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« The New Atheists and the Old Testament | Main | The Presence of Death »

January 23, 2013


How about Jesus brother James

It seems to me that if you're going to make a circumstantial case for any point of view, you have to account for all of the evidence. If you just cherry pick what evidence you're going to consider, you could get a distorted picture of what actually happened. I think all of those nine points are relevant to the question of who wrote John, but they appear to be cherry picked since there is a lot more that goes on in discussions about the authorship of John.

The problem is that if you hinge your claims of authorship on the basis of other documents that do not declare who the author is, it would seem to be problematic. There is an awful lot hinging on the authorship of the gospels. If the writers were not the apostles, we can pretty well chuck much of the claims we make for them. That they included embarrassing details would pretty much go out the window if you cannot establish authorship. There are many an atheist that will look at circumstantial evidence presented by witnesses as nothing more than hearsay that no one should take too seriously. While there may indeed be circumstantial evidence to point to John's authorship, for some folks this is simply not going to be enough. They will simply insist that no deceleration of authorship is made in the manuscripts and therefore, no one knows who wrote them. The rest is just idle conjecture.

That they included embarrassing details would pretty much go out the window if you cannot establish authorship.

I don't agree with that. There are details in the gospel that would be embarrassing to anybody who is a follower of Christ. For example, Jesus not knowing the day or hour of his return. That's embarrassing even to people today who say Jesus was God. It's embarrassing that Jesus was crucified in light of him being the messiah. We've got to account for that. It's embarrassing that Jesus' own brothers and sisters thought he was crazy. It's embarrassing that Jesus was from Nazareth instead of Bethlehem since the messiah was supposed to be from Bethlehem. None of these embarrassments depend on knowing who the authors of the gospels are, and none of them depend on the authors being original disciples of Jesus.


The usual argument is that the original author would suffer public embarrassment and that speaks to the honesty of the reports since no one would be lying in such a way as to make himself look bad. But if there was someone else who was gossiping about Jesus and the apostles that does nothing to confirm honest reporting. Their reputation would not be on the line so, why not just make things up that gossipers would love to hear and pass on? This would be especially so if the one who did the writing was actually not a follower of Jesus. Surely there were plenty of folks looking to discredit the church. So, since we have no signed authorship...well, you can't make all sorts of claims about honest reporting. At least that could be a line of reasoning offered.

Here's another viable and well-thought out discussion on the "Beloved Disciple" by Bible scholar Ben Witherington.


It's highly probable that the elder Papias refers to is the apostle, the son of Zebedee. See here.

I've argued against Ben Witherington's theory that Lazarus wrote the fourth gospel here.

Much more could be said about John's authorship of the fourth gospel. I'll just add a few points to what J. Warner Wallace has outlined above.

The fourth gospel portrays its author, the beloved disciple, as having an unusually close relationship with Peter. The other gospels, Acts, and Galatians identify John, the son of Zebedee, as having such a relationship with Peter. The other gospels identify John, son of Zebedee, as a fisherman. And the beloved disciple is portrayed as a fisher in the fourth gospel.

In addition to the patristic witnesses to John's authorship of the gospel, keep in mind that we also have corroboration of that attribution from early heretical and non-Christian sources (Ptolemy, Marcion, etc.). And the earliest manuscripts of John that include the document's title name John as the author. In other words, it's not just the church fathers who identify John as the author, but also a wide variety of early heretics, non-Christians, and manuscripts.

One of my links in the post above is wrong. The article arguing against Lazarus as the author of the fourth gospel is found here.

In a previous post, I referred to early support for the traditional authorship attribution of the fourth gospel in heretical sources, non-Christian sources, and early manuscripts. For those interested in reading more about the subject, including evidence pertaining to the authorship of the other three gospels, see here and here.

Good stuff, Jason. Nice work.


Thank you for the links. I certainly find them useful and I am sure that others here will as well. This is certainly an area that I needed to work on in my own studies and the sources you have provided are very interesting reads. At least I can see now how an argument can be formed to support a stronger view of correct traditional attribution of the gospels to those we hold to be their authors. One more arrow in my quiver to help me get to the heart of the matter.

Jason, thanks for posting the link to your argument against Lazarus. I was thinking of that post and wanted to post a link but hadn't had a chance to look for the URL yet. Thanks!

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