Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Another John?

Steve Hays and Evan May recently linked to a good article, by Andreas Kostenberger and Stephen Stout, regarding Richard Bauckham's theory that the fourth gospel was written by another John, not the son of Zebedee, who also was a disciple of Jesus. For those interested in reading more on the subject, I've written some posts about it here, here, and here. I've also written about Ben Witherington's theory that Lazarus wrote the fourth gospel.

I would add a line of evidence that I don't remember including in any of the articles above. The early patristic sources are widely agreed that the apostle John lived to an old age. And both internal evidence and external evidence suggest that the fourth gospel was written by the same person who wrote the three Johannine epistles. Those epistles suggest that the author is old. He sometimes refers to himself as "the elder", for example, which seems to be best explained as at least partially a reference to his age. Some early patristic sources state or suggest that the fourth gospel was written last, which, when combined with the author's eyewitness status and other data we have, would suggest authorship by somebody who was old at the time. It seems, then, that if some other John wrote the fourth gospel, he had yet another unusual similarity with the son of Zebedee:

- Both were named John.

- Both were among Jesus' closest disciples.

- Both were close to Peter.

- Both were involved in fishing.

- Both lived to an old age.

We could add other similarities, such as that both were associated with Asia Minor.

Donald Guthrie had a good line on this subject, commenting on Dionysius of Alexandria, the first source we know of to speculate about a second John:

"In this Dionysius foreshadowed, as a man born before his due time, those modern schools of criticism which have peopled early Christian history with a whole army of unknown writers, whose works attained as great a prominence as their authors obtained obscurity." (The Logos Library System: Deluxe Collection [Oak Harbor, Washington: Logos Research Systems, 1997], New Testament Introduction)

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