JOHN 21: Was John Chapter 21 of John’s Gospel Added Later?

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250px-Papyrus 66 - P66
Papyrus 66 (P66) The Gospel of John

P66
First page, showing John 1:1-13 and the opening words of v.14
Name P. Bodmer II
Text John 1:1–6:11; 6:35–14:26,29–30; 15:2–26; 16:2–4,6-7; 16:10–20:20,22–23; 20:25–21:9,12,17
Date 110-150 C.E.
Found Jabal Abu Mana, Egypt
Now at Bodmer Library, Geneva
Textual Character According to recent studies done by Berner and Comfort,2 it seems evident that P66 has preserved the work of three individuals: the original scribe, a thoroughgoing corrector (diorthōtēs), and a minor corrector.
Size 39 folios; 14.2×16.2 cm; 15-25 lines per page
Type Free; scribe+major&minor editors
Category I
Note very close to P75B, 0162
BIBLE DIFFICULTIES

Some have claimed that John chapter 21 of John’s Gospel was written by a different hand than the apostle John whom they claim only wrote John 1-20. They support this, in part, because the last verse of chapter 20, John 20:31 is in the form of a conclusion, and John 21:24-25 refers to the author of the gospel in the third person (“We know that his testimony is true”).

John 20:31 – UASV

31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

John 21:24 – UASV

24 This is the disciple who is bearing witness about these things, and who has written these things, and we know that his testimony is true.

John 21:25 – UASV

25 And there are also many other things which Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself would not contain the books that would be written.

However, this just is not so. The style of John chapter 21 is that of the entirety of the Gospel of John and doubtless was added very shortly thereafter but before being published by John himself.

John 21 is the twenty-first and final chapter of the Gospel of John in the New Testament of the Christian Bible. It contains an account of a post-crucifixion appearance in Galilee, which the text describes as the third time Jesus had appeared to his disciples. During this chapter, there is a miraculous catch of 153 fish, the confirmation of Peter’s love for Jesus, Jesus’ giving to Peter the threefold commission to feed his lambs and little sheep, a foretelling of Peter’s death in old age, and a comment about the beloved disciple’s future.

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Textual Witnesses for John Chapter 21

Some early manuscripts containing the text of this chapter are:

  • Papyrus 66 (150 C.E.; extant verses 1-9, 12, 17)
  • Papyrus 109 (110-150 C.E.; extant verses 18-20, 23-25)
  • Codex Vaticanus (325–350 C.E.)
  • Codex Sinaiticus (330–360 C.E.; complete)
  • Papyrus 122 (300-325 C.E.; extant verses 11–14, 22–24)
  • Codex Bezae (c. 400)
  • Codex Alexandrinus (400–440)
  • Papyrus 59 (7th century; extant verses 7, 12–13, 15, 17–20, 23)

John 21:1 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

1 After this Jesus manifested himself again to the disciples at the Sea of Tiberias, and he manifested himself in this way.

In the previous chapter of John’s Gospel, the text summarizes the many signs which Jesus performed for his followers, not all of which could be recorded in the Gospel. [why?] John 21 begins with the ‘Johannine transition,’ After these things… (Greek: Μετὰ ταῦτα, Romanized: meta tauta) which is used frequently in the Fourth Gospel, (John 2:12, 3:22, 5:1, 6:1, 6:66, 7:1, 11:7, 19:28, 21:1).

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Textual scholar, B. F. Westcott proposed a theory that the author simply decided to add an additional incident at some time after writing the book, but before final publication.

Donald Guthrie writes:

“It is unlikely that another author wrote this section since there are several points of contact in it with the style and language of previous chapters.” … (IVP New Bible Commentary)

The Church Father Tertullian wrote, “And wherefore does this conclusion of the gospel affirm that these things were written unless it is that you might believe, it says, that Jesus Christ is the son of God?”, which describes the end of Chapter 20, not Chapter 21. However, no existing manuscript of the Gospel omits this chapter.

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The Disciple whom Jesus loved

The description of the “beloved disciple’s” (normally assumed to be John the Apostle) fate is presented as an aside to Peter. Jesus says that it is not Peter’s concern, even if Jesus should wish that that disciple remain alive until the end of time. The following verse clarifies that Jesus did not say “This disciple will not die”, but that it was not for Peter to know.

The last appearance of the ‘Disciple whom Jesus loved’ in this Gospel, together with his first appearance in chapter 1 form a literary “inclusio of eyewitness testimony” to privilege this witness (in the Gospel of John 21:24) over Peter’s, not to denigrate Peter’s authority, but rather to claim a distinct qualification as an ‘ideal witness’ to Christ, because he survives Peter and bears his witness after Peter. The inclusio also reinforces the Beloved Disciple’s unique status among the disciples: He has followed and remained with Jesus from beginning to end. Bauckham notes the occurrence of at least two specific words in the narratives of both the first and the last appearance of this disciple: “to follow” (Greek: ἀκολουθέω ‘akoloutheó’) and “to remain/stay” (Greek: μένω ‘menó’). In the first chapter verse 1:38 it is stated that “Jesus turned, and seeing them following (‘akolouthountas’), said to them, “What do you seek?””, then in verse 1:39 they “remained (’emeinan’) with Him that day.” In John 21, the last appearance of the ‘Disciple whom Jesus loved’ is indicated using similar words: in verse 21:20 it is written that “Peter, turning around, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following (‘akolouthounta’),” then in verse 21:22 “Jesus said to him [Peter], “If I will that he remain (‘menein’) till I come, what is that to you?” The appearances are also close to Peter’s, as the first one, along with Andrew, happened just before Peter’s, who was then given the name ‘Cephas’ (alluding to Peter’s role after Jesus’ departure), and the last one, just after Jesus’ dialogue with Peter, acknowledging the significance of Peter’s testimony within “the Petrine’s inclusion,” which is also found in the Gospel of Mark and Luke (see Luke 8 under “The Women who sustained Jesus”).[1]

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Verses 24–25

The chapter (and the whole book) is closed by two verses referring to the author of the gospel in the third person (“We know that his testimony is true”).

Verse 24 – UASV

24 This is the disciple who is bearing witness about these things, and who has written these things, and we know that his testimony is true.

Verse 25 – UASV

25 And there are also many other things which Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself would not contain the books that would be written.

Thomas D. Lea and David Alan Black write,

The beloved disciple is one of the seven mentioned in chapter 21, (see 21:2, 7). Since Peter, Thomas, and Nathanael are mentioned in 21:2, it seems obvious that none of them is the beloved disciple. Of the sons of Zebedee, mentioned also in 21:2, James cannot be the beloved disciple, for he was martyred during the reign of Herod Agrippa I (Acts 12:1–2) and could not have lived long enough to lend credence to the belief that he would not die (see 21:23). It hardly seems likely that either of the two unnamed disciples in 21:2 could be the beloved disciple, for they are obscure personalities. The traditional interpretation that John the apostle is the beloved disciple is a reasonable choice. Some might object that it would be prideful for John to style himself as “beloved,” but the usage of this term could also be an expression of wonder at God’s love for one who was formerly known as a “son of thunder” (Mark 3:17).

Another difficulty appears in the identity of “we” of John 21:24. Is this a group of church leaders witnessing to the trustworthy testimony of the beloved disciple, or is it a modest claim by the beloved disciple that his own testimony is true? Although difficulties emerge with either choice, it seems better to understand this statement as a self-effacing claim by the beloved disciple for a reliable testimony.

One popular theory behind the production of the fourth Gospel, widely accepted today, is that the Gospel is the product of a group or community around John preoccupied with studying, teaching, and writing. Many today feel that this “school” was involved with the production of the Gospel through several editions and stages. Among chief proponents of this view are Raymond Brown and R. Alan Culpepper.18 Although it is impossible to disprove the suggestions of Brown and Culpepper, following their suggestions involves accepting more difficult assumptions than accepting the testimony of the Gospel to be the product of the beloved disciple whom we have identified with John, the son of Zebedee. The best solution to all the issues, in our judgment, is that John the apostle is the author of the fourth Gospel.[2]

John chapter 21 was originally a part of the Gospel of John before it was published, authored by John, as the Holy Spirit moved him to pen it. It was simply the case of a very short time passing before he was moved to write this last chapter. No extant manuscript lacks John chapter 21. Moreover, there is no serious evidence from the history of Christianity, that is, the manuscript tradition, that chapter 21 was some later addition.

by Wikipedia and Edward D. Andrews

[1] R. Bauckham “The Beloved Disciple as Ideal Author,” JNST 49 (1993) 21-44; reprinted in S. E. Porter and C. A. Evans, eds., The Johannine Writings (Biblical Seminar 32; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic, 1995) 46-68; apud Bauckham 2017, p. 128-29.

[2] Thomas D. Lea and David Alan Black, The New Testament: Its Background and Message, 2nd ed. (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2003), 157–158.

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