Who Wrote the Gospel of John?


Authorship

The traditional view is that the Apostle John wrote the book, but many modern western scholars have abandoned that idea.[1] And although some might say that a discussion of authorship is pointless, there actually is much to be lost or gained in such a expedition. For tide up in authorship is whether or not it was written by an eye witness or by some second-century Christian who never laid eyes on Christ. We turn now to the evidence in order to show that the Apostle John was the author of this gospel.

In the epilogue (21:2) the “sons of Zebedee” are named and named nowhere else in the gospel, also there is a disciple who is referred to with vague designations throughout the book (“the disciple whom Jesus loved,” “another disciple,” the one “known to the high priest”), giving a sense that there was a calculated effort to avoid using a name. This is contrasted with the fact that the gospel specifically names most of those who make two or more appearances.[2] “The disciple whom Jesus loved” is seen clearly to be the author of this book (21:20-24).[3] This “one” is also seen to only be named in the second half of the Gospel, and with that, many times along with Peter and many times appearing in a more favorable light than Peter.[4] The unnamed disciple is the one closer at the last supper, with Peter using him as a mediator of sorts (13:23-26), and he even reaches the empty tomb before Peter and “believed” (20:3-8); later he sees the risen Jesus and tells Peter (21:7); and finally Peter is scolded for comparing himself with this “one” (21:20-22). There is definitely a pattern here. In chapter 21:1-14 tells us the names of seven of the disciples with the sons of Zebedee and “two others of his disciples,” but we still do not know which of these four is the “beloved disciple.”[5]

From the other gospels we know that Peter, James and John formed the inner circle of Jesus, and because James was martyred early (Acts 12:2), this leaves him out as a viable option. Therefore only John is left. Also great care is taken with other names, in order for there to be no confusion, except with John the Baptist, for in John’s gospel, he is referred to plainly as “John” with no other designation.[6] The first external designation as John as the author of this gospel seems to be Theophilus of Antioch (A.D. 180).[7] Irenaeus also witnesses to Johannine authorship and his source appears to be Polycarp who was a disciple of the Apostle John. Clement of Alexandria, and Tertullian also agree with Johannine authorship.[8] The main point is that there was no other name offered as the author of this book. Based on these facts, it is clear John wrote this gospel.


[1] Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John: The English Text with Introduction, Exposition and Notes, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1971), 8.

[2] Gerald L Borchert, John 1-11, ed. E. Ray Clendenen, vol. 25, 31 vols., The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1996), 83.

[3] Merrill C. Tenney, John, ed. Frank Ely Gaebelein, vol. 9, 12 vols., The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: With the New International Version of the Holy Bible (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Pub. House, 1976), 6.

[4] Gerald L Borchert, John 1-11, ed. E. Ray Clendenen, vol. 25, 31 vols., The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1996), 84.

[5] George Raymond Beasley-Murray, John, ed. Ralph P. Martin, vol. 36, 59 vols., 2nd ed., Word Biblical Commentary (Nashville, Tenn: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1999), lxxii.

[6] Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John: The English Text with Introduction, Exposition and Notes, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1971), 12.

[7] Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John: The English Text with Introduction, Exposition and Notes, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1971), 21.

[8] Merrill C. Tenney, John, ed. Frank Ely Gaebelein, vol. 9, 12 vols., The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: With the New International Version of the Holy Bible (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Pub. House, 1976), 5.

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