This assessment is not, however, without problems. First, paleographic datingof papyri is never a simple matter,
and because of the constant accumulation of new evidence, the dating of manuscriptseven more so than other aspects of ourdisciplineis an ongoing process.
Second, as Smith’s observation suggests, inearly Christian writings there are few early quotations of and allusions to John, andeven those few are highly questionable. Scholars were debating the nature of thesealleged references to John in early Christian authors until the publication of
in1935, when such debates, so scholars thought, had now become moot.
This state of affairs calls for two responses. First, as Georg Strecker noted almostfteen years ago, “there is an urgent need for a new analysis of
that wouldobjectively set out the pros and cons of a possible dating.”
Second (but outside the
John (p. 108). Though he adopted a more standard position in the second edition of his commentary(London: SPCK, 1978), he maintained that outside of Egerton Papyrus 2 and
, “there is no othersatisfactory evidence of the existence of the Fourth Gospel before A.D. 150” (p. 110).
The assertion is commonplace. Paleography is a last resort for dating. See, e.g., Eric G. Turner,
Greek Manuscripts of the Ancient World
(2d rev. ed.; London: Institute of Classical Studies, 1987) 19–23.We would also do well to remember the standard rule of thumb for precision in paleographic dating.Turner writes, “For book hands, a period of 50 years is the least acceptable spread of time” (ibid., 20).
The ow of new evidence is constant. See Ann Ellis Hanson, “Papyrology: A Discipline inFlux,” in
Disciplining ClassicsAltertumswissenschaft als Beruf
(ed. G. W. Most; Göttingen:Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2002) 191–206.
In the last quarter of the nineteenth century, Johannine scholars’ main interest in the writingsof the Apostolic Fathers and Justin pertained to the issue of Johannine authorship of the gospel.James Drummond (
An Inquiry into the Character and Authorship of the Fourth Gospel
[NewYork: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1904] 351) had strongly argued that the evidence of Justin and theFathers conrmed Johannine authorship of the gospel, ignoring the opinion of William Sanday (
TheAuthorship and Historical Character of the Fourth Gospel
[London: Macmillan, 1872] 3), who had(correctly) asserted that this external evidence on its own could not answer the question of authorshipafrmatively or negatively. At the close of the nineteenth century, Paul W. Schmiedel sharpenedthe question, noting that while the external evidence could not determine authorship, it could shedlight on the question of whether or not the gospel even
in the late rst and early secondcenturies. See his “John, son of Zebedee,” in
Encyclopaedia Biblica: A Critical Dictionary of theLiterary, Political, and Religious History; The Archaeology, Geography, and Natural History of the Bible
(rev. ed. in one volume; New York: Macmillan, 1899–1903) cols. 2545–50. Benjamin W.Bacon provides a good overview of these debates in the essays collected in his
The Fourth Gospel in Research and Debate: A Series of Essays on Problems Concerning the Origin and Value of theAnonymous Writings Attributed to the Apostle John
(2d ed.; New Haven, Conn.: Yale UniversityPress, 1918). To be sure, there has been subsequent debate in the twentieth century about the roleof John in authors of the second century, but these inquiries have usually assumed the gospel’sexistence and been concerned with other matters, such as the old issue of the authorship of John.See, e.g., John S. Romanides, “Justin Martyr and the Fourth Gospel,”
4 (1958) 115–34; andD. M. Davey, “Justin Martyr and the Fourth Gospel,”
17 (1965) 117–22.
The Johannine Letters: A Commentary on 1, 2, and 3 John
(trans. L. M. Maloney; Minneapolis:Fortress, 1996) xli n. 78; trans. of
(KEK 14; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ru-precht, 1989) 27–28 n. 27. To my knowledge, the most recent examination of the early manuscriptsof the New Testament is that of Philip W. Comfort and David P. Barrett,
The Text of the Earliest New Testament Greek Manuscripts
(Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale, 2001), a problematic volume. (It is a“corrected, enlarged edition” of the same authors’
The Complete Text of the Earliest New Testament Manuscripts
[Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books, 1999].) The editors display a very marked tendency