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In any study of a Biblical book, there comes a time when the serious student must give consideration to the critical study (examining authorship, date, place or origin of writing, audience, and theological considerations) a particular book in either the Hebrew Bible or Greek New Testament. For the purposes of this course, a critical examination is undertaken for the Fourth Gospel. While matters such as authorship and date may not seem important or necessary to the person in the pew, I believe these matters are of utmost importance. There are literally thousands of books in libraries all across our land that deal with the issue of whether John the apostle is the author of the fourth gospel (or not), whether the gospel is written prior to or after 100 A.D., and if the book even belongs in the cannon?1 For if the apostle John (or someone close to our Lord) did not write this gospel, then one stands an easier time pushing the date well into the second century A.D. When this takes place, then matters such as canonicity (is the book apostolic or inspired) come into play and is definitely a matter of faith.
This research paper, or critical introduction to John s Gospel, deals with the following subjects: Authorship, Date, Origin, Audience, and Theological Considerations. These five categories will help shed light on the authenticity of the Fourth Gospel. A book that proposes to create faith in the mind of the reader must pass the litmus test of critical investigation. Hopefully, our faith can be renewed that this book about the Word of Life is indeed from God and not simply man.
James Burton Coffman, Commentary On John. (Austin, TX: Firm Foundation, 1974), 1.
Authorship of the Fourth Gospel (Internal Evidence)
When one examines the internal evidence of the Fourth Gospel, one finds some interesting facts about the inspired writer (as I would argue). What are some important facts that would help clarify who the unnamed writer is of this beloved gospel? There are five facts we can glean from the text that should help us deal with the question of authorship.
First, the author is a Jew. There can hardly be any doubt that the author of this gospel account in indeed a Jew.2 The writer is familiar with Jewish opinions, customs, and thoughts. His special knowledge, his literary style, his religious faith, all point to the same conclusion.
The writer possesses personal knowledge of contemporary Messianic
expectations that a non-Hebrew might not understand.4 During Jesus discourse with the Samaritan woman at Jacob s well, she says: I know that Messiah is coming (He who is called Christ); when that One comes, He will declare all things to us (John 4:25).5 When one notices the coalition of Priests and Levites who come from Jerusalem to meet John the Baptist, their intentions are clear. They want to know if he is the Messiah, or not (John 1:19-21)? They ask him, Who are you? Reading John as a whole, they appear to be
looking at John suspiciously. They want to keep close tabs on any Messiah (the real McCoy or a pretender). In John 7:40, during His discourse at the temple during the Feast of
2 B.F. Westcott, The Gospel According To St. John: The Authorized Version With Introduction And Notes. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, Reprinted 1981), pg. v. 3 Ibid, vi. 4 Ibid. 5 New American Standard Bible.
Booths, a division occurs among the crowd as to whether or not He is the Christ? Some believe that He is the long awaited Messiah or Prophet (an obvious reference to that Prophet from Deuteronomy 18 that God would raise up like unto Moses).6 In John 12:34, the crowd (possibly the Gentiles who come to see Jesus earlier in this chapter) ask a question about Jesus saying that He must be lifted up. They remark that they believe the Law of Moses teaches that the Messiah would come and stay forever.7
The style and form suggests the author is of Jewish heritage. The vocabulary, sentence structure, symmetry and numerical composition, as well as the way the inspired writer arranges and expresses his thoughts points to a one who is from a Jewish background.8 Tenney points out that the writer appears to be at home in the Aramaic language (although the gospel is composed in Greek). There are only a few subordinate clauses in the gospel of John, and not infrequently Hebrew or Aramaic words are inserted and then explained.
One cannot read the opening verse of John (1:1), In the beginning
was the Word, and not find a parallel to the first verse in the Hebrew Bible (Genesis 1:1), In the beginning God
Second, the author is a Palestinian Jew. Imagine the difficulty in someone (especially a Gentile) writing this gospel from some distance away from Israel? A non-native born person could not possibly comprehend the vast amount of geographical knowledge.10 You only have to visit the Holy Land once to realize the subtle references in John s gospel that
Westcott, vi. Ibid. 8Ibid. 9 Merrill C. Tenney, New Testament Survey, Rev. by Walter M. Dunnett. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1985), 189. 10 Westcott, x. (Tenney 1985) (Tenney 1985)
can only be known by someone who either grows up there or spends a great amount of time in first century Palestine. For instance, the author knows there is a pool at Jerusalem called Bethesda (John 5:2). In this same passage where Jesus heals a lame man, the author mentions there being a sheep gate by the pool of Siloam and that the pool has five porticoes. There is the reference to the Pavement in John 19:13 (the raised platform where judgment is made) that the author calls Gabbatha. The names Gabbatha and Bethesda are not found in the Synoptic Gospels.11 In the context of Jesus cleansing the temple, that author mentions the crowd reacting to Jesus claim that He would tear the temple down and rebuild structure in three days: It took forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days (John 2:20)?
This author possesses knowledge of political, social, religious, and local knowledge of Palestine that could only come from the viewpoint of a resident of the first century world.12 He mentions in John chapter four about the animosity between the Jews and the Samaritans, the surprise of the woman that Jesus (being a man) would ask her (a woman and a Samaritan on top of that) for a drink of water. Who could understand the threats of being kicked out of the synagogue (John chapter 9) other than one who endures the same treatment like the apostles in the book of Acts? Could anyone other than a native of the Galilee understand the significance of the stone purification water pots he mentions in John chapter two (the wedding at Cana of Galilee)? Testament passages throughout John s gospel. There are numerous allusions to Old
xii. Ibid, xiii.
Third, the author is an eye-witness to the events he records in the Fourth Gospel. The writer claims first-hand knowledge that only a close disciple or apostle could know. Note in particular John 21:24, where he says, This is the disciple who bears witness of these things, and wrote these things; and we know that this witness is true.
includes himself when he writes that we beheld His glory (John 1:14). In John 19:35, he claims to see Jesus and bear witness to this fact (and that his testimony is true or genuine).14 I would even argue (though some might disagree) that he is the unnamed disciple of John who begins following Jesus during the early days of His ministry (John 1:35-39). Who but an eyewitness (and especially a fisherman) would know what happens when Jesus tells them to cast their nets on the other side of their boat and that they haul in one hundred and fifty-three fish (John 21:11)?
Fourth, the author is an apostle. If the church historian Eusebius is correct, then there is some connection (in spite of the confusing words of Papias which Eusebius also reports) with the author of the Fourth Gospel being an apostle. Eusebius states:
And when Mark and Luke had already published their gospels, they say that John, who had employed all his time in proclaiming the Gospel orally, finally proceeded to write for the following reasons. The three Gospels already mentioned having come into the hands of all and into his own, too, they say that he accepted them and bore witness to their truthfulness, but that there was lacking in them an account of the deeds done by Christ at the beginning of His ministry.15 There is more than just historical information pointing to the author being an apostle of Christ. Much of the information the writer of the Fourth Gospel tells is what one might call insider information. Much of what the gospel of John states must be from a close, dear
13N.A.S.B. 14 15Eusebius,
Tenney, 190. H.E. iii 24.7. www.rbedrosian.com/Eusebius/euch_menu.html.
friend of our Lord. Who could be closer to Jesus during His earthly ministry than one of the twelve apostles? Take, for example, the account in John chapter eleven of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. The author is present when Jesus gets the news about Lazarus being sick, knows that Jesus delays His trip to Bethany by two days, and is present when Jesus meets with Mary and Martha outside the city. Not to mention the tender trip to the tomb and the subsequent meal at the home of Lazarus (John chapter 12). Another strong argument for the author of the Fourth Gospel being an apostle is the fact that the Synoptic accounts do not seem to place anyone at the Passover Meal other than Jesus and His apostles (the same appears to be the case in John s account). One could also argue that the writer is both an apostle and the unnamed disciple whom Jesus loved.
Fifth, the author is the Apostle John. The key to understanding the identity of the author of the Fourth Gospel is by asking ourselves the question, Who is the beloved disciple? We first run across the beloved disciple at the last Passover meal Jesus eats
with His disciples (when He washes the disciples feet) in John 13:23. We find this unnamed disciple at the foot of the cross taking the mother of our Lord under his protection (John 19:26-27). He also outruns Peter to the empty tomb, but does not enter in first (John 20:2-9). In the Epilogue (chapter 21) to the Fourth Gospel, the disciple claims to be the one who wrote these things (21:24). Now if by wrote he means that he is the one who pens the gospel himself and that these things refers to the entire book (and not just chapter 21), then the disciple whom Jesus loved is the Evangelist of the Fourth Gospel. If this conclusion is true, then the disciple who is a witness to the blood and water flow
from Jesus side at the cross (John 19:34-35) and the disciple who is a witness to these things in John 21:24 is the beloved disciple.
But can one know for certain the identity of the disciple whom Jesus loved? Traditionally, the argument is made that this beloved disciple is John the son of Zebedee. We know the beloved disciple is present at the last supper (John 13:23). The synoptic gospels all agree that only the apostles participate with Jesus in this meal (see Mark 14:17), which puts this disciple whom Jesus loved among the twelve apostles. He is continually distinguished from Peter (see John 13:23-24; 20:2-9; 21:20) and should not be confused with any of the other apostles named in John 13-16. He appears to be one of the seven who goes fishing in John chapter 21, and by process of elimination not Peter, Thomas, or Nathanael, suggests that he is one of the sons of Zebedee or one of the two unnamed disciples (21:2). The only son of Zebedee that is still around at this time is John (James is beheaded during the reign of Herod Agrippa I, Acts 12:1-4, 41-44 A.D.). The disciple whom Jesus loved lives long enough to give credence to the rumor that he would not die (see John 21:23). The unnamed disciple seems to intentionally leave his name out (perhaps to not draw undue attention to him). The only John mentioned in the Fourth Gospel is John (the Baptist), simply called John. While this may not answer all of the critics, internal and
external evidence seems to support the theory that John the apostle is indeed the author of the Fourth Gospel.17
D.A. Carson, The Gospel According To John, The Pillar New Testament Commentary. (Leicester, England: Apollos; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1991), 71. 17Ibid, 72-73. Raymond Brown, in An Introduction To The New Testament, The Anchor Bible Reference Bible. (New York: Doubleday, 1997), pg. 368-371, gives three more modern possibilities about who the beloved disciple could be (although a great scholar, these suggestions sound laughable): other than John the son of Zebedee, (1) Lazarus, John Mark, or Thomas; (2) a pure symbol, created to model the perfect disciple
Authorship of the Fourth Gospel (External Evidence)
The earliest church father to attribute the authorship of the Fourth Gospel to John is Theophilus of Antioch (cir 170 A.D.). Tertullian (cir. 208 A.D.) also attributes authorship of the Fourth Gospel to the apostle John. One of the key figures in connecting John the apostle with the Fourth Gospel is Irenaeus (a disciple of Polycarp, who is a disciple of John, a direct line to the last living apostle), who attests that John the disciple (the one who leaned upon our Savior s breast) published a gospel from Ephesus. This claim from Irenaeus ties in with the author s description of himself as the disciple whom Jesus loved (John 13:23; 19:26; 21:20).18 While this author does believe the evidence supports, overwhelmingly, the
author of the Fourth Gospel is the apostle John, this should not be made a test of fellowship.
Origin: Place of Writing the Fourth Gospel
Tradition holds the origin of the gospel is Ephesus. Irenaeus, in his Against Heresies, connects John with the city of Ephesus during the time of Emperor Trajan. Clement of
Alexandria also testifies (according to Eusebius) that John lives in Ephesus after being released from Patmos (following the death of Domitian). If this is correct, then John (after his banishment to Patmos) is released and lives out his remaining years in Ephesus. Thus
(pg. 369), and (3) the beloved disciple is some minor character in the gospels and too unimportant to be remembered in the more official tradition of the Synoptics (pg. 369). 18H.C. Theissen, Introduction To The New Testament. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1973), (Thiessen 1973) 164.
this gives time for the Fourth Gospel to be written either prior to his banishment (in the 80 s) or even towards the end of the first century (after writing Revelation) in the 90 s.19
Date of Writing the Fourth Gospel
At one time, many New Testament scholars argued for a second century date for the fourth gospel (they would see similarities between John s language and Hellenistic philosophies like Gnosticism). The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947 put that argument to rest. The numerous sectarian documents written by the Essene community (as I would argue) shows that John is a very Jewish gospel (the terms light and darkness being Jewish, not necessarily Hellenistic) and fits well into the time frame of first century Judaism and the Second Temple Period.
The earliest fragment of the gospel of John, John Ryland s Papyrus, dates from between 210-125 A.D. and is some of the hundreds of fragments (manuscripts) discovered in Egypt. This means the gospel is written, copied, and carried all the way to Egypt over some years. This is not nearly enough time if you place the date of authorship well into the second century A.D. The patristic authors likewise push the date of composition well into the latter half of the first century A.D. The Epistle of Barnabas (A.D. 90 s) seems to allude to John 1:14. Ignatius also makes reference to John 12:32 in his Epistle to the Ephesians (cir. 110-118 A.D.), to John 4:10, 11 in his Epistle to the Romans (chapter 7), and to John 3:8 in his Epistle to the Philippians (chapter 7). Justin Martyr, in his Apologia, likewise refers to John¶s gospel. Tatian, in his Diatesseron (which dates to the second century) or harmony of the gospels, includes the gospel of John. The Muratorian Canon places authorship of the fourth
Eusebius, H.E. iii 23.3.
gospel to John. Surely if John s gospel were of a late date, then these early Church Fathers would have known this to be true.20
While some argue that the church historian, Eusebius, talks about two John s (the apostle and elder) in no way denies that the author of the Fourth Gospel is John, nor does this mean that there is indeed an elder John in Ephesus at the same time. There is a good possibility that these two John s are one and the same.
Theological Themes of the Fourth Gospel Key Words: One of the main themes in John s gospel is his repeated usage of key words. Such words as light and darkness, life, love, hate, world, work, believe, and abiding all occurs throughout the Fourth Gospel. One soon realizes that these words set forth key themes or concepts in this gospel.21 For example, in John 1:4, the writer says that, In Him was life; and the life was the light of men. This verse in the prologue of the Fourth Gospel touches on two themes, that of life and light (which occur later on in the gospel). In the section of Jesus teaching about being the Good Shepherd and the door to the sheepfold, Jesus claims that He comes to give mankind not just the abundant life (John 10:10), but especially eternal life (John 3:15-16; 6:47, 54; 17:2). Jesus also identifies Himself as being the bread of life in John chapter six. Who satisfies all hungering and thirsting (John 6:35)? When He speaks to the woman of Sychar at the well, He claims that He could offer he living
Thiessen, 162-63. Tenney, 198. Donald Guthrie, New Testament Introduction (3rd Ed.; Downer s Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1970), 29.
water that would be a well of water springing up into everlasting life (John 4:14).22 No wonder John devotes so much time in his gospel showing the better life that Christ offers.
Love: Another theme that dominates John s gospel is love. While the topic of love is evident in the Synoptic Gospels, still the depth and meaning of love is discussed more in John s gospel than in the other three. The word group for love is found some thirty times in the Fourth Gospel. The word loved is found 19 times, while loves is found eight times (for a total of 57). No wonder John s gospel is often called the Gospel of Love. The
Father s love for the Son is emphasized (John 3:35; 5:20; 10:17), as well as His love for mankind (John 3:16; 14:23; 16:27).23 Jesus whole life and ministry is built around His love for the Father and the world. The Fourth Gospel also sets for the teaching that we (as disciples) are to love each other (John 15:12-14). The gospel of John closes out with the theme of love, where Jesus asks Peter three times, do you love Me? Obviously, Jesus wants Peter to realize that loving someone requires more than mere lip service.
Faith: John s gospel deals with belief for his audience. We can all put ourselves in the shoes of doubting Thomas. He would not believe in the risen Savior unless he saw the nail prints in His hands and scar in His side (John 20:25). The verb for believe, pisteuo (can be translated believe, trust), occurs some ninety-nine times in this gospel. John also records seven signs or miracles (also describes as works in John 5:20) and the resurrection of Jesus in this gospel to support the view that Jesus is God s Son. They are: (1) water to wine (2:1-11), (2) healing of nobleman s son (4:46-54), (3) the paralytic at Bethesda (5:1-15), (4) feeding of the five thousand (6:1-15), (5) walking on water (6:16-21), (6) healing man
born blind (9:1-12), (7) raising Lazarus from the tomb (11:17-44).24 We notice that the third through sixth signs are grouped together around the theme of Jesus ministry and the Jewish feasts.25 Following Jesus resurrection, John records another event or sign not included in the seven. In the last chapter, Jesus finds seven of His disciples fishing on the Sea of Galilee (Peter, Thomas, Nathanael, James & John, and two unnamed disciples). They fish all night and do not catch anything. Jesus commands them to cast their net on the right side of the boat, and when they do their nets are full. The disciples now realize that the Master is on shore (see Luke 5:1-11 for the first time Jesus tells them to cast their nets on the other side). Westcott sees in this narrative the theme that as Christians, we must all work hard in His service until the end of time.26 While this may be true, I believe the real lesson of John 21:1-14 ties in with John s theme of belief. Each miracle John records the various forms of Christ s power. I believe there is also a progression of faith with each miracle (i.e., with each miracle John builds up his readers faith to prepare them for the ultimate sign, the resurrection of Jesus). When the reader comes to the end of John s gospel, he sees the disciples have seemingly lost their faith. Peter says, I go a fishing, and the other men go with him (John 21:2-3). Did they give up and go back to their old occupation of commercial fishing? Did they think Jesus mission is a failure? Perhaps, but Jesus teaches them a lesson here that they are to remain loyal to Him (see also John 21:1519).
Westcott, lxxvi. Christian E. Hauer and William A. Young, An Introduction To The Bible: A Journey Into Three Worlds. (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice- (Nelson's Complete Book of Bible Maps and Charts, Revised and Updated 1996) (Nelson's Complete Book of Bible Maps and Charts, Revised and Updated 1996) (Strong 2009) (Tidwell 1921)Hall, 1986), 248-49. 26 Westcott, lxxvi.
The I Am Statements: Another important theme in John s gospel is the usage of the phrase, I Am (ego eimi). John uses this phrase some twenty-three times27 to show that Jesus is indeed God s Son. Jesus makes eight claims ( I Am ) in John s gospel. He
connects this phrase with eight key metaphors which describe His redemptive work. First, Jesus claims to be the Bread of Life, the true manna come down from heaven (John 6:35, 41, 48, 51, 58). Second, Jesus says He is the Light of the World (John 8:12). Again, notice John s usage of light and darkness imagery here in this passage. Third, Jesus declares His pre-existent state with the Father. John records Jesus saying, Before Abraham was, I Am (John 8:58). In chapter ten, John records two more of Jesus metaphors. Fourth, Jesus announces that he is the door into the sheepfold in vs. 1 ( I Am the door of the sheep, John 10:7). Fifth, Jesus describes Himself as the Good Shepherd (10:11, as opposed to the hired hand). Sixth, Jesus comes out boldly and proclaims, I Am the Son of God (John 10:36). There is making no mistake about what Jesus means here. Seventh, when Jesus talks with Martha about the death of her brother Lazarus, Jesus tells her that He is the resurrection and the life (John 11:25). Then Jesus proceeds by showing His power over death in raising Lazarus from the dead (John 11:39-44). Eighth, Jesus claims in John 14:6 to be the way, truth, and the life.
Jewish Festivals: Another special feature in John s gospel is the listing of the Jewish feasts (six in all) and the events that surround them. John records the first Passover (the first of three) during Jesus ministry when He cleanses the temple (John 2:13-25).28 The
This phrase is found in the Greek text 23 times: 4:26; 6:20, 35, 41, 48, 51, 8:12, 18, 24, 28, 58; 10:7, 9, 11, 14; 11:25 13:19; 14:6; 15:1, 5; 18:5, 6, 8. Nelson s Book of Charts, 343. See Strong s Exhaustive Concordance, 67. 28 J.B. Tidwell, The Gospels And The Life Of Christ. (Waco: Baylor University Press, 1921), 72.
second feast which John records is found in John 5:1. Although John does not name the feast, some commentators argue for this being the Feast of Purim (in March prior to the Passover).29 The third feast one finds in the Fourth Gospel is again Passover (the second one, John 6:4).30 Prior to the time of Passover, John records two miracles in the life of Jesus. While in the region of Galilee, Jesus feeds the 5,000 (6:5-14) and later walks on the water (6:15-21). The fourth feast we run across in John is the Feast of Tabernacles or Booths (John 7:2, 14). At this time many of Jesus enemies are present and after Him, and He goes into the temple and speaks openly with the Pharisees and chief priests. The Jews accuse Jesus of being demon possessed, but He refutes their statement. John records the fifth feast in the fourth gospel, the Feast of Dedication (also known as Lights or Hanukkah, John 10:22).31 At this feast, Jesus claims to be One with the Father and the crowd tries to stone Him. The sixth and final feast John records is again the Feast of Passover (John 11:55-56; 21:1, 12, 20:13:29; 18:28). The greatest event to take place during this festival is the crucifixion of Jesus.32
Signs/Miracles: Another special theological theme that runs throughout John s gospel is his use of signs or miracles to show that Jesus is God s Son (John 20:30-31). There are eight miracles (if you include the Resurrection of Christ) which John records; each sign is meant to create belief in his readers or audience. The first miracle is when Jesus turns water into wine at Cana of Galilee (John 2:1-12). John s second sign is the healing of the nobleman s son, which also takes place in Cana of Galilee (John 4:43-54). The third miracle
See Westcott, 81, 92-94. See also Tidwell, 72. 72. 31 Dedication or Hanukkah talks place in the middle of December. This feast commemorates Judas Maccabeus and his followers cleansing the temple on December 25th, 165/64 B.C., since Antiochus IV Epiphanes defiles the temple by ending the daily temple sacrifices and offering swine on the altar. 32 Tidwell, 72.
John mentions is the healing of the lame man (a man who is lame for thirty-eight years, John 5:1-16). One notices the progression of each miracle; there is the increase of difficulty from one to eight (culminating in the greatest, His resurrection). The fourth miracle John focuses on in Jesus public ministry is the feeding of the 5,000 (John 6:1-14, where they try to make Him a king). Immediately following the loaves and the fishes is the fifth miracle where Jesus walks on the Sea of Galilee (John 6:15-21). The sixth miracle takes up the whole of John chapter nine (where Jesus heals a man blind from birth). The seventh
miracle is Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead after being in the tomb four days (John 11:146). The final miracle John records is the resurrection of Jesus (John 20:1-31). In this
eighth and final miracle, John shows that not only does Jesus have power over death (to bring somebody back while Jesus is alive), but that Jesus power extends beyond this realm (where He is able to raise Himself from the grave). The purpose of these signs is to create faith or belief (John 20:30-31; 21:24-25). One could say that John s desire in creating faith is twofold: (1) to create faith/belief in the heart of unbelievers and (2) to strengthen faith/belief in the heart of believers.
Old Testament Imagery: Another special theological characteristic of the Fourth Gospel is John s use of Old Testament scripture and imagery. Jesus is part of Jewish history and religion. When they reject Jesus, there are in essence rejecting One of their own (John 1:11).33 When Jesus cleanses the temple in John 2:13-21, He shows through His actions that He possesses the authority to do so (Jesus calls the temple My Father s house, and the crowd understands what He means). John adds a Jewish flavor to this gospel to make Jesus claims (that He is the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy) more meaningful. Jesus
states that the Jews must search the scriptures in order to inherit eternal life, for they are they which testify of Me (John 5:39). Jesus teaches that those who truly believe in Moses teachings would also believe in Him (John 5:45-47), signifying that there indeed is a clear continuity between them in both covenants. One sees the Old Testament coloring in His teaching on the Bread of Life and His allusions to the manna in the wilderness (John 6:3158). Jesus points out that He is the Living Bread of Life come down from heaven (John 6:48, 51). In John 7:38, Jesus appeals to Old Testament scripture in reference to the prophecy of the coming of the Holy Spirit (although the specific passage in mind cannot be identified with confidence). The Old Testament usage of shepherd imagery lays the foundation for
our Lord s teaching in John chapter 10 where He describes Himself as the Good Shepherd. John, like Matthew, sees Jesus triumphal entry into Jerusalem on a donkey as fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy (John 12:14/Zechariah 9:9; Matthew 21:2-11/Isaiah 62:11, Zechariah 9:9). The disbelief of the Jews on one occasion (John 12:29, 37) leads John to compare them to those in Isaiah s day (John 12:38-41/Isaiah 53:1). John is the only gospel writer who records that at Jesus crucifixion that His legs are not broken (again a fulfillment of Old Testament scripture, John 19:31-36). During Jesus discourse with Nicodemus, He makes a contrast between Moses placing the brazen serpent on the pole (to heal those bitten by the serpents) and the Son of God being lifted up on the cross (John 3:14-15).34
The purpose of this brief critical introduction to the Fourth Gospel is to deal with some basic background questions that are fundamental to properly understanding and interpreting the gospel of John. The basic questions we examine: authorship, date, origin of the gospel, and purpose of the gospel (theological considerations) should help place John in her proper context so that those of us who are students of the Bible can do justice as we exegete the word of God. There are other issues one could examine in a critical study of John (such as textual problems in John chapter five and John chapter eight), but that is not the focus of this critical study. Hopefully, this paper can help us soak up the truths from that beloved, inspired disciple whom Jesus loved.
Appendix Citations of John s Gospel from the Early Church Fathers The following excerpts should help a serious Bible student do two things: realize the amount of historical evidence that supports the view of John the apostle (the son of Zebedee) being the author of the Fourth Gospel and (secondly) point out that a first century date for the writing of John is the only option based upon the evidence. While John did write towards the end of the first century, he is a first century author.
In chapter eleven of The Epistle To Diognetus, dating from the middle part of the second century (perhaps 150 A.D. in some estimates), the author writes: For which cause He sent forth the Word, that He might appear unto the world This Word, Who was from Who is eternal.
the beginning, Who appeared as new and yet was proved to be old
The next citation comes from the twelfth chapter of The Epistle of Barnabas. This is an uninspired epistle which dates from the late first century A.D. (possibly A.D. 90 s) and Clement of Alexandria attributes this letter to one Barnabas. Again Moses maketh a type of Jesus, how that He must suffer, and that He Himself whom they shall think to have destroyed shall make alive in an emblem when Israel was falling So Moses maketh a
brazen serpent, and setteth it up conspicuously, and summoneth the people by proclamation (an obvious reference to John 3:14-15).36
In Ignatius Epistle To The Ephesians, which dates to between 110-118 A.D., seems to make a passing reference to John 4:32 (about Jesus being lifted up from the earth ).
J.B. Lightfoot and J.R. Harmer, Ed. The Apostolic Fathers. (Grand Rapids: Baker, Repr. 1984), 510. Ibid, 281.
Here Ignatius mentions hoisting up to the heights through the engine of Jesus Christ, which is the cross
In Ignatius Epistle To The Romans, the author makes two references to John s gospel. First, in chapter seven, he mentions longing for the living water (obvious
reference to John 4:14) and partaking of Christ s flesh and blood (an allusion to John 6:53).38
In Ignatius Epistle To The Philadelphians, the author makes reference to the Holy Spirit (Jesus discourse with Nicodemus) in chapter seven: yet the spirit is not deceived,
being from God; for it knoweth whence it cometh and where it goeth, and it searcheth out the hidden things (see John 3:8).39
Ibid, 139. Ibid, 152. 39 Ibid, 154.
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