Tuesday, 8 December 2009

The Gospel according to whom?

Who wrote the fourth Gospel? We traditionally say John but is that right?
In the book, 'The many Gospels of Jesus' by Philip W. Comfort and Jason Driesbach it says;

"Though John's authorship is not explicitly stated anywhere in the Gospel, the text itself points to his authorship. The writer of this Gospel calls himself "the one whom Jesus loved"[Jn 20:2] and identifies himself at the end of the Gospel as a disciple who witnessed the events he wrote about, concluding with the personal "I" in the very last verse [Jn 21:24-25]."

As they say above the author isn't clear and we must deduce who it is. Their reasoning is sound however I must say that I disagree with the conclusion. Perhaps there is more to it then I have given credit and am, as always, up for being informed and corrected. Traditionally the beloved disciple is identified as John however I would like to suggest that it is actually Lazarus and therefore should be The Gospel according to Lazarus.

Here is my reasoning:

- It is mentioned that Jesus loved Lazarus 3 times in Ch 11: 3, 5, and 36. This was also by 3 different people: Mary and Martha, the author and the Jews. Seems rather emphatic to me.

- Mary and Martha tell Jesus that the 'one whom you love is sick' and Jesus knows that they are referring to Lazarus.

- Lazarus is mentioned to have been among those who reclined at the table when Mary anointed Jesus' feet (12:3). Later on in Ch 13 the one whom Jesus loved is mentioned to be reclining next to Jesus (V 23). This could very possibly be Lazarus therefore as we know that he ate with Jesus and the other disciples.

- In 21:22-23 it is mentioned that rumours were spread that the beloved disciple would never die. Now surely this only makes sense in light on Lazarus' resurrection from the dead in Ch 11. It seems a rather random comment on Peter and Jesus' part otherwise.

- It was the disciple who was rumoured to never die who was learning on Jesus' chest mentioned in Ch 13. (21:20)

It's not water tight but it seems to me that the author of the Gospel was the beloved disciple, who is in fact Lazarus.

Special thanks, as is becoming usual, to Simon Woodman who first suggested to me the true identity of the beloved disciple. Also to He Qi for the image.

Till Next Time!


  1. 1--Broken Link.

    2--Didn't Jesus love all his disciples?

  2. Hi JD,

    1- Link fixed

    2- Yes he did. Beloved disciple is a literary device used to conseal the identity of the author. Read the Gospel. It's used all over the place.

    God bless

  3. Interesting theory, I've heard lots of speculation on Hebrews, but never on John. The first question that comes to my mind: Is the writing style of the book of John consistent with that of Revelation (Which explicitly mentions John as the author)? If it's different, it would lend credence, if it's similar, it would shoot a hole in the theory. Unfortunately I don't read Greek and can't check for myself. :)

  4. Hi Kevin,

    I cannot read Greek either but from what I am told theologians often refer to the author of revelation as John the Seer as to differrentiate him from the author of the Gospel. That to me suggests that they are seen as rather different writting styles.
    What does get interesting however is that of epistles attributed to John the 1st has similarities with the gospel named after him, yet the others dont, yet they are similar to each other. Often this is seen as them being pseudopigriphal but perhaps it suggests that John used Lazarus' Gospel as a source for his first epistle, and then wrote the other two letters independantly?

    I shall do more digging when I get time!

    God bless

  5. Hello,

    According to Christ based writers of the second century, John did move to Ephesus. During the war of AD 66-70 where he apparently continued his ministry. According to Irenaeus, the bishop of Lyons in that latter part of the second century. "John, the disciple of the Lord, who also leaned upon His breast, did himself publish a Gospel during his residence in Ephesus in Asia" (Against Heresies 3.1.1)

    I hope you don't mind answering a couple of questions I am asking all believers everywhere;

    Do you believe that God sent His only Son Jesus Christ to start a new religion called Christianity?

    And if yes. Where is the text in the bible that supports the popular Christian belief that God sent His only Son Jesus Christ to start a new religion called Christianity?

  6. Hi M.A.C.,
    Thanks for taking time to post.

    You are indeed correct that Irenaeus attributed the Gospel to John which is one of the reasons that my post above is not more sure-fire. As not only was he reasonably early, he is also supposed a disciple of Polycarp, the disciple of the apostle John. I can only speculate that either he wasn't told by Polycarp and had to speculate like the rest of us, or John did indeed have at least some hand in it. Like I say, it's not definate but my weight is on the side of Lazarus.

    As for your following questions:
    I believe that Jesus is the incarnate son of God. I do not however adhere to the terminolgy 'new religion'. Jesus was the Jewish messiah, promise in the prophets who would come to restore the kingdom of God and redeem his people. It is in-fact a Jewish cult, and not a seperate religion. However when the temple was destroyed in 70AD Christians (although not called that yet) and Jews parted company and ended up developing seperately.

    There are plenty of biblical passages relating to Jesus being the son of God and that he was sent but I assume you want those which relate to his starting a new religion. (If I'm incorrect then say and I'll happily supply you with verses). As I say above however these don't exist as that isn't what Jesus preached. There are verses however about preaching the good news (gospel), i.e. telling people that the promised messiah had come and was Jesus. e.g Matt 28:16ff.

    I'm a little confused that you call it a 'popular Christian belief' as I've never come across a christian that thought that it was a new religion, rather then a continuation of judaism. Infact those that said it was new were generally deemed as heretics e.g. Marcion. Can you give me some context for your questions please?

    Hope that helps for now but please ask more if you'd like.

    God bless

  7. Pchurcher87,

    The question is itself ridiculous but the fact that there are so many denominations is not. It is meant to be a bit controversial, but then so was Jesus controversial during his ministry.

    I am doing a documentary project called "Bad Christian" were I will be interviewing both lay persons and clerics alike. My intention is completely solicitous towards denominations even if it is a bit confrontational in some of the style.

    Stay tuned or better yet if you want to get involved I could use the help.

  8. Hi M.A.C.

    I just read your post on the project. It's certainly intersting but I'm afraid that I don't agree so I can't get involved.
    A brief look at Christian history will show you that divergence has been in the church since the apostles, and not a bad thing. In diversity comes strength. For example, I'm anglican and find that there are people who can support me and vice versa, where as other friends of mine wouldn't be comfortable there and therfore thier worship would be marred. I actually think that denominationism is a good thing as long as those denominations work together and not fight over little issues. I for one have worked with Anglicans, baptists, methodists, free evangelicals and catholics but to name a few on a single project, for the glory of God.

    If you were to print those T-shirts surely they have to say "Jesus wasn't a Christian"?! He was a Jew, through and through. So were much of the early church for that matter.

    God bless

  9. pcchurcher87,

    In my lifetime I have learned that it never hurts to ask. Thank you anyway for your consideration and for your advice on the t-shirt.

    My Daddy always told me two heads are better then one and that many hands make light work.

  10. MAC,
    Certainly never hurts to ask.
    I applaud you for trying to be faithful to Jesus, keep it up.
    Just in case I was missed the advice on the Tshirts was a rhetorical device, rather then an actual suggestion.
    God bless

  11. pchurcher87,

    Rhetoric and subversive controversial administrations kind of go hand in hand. Don't you think?