A friend of mine (who has asked to remain anonymous) has written a piece speculating on the identity of the author of the Gospel of John, and has asked me to post it here in the hopes that some of my readers might have some thoughts in response to it. If you would like to respond to this, please leave a comment here.
Which “John” wrote the fourth Gospel?
Which “John” wrote the fourth Gospel?
- John, the son of Zebedee, of Galilee?
- John, the author of the Book of Revelation?
- A third “John”, mentioned with Peter in the Acts of the Apostles, in chapters 3 and 4?
Most scholars eliminate the first two, and none even considers the third option. However, I would like to suggest that he is the true author of the 4th Gospel! The tradition rightly remembered his name was John, but failed to identify him sufficiently in either the Gospels or Acts.
This “John” seems to be the one indicated in the 3 narratives of the preparation for the Last Supper. All three synoptics tell how Jesus clearly designated that He wanted the Paschal meal prepared in the house of this unnamed owner of the establishment. Mark gives the most details: Jesus tells two disciples to go into the city; they will meet a man carrying a jar of water; follow him into the house and inform the Householder that the Master wishes to eat the Passover in his guest room. While John does not mention this incident, he introduced the owner as “The Beloved Disciple” who, as the host of the evening, is seated at Jesus’ right and thus able to lean on the chest of Jesus and ask who is the betrayer! Yes, I think the host of that memorable event was John, a rich lawyer, who was like Nicodemus, a “closet believer” in Jesus, but the events of this night and the next few days, makes him come out in the open.
Indeed, that very night he leads Peter into the courtyard of the High Priest, as he was known by Caiphas. Thus he must have been a member of the Sanhedrin as he describes what happened at their last meeting, in chap. 12 of the gospel.
The internal evidence within the Gospel of John is even more convincing, I think.
From the very first chapter, we get forensic language, as “John” has John the Baptist use legal language to describe his relation to Jesus: to testify, to witness, to give testimony. But especially in Chapters 3, 5, 7, 8, we get much of the controversy narratives in which the legal language is the primary image: a court scene, in which “witness” is given for Jesus by His works, the Father, the signs and wonders and even Jesus himself. Vocabulary like witness, testimony, judgment, justice, to judge, etc, all point to the author is this Gospel being a lawyer – as none of this consistent legal language is employed in the Synoptics.
Even in the Last Discourse, we get more legal images! In fact, the Holy Spirit is presented as the “THE LAWYER”, for that is the first and foremost meaning of ADVOCATE in Greek (which is still used as the word for lawyer in French and Spanish!) Nowhere else in the New Testament is the Spirit referred to as Advocate.
But it is the mention of “Peter and John” in the 3rd and 4th chapters of Acts that actually made me make the connection that John was the host of the Last Supper. In fact, Luke says “John” was sent with Peter to tell the Master, Householder, about preparing for the Paschal Meal. Obviously Luke here confuses the Host with the messenger! Everyone assumes and presumes that the “John” in Acts 3 and 4 is the Son of Zebedee. But I disagree, I think that he is the host of the Last Supper, and after the events of that week-end, he becomes one with the Twelve, and actually puts his house at their disposal while they are in Jerusalem. He naturally allows Peter the leadership role, but since he rich and well known in Jewish circles, his “conversion” is well-known to all in Jerusalem.
“Peter and John” are again mentioned in Chapter 8 of the Acts, when they are sent down to Samaria to complete the evangelization of Philip the Deacon. At their imposition of hands on the new converts, they receive a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Because Peter is always mentioned first in these passages, he is surely the leader of the Jerusalem Christian community, but John the Lawyer, whose house is the principal “Church” for the Apostolic community has a prominent place in the affairs there.
Do these observations amount to a serious consideration of “John, the beloved Disciple, the lawyer) as the true author of this Gospel? And even though we could admit that a disciple of this John actually edited all of this material, perhaps from the teachings of John during his entire life-time, after the Resurrection?
The author welcomes your response or questions (which can be posted here as comments).