Did the Apostle John write the Gospel of John?

St. John the Evangelist
by Carlo Dolci

Robert Kysar writes the following on the authorship of the Gospel of John (The Anchor Bible Dictionary, v. 3, pp. 919-920):

The supposition that the author was one and the same with the beloved disciple is often advanced as a means of insuring that the evangelist did witness Jesus’ ministry. Two other passages are advanced as evidence of the same – 19:35 and 21:24. But both falter under close scrutiny. 19:35 does not claim that the author was the one who witnessed the scene but only that the scene is related on the sound basis of eyewitness. 21:24 is part of the appendix of the gospel and should not be assumed to have come from the same hand as that responsible for the body of the gospel. Neither of these passages, therefore, persuades many Johannine scholars that the author claims eyewitness status.

…If the author of the Gospel of John were an eyewitness, presumably the author would have known that Jesus and his compatriots were permitted to enter the synagogues. But at several points it is stated that those who acknowledged Jesus as the Christ during the life of Jesus were put out of the synagogue. This anachronism is inconceivable as the product of an eyewitness.

Kysar states that most scholars today see the historical setting of the Gospel of John in the expulsion of the community from the synagogue (op. cit., p. 918). The word aposynagogos is found three times in the gospel (9:22, 12:42, 16:2). The high claims made for Jesus and the response to them (5:18), the polemic against “the Jews” (9:18, 10:31, 18:12, 19:12), and the assertion of a superiority of Christian revelation to the Hebrew (1:18, 6:49-50, 8:58) show that “the Johannine community stood in opposition to the synagogue from which it had been expelled.” (p. 918)

…Finally, there is no mention of the Sadducees, which reflects post-70 Judaism. The retort that there is also no mention of scribes misses the mark, as the Pharisees represented the scribal tradition, and the Pharisees are mentioned.

…Kysar says that the theory of Johannine independence commands a “slim majority” of contemporary critics.

…”In the place where the synoptics narrate the origin of the eucharist stands the account of the foot washing (13:1-10). The last meal Jesus celebrates with his disciples before his passion is not a Passover meal at all. Thus one of the basic features of the institution scenes in the synoptics is missing. Furthermore, there is no account of the baptism of Jesus, and there is confusion about whether or not Jesus practiced baptism (compare 3:22 and 4:2). Water baptism is treated critically and assigned strictly to the Baptizer in contrast with Spirit baptism (1:26, 31, 33). One is left with the impression that the sacraments of baptism and eucharist did not figure in the theology of the fourth evangelist.” (p. 929)

…Norman Perrin believes that the redactor who added the sacramental passages to the Gospel of John also authored the first epistle of John, in which the sacraments are emphasized.

… He (Raymond Brown) admits that many accept that John 1:14 – ‘The Word became flesh’ – was ‘added by the redactor as an attack on the opponents of I John’ (1979, 109) but continues to write as if there were no revision of the Fourth Gospel.

…Helms argues: “So the gospel attributed, late in the second century, to John at Ephesus was viewed as an anti-gnostic, anti-Cerinthean work. But, very strangely, Epiphanius, in his book against the heretics, argues against those who actually believed that it was Cerinthus himself who wrote the Gospel of John! (Adv. Haer. 51.3.6). How could it be that the Fourth Gospel was at one time in its history regarded as the product of an Egyptian-trained gnostic, and at another time in its history regarded as composed for the very purpose of attacking this same gnostic? I think the answer is plausible that in an early, now-lost version, the Fourth Gospel could well have been read in a Cerinthean, gnostic fashion, but that at Ephesus a revision of it was produced (we now call it the Gospel of John) that put this gospel back into the Christian mainstream.”

Source: http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/john.html

Gary: The Gospel of John written by the Apostle John??? I don’t think so!


10 thoughts on “Did the Apostle John write the Gospel of John?

  1. A more interesting question is whether it can be shown that John deliberately thought out and composed Revelation and the seven letters to the churches himself, as opposed to having actual visions in which he was dictated the letters and given real visions that he succeeded in remembering in detail.

    On another note, sorry the mods kicked you off the thread I started.

    So I made a new one in the Philosophy section that anyone can write in:

    If it can be shown that the Reformed premises for debunking supernatural traditions were correct, would this not give someone the ability to apply those premises more broadly to judge other supernatural claims?


  2. This article is wrong on so many points it is tiresome to read. First, the writer doesn't try to give us an understanding of how he approaches the gospel of John historically. He simply goes down the tiresome laundry list of where John doesn't agree with the Synoptics. /yawn

    The writer then selects some proof texts which apparently are meant to dissuade anyone thinking that the Apostle is the writer, but none of the texts can accomplish that task. Let me say that even if we can't demonstrate from a hard science that John is the author of said Gospel, it still doesn't follow that the writer was not a eyewitness to the life of Jesus.


  3. Based on John 21 and its reference to “we”, we can tell that it probably was not directly composed by John, but rather by his associates based on his accounts to them.


  4. True, but would an eyewitness splice together stories about events which he had seen with his own eyes? I'll copy and paste the examples of “splicing” which Erhman gives below shortly.


  5. Bart Ehrman:

    To see the logic behind thinking that these stories come from a previously existing written source it is important to recall (from a post a very long time ago!) why scholars often think that John is not based only on oral tradiitons but on previously existing (non-Synoptic) written sources. One of these reasons is that there are certain “literary seams” in the Gospel – that is, internal discrepancies that are hard to explain if an author was simply writing up an account, but easy to explain if the author is splicing together stories from different sources and neglecting to smooth out the transitions so that contradictions result.

    Here are three such literary seams in John:

    21.In John 2:23, Jesus is in Jerusalem, the capital of Judea. While there, he engages in a discussion with Nicodemus that lasts until 3:21. But then the text says, “After this Jesus and his disciples went into the land of Judea” (3:22). The land of Judea? They are already in the land of Judea, in fact, they are in its capital. Here is another literary seam. (Note: some modern translations have gotten around this problem by mistranslating v. 22 to say that they went into the “countryside of Judea.” But this, in fact, is not the meaning of the Greek word, “land.”)
    22.In John 5:1, Jesus goes to Jerusalem, where he spends the entire chapter healing and teaching. The author’s comment after his discourse, however, is somewhat puzzling: “After this, Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee” (6:1). How could he go to the other side of the Sea if he is not already on one of its sides? In fact, he is nowhere near the Sea of Galilee — he is in Jerusalem of Judea.

    (cont'd below)


  6. (cont'd from above)

    And finally, one that is particularly intriguing in light of the possibility that Jesus’ signs came to the author from a previously existing source.
    1.In chapter two, Jesus performs his “first sign” (2:11) in Cana of Galilee, changing the water into wine. In chapter four, he does his “second sign” (4:54) after returning to Galilee from Judea, healing the Capernaum official’s son. In itself, this is no problem. The problem emerges when you read what happens between the first and second signs; for John 2:23 indicates that while Jesus was in Jerusalem many people believed in him “because they saw the signs that he was doing.” How can this be? How can he do the first sign, and then other signs, and then the second sign?

    The Greek of 4:54 is a bit complicated and has led to some misunderstanding among some readers who do not see a discrepancy with 3:22. When the verse says that this healing was the second sign Jesus did, having come from Galilee from Judea, it does *not* appear to mean that it was the second sign that was done in Galilee (as opposed to Judea). It instead seems to mean that it was his second sign. And he did it when he had come into Galilee from Judea.

    The reason that matter is this. If it meant the former (this was the second Galilean sign) then there would be no discrepancy with 3:22. In this reading, Jesus did his first Galilean sign when he turned the water into wine (2:1-11). He then did signs in Judea (3:22). And then he came back and did his second Galilean sign. No contradiction.

    But that’s not how I read the verse. I think the Greek is saying that this healing was “Jesus’ second sign,” and he did this one after he had come from Judea into Galilee. If that’s what the Greek does mean, then there is a discrepancy, because of 3:22. Jesus did his first sign; then he did many signs; then he did his second sign.

    How would we explain this discrepancy? The theory of a signs source is that the author took his accounts of Jesus’ supernatural deeds from a source that enumerated the signs: This was his first, this was his second, and this was his third, etc. When he took over this source, he inserted its narratives into his longer account, in which he said other things. And sometimes the things he said in the longer account stood in tension with what he found in the signs source. That’s what has created the discrepancy between 3:22 (the author’s own comment) and 4:54 (the comment he found in the signs source).


  7. Nice Gary, but am I discussing this issue with you or a cut/paste job of Erhman?

    Ehrman doesn't say anything revealing. He is merely complaining that the Gospel of John is not unique source. This is like complaining that the “Lemon Song” by Led Zepplin that you're listening to on the radio is not authentic because you the listener can't be sure that the recording is really digital or comes from an unauthentic analog source. Seriously? How stupid would that be?


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