A Review of Richard Bauckham’s “Jesus and the Eyewitnesses”; discussion with Historian Adam Francisco, Part 14

“This is the disciple who is testifying to these things and has written them, and we know that his testimony is true.  But there are also many other things that Jesus did; if every one of them were written down, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.”  —Gospel of John 21: 24-25

My review of chapter 14:

Richard Bauckham believes that the Gospel of John was written by an eyewitness to the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus:  the Beloved Disciple.  Bauckham believes that the author of the Gospel of John identifies himself in the above passage.  Bauckham admits, however, that this is not the consensus position of most New Testament scholars.

“The disciple in question [in the above passage] is the disciple who appears as an anonymous figure at key points in the Gospel’s narrative, usually described as “the disciple Jesus loved”.  Taken at face value, this conclusion to the Gospel seems to claim that this disciple wrote it.  This was the traditional understanding of the words until the modern period.  But most modern scholars have been reluctant to accept this claim.  One very popular way of evading it has been the suggestion that v. 24 does not really claim that the Beloved Disciple was the author of the Gospel.  The language used does not mean actual authorship but may point to a rather less direct relationship between the Beloved Disciple and the Gospel.  This argument depends on the notion that the Greek verb “graphein” (“write”) may be used here in a “causative” sense, meaning “to cause to write.”  p. 358  (emphasis, Gary’s)

Gary:  Notice the words in Bauckham’s statement that I have bolded.  With these words, Bauckham is inferring that the reason that “most modern scholars” do not believe that the Beloved Disciple wrote the Gospel of John is because most modern scholars are biased; “the evidence is there, folks, but these modern scholars just don’t want to accept it due to their biases.”

 This is typical fundamentalist Christian paranoia.  “Trust scholarship—as long as it agrees with our conservative Christian positions—but when it disagrees with us, disregard it; it is biased.”

“A very large majority of modern scholars have supposed that the Gospel [of John] originally ended at the end of chapter 20, since 20:30-31 reads, to these scholars, like a conclusion that appropriately brings the Gospel narrative to a close.  …[But] I will argue that the Gospel was originally designed to end just as it does in the version we have and never existed without the claim about its authorship that 21:24 makes.”  p. 363

Gary:  To paraphrase, “The vast majority of NT scholars believe that the claim of authorship in chapter 21 of the Gospel of John was not originally part of the Gospel…but I know better.

And how does Bauckham know that chapter 21 was always part of the original Gospel of John?

“For, while the Prologue [of the Gospel of John] has 496 syllables, the Epilogue (a considerably longer passage) has 496 words.  That the correspondence should be between the number of syllables in the Prologue and the number of words in the Epilogue is quite appropriate, because the Prologue is a poetic composition, in which one might expect the number of syllables to be important, whereas the Epilogue is a narrative.”  p. 365

Gary:  Oh my.  Grasping at straws, in the extreme.

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