John – Evidence of Authorship

The Conflict with “The Jews”

The Gospel of John came from somewhere. There is a prevalent idea that this gospel was collected, written, and redacted by a distinct community late in the First Century. This community consisted of some Samaritan converts to Christianity, as well as some Jewish converts who had been expelled from Judaism, kicked out of the synagogue, and so as they worked to present this version of Jesus as contained in the Gospel of John, they showed hints as to who they were and what they believed about Jesus. Perhaps this community consisted of converts of John, thus carrying on his teachings of Jesus. Perhaps John himself wrote this text. We do not know who wrote the Gospel of John. 1 But we do have clues in the text itself that help us see the views of this author and the community he or she came from. These clues can also help us to pinpoint more closely the time in which the Gospel of John was written. One clue has to do with how this author refers to “the Jews.”

Raymond Brown writes

To have the Jewish parents of the blind man in Jerusalem described as being “afraid of the Jews” (John 9:22) is just as awkward as having an American living in Washington, DC, described as being afraid of “the Americans” – only a non-American speaks thus of “the Americans.” What has happened in the Fourth Gospel is that the vocabulary of the evangelist’s time has been read back into the ministry of Jesus. The Johannine Christians were expelled from the synagogues and told that they could no longer worship with other Jews; and so they no longer considered themselves Jews despite the fact that many were of Jewish ancestry. The Jesus who speaks of “the Jews” (John 13:33) and of what is written in “their Law” (John 15:25; see 10:34) is speaking the language of the Johannine Christian for whom the Law is no longer his own but is the hallmark of another religion. 2



  1. Frank Judd Jr., Who Really Wrote the Gospels? A Study of Traditional Authorship in How the New Testament Came to Be: The Thirty-fifth Annual Sidney B. Sperry Symposium, ed. Kent P. Jackson and Frank F. Judd Jr. (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University; Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2006), 123-140. Judd stated: Who is the author of the Gospel of John? We know that John was an Apostle and therefore an eyewitness to much of the Savior’s ministry (see Matthew 4:20–22; John 20:2–8). As we have seen, this fact did not preclude the use of previously written sources for his Gospel account—in this case, a portion of the writings of John the Baptist (see John 1:1–18; compare D&C 93:6–18). But interestingly, even though this Gospel is traditionally attributed to an eyewitness, it was not written in the first person but rather in the third person. Let us review the previous examples. Rather than personally write out a complete Gospel by hand, Peter taught Mark about the life of the Savior, and Mark wrote it down. Rather than sit down and write out a long letter by hand, Paul dictated to Tertius the letter to the Romans, and Tertius wrote it down. It is possible that the same is true of John and his Gospel. Toward the end of John’s Gospel, Jesus reminded Peter that John would not die but rather live until the Second Coming (see John 21:23; compare D&C 7:1–3). Immediately following that conversation, it says, “This is the disciple which testifieth of these things, and wrote these things: and we know that his testimony is true” (John 21:24; emphasis added). In what way did John write these things? In light of what we saw with Paul and his use of scribes, we should investigate further. One can understand the identity of John as the one who testified of the things in this Gospel, but who is “we”? Whoever “we” refers to, they differentiated themselves from John, or “him.” It is possible that this anonymous “we” refers to faithful early Christians—functioning like Mark and Luke—who compiled (or edited or revised) and actually wrote down the Gospel account in its present form. This “we” passage is similar to what is found in the Book of Mormon, when Mormon added editorial comments such as “and thus we see.” Another passage illustrates this idea. After narrating the Crucifixion of the Savior, the Gospel of John states, “And he that saw it bare record, and his record is true: and he knoweth that he saith true, that ye might believe” (John 19:35). There may be some who conclude that this was John’s way of making a veiled reference to himself in the third person. In light of our discussion of John 21:24, however, it may be more likely that this is another parenthetical comment by the editors of John’s Gospel.  If so, they received their information about the Crucifixion from the eyewitness John, who testified of the truthfulness of his recollections—to which these anonymous editors added their own testimony in this verse. Thus, the statement in John 21:24 that John “wrote these things” may mean the same thing that Paul means when he said he wrote his epistles: John gave information to scribes, similar to the way Peter gave information to Mark.
  2. Raymond Brown, The Community of the Beloved Disciple: The Life, Loves, and Hates of an Individual Church in New Testament Times, Paulist Press, 1979, p. 41.

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1 Response to John – Evidence of Authorship

  1. Pingback: The Messiness of Scripture | LDS Scripture Teachings

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