Tuesday, July 1, 2014

"Jesus and the Eyewitnesses": Blogging Through Bauckham - Chapters 17

"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
"Jesus and the Eyewitnesses": Blogging Through Bauckham - Chapters 17


In chapter 16 of his book Jesus and the Eyewitnesses, Dr. Richard Bauckham puts forth his case that the author of the fourth Gospel is not John the Apostle, one of the sons of thunder, but rather John the Elder. His star witness remains Papias - an early church leader he leans on heavily throughout the book. In chapter 17, however, Bauckham adds two other key witnesses: Polycrates and Iraneaus.

Regarding Irenaeus, his case is weak. After presenting his case, Bauckham concludes:
The argument we have been pursuing is that this John disciple of Jesus and author of the Gospel, was not John the son of Zebedee, member of the Twelve, and that this was known in Ephesus as late as Plycrates' letter to Victor of Rome. Was it also Irenaeus's view? It has commonly been assumed and sometimes argued that Irenaeus identified the author of the Gospel with John the son of Zebedee, but this has also been vigorously contested. What is revealing in itself is how difficult it is to find conclusive evidence one way or the other. . . .

We should make it clear that none of Irenaeus's reference to John that we have been considering indicate that hew as John the son of Zebedee. (458)
If I am reading Bauckham right, then what we gain from Irenaeus is ambiguity. He never clearly states the author of John is the apostle nor does he, at the same time, claim that the author is John the Elder.

Moving on.

The evidence he presents from Polycrates is more compelling. He begins the chapter by stating, Apart from what we can reconstruct of Papias's treatment of John's gospel, the most valuable patristic witness to the identity of its author is Polycrates, who was bishop of Ephesus late in the second century (438). A summary of his first round of evidence is as follows:
On the basis of the information so far discussed it has sometimes been argued that Polycrates was clearly not thinking of John the son of Zebedee. The two main arguments used are suggestive, but not fully conclusive. It is pointed out that whereas Polycrates explicitly calls Philip one of the twelve apostles, this is not said of John. But it could be replied that, if it were generally believed that the john who wrote the Gospel was one of the twelve apostles, Polycrates could take this for granted, while using a description ("he who leaned back on the Lord's breast") that gave him even greater authority: not just one of the Twelve, but that member of the Twelve who was most intimate with the Lord. However, this reply, of course, begs the question whether it was generally accepted that the John who wrote the Gospel was one of the Twelve.

It is also pointed out that Philip, first in the list, is given precedence over John, but the order could merely reflect the belief that Philip had died before John, who according to Irenaeus survived until the reign of Trajan. It is possible, though we cannot be sure, that the rest of the list continues in chronological order of death. (444-445)
This leads to a detailed discussion of Polycrates' seemingly wild assertion that the author of the fourth Gospel was a Jewish High Priest. Most scholars have interpreted Polycrates metaphorically or historically. Bauckham suggests, however, the meaning is exegetical. The tradition in Ephesus where Polycrates is writing, and were the Evangelists is said to have died, seems to have connected the anonymous disciple of John 18:15 with Acts 4:6.

All of this leads to the conclusion:
For it is now clear that when the Ephesian church looked for its own John, the Beloved Disciple, in New Testament writings other than the Gospel of John, they did not identify him with John the son of Zebedee. The identification of him with the John of Acts 4:6 makes it impossible to identify him with John the son of Zebedee, who appears in the same narrative as one of the two disciples who are there interrogated by Annas, Caiaphas, John, and Alexander. The Ephesian church's own tradition about their own John evidently made them sure that he could not be John the son of Zebedee and obliged them, even at the end of the second century, to resist this identification, which was already proving irresistible in some other places and seems to have become universal in the next century. (452, italics original)
IN the end, the reader must decide if Bauckham is right regarding the identity of the fourth Gospel's author. I would be interested in considering a book length treatment of the subject from Bauckham, but for our present study Bauckham has said more than enough. This is the first chapter in this entire book where I felt Bauckham distracted himself from the book's main thesis. In this chapter I do not believe he ever stated his thesis as he has in each of the sixteen chapters that preceded it.

The main motivation for this discussion is to verify his earlier argument that each of the four Gospels, though in one sense anonymous, were immediately associated with a particular author - Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Regarding the fourth Gospel, if John the Apostle is not the author, then another John must be discovered. Bauckham sees John the Elder as the solution to this problem. In addition, the Beloved Disciple was an eyewitness which only strengthens his main thesis.

With that said, Bauckham seems to have led the reader down a rabbit trail I thought he had thoroughly dealt with in chapter 16. Perhaps he should have combined chapters 16 and 17. Overall, however, Bauckham makes a compelling, though not completely convincing case, for John the Elder as the Beloved Disciple.


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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