Why Think the Apostle John wrote the Gospel of John? Follow the Clues.

Photo by James Coleman on Unsplash

“There is no way that the Fourth Gospel was written by John Zebedee or by any of the disciples of Jesus. The author of this book is not a single individual, but is at least three different writers/editors, who did their layered work over 25 to 30 years.”

The author was a Jew.

The author was from Palestine.

The writer was an eyewitness to what he reports.

The writer was in Jesus’ inner circle.

“I have been reading poems, romances, vision-literature, legends, myths all my life. I know what they are like. I know that not one of them is like this. Of this text, there are only two possible views. Either this is reportage — though it may no doubt contain errors — pretty close up to the facts; nearly as close as Boswell. Or else, some unknown writer in the second century, without known predecessors, or successors, suddenly anticipated the whole technique of modern, novelistic, realistic narrative. If it is untrue, it must be a narrative of that kind. The reader who doesn’t see this has simply not learned to read.”

The writer is John.

“In John 21:24, this disciple is linked directly to the witness of this Gospel, perhaps by his followers who were putting their imprimatur or stamp of approval of it. He obviously is one of those present at the Last Supper, though a few more than the Twelve might have been there. But he also joins Mary, the mother of Jesus, at Jesus’s crucifixion (19:26–27, 34–35), runs with Peter to see the empty tomb (20:2–5, 8, and is among the seven who return to Galilee and encounter the risen Lord there (21:1–7). Why would Jesus entrust his aging mother to a disciple and not a family member? Joseph may have well been dead by this time, and Jesus half-brothers may not yet have believed in him. (cf. 7:5) But it would have had to be someone extremely close to him. Someone outside the Twelve would appear to be an unlikely candidate.

In the Synoptic Gospels, Peter, James, and John seem to form an inner core of leadership among the Twelve (Luke 8:51, Mark 9:2, cf. Gal 2:9), while in Acts, John accompanies Peter as his close companion. (Acts 1:13, 3:1–11, 4:1–13; 8:14–25). We know the sons of Zebedee are present in John 21:2, though they are never mentioned by name in this Gospel. The author cannot be Peter since the beloved disciple is distinguished from him. He cannot be James because he was martyred by Herod Agrippa I in AD 44, long before this Gospel was penned. That leaves John as the only plausible person.”

The Historical Reliability of the New Testament, Countering the Challenges to Evangelical Christian Beliefs — Craig L. Blomberg

Telling John apart from John.

One more puzzling feature in the Fourth Gospel falls into place if we equate the beloved disciple with John. Like the Synoptics, the Fourth Gospel refers to a variety of the activities and teachings of John the Baptist. Unlike the Synoptics, it never calls him “the Baptist,” merely “John.” If anyone other than John the apostle was the author of this Gospel, it would be extremely confusing for him not to have ever specified which John he was speaking of. But if the original addressees knew that John the apostle was the author and that he never referred to himself by name, then they would know that all the references to John would have to refer to the Baptist.

The Historical Reliability of the New Testament, Countering the Challenges to Evangelical Christian Beliefs — Craig L. Blomberg



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Erik Manning

I am the Reasonable Faith Chapter Director in Cedar Rapids and the writer for isjesusalive.com. I’m interested in the intersection of Christianity and history.