Tuesday, June 24, 2014

"Jesus and the Eyewitnesses": Blogging Through Bauckham - Chapters 16

"Jesus and the Eyewitnesses": Blogging Through Bauckham - Chapter 1
"Jesus and the Eyewitnesses": Blogging Through Bauckham - Chapter 2
"Jesus and the Eyewitnesses": Blogging Through Bauckham - Chapter 3
"Jesus and the Eyewitnesses": Blogging Through Bauckham - Chapters 4-5
"Jesus and the Eyewitnesses": Blogging Through Bauckham - Chapter 6
"Jesus and the Eyewitnesses": Blogging Through Bauckham - Chapter 7
"Jesus and the Eyewitnesses": Blogging Through Bauckham - Chapter 8
"Jesus and the Eyewitnesses": Blogging Through Bauckham - Chapter 9
"Jesus and the Eyewitnesses": Blogging Through Bauckham - Chapter 10-11
"Jesus and the Eyewitnesses": Blogging Through Bauckham - Chapter 12
"Jesus and the Eyewitnesses": Blogging Through Bauckham - Chapter 13
"Jesus and the Eyewitnesses": Blogging Through Bauckham - Chapter 14
"Jesus and the Eyewitnesses": Blogging Through Bauckham - Chapters 15
"Jesus and the Eyewitnesses": Blogging Through Bauckham - Chapters 16


Who wrote the Gospel of John? Traditionally, it has been suggested that John the Apostle, one of the sons of Zebeedee - of thunder - is the author. Though that position remains popular today, and one I have held my entire life, such a conclusion is questionable. In his book Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony, Dr. Richard Bauckham suggests the author of the fourth Gospel is not John the Apostle, but rather John the Elder.

His argument begins with what he has argued in previous chapters.
. . . the Beloved Disciple was not one of the Twelve, but a lesser known disciple, not known from the Gospel traditions generally, a disciple who had to establish his claim to a role of privileged witness to Jesus in the minds of readers or hearers who may well know nothing about him.

That the Beloved Disciple was not one of the Twelve, but rather a disciple generally resident in Jerusalem, who did not, like the Twelve and many others, travel with Jesus in his itinerant ministry, has been argued, from the evidence of the Gospel, by many scholars. (412)
To his point that the author was not among the Twelve, Bauckham points out that there is no list of disciples anywhere in John. In addition, not all of the twelve disciples are mentioned while a number of other disciples (like Lazarus and others) are given prominent roles.
All this suggests that the distinctive narratives of the Gospel of John derive not simply from the Beloved Disciple himself, but from a particular circle of disciples of Jesus in which the Beloved disciple moved. The circle includes a few of the Twelve, especially Philip and Thomas, but not the inner circle so prominent in Mark. Other disciples who were not members of the Twelve were just as prominent in this circle. It is notable that four of these lived in Jerusalem or its vicinity (Nicodemus, Lazarus, Martha, and Mary), a fact that supports the supposition that the Beloved Disciple himself was a Jerusalem resident. (414)
With that said, what evidence does he provide in favor of the little known John the Elder?  First, and most important, Dr. Bauckham turns to Papias again. Though he admits we do not possess anything that Papias said directly about the fourth Gospel, Bauckham argues that Papias not only was aware of John's Gospel, but preferred it. One area of evidence for this regards Papias list of the disciples. Instead of listing 12, he follows the order John provides in his narrative limiting his list to seven (seven is the number of completeness).

Furthermore, Bauckham asserts that At the time of which Papias writes, John the son of Zebedee was dead, but John the Elder survived. He would presumably have been writing his Gospel around this time (420). The author fails to provide any strong evidence for this especially considering some debate regarding how John the Apostle died. Nonetheless, it is important to note that, as Bauckham argues, Papias believed John the Elder wrote the Gospel, not John the Apostle.

Perhaps his strongest line of argument is this connection with 2 and 3 John. There the author identifies himself as "the Elder." Bauckham notes how Papias refers to John the Elder as "the Elder" which corresponds rather strikingly with the usage of the second an third Johannine letters, whose author designates himself simply as "the Elder" (2 John 1; 3 John 1) (421). This leads to the conclusion, The very unusual usage by both Papias and the author of 2 and 3 John makes a plausible case for identifying the latter with John the Elder (422).

One last point of evidence for Bauckham regards the Muratorian Canon. The author spends a lot of time connecting the Muratorian Canon and Papias, but what is interesting is how the author of the Muratorian Canon describes the author of John ("fellow disciples") and Andrew (an "apostle"). This suggest, at least to the author of the Muratorian Canon, that the author of John's Gospel was not an apostle, thus eliminating John the son of Zebedee.

Regardless, why does any of this matter especially as it relates to Bauckham's main thesis? One main reason is it verifies what Bauckham had previously argued that the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John have always been associated with those individuals. This includes the Gospel of John. This, then, eliminates persons like Lazarus from being considered the Gospel's author. The author of the book must be named John and an eyewitness. To Bauckham, John the Elder fits that criteria.

What are we to make of this? First, one chapter is not enough to convince me or others that John the Elder is, mostly likely, the author of the Gospel of John. Secondly, I still believe that John the Apostle is the likely author, but admit that there are problems with this. Thirdly, whether the author is Lazarus, John the Elder, or John the Apostle, Bauckham's main thesis remains: the Gospel is written by an eyewitness and thus is trustworthy and reliable.


For more:
"The Historical Jesus": A Lecture by Ben Witherington
"The Story of Jesus" Documentary
We've All Heard This Before: "Zealot" and the Same Search For the Missing Jesus  
12 Proofs of Jesus' Deity From the Synoptic Gospels
Ravi Zacharias' 12 Arguments For the Historicity of the Resurrection
"The Case For Christianity" Documentaries
"Raised With Christ" by Adrian Warnock: A Review
NT Wright: Did Jesus Really Rise From the Dead?
"The Jesus Inquest" by Charles Foster: A Review
"The Case for Easter"
"The Case For the Real Jesus" by Lee Strobel
"The Case For Christianity" Documentaries
The Quest For the Historical Satan: The Entire Series    
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