Evidence Apostle John Was Critical of Paul
Both the Gospel of John and Revelation by John are critical of Paul. Before explaining how so, it is important to know the order in which John wrote these two works.
Apostle John first wrote Revelation - also known as the Apocalypse. He did so while imprisoned at Patmos (Rev. 1:9). It is about the "eternal gospel" for every "nation" (Rev 14:16). The temple still stood at Jerusalem. For in Revelation 11:1-2, John is told in a vision to measure the Temple, and repeats a prophecy that the Gentiles will tread it under foot. This happened in 70 AD. Thus, we can date Revelation to 68AD approximately. Most modern scholars concur that Revelation was written prior to the fall of the Temple in 70 AD. See Schaff, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Series II, book 1, at 301 fn. 713.
Then when released from prison, John went to Ephesus, and Apostle John wrote the Gospel of John at Ephesus. (See "Authorship of Revelation," PatmosPapers.com.) This is sometime around 90 AD. This sequence of Revelation first, and John's Gospel second, is found in the writings of Bishop Papias. He knew Apostle John, according to Irenaeus. Papias died in 163 AD. This sequence was again summarized in a 10th Century Bible of Toledo. It reads:
"This Gospel [of John] then, it is clear, was written after the Apocalypse [i.e., the book of Revelation], and was given to the churches in Asia by John, being still in the body, as the bishop of Hierapolis, Papias by name, a beloved disciple of John, who wrote this Gospel while John dictated, recounts in his Exoterica, that is, in the last five books." (John Wordsworth and Henry White, Novum Testamentum Domine nostri Jesus Christu Latine Secundum Sancti Hieronymi (1911) Vol. 1, pp. 490, 491. See also Criticism of the New Testament: St. Margaret Lectures, 1902 at page 175.)
This paragraph was also similarly found in a 9th Century Vaticanus codex. See its reading in James David Audin, The Gospel of John, the Original Version at page 262.
This Vaticanus version about the sequence was apparently translated from Greek, as Lightfoot pointed out. As a result, it is a "reasonable inference" that the paragraph about Revelation coming first was in existence in the third century. See, John Henry Bernard, St. John Vol. 1:1-7 (A&C Black, 2000) at lviii.
Ephesus' Doctrine Once John Arrives After Paul's Death
The people of that area – especially Ephesus – knew Apostle John after they knew Paul decades earlier. Irenaeus in 180 AD comments in Against All Heresies 3:4 that Apostle John took over the church Paul founded at Ephesus:
Then, again, the Church in Ephesus, founded by Paul, and having John remaining among them permanently until the times of Trajan, is a truewitness of the tradition of the apostles.
Scholars agree that under John's later influence -- which continued for 30 years after Paul died, the community of Ephesus became non-Pauline in outlook. For long after Paul's death in about 64 AD, John leaves his prison on Patmos, and puts down stakes in Ephesus. Eusebius records in the early 300s the history that when Apostle John
"returned from Patmos to Ephesus, he went away upon their invitation to the neighboring territory of the gentiles, to appoint bishops in some places, in other places to set in order whole churches, elsewhere to choose to the ministry someone of those who were pointed out by the spirit." (Eusebius, Church History in Philip Schaff, Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers, Series II, Vol 1 at 309 #6.)
Evangelical scholar F.F. Bruce explains how this disappearance of Pauline influence came about within orthodox circles at Ephesus when they fell under Apostle John's influence, as David E. Blair summarizes Bruce's points:
The consideration of the Johannine community is perhaps the most conservative of these studies. Yet much evidence is weighed back and forth. Bruce locates the community at Ephesus. References to heretical thought in the Gospel of John are reflective of a Roman Asia location. Also, the early Church traditions of the John at Ephesus are strong and extend through Papias, Polycarp, and beyond. While aware of the adventurous work of J. Louis Martyn and Robert E. Brown in "The Community of the Beloved Disciple," Bruce leaves the question of the number of significant persons within the community open and sees a strong possibility of the apostle John at Ephesus and/or Patmos. The Pauline foundation in Roman Asia is seen to be eclipsed, and the ongoing Church there becomes a reflection of Johannine thought. (Review of F.F. Bruce, Peter, Stephen, James and John: Studies in Early Non-Pauline Christianity (Eerdman's 1980)
Renan likewise in his famous pro-Paul work Saint Paul (Carleton 1869) explained the eclipse of Paul's doctrines. Renan says this came about by Apostle John's presence at Ephesus after John's release from the island prison at Patmos. None of the Christian writers who are contemporaries with John at Ephesus pay any attention to Paul. They instead emphasize doctrines belonging to the "Jewish" party at Jerusalem (i.e., James whose epistle says faith alone does not save). So Renan writes about this eclipse of Paul at page 219 as follows:
Christianity burst forth like a sudden conflagration throughout all Asia Minor. It is probable that the Jewish Christians labored on their side to spread the Gospel there. "John, who belonged to this party," was received in Asia as an apostle of superior authority to Paul. The Apocalypse [i.e., the book of Revelation] addressed in the year 68 to the churches of Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea on the Lycus, appears composed for the Jewish-Christians. Without doubt, between the death of Paul and the editing of the Apocalypse [i.e., Revelation], there was at Ephesus and in Asia, as it were, a second Jewish-Christian preaching. Nevertheless, if Paul had been for ten years the sole chief of the churches of Asia, we cannot understand how he should have been forgotten there so soon. "St. Philip" and Papias," glories of the church of Hierapolis, Melito, glory of that of Sardis, were Jewish-Christians. Neither Papias nor Polycrates of Ephesus quotes Paul. The authority of John has absorbed everything, and John is to these churches a Jewish chief priest. The churches of Asia in the second century, the church of Laodicea especially, are the scene of a controversy which attaches itself to the vital question of Christianity, and in which the traditional party shows itself not at all in harmony with the ideas of Paul.87 Montanism is a sort of return to Judaism, in the bosom of Phrygian Christianity. In other words, in Asia, as at Corinth,88 the memory of Paul after his death appears to have undergone a sort of eclipse during a whole century. Even the churches which he had established abandon him as too compromising a man; so much so, that Paul, in the second century, appears universally disowned.83
Renan continues, and explains how John's first Book of Revelation explains why John eclipsed Paul. It is the Book of Revelation that explains largely why orthodox doctrines at Ephesus reverted back to the Jerusalem church's views.
For Revelation chapter two criticizes someone at Ephesus claiming to be an "apostle" who is not (Paul?). Jesus in chapter two also condemns one who allows Christians to eat meat sacrificed to idols. (Paul definitely does so in 3 instances --see link). The Jesus of Revelation also speaks against one who says he is a "Jew" but who is not. (The Ebionite investigation of Paul quoted from that era was that Paul's parents were Herodians, not purely Jewish, and that is why Paul was only circumcised late in life -- see link).
Based upon the foregoing, Renan recaps the anti-Paul effect of the Book of Revelation although he ascribes this to hate by Apostle John of Paul rather than valid quotes of Jesus in Revelation:
This reaction must have taken place a short time after the death of the apostle, or perhaps even before. The second and third chapters of the Apocalypse [i.e., the book of Revelation] are a cry of hatred against Paul and his friends. This church of Ephesus, which owes so much to Paul, is praised for "not being able to bear with them which are evil; for having tried them, which say they are apostles and are not for having found them liars; for hating the deeds of the Nicolaitanes," 71 "which I also hate," adds the celestial voice. The church of Smyrna is congratulated for "being the blasphemy of them which say they arc Jews, and are not," but are "the synagogue of Satan." "But I have a few things against thee," says the divine voice to the church of Pergamos, "because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumbling-block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication." So hast thou also [rejected] them that hold the doctrine of Nicolaitanes."70 "I have a few things against thee," says the same voice to the church of Thyatira, "because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel," which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce my servants, to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols. And I gave her space to repent of her fornication, and she repented not. . . . As to the rest in Thyatira, as many as have not this doctrine, and which have not known the depths of Satan as they speak," I will put upon you none other burden." 8 And to the church of Philadelphia, "I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews and are not, but do lie, to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee." Probably the vague reproaches addressed by the seer to the churches of Sardis and Laodicea81 also contain allusions to the great discussion which was dismembering the church of Jesus.
John's Gospel Predictably Is Negative Too
With that background, it should not be surprising that the Gospel of John is a follow-up that continues the rejection of Paul. The Jesus of John's Gospel rejects again principles of Paul which the Jesus of Revelation by Apostle John likewise had rejected previously.
However, you cannot easily see the anti-Paul message in John’s Gospel as presently translated. Many are surprised anyone could even think the Gospel of John undermines Paul. However, this is only because of the mistranslation of John’s Greek active tenses as if they were simple present tenses in English. This is compounded by the mistranslation of the word pisteuo exclusively as “believes” when in many places it should have been “keep on obeying.” The latter defect was apparently innocent when first made in the 1520s but now is inexcusable due to improved scholarship. It is an artifact error which is left unchanged due to an unwillingness to translate John to sound anti-Pauline, as explained below.
Before we go into more detail on John's Gospel, we should realize that the Epistles of John are likewise critical of Paul – when John alludes to false teachers who say Jesus did not come in the flesh, but only appeared to be human. (Paul twice teaches this heretical view of Jesus' nature. Rom 8:3; Phil 2:7 - discussed at this link.) Apostle John's letters also speak of someone who tried joining the apostles at Jerusalem but who would not listen to them, and left the group, proving he was never truly of their group (Paul?). I discuss these subtle references to Paul in my book JWO, entirely free online. See link.
Finally, we now turn to the Gospel of John. This gospel destroys Paul’s salvation doctrine. Surprised? Well, the verb pisteuo is key, but before we prove it means "obey" in key verses, let's note that John in many places emphasizes obedience and doing "good things" for salvation in his Gospel using other verbs meaning obeying. I review this in Jesus Words on Salvation, ch. 26, part 1. See link. This includes John 15:1-10; John 8:51, and John 5:28-29. These passages are echoes of Jesus' words in Revelation 22:14 and Rev. 3:13-16.
Next, John’s Gospel has many present active verb tenses for salvation (e.g., “keep on listening”), while Paul had an aorist (a one time action) for salvation in two places, e.g., “believed” See, e.g., Romans 10:9. For detailed discussion, see JWO Chapter Eight. For proof Paul in Romans 10:9 mistranslated Isaiah 28:16, see this link. Present active tenses are the OPPOSITE of aorist tenses in Greek. I believe John is doing this deliberately – praying for inspired recollection of every statement from Jesus that undermines Paul’s aorist salvific statements. See Appendix to JWO.
Lastly, the Greek verb pisteuo was rendered by Luther always as “believe” in his 1500s Bible. This influenced many others thereafter to do likewise. However, Luther did not know Greek well enough. And Greek scholars had not yet established a scholarly Greek dictionary. For a milennium earlier, everyone assumed the New Testament was written in Latin. This was because for centuries the Roman Church ignored the Greek texts. But in the 1800s, scholars realized that Luther erred, and a primary meaning of pisteuo was discovered to be obey by examining ancient Greek texts. See link.
In Greek, the word pisteuo as “believe” is the meaning if the preposition EN (meaning in) follows. So pisteuo in its third person form plus en would translate “he believes in.” However, pisteuo in its third person form, present participle active, plus EIS is “he keeps on obeying unto.” The latter is what you find in John 3:16! It is spoken about the one who keeps having eternal life by obeying unto the Son. Id.
"Obey" or "trust" is the primary meaning of pisteuo; "believe" is the unusual meaning.
This is exemplified by Paul himself. For Paul except 2 times uses “pisteuo” (verb) and “pistis” (noun) to mean obey or trust, and faithfulness (synonymous for the term "obedience") respectively, not believe or faith. See link. So even looking at Paul's typical meaning -- proven by virtue of reading the context, the correction to John 3:16 is overwhelmingly compelling.
The obey meaning of pisteuo is clearly what is in John 3:16. It is true throughout the Gospel of John. If one starts with part 1 of chapter 26 of Jesus' Words on Salvation and follows the links to all parts of chapter 26, one will see the case unfold certainly and clearly. See link to 26:1.
Based upon the above, Jesus inspired John to write his gospel to rebuff Paul, not support him. Jesus' purpose was the same as was the point of the earlier work of John in the book of Revelation, which in part, did likewise. The earlier book of Revelation too rebuffed Paul. By using active tenses for all kinds of salvation statements in John’s Gospel, e.g., John 10:28-29, “all who keep on listening and following cannot be snatched from my hand,” John’s inspired recollections of Jesus’ statements destroy Paul’s view in Romans 8 and Romans 10 that a one time calling on the Lord and a one time belief permanently saves you. See Appendix on Greek in Jesus' Words Only. See also our discussion of John 6:39-40 in this link.
To accept this conclusion about Jesus' purpose behind John's Gospel, unfortunately, requires some diligence to read the Greek dictionaries referenced in the linked pages on the webpages previously cited.
A concordance will not help because it does not claim to be a dictionary, but instead is a list of every word used to translate a Greek word in the source bible. For example, a KJV Concordance is not a dictionary, but a listing of how in 1611 each Greek word was translated in the KJV. This “concordance” approach suits a strategy to not appear dishonest when it does not include pisteuo can mean not only “believes” sometimes, but also can mean “obeys" "comply," etc. They lay out the concordance as a dictionary, and make you and I think it is a dictionary, but it is not. Thus the editors of such a concordance can omit “obeys” / "comply" as a meaning of pisteuo because in 1611 scholarship did not yet fully know the meaning of pisteuo in John 3:16 and elsewhere.
As a result of the Book of Revelation, John's Gospel and John's Epistles, Paul is truly erased, along with his anti-law and faith-alone doctrine. Renan tells us that from the 100s to the 300s, Paul had no following among the orthodox Christian groups:
After his disappearance from the scene of apostolic struggles we shall find him soon forgotten. His death was probably regarded by his enemies as the death of an agitator. The second century scarcely speaks of him, and apparently endeavors to systematically blot out his memory. His epistles are then slightly read, and only regarded as authority by rather a slim group.* His partisans themselves greatly weaken his pretensions." He leaves no celebrated disciples. Titus, Timothy, and so many others, who, as it were, constituted his court, disappear without renown. (Renan, St. Paul (1875) at 327 (excerpted at our link.)
Mark Smith in 2016 rejects the Jesus' Words Only principle. He argues that Christians must also follow Paul, and not Christ alone, because he finds no sermons from the apostles to prove Paul is not to be followed. See this link.
However, we have better proof than sermons. We have prophecies of the Lord Jesus subtly placed as messages to arrive at the right time, and in the right dose when we need it most. These messages are in the two APOSTOLIC Gospels and the Apostolic book of Revelation.
First, we have already seen that Jesus inspired Matthew with a Gospel that has numerous subtle but yet plain criticisms of Paul. See Anti-Paul Passages in Matthew.
Second, we saw above the same is true regarding the only other apostolic Gospel: the Gospel of John, and all his other writings, including the Book of Revelation.
Finally, if you need one more apostle, and you agree Second Peter is written by Apostle Peter, it is highly negative about Paul, especially in 2 Peter 3:15-17. For this very reason, Calvin in the 1500s -- a pro-Paul advocate -- sought to have Second Peter rejected as non-canonical. See our article Second Peter's Reference to Paul.
The Greek of the Book of Revelation is less grammatical than the Greek of the Gospel of John. However, the reason likely stems from the fact Revelation was written while John was in prison on the island of Patmos, and John did not have any literary help to prepare the final manuscript. However, the Gospel of John was in a community of Ephesus where many helpers could supply assistance in writing grammatical Greek.
The website PatmosPaperscom makes a valid point about this issue in its article entitled the Authorship of Revelation:
But more importantly, when Revelation was written, John was in exile on the Isle of Patmos. He had no scribes or literary helpers there to assist him in writing. John was an uneducated Jewish fisherman who had never taken a college class in Greek composition. When the Lord appeared to him on Patmos the apostle was instructed to record what he was seeing (Revelation 1:11), so he apparently scribbled out the vision as it was being shown to him (Revelation 10:4).
We have reason to believe, on the other hand, that in the writing of the Gospel of John at Ephesus after his release from Patmos, the apostle may have had one or more literary helpers. It may have been one such scribe who in John 21:24 wrote, "And we know that his [John's] testimony is true."
Every Christian writer until the middle of the 3rd century, whose works are extant today and who mentions the matter at all, attributes Revelation to John the apostle. Examples include:
- Justin Martyr at Rome (c. A.D. 100 - c. 165; Dialogue With Trypho 81)
- Irenaeus at Lyons (c. A.D. 130 - c. 202; Against Heresies iv. 20. 11)
- Tertullian at Carthage (c. A.D. 160 - c. 240; On Prescription Against Heretics 36)
- Hippolytus at Rome (died c. A.D. 235; Treatise on Christ and Antichrist xxxvi)
- Clement of Alexandria (died c. A.D. 220; Who Is the Rich Man That Shall Be Saved? xlii).
Paul's Relative Insignificance in the Church as a Whole
Peter in Acts 15 is still a key leader, and says the “holy spirit” a long while ago appointed him the Apostle to the Gentiles. The person who dominates at this time is James. James is the Bishop of Jerusalem. He is the one who makes the decision in Acts 15 on the 4 commands which Gentiles must keep, and then they must learn more by weekly Sabbath readings.
To know how insignificant Paul is during all of Acts as a leader among Christians, one needs to focus upon Acts 21. Here James approaches Paul while Paul was again visiting Jerusalem, and tells him many “myriads” (tens of thousands” of “our people” (Jews) have accepted Christ. Then he tells Paul he heard Paul is guilty of “apostasia” – turning from the Law, teaching that Jews themselves need no longer obey the Law. James then asks Paul to prove this is not so by complying with the ritual from Numbers 6—clear from context.
This proves James was still running the shop as Bishop of Jerusalem, and Paul’s influence was so minor that only rumors had come to James.
The Book of Acts never spread Paul’s influence, as that was not its purpose.
Luke’s Acts was intended as a legal brief in the upcoming trial of Paul at Rome. Both Luke's Gospel and Acts were addressed to Theophilus -- apparently the investigator of Paul's case upcoming for trial of Paul. (See link for full discussion.) The book of Acts ends with Paul at Rome awaiting trial. The Gospel of Luke explained Jesus’ teachings to Theophilus. The book of Acts explained to Theophilus Paul’s role in Trophimus’s breach of the temple by this Gentile’s entering the temple in an uncircumcised state while Paul was elsewhwere at the ceremonial baths at the temple. Paul won dismissal of that original case, apparently due to Luke's efforts. See the article Trophimus http://www.jesuswordsonly.com/recommendedreading/65-trophimus.html The legal brief by Luke thereafter became mostly irrelevant – Paul does not even once allude to having read Acts!
Not surprisingly, Paul had no impact on the early church once Paul died and Apostle John took over the very same churches. See above. Paul faded into oblivion.
Paul’s writings only rose to mainstream influence when Constantine wanted to wipe out Sabbath, and make instead the “Day of the Sun” for his favored god of the sun (Sol Invictus) to be the day of worship. Now Paul began to have his day in the sun -- long after Paul had died.