Gospel of John Commentary: Who Wrote the Gospel of John and How Historical Is It?

A look at some of the questions surrounding the Bible’s most enigmatic gospel

This Bible History Daily article was originally published in March 2012. It has been updated.—Ed.


 
Gospel of John Commentary: Who Wrote the Gospel of John and How Historical is It?

The evangelist John rests one hand on his gospel book, in this 83-inch-tall marble sculpture carved by Donatello in about 1415 for a niche in the facade of the Cathedral of Florence. Scholars writing Gospel of John commentary often grapple with the question: Who wrote the Gospel of John? Photo: Erich Lessing.

The Gospels, the first four books of the New Testament, tell the story of the life of Jesus. Yet only one—the Gospel of John—claims to be an eyewitness account, the testimony of the unnamed “disciple whom Jesus loved.” (“This is the disciple who is testifying to these things and wrote these things, and we know that his testimony is true” [John 21:24]). Who wrote the Gospel of John is a question that remains unanswered, though noted theologians throughout the ages maintain that it was indeed the disciple John who penned the famous Biblical book.

Gospel of John commentary is easy to find—some of the most famous theologians in history have closely examined the text and underscored its importance from as early as the beginning of the third century. It is believed that Origen, an Alexandrian Christian scholar and theologian, wrote his Gospel of John commentary while in Alexandria at some point after 218 A.D. St. Augustine—a famous fourth century church father—contributed no fewer than 124 tractates in his Gospel of John commentary, while St. Thomas’ Gospel of John commentary of the 13th century is still highly regarded today by modern scholars.

We may never know for certain who wrote the Gospel of John, any more than we can know who write the books of Matthew, Mark and Luke. We do know that John is a gospel apart, however. Early Matthew, Mark and Luke are so alike in their telling that they are called the Synoptic Gospels, meaning, “seen together”—the parallels are clear when they are looked at side by side. Matthew and Luke follow the version of events in Mark, which is thought by scholars to be the earliest and most historically accurate Gospel. John, however, does not include the same incidents or chronology found in the other three Gospels, and the fact that it is so different has spurred a debate over whether John’s Gospel is historical or not, something that has been noted in Gospel of John commentary for hundreds—even thousands—of years.

Several hypotheses have attempted to explain why so much of Jesus’ life not portrayed in the Synoptics is present in John and vice versa. One hypothesis claims that John recorded many of the events that occurred before the arrest of John the Baptist, while the Synoptics all have Jesus’ ministry beginning only after the arrest. Another holds that John was written last, by someone who knew about the other three Gospels, but who wished to write a spiritual gospel instead of an historical one. This would mean that the person who wrote the Gospel of John would not have been a contemporary of Jesus, and therefore would not have been an eyewitness as the author claims. There is also the possibility that the author of John did not know of Mark and hence did not have the same information.
 


 
In the brand-new BAS DVD set Digging into the Gospels, leading experts discuss the cities of the Gospels, archaeology’s impact on faith and what we can learn from canonical and noncanonical text. Gospel of John commentary includes James Charlesworth’s “Does the Gospel of John Accurately Describe Jerusalem Before 70 C.E.?”
 

 
One of the facts in dispute among the four Gospels is the length of Jesus’ ministry. According to the Synoptics, it lasted only about a year, while John has Jesus ministering between two and three years. The Jesus of John’s telling also knew Jerusalem well and had traveled there three or four times. The Synoptics, however, have Jesus visit Jerusalem only once. In John, Jesus had friends near Jerusalem, including Mary, Martha and Lazarus of the town of Bethany, which is just outside of the city on the east slope of the Mount of Olives.

The author of John also knew Jerusalem well, as is evident from the geographic and place name information throughout the book. He mentions, among others, the Sheep Gate Pool (Bethesda), the Siloam Pool and Jacob’s Well. The geographic specificity lends credence to the John’s account.

Another aspect of John that may be more historically accurate than the Synoptics is the account of the crucifixion and the events that led up to it. The Synoptics say that Jesus’ Last Supper was the Passover meal—held that year on a Thursday evening (Jewish holidays begin at sunset)—and they would have us believe that the Sanhedrin, the high court, gathered at the beginning of a major holiday to interrogate Jesus and hand him over to the Romans. John, in contrast, has Jesus handed over for crucifixion on “the day of Preparation of Passover week, about the sixth hour.” According to John, the Last Supper is not a Passover meal (because the holiday that year did not start until Friday evening), and Jesus is crucified and buried before Passover begins. In John’s account Jesus becomes the Passover sacrificial lamb, which was offered the afternoon before the Passover holiday. Some scholars suggest that John may be more historical regarding the crucifixion than the other three Gospels.

Given John’s familiarity with Jerusalem and its environs, it is very possible that he had visited the Pool of Siloam, which he mentions in connection with the story of the curing of the blind man (a story that appears only in John’s Gospel). It is that pool that has only recently been uncovered, as described in the accompanying article.

For more on the question of John’s historical reliability, see D. Moody Smith, “John: Historian or Theologian?Bible Review, October 2004.

——————

Based on “How Historical is the Gospel of John?Biblical Archaeology Review, September/October 2005.
 

 
Learn about the birth of Jesus, the history of Christmas and the date of the holiday in the free eBook The First Christmas: The Story of Jesus’ Birth in History and Tradition.
 

 
A related Bible History Daily feature considers the contrast between historian and Biblical figure. Read “Titus Flavius Josephus and the Prophet Jeremiah: Avishai Margalit contrasts the legacies of a historian and a prophet.

This article states that “the Synoptics say that Jesus’ Last Supper was the Passover meal.” What is the evidence for and against the idea that Jesus’ last supper was a Passover celebration? Read Jonathan Klawans’s full article “Was Jesus’ Last Supper a Seder?” in Bible History Daily.

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  1. John says

    I agree that the author of John’s Gospel wrote a more ‘spiritual’ than historical work, though the accuracy of many of his references has been demonstrated. But why do you say that he can’t have been a contemporary of Jesus? If he was a young man aged 17-20 during Jesus’ ministry, he could have written his gospel when he was c. 80 years old, as it is usually dated to the late 1st century. Some have even argued for an earlier date!
    John M

  2. Tom says

    It was all written before 70 AD, as the best scholars have proven. This article relies too much on phony scholarship.

  3. Eric says

    I don’t think scholars have proven things one way or another about the date. But as far as an accurate presentation of Jesus, John falls damningly short. John presents Jesus making all manner of wild claims to divinity. No first-century Jew would say anything close, and would not have gained a following. Scholars like Bauckham and Hurtado have shown Judaism at the time was fiercely monotheistic. Even Jesus’ enemies witnessed his miracles and rejected his claims, but the disciples inexplicably never voice a single objection. A thunderous silence that let’s us know John is completely making things up.

  4. James says

    Eric, If Jesus didn’t make those claims, then the crucifixion itself makes no sense, why punish him IF he isn’t doing the unexpected and inexcusable. There is no rabble rousing to keep down if Jesus isn’t shaking things up and “making all manner of wild claims to divinity.” Rather, because first-century Jew’s weren’t supposed to be making those claims is exactly why they did want to have him put away.

  5. Andrew says

    I agree that it is inaccurate to say that if John’s gospel was written after the Synoptics, that the writer could not have been a contemporary of Jesus. The traditional chronology has Mark written first, based on interviews with and sermons of Peter, by the young man who witnessed events at the end of Jesus’ ministry (fleeing naked from Gethsemene) and who accompanied Paul on some of his travels before joining Peter in Rome. It could have been written as early as 15 years after the crucifixion. Matthew is ascribed to the apostle also known as Levi, a former tax collector. He joined Jesus later in his ministry and relies on Mark for a gospel aimed at a Jewish audience, possibly in reaction to decision by Jewish religious leaders to denounce what had been considered a Jewish sect as heretical c62 CE. Luke appears to have been written shortly after for a specific Greek or Roman patron. All three may have been written before the fall of Jerusalem in 70 CE, when many people in Judea at least had at least heard of the events described. John’s gospel and his epistles on the other hand are traditionally believed to have been written long after he fall of Jerusalem, when most, if not all the other eye-witnesses have died due to persecution, war or old age, at a time when John was so old rumors had begun that Jesus had said he would never die (which John takes pains to refute). Both letters and Gospel are written to counter certain beliefs that were growing in popularity as fewer and fewer of the early Jewish apostles and church leaders remained and more cult leaders emerged trying to combine Jesus teachings with Romano-greek philosophy and religious “mysteries”.

  6. Andrew says

    That John could have written his gospel at an advanced age (even in his 90s), some 30-50 years after the synoptics, would make his long life unusual, but certainly not impossible or implausible.

    As to why, if he was an eyewitness, did he not write his account earlier, John hints at one reason—there may have been a profusion of accurate gospels written in the years just after Jesus’ crucifixion—after all there were another ten apostles (including Judas Iscariot’s immediate replacement mentioned in Acts) aside from himself and Matthew, plus numerous other disciples who survived the brief initial attempt at suppression—at time when the roman world was at the beginning of a publishing revolution—the book (as opposed to the scroll), which was economical, compact, portable and stackable, a form developing from notebooks already in widespread use. “Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.” Jn 21:25 NIV
    I think that John felt there were already more than enough gospels like the synoptics, perhaps detailing more of the “many miracles” the others only mention in passing (e.g. Mk 1:34 “…Jesus healed many…” NIV); and only until he had another aim much later did he feel the need to write his version as well.

  7. Joel says

    This article misses one critical point in presupposing that John is contradictory with the other Gospels in regard to the timing of Jesus’ death:”The chronological reckoning between John’s Gospel and the synoptics presents a challenge, especially in relation to the time of the Last Supper (Joh 13:2). While the synoptics portray the disciples and the Lord at the Last Supper as eating the Passover meal on Thursday evening (Nisan 14) and Jesus being crucified on Friday, John’s Gospel states that the Jews did not enter into the Praetorium “lest they should be defiled, but that they might eat the Passover” (Joh 18:28). So the disciples had eaten the Passover on Thursday evening, but the Jews had not. In fact, John (Joh 19:14) states that Jesus’ trial and crucifixion were on the day of preparation for the Passover and not after the eating of the Passover, so that with the trial and crucifixion on Friday, Christ was actually sacrificed at the same time the Passover lambs were being slain (Joh 19:14). The question is, “Why did the disciples eat the Passover meal on Thursday?”The answer lies in a difference among the Jews in the way they reckoned the beginning and ending of days. From Josephus, the Mishna, and other ancient Jewish sources we learn that the Jews in northern Palestine calculated days from sunrise to sunrise. That area included the region of Galilee, where Jesus and all the disciples, except Judas, had grown up. Apparently most, if not all, of the Pharisees used that system of reckoning. But Jews in the southern part, which centered in Jerusalem, calculated days from sunset to sunset. Because all the priests necessarily lived in or near Jerusalem, as did most of the Sadducees, those groups followed the southern scheme.That variation doubtlessly caused confusion at times, but it also had some practical benefits. During Passover time, for instance, it allowed for the feast to be celebrated legitimately on two adjoining days, thereby permitting the temple sacrifices to be made over a total period of four hours rather than two. That separation of days may also have had the effect of reducing both regional and religious clashes between the two groups.On that basis, the seeming contradictions in the Gospel accounts are easily explained. Being Galileans, Jesus and the disciples considered Passover day to have started at sunrise on Thursday and to end at sunrise on Friday. The Jewish leaders who arrested and tried Jesus, being mostly priests and Sadducees, considered Passover day to begin at sunset on Thursday and end at sunset on Friday. By that variation … Jesus could thereby legitimately celebrate the last Passover meal with His disciples and yet still be sacrificed on Passover day.” -John MacArthur

  8. Bob says

    Trying to find biblical truth is down right impossible. Evangelicals stress their point divinity of Jesus the agnostic, atheist try to make their point. A recovering evangilical who really doubts most of the bible. FormChrist to make sense as redeemer you must accept Genesis and the fall of man. The creatin of Adam and the fall is so riddled with total nonsense God being all knowing created Adam anyway knowing he would bring pain and death into the world. Adam was created with sin nature or he would not have disobeyed God. And why put the temptation in the garden in the first place. I could go on and on about the nonsense of Noah. Jesus was a great teacher and that’s all. Evangelicals please dump blind faith research how he bible was put together 4 gospels representing the 4 winds. How Constantine had an agenda of the divinity of Christ.

  9. Bob says

    Last comment I don’t have an argument with Jesus perhaps he was divine but I search for truth and its darn hard to find. Too many of my evangilical friends felt don’t make me think or confuse me with facts. Perhaps the best book is James it’s the best path of being a Christian. Chuck Swindol a champion of evangilical thought said ” 94% of what’s in John is found nowhere else in the bible.”
    Pretty remarkable claims you would like to hear backed up in other gospels. Mark, Luke and Paul never had seen Jesus and Jesus never wrote one word.

  10. Terry says

    Looking at the accurate geographical references, the knowledge of Jerusalem, the knowledge of the temple festivals, the knowledge of what happened during Jesus´ trial, the knowledge of the content of late night discussions with Nicodemus (a member of the Jewish leadership who Jesus called a teacher, but who at first failed to understand, who as a Jewish leader, who would have been known to the Temple guards and who was present at Jesus´ trial, as was the beloved disciple in John), I would say that considering all of these coincidences, Nicodemus should be considered a good candidate for the identity of the beloved disciple and the origin of the original material used for the Gospel of John. The text itself states the material was redacted by a follower of the beloved disciple after his death. Any comments or objections on this possible identity for the ¨beloved disciple?”

    Any

    John even describes a rich young man coming to Jesus who goes away sadly, stating that Jesus saw him and loved him – like the beloved disciple. -Nicodemus appears to be rich, like the young man loved by Jesus. We don´t know if he was young or old. But He was a scholar, who probably had the background to write a theological Gospel, was present at Jesus´ trial, and at his crucifixion as was the beloved disciple.

  11. Josh says

    What everyone seams to neglect is that John is described as being a part of the lower classes, just as all of Jesus’s disciples were. Given that during that time and age at the best of times the literacy rate in the Roman empire was about 10%. The literacy rate of a rural Palestinian town is significantly lower, more like 3%, and these were people who could most likely only read. About 1-2% could effectively write legible Aramaic (the language Jesus and his disciples would have spoken). Far fewer could compose such a well written account such as John. Plus only the rich, or their slaves who needed to know how to write for chores, could afford the education to read or write. This effectively makes it implausible to have John being the author. But this goes without saying that John, in theory, could have gotten enough money to learn advanced Greek (what the gospels were originally written in) and later in life decided to write a book… but it seams like a lot to believe on no positive evidence and an overwhelming amount against it.

    What is more probable is that an unnamed author living after Jesus died composed a gospel and it got circulating. A group found they enjoyed and accepted the teachings that it held and ascribed apostolic authority to the book in order to promote their own ends. Read Forged by top class Biblical Scholar Bart Ehrman for a more precise and deep argument plus the citations for the info.

    This in no way degrades the meaning of John if you believe in it’s moral teachings, but know that there are good reasons to suggest it is not a product of John.

  12. Jeff says

    Regarding the authorship, notice carefully in John 21:24-25 that there are three very distinct people or groups of people mentioned:
    (1) the unidentified Beloved Disciple: “this is the disciple who testifies concerning these things” (3rd person reference)
    (2) the community of the Beloved Disciple… his church/followers/community (whatever you want to call them): “and *we* know his testimony is true” (1st person, plural = the community; also mentioned as “the brothers” in 21:23)
    (3) the actual author who put ink to papyrus: “*I* suppose the world itself” (1st person singular).

    The Beloved Disciple is the source for the Fourth Gospel, but *not* the author who put ink to papyrus. The author is a follower of the Beloved Disciple and is a separate person when you separate out the people mentioned in the last 2 verses of the book.

    So why does 21:24 indicate that the Beloved Disciple “wrote” these things? Well, in the same sense that Pilate “wrote” the inscription for Jesus’ cross (19:22). Did Pilate actually get a board and paint the inscription himself? Most assuredly not. One of the Romans did it, even though Pilate was the source of the inscription.

    Hope this is helpful.

  13. Gary says

    The Book of John is wonderful and powerful for all new converts. At my conversion in 1978, the preacher’s sermon was on the resurrection from John’s Gospel. Since then, when I share the Gospel, and someone is very interested in knowing Jesus, I’ll have them study John’s Gospel first and foremost, then I will break open Paul’s Epistles of Romans and Hebrews. Yes, my opinion on Hebrews is that when Paul was waiting for execution in the 20′ft hole in front of the Senate in Rome, that Apollos must have visited him there. Being bound, Paul could not write, but may have instructed Apollos to write as he orally communicated. Apollos then would insert his Alexandrian Greek in and out of the passage. Hope this helps someone.

  14. Sara says

    Did none of you read the well-thought -out analysis of the identity of the “beloved disciple” published in this publication or its forerunner, Bible Review, a few years back, researched and written by Ben Witherington? I found his observations, reasoning, and tentative conclusion fully convincing that the identity of the beloved was most likely Lazarus. I have since taken this theory further and found more and more evidence that satisfies both the “facts” and the “truth” of the gospel of “John.”

  15. Robin says

    Some interesting remarks here. I learned some things from various comments, and that’s a good thing.

    I also learned that someone who says one thing in one book and another thing elsewhere is a “top class Biblical scholar”–per comment #11. Would not say so.

  16. edwin says

    I believe John was written about 30 years after the destruction of the Temple and shows the effect of Pauline Christianity. This is particularly evident in the emphasis of Christ being a part of the Godhead, and His existence as part of God at the time of the creation. John shows the evolution of Christian belief.

  17. Peter says

    Any assessment of the relationship between John and the synoptics that doesn’t grapple with JAT Robinson’s Bampton Lectures published in the early 1980s as The Priority of John is really not worth wasting time with. Robinson developed much of CH Dodd’s work on the Fourth Gospel. The most raw specific early material about Jerusalem is found in John. Robinson identifies five redactions in the book, all by the same hand. Taken with his Redating the New Testament (1978) we have in John the earliest written material of any gospel (as early as 42AD) and like the remainder of the New Testament, completed before 70AD, given there is no evidence any NT writer has any knowledge of the fall of Jerusalem in that year which was a cataclysmic event for Jews and from which Jewish Christians fled ahead of time. Despite being a liberal theologian (Honest to God, 1964) Robinson’s work is very much in the classical scholarship tradition of Westcott, Lightfoot and Hort (and his uncle Armitage Robinson) which is as rigorous as anything available on historical veracity.

  18. ROBERT says

    Years ago I took a college course that went into facts regarding the New Testament. The professor pointed out that there had been countless changes (300,000+) to the New Testament and each change took it further from the truth. The professor also checked events that were reliably recorded at the time of the event by Roman,Greek and Hebrew writers. He came to the conclusion none of the authors was witness to the actual events. In fact he was sure that John was written much later by a person who was influenced by Roman anti semitism and was not Jewish. John has numerous derogitory statements regarding Jews that don’t fit the customs of the times. He said Roman rulers at the time would kill their mothers and certainly wouldn’t ask a crowd what to do, because it would make them look weak to their men. The professor checked the recorded birth and death of well known Roman Emperors and events such as paying taxes or taking a census and said that when they mention a specific person like Caesar Augustus, things don’t ring true regarding dates and other facts mentioned. He said the famous painting of the Last Supper was an example of misinformation. The artist is allegedy painting the Passover meal and places loves of bread on the table instead of flat unleavened bread. What is the difference and does all this matter? I don’t think so. There are over 5000 Protestant denominations in the United States and numerous other beliefs. Since no one has ever come back from the dead during the past million+ years that man has been on the earth, we don’t really know what happens when you die. However, we do know that religion has caused more deaths than almost any other belief.

  19. Bill says

    “John was written last, by someone who knew about the other three Gospels, but who wished to write a spiritual gospel instead of an historical one. This would mean that the person who wrote the Gospel of John would not have been a contemporary of Jesus, and therefore would not have been an eyewitness as the author claims.”

    This seems a non sequitur. Why does writing a “spiritual” gospel preclude historic events? Why would it mean the author never knew Jesus?

  20. Lloyd says

    In chapter one verse six it says “There was a man sent from God, whose name was John” and goe from there like
    Someone else is telling the story. If I was telling my own story I wouldn’t tell it in that nature if it was about me
    Could someone else have wrote the book?
    LG Cook Oct. 28, 2013

  21. Lloyd says

    Can you remove my commnt because john the apostle was speaking about john the bapthis

  22. Lloyd says

    Can you remove my comment because john th apostle was speaking about john the bapthis
    LG Cook

  23. Russell says

    Who wrote the Gospel of John is a question like who is buried in a Grants tomb. Now do you know who wrote the Gospel of John? And you know who was buried in a Grants tomb without questioning. So whose at the head of Christ’s church? Bet you get stumped on that one.

  24. Richard says

    John’s essay (it becomes a gospel three centuries later) is clearly the Gentile stamp on Jesus’ mission to earth, as defined by Paul. By the time John is written, the Pauline interpretation of Jesus as the Christ, through whom one’s soul can be saved only if one believes that Jesus was the Son of God, is set. Compare John with James, who voices more closely Jesus’ teachings and not Paul’s. Paul claims to have been infused with his knowledge about Jesus before Paul’s own birth. And now a billion people believe his version of events? Pretty remarkable.

  25. TJ says

    Pray for discernment, seek the truth beyond science and history, allow the LORD to speak to you, meditate on the Word of God and accept that Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior Forever

  26. john says

    John’s Gospel probably had two sources but only one major contributor, the eyewitness, unnamed to protect his identity from the Jews.
    Criminal forensics (taking the entire context of Jesus’s Greco-Roman world in Judea and Israel plus the Synoptics) strongly indicates that NONE of the Apostles witnessed the Crucifixion.
    I posit Lazarus/’Eleazar’/the son of a rich man/brother of Martha & Mary, to be the author & eyewitness. He is possibly a relative/close family of Jesus with access to the Sanhedrin and Pilate because he is related to Nicodemus/Simon the Leper (the POTTER – in the Peshitta) or Joseph of Arimathea. Why? Because kosher laws prevent a Jew from coming close to the dead (Jesus from the cross) on Passover, no less, UNLESS they are immediate FAMILY.
    If you apply this analysis, many contradictions disappear from the Gospels.

  27. Jacques says

    This is a replay to “Bob says”:Trying to find biblical truth is down right impossible…

    The reason for there being a tree of “knowledge of good an evil” is this; as we are beings of “Free Will”, we could not have been in the garden and had free will if there had not been a “choice factor” the tree.

  28. Jean says

    Appendix #156 of Dr. E. W. Bullinger’s THE COMPANION BIBLE is titled “Six Days Before The Passover.” It is helpful in (1) understanding the last week of our Lord’s life on earth; (2) fix the day of His crucifixion; and (3) to ascertain the duration of the time He remained in the tomb.
    #156 appendix
    http://www.levendwater.org/companion/append156.html

  29. Deborah says

    It is unfamiliarity with the Mosaic Law and 2nd Temple practice that causes so many to mistakenly assume that John’s Gospel contradicts the Synoptics. Several points:
    1. There was no preparation day for feasts – According to the Law (Exodus 12:16) that servile work which was necessary to prepare the feast (carrying wood, lighting a fire, cooking, carrying food, carrying water, washing dishes, etc.), even on the 1st and 7th days which were festival sabbaths, was allowed to be done that day so that everyone could eat the feast. There was no need for a “preparation day” for festivals, not even festival sabbaths which were not as strict in the no-work laws as the weekly sabbath.
    2. The only day on which absolutely no work could be done and preparations had to be made the day before was the weekly Sabbath, even if it fell on a feast day. Thus, the regular weekly Sabbath, when it fell on a feast day, was doubly holy (a “High Sabbath”) and the laws and injunctions for the weekly sabbath overrode those for the festivals sabbaths. Therefore, the preparations for any feast that fell on Saturday had to be made on Friday. And from historical records, the only day which was ever called “the preparation” was Friday, testified to by Josephus (Antiquities, Book 16, Chapter 6, line 163). So when John speaks of the preparation “of” the Passover, not the preparation “for” the Passover, he is referring to the Preparation (Friday) that fell during Passover week, and every year one day of the week-long feast would fall on the weekly Sabbath.
    3. The lambs slain on the afternoon of Nisan 14 were not the only Passover sacrifices. All the sacrifices and offerings, both those required by Law as well as those offered voluntarily, were referred to as Passover sacrifices, even in the Scripture itself (See Deut 16:1-3 and 2 Chron 35:7-9 for example). Thus when John spoke of the Pharisees contracting Levitical defilement which would exclude them from eating the Passover, he wasn’t referring to the Passover lambs sacrificed on Nisan 14, but John was referring to the 2nd Passover Chagigah (peace-offering) sacrificed on Nisan 15 and which was eaten at the 2nd feast of Passover. This peace-offering was required by Law and had the Pharisees contracted defilement they would be excluded form eating it.
    Commenting on 2nd Temple Jewish practice mentioned in the Gospels without consulting 2nd Temple Jewish law and historical practice leads to unnecessary difficulties.

  30. L.S says

    The book of John showed how the Messiah fulfilled all the Feasts of the Lord in which we are commanded to observe. John 6:4 was not in the earliest known manuscripts. When putting together the NT they took what there was the most of. John 6:4 says it was Passover yet all the men including Pharisees were up in Gallilee instead of being in Jerusalem. That would not happen. 2nd. When Messiah ate the Passover meal as it was called, He said I wish I could have eaten this with you. So it was not Passover (the bread was artos………leavened bread). Messiah was explaining that when they took the Unleavened Bread all those centuries of celebrating it that it was about Him. The bread that is pierced and has stripes on it. The wine represented the blood He would spill. He only taught one year, or the book of Daniel is a lie, and so is the rest of the Word. It was written several times that the Passover Lamb had to be a lamb of the FIRST year, without spot or blemish. Everyone was multilingual at that time. Especially the Jews. They spoke Aramaic and of course Hebrew. The scrolls were written in Hebrew. They were taught out of the scrolls. And historians saying there was illiteracy among them? How do they know this?? The teaching that they only spoke Aramaic is a fallacy. If you want someone to know what our Father wants then have them start in Genesis and then when you get to the letters in the NT one can understand what they are talking about. Eusebius said that Matthew wrote the logos in the Hebrew language and each interpreted it the best he could. The Greeks did apparently have a problem interpreting Hebrew into Greek because they did not know the Hebraisms. Nor did they know what was written before. And this Friday Passover cannot work either. Messiah was in the grave 3 days and 3 nights. So He had to be in the grave by sundown Wednesday to arise on the Sabbath Day, which by the way GOD never changed. He was already arisen before daylight on sunday morning, and no one knows how many hours He had been up.

  31. Pieter says

    The handed down authorship of the Fourth Gospel rests entirely on tradition/external ‘evidence’. The strongest proof of who an author of a biblical document is stands on the internal evidence – what the document itself divulges. As regards the author of the Fourth Gospel itself – and it is not the son of Zebedee – the internal evidence points irrefutably to the most unlikely person, the only male disciple that was present at the cross, to whom the care of Jesus’ mother was entrusted and who witnessed what took place there, who knew precisely what the nature and the extent of Jesus’ marks of crucifixion were. When he refused to believe unless he saw those marks, the church has branded him a doubter and for two millenia his name has become synomynous with unbelief. Read the Scripture in context and discover for yourself.

  32. INGRID says

    i am amazed that nobody ever notices there is no such thing as 72 hours or 3 days in between the burial and the resurrection, friday eve and sunday morning… ANY MATH MAJORS HERE???? the christian version of christ’s passion. and yet jesus himself mentions it in scripture as did jonah in prophecy! if you follow scripture though you might toss out your gregorian calendar and follow the hebrew kind TO INCLUDE THE FACT THE HEBREW DAY STARTS AT TWILIGHT IN THE EVENING.. scriputre talks about 2 sabbaths, the High Sabbath or ANNUAL passover, and the regular saturday sabbath WHICH STARTS FRIDAY EVENING. now following the timeline of the passion then you will realize passover fell on a thursday (wedensday eve to thursday eve) that year and so christ was crucified and buried before sundown on wednesday shortly before twilight when the seder took place. the holy day was strictly enforced, ergo no work or business whatsoever! then friday, as per scripture, the women went out to buy ointments for jesus to take to the grave after the regular sabbath, early morning sunday. meanwhile though, counting 72 hours from the approximate burial after the 3 o”clock death on the cross, say around 5 p.m. wednesday brings you to 5 pm saturday, ergo christ rose as the sabbath went out before twilight. AND NOT YOUR PAGAN EASTER SUNDAY! check the kahluach for the year when passover fell on a thursday! and all falls in place!

  33. INGRID says

    does anyone notice that this author uses our gentile system talking about 4 p.m. in the afternoon, etc when a hebrew would use the 10th hour in a day etc? this really makes him a person more adapt to the roman, hellenistic world than anyone raised in the jewish manner

  34. Ken says

    It’s a bit disconcerting that the anonymous author seems to equate level of detail with level of accuracy. In some cases, like the Pool of Bethesda, the accuracy of John’s details can be checked, but in others we don’t have anything to check John’s claims against. The author also seems to suggest that Jacob’s Well (which John 4.5-6 places in Sychar in Samaria) is in Jerusalem.

  35. Wardell says

    John’s Gospel is the historic Gospel. The Last Supper was not a Passover Meal (Seder). and Jesus was crucified on Friday Afternoon, the first Day.

    John’s Gospel has a secret, the disciple “who Jesus loved” is Jesus and Mary Magdalene’s son. This is the son found in The Talpiot Jesus Family Tomb. John 13:23; 19:26; 20:;2; 21:7,20

  36. james says

    stick to archeology, and this will be a much better sight, and from the comments, most of you would be better served to harken to the gospel before commenting. You have eyes but see not, and you have ears but hear not. I’m sure your nose hit the air about now, but the truth is you can second guess all you want, but once your eyes are opened the internal evidence to answer all the things you are arguing is more than sufficient.

  37. Kenneth says

    Theologian Carsten Theide indictation is that it was written before 70 AD, because (John 5:2) the pool of Bethesda still existed when it was written. After the Romans destroyed Jerusalem in 70 AD it no longer remained. Archaeologist excavation has unearthed this site.
    http://www.thedisciplewhomjesusloved.com/ has put forth a compelling hypotheses that Lazarus was the disciple whom Jesus loved, and is thus the author of the Gospel.

  38. Dmitry says

    The Gospel of John is undoubtedly of late second century CE origin. It is just as pagan in its nature as the rest of the Greek-speaking New Testament !

    First off, it opens its account with an ancient Greco-Roman philosophical idea of LOGOS, unknown and foreign to the very spirit of the Hebrew thought and Jewish Scriptures! The Greek thinker Heraclitus (ca 535 – 475 BCE) was among the first pagans to have used the term in his philosophical discourses: “ . . . This Logos holds always but humans always prove unable to understand it . . .”

    The ancient Greek cult of Hermes, with its origins dating back to the 7th century BCE, made use of the Logos concept to express ideas strikingly similar to those found in John’s Gospel. Here is a short excerpt from the cult of Hermes: “The [Poimandres] writer fell into a deep and heavy trance, in which there appeared to him a being who introduced himself as Poimandres (Shepherd of Men), “the Mind of Authority.” Poimandres then shows the mystic a vision, in which he sees a great light and a great darkness, respectively reality and matter. From the light comes “a Holy Logos,” …the “shining Son of God,” who proceeds from Mind itself…”

    See a more detailed discussion of these issues at: http://www.therockofisrael.org/index.cfm?i=15533&mid=4&ministryid=28705

    Also, passages such as John 7:38, for example, show that the writer of the Gospel was unversed in the Hebrew Bible and did not care that the “textual evidence” that he was adducing for his readers did not really exist in the Holy Hebrew Text!

    There are many other clues within the text itself that show it to be yet another example of the Church’s frantic attempt at creating an entirely new religion suitable to the needs of the Roman Empire!

  39. Charles says

    The famous Mgr Alfred Gilbey, a former Catholic chaplain at Cambridge, told me during his 90th birthday year his take on John.

    He said that, when studying for ordination, the fashion at the time, say the 1920s, was to downplay John as being the reflective meditations of an old man and not very historical as he would be too old and forgetful.

    On the contrary, said Mgr Gilbey, as a 90 yeast old I can tell you quite clearly who came to my 9th birthday party and what we ate and drank. I have no idea who I sat next to at dinner last night, let alone what we ate.

  40. Alethea says

    From E. W. Bullinger behold your God (Isaiah 40:9). The Devine purpose in the Gospel of John is to present The Lord Jesus as God. This is the one great feature which constitutes the difference between the other three. It has been noted in the first three The Lord Jesus is presented as Israel’s King (Matthew the Hebrew mind) Jehovah’s Servant (Mark for the Roman mind), and the ideal Man (Luke for the Greek mind). And that those incidents, words, and works are selected, in each Gospel, which specially accord with such presentation. Thus, they present The Lord on the side of His perfect humanity. It is this that links them together and is the real reason for their being called “Synoptic” and for the marked difference between them, taken together, and the fourth Gospel.

  41. Andrew says

    Since it was common practice for even educated, literate people to employ a scribe to pen letters and testimony – there were no ball point pens, typewriters or laptops and a first century author could no more pen a legible manuscript longhand than most literate people could today – it is absurd to say a Jew from galilee could not have written John’s gospel. Furthermore it is inaccurate to portray the disciples as illiterate working class men. They were not. Matthew you should remember was a tax collector, and a wealthy man. Peter, James and John were not merely fishermen, but shipowners and partners in a fishing business. Jesus himself, by trade a building contractor (or tekhnos, not a cabinet maker as he is often popularly portrayed), was expected to be able to read from the Torah at a local synagogue, as would most Jewish men. 1st century galilee was multilingual, having been occupied for hundreds of years by first Greek-speaking Macedonian forces and at the time roman troops. Some disciples even from the beginning had Greek names (such as Andrew), others such as Peter were widely known by Greek sobriquets. If anything 1st century Jews were more likely to speak fluent Greek and only have a rote familiarity with Hebrew (only recognising certain ritual phrases and recitations).

  42. Lin says

    Sorry my english:

    If this isn’t the Passover in John how do you explain the fact that Judas went out like he did in the other gospels? And after the meal they went out in a garden, possibly the Mount of Olives.

    I have read the hypothesis about Lazarus being the author/beloved disciple and though it seems plausible, at the same time I have some doubts, like the fact he was nominated when they’re having a meal in his house. If he was the beloved why don’t say something like “Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, while a disciple, whom Jesus loved, was among those reclining at the table with him.” instead of “Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him.” John 12:2

    Or the fact that the Beloved Disciple was among those in Peter’s boat when they saw Jesus on the shore, cooking breakfast. Unless Lazarus was just accompanying them, it seems the beloved disciple is a fisherman like them.

    With John there’s the problem he was hidden with the other disciples so he couldn’t be at the cross with the other women.

    Other thing that I thought, how can we know that the “other disciple” and “the disciple whom Jesus loved” are the same? Because sometimes the “other disciple” is a sentence alone, without “whom Jesus loved”.

    Whether the beloved was Lazarus, John,etc, does it matters this much to the Catholic Church? If one day a strong evidence proves the tradiction wrong, what issues could it bring?

    Surely the Apostle John is important enough, even if he’s not the beloved he belongs to the inner circle of Jesus with Peter and James. He witnessed important miracles like the Transfiguration and the raising of Jairu’s daughter with them.

  43. Manuel says

    It is very simple… & John was named. He was the “Disciple That Jesus Loved”. Jesus Love was his identity. Jesus Love was more important than himself. Why is that so difficult for most to see… It is as Jesus said, “There is no love of God in your hearts”.

  44. GİZEM Al says

    Just a humble comment. We know that John the disciple was the only one among 12 who died because of old age (102~) around the beginning of the 2nd C AD. It is said that he was exhiled to Patmos where he had the revelations came back to Ephesus and died there right after he had written the gospel. Today there are the ruins of a massive church over his grave and recognized by Vatican. So it is possible that the gospel might have been written by him. By the way I am a tour guide in the region, professional on biblical tours and this page is a great source for biblical history. Thanks a lot.

  45. lytefm says

    The Gospel of John was written by Mary Magdalene, whom Jesus loved.

  46. Don says

    Wow! I am about to participate in a study of The Book of John, and this is the first site that appeared when I googled “who wrote the book of john”. Great stuff,, and understandably biased on account of this site is about history and archeology and factual truth. So, I’m not surprised to have read nothing in the article or in the comments about “faith.” Just sayin’, the content herein brings to mind a quote attributed to the dramatist, wit, and professor, Oscar Wilde:
    “Education is an admirable thing, But it is well to remember from time to time that nothing that is worth knowing can be taught.”

  47. Don says

    Great article and comments. I am about to begin a study of The Book of John, and this is the first site that appeared when I googled “who wrote the book of john.” What I read herein is naturally biased on account of it’s focus on history and archeology, and the factual truth. So, I am not surprised that there is no mention of “faith.” Just sayin’, brings to mind a quote attributed to the dramatist, wit, and professor, Oscar Wilde: “Education is an admirable thing. But it is well to remember from time to time that nothing that is worth knowing can be taught.”

Continuing the Discussion

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