corruption of the truth, but because he would not have them oppressed by words, seeing that words, being human, therefore but partially capable, could not absolutely express what the Lord meant, and that even he must depend for being understood upon the spirit of his disciple. Seeing it could not give life, the letter should not be throned with power to kill; it should be but the handmaid to open the door of the truth to the mind that was of the truth.