Is The Gospel of John Authentic?
I currently believe John's Gospel is authentic. But we are to test all things. So I have collected the criticism's of that thesis here:
- There is an apparent inconsistency in the duration of Jesus' ministry. In the Synoptics, the events could cover one year. In the Gospel of John, the summary spans three years. According to John, we find that three Passover festivals were mentioned to have occurred during Jesus' ministry (John 2:13; 6:4; 11:55).
- John's Gospel is the work of a trained mind who wrote good Greek with some semitizing; but Acts 4.13 says that John was "unschooled."
- John makes little reference to Galilee, which is allegedly scarcely what we would expect from a native of the province, especially since Galilee (supposedly) was the centre of Christ’s ministry. Nor does he mention at all his brother James.
- John's knowledge of Judaism is supposedly tainted. Critics cite John 18.13 in this regard -- saying John implied there was an annual priest: "and brought him first to Annas, who was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest that year." However, this does not imply an annual priest; it simply says who the high priest was that year.
- The author of this gospel would supposedly hardly refer to himself as "the disciple Jesus loved" -- some suggesting this is a false humility. On the other hand, it may be a sincere effort at humility to keep his name out of the piece.
- John does NOT mention the 'Transfiguration' – when Jesus was joined by Moses and Elijah on a mountain top, transformed into "glory" and was addressed by God himself – a supposedly astounding omission considering that we are informed by each of the synoptic gospels that John was one of only three eye witnesses to this stunning miracle! Here is Mark's version: "And after six days Jesus taketh with him Peter, and James, and John, and leadeth them up into an high mountain apart by themselves: and he was transfigured before them. And his raiment became shining, exceeding white as snow; so as no fuller on earth can white them. And there appeared unto them Elias with Moses: and they were talking with Jesus." – Mark 9.2,9.
- Similarly, John's Gospel omits any mention of the raising of Jairus's daughter but according to Mark's gospel it was John who was a privileged witness: "And he suffered no man to follow him, save Peter, and James, and John the brother of James. And he cometh to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, and seeth the tumult, and them that wept and wailed greatly ... And straightway the damsel arose, and walked; for she was of the age of twelve years. And they were astonished with a great astonishment." – Mark 5.37,42.
- There was also supposedly a last minute redraft: John 21. The last two verses of the twentieth chapter indicate that the author intended to terminate his work here: ‘Many other signs also did Jesus in the sight of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written, that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God: and that believing, you may have life in his name ‘ – John 20, 30-31. But the twenty-first chapter was apparently added as an afterthought, telling the story about a third appearance of Jesus, the catching of precisely 153 fish, and vouchsafing that ‘we know that the witness he gives is true.’ (John 21.24). For a rebuttal to this concern, see "John 21: Later edition or epilogue?" from the Sacred Page.
Critical Consensus Denies Historical Genuiness of the Fourth Gospel
As Christians, we do not measure the validity of our canonical Scripture by the votes of non-believers. But among them are believers, and thus we must consider their opinions. Anyway, the Catholic Encyclopedia's article, "The Gospel of St. John" records:
The historical genuineness of the Fourth Gospel is at the present time almost universally denied outside the Catholic Church. Since David Friedrich Strauss and Ferdinand Christian Baur this denial has been postulated in advance in most of the critical inquiries into the Gospels and the life of Jesus. Influenced by this prevailing tendency, Alfred Loisy also reached the point where he openly denied the historicity of the Fourth Gospel; in his opinion the author desired, not to write a history, but to clothe in symbolical garb his religious ideas and theological speculations.
For more on the traditional reasons for the validity of John, see the updated New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia "Gospel of John."
Earliest Citations to John's Gospel
Our manuscript evidence dates primarily to the 4th Century. However, Papyrus Bodmer II dated to 200 AD has the first 14 chapters of John (less 22 verses), and some parts of 16-21. So to know of its earliest history, we must turn to the earliest commentators.
The pagan philosopher Celsus in his ‘True Discourse’ (about 178 AD) based some of his statements on passages of the fourth gospel. Also, Heracleon, a follower of Valentinius, composed a commentary on the fourth gospel about 160 AD.
But a generation earlier, Papias (about 70-130), though mentioning an apostle called John, says nothing of any gospel. Speaking of this Greek Bishop, Eusebius says (Hist. eccl., III, xxxix, 17) his work included passages taken from a ‘first epistle’ of John but nothing from a gospel.
Some contend that John went through its various re-writes in the second half of the second century. During this period, the anti-Montanists actually attributed John's Gospel to Cerinthus, an Egyptian ‘heretic.’Attribution to a heretic was certainly the fastest way for the hierarchy to discredit a false gospel! Wikipedia relates:
Works attributed to Cerinthus
Cerinthus may be the alleged recipient of the Apocryphon of James (codex I, text 2 of the Nag Hammadi library), although the name written is largely illegible. A 2nd- or 3rd-century heretical Christian sect (later dubbed the Alogi) alleged Cerintthus was the true author of the Gospel of John and Book of Revelation. According to Catholic Encyclopedia: Caius: "Additional light has been thrown on the character of Caius's dialogue against Proclus by Gwynne's publication of some fragments from the work of Hippolytus "Contra Caium" (Hermathena, VI, p. 397 sq.); from these it seems clear that Caius maintained that the Apocalypse of John was a work of the Gnostic Cerinthus.”
The Montanists deduced their doctrine of the ‘paraclete’ mainly from John 15 and 16.
We return to Irenaeus, the Bishop of Lyons, who died about 202. Irenaeus was the first to identify and name the four gospels. He cites in his writings at least one hundred verses from the fourth gospel.
Date Written in Relation to Revelation
Eusebius says that Revelation comes prior to the Gospel of John:
"He [the apostle John] wrote this Gospel in the Province of Asia, after he had composed the Apocalypse on the Island of Patmos. A few months before his death [18 September, 96], the emperor had discontinued the persecution of the Christians and recalled the exiles." Eusebius (Hist. eccl., 3.20. 5-7
Thus, the sequence of the writing of the works in the NT is not chronological. Revelation comes prior to John's Gospel.