WAS IT FALSELY ATTRIBUTED: The Gospel of John

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The Reading Culture of Early Christianity From Spoken Words to Sacred Texts 400,000 Textual Variants 02

NOTE: Nineteen articles will begin with these same two introductory paragraphs but will then speak specifically about the Bible book in question.

It has often been said [by whom?] that it was an accepted practice in antiquity for a writer to attribute his work to a well-known figure from the past or a teacher who has greatly influenced him. The practice would have been condemned as dishonest by all authorities in antiquity. The book Forged: Writing in the Name of God – Why the Bible’s Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are by Agnostic New Testament Bible scholar Dr. Bart D. Ehrman contends that this is incorrect. Falsely attributed writings are often referred to as “pseudepigraphs,” but Ehrman maintains that the more honest term is “forgery.” The book suggests that 11 or more books out of the 27 books of the Christian New Testament canon were written as forgeries. This article and others will debunk this claim. In his book, Ehrman points out numerous inconsistencies which he finds within the New Testament which appear to support many of his claims, such as the fact that in Acts 4:13, the statement is made that both Peter and John were illiterate, yet in later years entire books of the Bible were then alleged to have been written by them. This last argument is quickly debunked on two grounds: (1) it was not years later that they wrote their books, it was over thirty years later, and in the case of John, it was over sixty years later; (2) the Greek means unlettered (YLT) that is, not educated in the rabbinic schools; not meaning illiterate. Nevertheless, below are three articles that destroy this argument of Ehrman.

Were Jesus, the Apostles, and the Early Christians Illiterate, Uneducated?

What Do We Know About Books, Reading, and Writing; Literacy In Early Christianity?

The Early Christian’s View of the Integrity of the Greek New Testament Books

False attributions

In addition to the eleven books of the New Testament Ehrman identifies as forgeries, he discusses eight originally anonymous New Testament texts that had names of apostles ascribed to them later and are falsely attributed. These are not forgeries since the texts are anonymous but have had false authors ascribed to them by others.

The P52 PROJECT THE NEW TESTAMENT DOCUMENTS 4th ed. MISREPRESENTING JESUS

Who Wrote It?

There are three views on the authorship of the Gospel of John. Traditionally, it is assigned to John the apostle, “the beloved disciple” (21:20–24). Some more recent scholars have proposed that it is another John known as John “the elder” (see 2 John 1). Others have suggested that it was a disciple of the apostle John who got his information from John. However, there is no real evidence for the last two views and very strong evidence for John the apostle, as follows:

(1) He was the son of Salome and Zebedee, a fisherman (Matt. 4:21). (2) He had a brother named James (4:21; 10:2). (3) Some say John was Jesus’s cousin, conjecturing that his mother, Salome, was the Virgin Mary’s sister. (4) John’s family had servants and official connections in high places (27:55–56; Mark 1:20; Luke 8:3; John 18:15–16; 19:26–27). (5) John was one of the twelve apostles (Matt. 10:2). (6) He was first a follower of John the Baptist (John 1:35–40) and one of the first to follow Jesus (v. 40). (7) He was the beloved disciple of Jesus (21:7). (8) He outran Peter to the tomb and was the first disciple to believe in Jesus’s resurrection (20:1–4, 8). (9) He was probably the youngest disciple (see points 7 and 8—the term “beloved” often refers to a young person, and a young person, as a general rule, can run faster than an older person). (10) He was one of the inner circle of apostles, along with James and Peter (Matt. 17:1). (11) He was the one to whom Jesus committed his mother at his death (John 19:25–27). (12) He appeared three times in Acts by name (3:1; 4:13; 8:14) and in one chapter is unnamed (15:2, 22–23). (13) He escaped the Neronian persecutions of the late 60s but was later banished by the Roman Emperor Domitian to the Isle of Patmos (Rev. 1:9). (14) He is the author of four other books in the New Testament—1, 2, 3 John, and Revelation.

Internal Evidence

The internal evidence pointing to John the apostle as the author of the Gospel is as follows: (1) First of all, the author was a Jew (in thought, word, symbols, customs, and knowledge of the Old Testament). (2) Further, he was a Palestinian Jew (knowing well the customs, language, geography, and topography of the land). (3) Also he was an eyewitness of persons, time, numbers, places, manners, and other details (John 21:24). (4) He was one of the twelve apostles (13:23). (5) What is more, he was one of the disciples referred to but unnamed in John 21:2, 7 (along with Peter, Thomas, Nathanael, and James; see Matt. 4:21). (6) Also he was one of the “inner circle,” along with Peter and James (John 20:2–10; Mark 5:37; 9:2–3; 14:33), who saw Jesus’s glory (John 1:14). (7) He was not Peter (1:41), Thomas (14:5), Philip (v. 8), or Andrew (6:8) who are mentioned by name. (8) And he was not James who died in AD 44 (Acts 12:2). (9) Thus, by the process of elimination, the author of the Gospel must have been the apostle John, who leaned on Jesus’s bosom at the Last Supper (13:23–25); he was the unnamed disciple who appears several times in the text (in 13:23; 19:26; 20:2; 21:7, 20); he was the one Jesus loved (21:7); he was given responsibility for Jesus’s mother (19:26–27). John wrote the Gospel of John (21:24), as well as the Epistles of John (see chapters 26–27 of this book) and the book of Revelation (see chapter 28).

External Evidence

Other evidence for John the apostle is strong as well. First, the John Ryland Fragment (including John 18:31–33, 37–38), early second century (AD 117–38), confirms it was written in the first century. Further, the early testimony of Irenaeus, who knew John’s disciple Polycarp, confirms that it was John the apostle. What is more, other early sources (including Tatian and the Muratorian canon, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, and Eusebius) confirm that John wrote it.

The first to challenge John’s authorship was a late second-century group, the Alogoi sect (who denied the deity of Christ and the Holy Spirit).

When Was It Written?

(1) John wrote well after AD 70, since he doesn’t refer to this important date at all. (2) Likewise, it was well before Irenaeus who cites the Gospel in the early second century and who knew John’s disciple Polycarp. (3) It must have been written in the late first century since it was written in Asia Minor and yet the John Ryland Fragment manuscript of it was found in a small town in Egypt, dated ca. AD 117–38. (4) Of course it must have been written before John died (in AD 98, according to Irenaeus). This would place the writing during the reign of Domitian (AD 81–96) (see chapter 28 on Revelation).[1]

NOTE: This author would say John was written about 98 A.D.

[1] Norman L. Geisler, A Popular Survey of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2014), 93–95.

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