Statement Of The Problem
The Gospels are the four canonized books of the New Testament which explicitly presents the life and ministry account of Jesus Christ.2 The Book of John is often considered as a standing unique testimony in this sphere, though different from the Synoptics.3 However, the research notes that what constitutes the problem of this discourse has to do with the fact that the book does not emphatically name its author 4 meanwhile, the author of the book is indicated as the Beloved Disciple or better still the Disciple Jesus loved and a close companion of Peter.5 It is important to note that part of the controversy in this sphere is entangled with the fact that there are different Johns in the New Testament.
When Were 1 2 And 3 John Written
All books of the New Testament refer to events that happened in the first century, such as the life of Jesus, the spread of the gospel, and issues that arose in the infant churches. The New Testament books were themselves written in the second half of that century. The New Testament as a whole is focused on one person who lived in the early third of the first century, Jesus of Nazareth, and the significance of his life, death, and resurrection.
The Gospels telling that story were written some decades later and so are concerned, first, with the events of Jesus lifetime recorded but, second, with what was happening in the churches to which each gospel was addressed and which shaped their content. Thus, it is appropriate to consider what was happening in the churches that were the original recipients of Johns gospel, most likely the last gospel to be written.
The New Testament letters are different from these narrative accounts of the life of Jesus because each letter addressed pressing issues of the moment rather than recounting events from a previous time period. The authors of the letters are addressing real questions, issues, and circumstances that are pressing at that moment of time.
Consequently, they allow us to distinguish three periods of the first century and place the events and the origin of the books within each period:
The Dating Of The Fourth Gospel
Scholars, ancient and modern, do agree that the fourth Gospel was the last to be written, but most scholars believe, on the basis of content, that John selected his material to supplement the material in the Synoptics.
Some biblical scholars of the 19th and 20th centuries held that the fourth Gospel was written sometime in the late 2nd century AD. However, this position is no longer acceptable because of solid evidence to the contrary. The oldest copy of the fourth Gospel found in Egypt in 1935 known as, “The John Rylands Papyrus,” contains portions of John 18:31-33, 37-38, and the fragments from a copy of the fourth Gospel have been dated to abou tA.D. 120/130. Even the “late daters” today would hesitate to date this Gospel much later than about A.D. 100. Most scholars today date this Gospel around A.D.96.
What internal evidence do we have that tells us the date must be much earlier?
If this book was written in the nineties, what monumental event is missing? The Temple receives more attention in John than in other New Testament books, but he says nothing about its destruction.
John makes reference to a site in Jerusalem, in the present tense, that no longer stood after the 9th of Ab, A.D.70 when the Roman army destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple:
Now there is in Jerusalem by the sheep gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew Bethesda, having five porticoes. John 5:2 NASB
|Continue the Series|
Berean Bible Church
You May Like: Why Is The Bible Not In Chronological Order
Who Wrote Johns Gospel
Who wrote Johns Gospel? James Charlesworth says, The apostle Thomas. Ben Witherington believes it was Lazarus. And Esther de Boer contends the author of Johns Gospel was Mary Magdalene! Many others believe the author was in fact a committee of unknown authors, editors, and redactorsthe Johannine community. The traditional view of the Church has been that this is the Gospel according to John, John the apostle, that is, as in John the son of Zebedee. How can reputable scholars dealing with the same evidence come to such drastically different conclusions? And where does the evidence really point?
In several publications, I have surveyed the external and internal evidence with regard to Johannine authorship. I have documented that the Church, from the second century until around 1790, has universally held that the apostle John wrote the Gospel that bears his name. When the apostolic authorship of Johns Gospel was questioned, and the tide turned against Johannine authorship, this occurred not because the evidence supported a different outcome, but because in the wake of the Enlightenment scholars reacted against traditional ecclesiastical dogma, and Johannine authorship became one of the many casualties of critical scholarship.
Old Testament: The Single Author Theory
The Old Testament, or Hebrew Bible, narrates the history of the people of Israel over about a millennium, beginning with Gods creation of the world and humankind, and contains the stories, laws and moral lessons that form the basis of religious life for both Jews and Christians. For at least 1,000 years, both Jewish and Christian tradition held that a single author wrote the first five books of the BibleGenesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomywhich together are known as the Torah and the Pentateuch . That single author was believed to be Moses, the Hebrew prophet who led the Israelites out of captivity in Egypt and guided them across the Red Sea toward the Promised Land.
Yet nearly from the beginning, readers of the Bible observed that there were things in the so-called Five Books of Moses that Moses himself could not possibly have witnessed: His own death, for example, occurs near the end of Deuteronomy. A volume of the Talmud, the collection of Jewish laws recorded between the 3rd and 5th centuries A.D., dealt with this inconsistency by explaining that Joshua likely wrote the verses about Moses death.
Rembrandt van Rijn, painting of Moses Breaking the Tablets of the Law, 1659.
That’s one opinion among many, says Joel Baden, a professor at Yale Divinity School and author of The Composition of the Pentateuch: Renewing the Documentary Hypothesis. But they’re already asking the questionwas it possible or not possible for to have written them?
Read Also: How Many Psalms Are There
The Writer Was In Jesus Inner Circle
- He was familiar with scenes where only the disciples were present. I.e. their calling in John 1:19, the trip to Samaria in Jn 4:1, that there was much grass where Jesus fed the 5,000 in Jn 6:10, or Jesus visits Jerusalem in chapters 7, 8 and 11.
- The writer knows the disciples reactions, and even their thoughts and feelings.
- The author knows both what they said to Jesus and what they said among themselves. and even their misunderstandings. .
- The evangelist even knows where Jesus would go to avoid other people.
All these vivid details bear the marks of someone who was really there. Either the writer or writers of John Gospel were literary geniuses far ahead of their time or we have an eyewitness report. But the historical novel wasnt invented until the Renaissance at the very earliest and wasnt popularized until the 1800s.
The Authorship Of The Gospels Is Disputed
While the Old Testament covers a period of hundreds of years, and its authorship has traditionally been attributed to over a dozen men, the New Testament is considerably more straightforward. Its historical scope consists of right around a century, and its authorship has been historically and dogmatically attributed to only a handful of writers.
Tradition claims that the Gospels Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were written by those very men, contemporaries of Jesus who lived and ministered with him while he lived, from circa 4 BCE to circa 30 CE. However, as History reports, that is likely untrue. The Gospels weren’t written or compiled, as the case may be until around 70 CE, a solid four decades after the death of Jesus.
In his book “Jesus, Interrupted,” Bible scholar Bart Ehrman claims that the Gospels were compiled from oral tradition, and that the scribes and editors who compiled them attached the names of Jesus’ disciples to the documents “to inform readers who the editors thought were the authorities behind the different versions.”
New Testament: Who Wrote The Gospels
Just as the Old Testament chronicles the story of the Israelites in the millennium or so leading up to the birth of Jesus Christ, the New Testament records Jesuss life, from his birth and teachings to his death and later resurrection, a narrative that forms the fundamental basis of Christianity. Beginning around 70 A.D., about four decades after Jesuss crucifixion , four anonymously written chronicles of his life emerged that would become central documents in the Christian faith. Named for Jesuss most devoted earthly disciples, or apostlesMatthew, Mark, Luke and Johnthe four canonical Gospels were traditionally thought to be eyewitness accounts of Jesuss life, death and resurrection.
12th-13th century depiction of evangelists Luke and Matthew writing the Gospels.
But for more than a century, scholars have generally agreed that the Gospels, like many of the books of the New Testament, were not actually written by the people to whom they are attributed. In fact, it seems clear that the stories that form the basis of Christianity were first communicated orally, and passed down from generation to generation, before they were collected and written down.
READ MORE: What Did Jesus Look Like?
Evidence For Johns Authorship From The Early Church
Patristic evidence seems to confirm that John wrote the Gospel. Here are a few examples:
- Irenaeus, writing at about AD 200, says that the Beloved Disciple was John, the disciple of Jesus, and that John originated the Gospel at Ephesus.
- Irenaeus even writes that when he himself was young, he knew another teacher, Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna , who claimed to have been tutored by John.
- The church historian Eusebius records this John/Polycarp/Irenaeus connection in the same way.
- Further, Polycrates, Bishop of Ephesus , refers to Johns association with the Gospel in his letter to Victor the Bishop of Rome.
- It is also confirmed by Clement of Alexandria and the Latin Muratorian Canon .
Recommended Reading: What Does Sanctified Mean In The Bible
Who Wrote 1 John
The three letters of John are among the last written in the apostolic era. According to the traditional view of these three letters, they were written by John the son of Zebedee, one of the twelve apostles, most likely the Beloved Disciple in the Gospel of John. He also wrote the Gospel of John and the book of Revelation. We know very little about Johns activity after Acts 8 and even there he is only mentioned as a companion of Peter. Even though there is a good argument to be made he did ministry in Samaria, little can be known with any certainty.
The Gospel of John has several hints he led a synagogue of Christian Jews and Samaritans. According to tradition, he left Judea and Samaria in the mid-60s just before the Jewish War began and relocated in Ephesus. He led Jewish Christian congregations there until the late 80s or early 90s when he was exiled to the island of Patmos. He wrote the Gospel of John about 85, the three letters and Revelation about 90. He died in the early 90s and was buried in Ephesus. His grave became Saint Johns Basilica and ruins of this church are still a tourist site in Ephesus.
There are also some complicated theories about how the Gospel of John was formed and how the first letter may be a response to a misunderstanding of an earlier edition of the Gospel. The first letter has been described both as a cover letter for the Gospel and as a hermenutical guide for reading the Gospel.
The Authorship Of The Rest Of The Old Testament Is Unclear
The Old Testament’s section on history is followed by one sections: the Prophets, sometimes divided into Major and Minor . While tradition and, in some cases, teaching hold that they were written by the men whose names they bear, history has come up with a less-straightforward explanation.
For example, consider the major prophet Isaiah: as All That’s Interesting notes, the first part of his book may very well have been written by the man himself. The second part, however, represents a stark tonal shift, and may have been compiled by later editors. The third section bears linguistic similarity to Deuteronomy and may have been written by the author of that text.
For Jeremiah, ascribing authorship is more complicated. Could have been Jeremiah himself, could have been a man he mentions as having been one of his scribes, could have been one of the authors of sections of the Pentateuch. The uncertainty persists throughout the remainder of the Old Testament. Linguistic analysis points to these books having been written or compiled by people other than whom tradition and dogma claim, perhaps having been composed by anonymous authors who contributed to the Pentateuch.
Read Also: What Does The Bible Say About Eating Fat
The Old Testament: Various Schools Of Authors
To explain the Bibles contradictions, repetitions and general idiosyncrasies, most scholars today agree that the stories and laws it contains were communicated orally, through prose and poetry, over centuries. Starting around the 7th century B.C., different groups, or schools, of authors wrote them down at different times, before they were at some point combined into the single, multi-layered work we know today.
Of the three major blocks of source material that scholars agree comprise the Bibles first five books, the first was believed to have been written by a group of priests, or priestly authors, whose work scholars designate as P. A second block of source material is known as Dfor Deuteronomist, meaning the author of the vast majority of the book of Deuteronomy. The two of them are not really related to each other in any significant way, Baden explains, except that they’re both giving laws and telling a story of Israel’s early history.
Plausible And Argued Characters: The Beloved Disciple
On this note, the research sees the need to explore several appearance of the character John in the New Testament which might have an indirect or direct bearing with the discourse in question.
John the Baptist : obviously, John the Baptist is not be the author of this book because he was beheaded by Herod long before the events mentioned in the Gospel of John were completed .7
Thomas: some critics argued that Thomas is the disciple on a contrary, the disciple is described as a witness to the empty tomb and believed , contrary to Thomas who refuses to ‘believe’ until he sees Jesus in person .8
An ideal Christian disciple: some scholars have suggested that the so called beloved disciple is an idealized literary figure the ideal Christian disciple.9 To a degree this is true, because of the played character-role of faithful and intimate knowledge of Jesus. But this hardly excludes the possibility of a genuine historical person.10
John the father of Peter is not mentioned in any connection which might suggest that he was the author.
John of the Sanhedrin : The only reference in Scripture to this man presents him as an enemy of Christianity, and the presentation of John is anything by antagonistic to the cause of Christ.13
You May Like: Bible Race Mixing
Jesus And The Hidden Contradictions Of The Gospels
Bart Ehrman is the author of more than a dozen books, including Misquoting Jesus and God’s Problem. HarperOnehide caption
Jesus, Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible By Bart D. Ehrman
Bible scholar Bart Ehrman began his studies at the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. Originally an evangelical Christian, Ehrman believed that the Bible was the inerrant word of God. But later, as a student at Princeton Theological Seminary, Ehrman started reading the Bible with a more historical approach and analyzing contradictions in the Gospels.
Ehrman, the author of Jesus, Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible , tells Terry Gross that he discourages readers from “smash the four Gospels into one big Gospel and think that get the true understanding.”
“When Matthew was writing, he didn’t intend for somebody … to interpret his Gospel in light of what some other author said. He had his own message,” Ehrman says.
To illustrate the differences between the Gospels, Ehrman offers opposing depictions of Jesus talking about himself. In the book of John, Jesus talks about himself and proclaims who he is, saying “I am the bread of life.” Whereas in Mark, Jesus teaches principally about the coming kingdom and hardly ever mentions himself directly. These differences offer clues into the perspectives of the authors, and the eras in which they wrote their respective Gospels, according to Ehrman.
The Author Was From Palestine
The writer of John knows his stuff when it comes to Palestinian geography and topography.
Over and over, the author shows hes a local. This isnt an easy thing to pull off. Reading Josephus, Philo, or Strabo wouldnt give the author of Johns Gospel the knowledge needed to make his stories sound more authentic. Remember that John was written last, after 70 when Jerusalem was destroyed. Most scholars believe that this gospel was penned in Asia Minor.
Compare this to some of the non-canonical Gospels. For example, the Gospel of Philip mentions Nazareth, Jerusalem, and the Jordan River. In the Gospel of Thomas, Judea is named one time. Thats it. If I was writing a story set in Iowa and wasnt from there, I might be able to get Des Moines, Waterloo, or Cedar Rapids but I couldnt name off small towns and bodies of water without the help of Google.
Recommended Reading: Lovers Of Themselves Kjv