Guest Blogger: Which “John” wrote the fourth Gospel?

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?

  1. John, the son of Zebedee, of Galilee?
  2. John, the author of the Book of Revelation?
  3. 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).

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  1. The Biblical answer is the anonymous author of the fourth gospel was not named “John” at all. While there is not even a single verse of scripture that would justify teaching thati this unnamed “other disciple whom Jesus loved” was John (any John) there is plenty of Biblical evidence to prove that it was not the apostle John which is who is usually assumed to be.

    Circular reasoning is a logical error. One cannot simply start with the assumption that this unnamed “other disciple” was named John without any evidence for doing so. And assuming that the non-Bible sources that are cited as the basis for this idea could not possibly have been wrong is to assume facts not in evidence.

  2. Judith collier says:

    I thought for sure ,John, the writer of the 4th gospel was the John of Revelations. Wasn’t John who wrote the 4th gospel banished to the island of Patmos where the book of Revelations was written?

  3. One option is that the writer of the Gospel is someone who is very learned in Greek and the some of the Greek thinking “Logos” terminology. This would exlude the semi literate John Bar Zebedee, the fisherman. “John” Mark is also the companion often associated with Peter, but again why would he pen two such radically different narratives (if indeed he even wrote the Gospel attributed to him)? One consideration is that in the Hellenized world of First Century Judah and Samaria and Galilee, it would not be uncommon for men to have two names: a Hebrew/Aramaic name for the family, and a Greek name for the non-Jewish associations. The name John could be appended to ANYONE: Nicodemus, Lazarus, etc which are mentioned in the gospels.
    I think that the resurrected Lazarus in some traditions does have the name JOHN appended to his name. He too was a young man, from a highly respected family, and Jesus was in the residence a lot at Cana ( and it wasn’t impossible for a well to do family to have a residence in the city of Jerusalem as well as a family estate else where). St Paul was a Pharisee of the Pharisees self styled and he was highly educated in both the Hebrew and Greek traditions. It seems to me that this may have been a common practice in the world of the NT where Greek influence was so powerful that it almost subsumed the Jewish way of life. For what it’s worth, I vote for John Lazarus who was both young enough and most likely educated enough to meet the criteria in the above discussion.

  4. I was recently reading a bit about John and also noticed the way the author tends to pitch many of his narratives as courtroom scenes (one of the reasons some argue that the story of the woman caught in adultery fits into the gospel even though it probably isn’t by the same author). I’m sure we’ll never know for sure who the real author was. It seems to me that a lot of biblical studies will always remain speculative.

  5. Isto é muito interessante!!!

    Fiquem na grandiosa Graça de Deus!!!

  6. You might be interested in the volumes by Raymond Brown in the Anchor Yale Bible Commentaries. These commentaries are available for a discounted pre-order price.

  7. Hi!,

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