The Beloved Disciple

The Church has always identified the Apostle John as the author of the fourth Gospel and the beloved disciple described in that Gospel. This common belief is richly reflected in the Church’s liturgy.

The universal Church today celebrates the Feast of St. John, Apostle and Evangelist. The readings, prayers, and antiphons unmistakably reflect the belief of the Church concerning these issues. For example, one of the antiphons for morning prayer on this feast day provides: “John, the apostle and evangelist, a virgin chosen by the Lord, was loved by the Lord above the others.”

There are sound biblical and historical arguments as well for the identification of St. John as the author of the fourth Gospel and the “beloved disciple.” CUF’s Faith Fact on this subject, written by my colleague, friend, and skilled apologist Tom Nash, sets forth these arguments very effectively.

All this might be very useful to any of our readers who might hear a homily today that disputes or outright contradicts this tradition.

Beyond the larger issue of the reliability of Scripture and the Church’s tradition, this matters to me on a personal level: My son Samuel John’s middle name was chosen because my desire for him is that he become a beloved disciple like St. John who will take our Blessed Mother into his heart and into his home (John 19:26-27).

And speaking of Tom Nash, his dynamic book on the biblical roots of the Mass, Worthy is the Lamb, is available through Emmaus Road Publishing.

16 responses

  1. You claim there is “biblical” justification for the tradition that says the “other disciple whom JEsus loved” was John but unfortunately you have failed to heed the Biblical admonition to “prove all things”. Surely one should not be presenting an idea AS IF it were Biblical if they cannot cite even a single verse that would justify teaching that idea. Yet here you do just that.

    The truth is there is not a single verse in scripture that would justify teaching the idea that John was the one whom “Jesus loved” (PS as you won’t bother to cite such a verse this will prove my case). In spite of this many assume that those who teach this man-made tradition cannot be wrong and then they interpret scripture to fit this idea. But if one will heed Ps. 118:8 then the NON-BIBLE sources on which this man-made tradition is based will give way to the facts stated in scripture which prove that John was not this anonymous author.

    http://www.TheDiscipleWhomJesusLoved.com has a free Bible-only based study that compares what the Bible says about John with what it says about “the disciple whom Jesus loved” – and the Biblical evidence proves that WHOEVER this person was he was not John because the Bible cannot contradict itself. But one need not read this study because all it takes is reading the fourth gospel from the beginning with the honest question, “Who would I conclude the author was based on just the facts stated in his own gospel?” Those who do so will never come to the conclusion that this “other disciple” was John because NONE of the FACTS stated in the plain text of scripture point toward John.

  2. Jim
    Could you make your point or that of the book without giving us a book to read at a link? I for one do not read links and feel that a debater should be able to make the points himself.
    Two other things: 1. the Bible points outside itself explicitly and implicitly whenever it enjoins for example seeking counsel and 2. the Bible does have contradictions of a physical sort. That is why John’s gospel puts the cleansing of the temple by Christ of the money changers in the beginning of the ministry and Matthew puts it at the end of the ministry. The scholar Raymond Brown who I generally do not like on demythologizing grounds, nevertheless ably suggested that John died and a redactor actually wrote the gospel or finished it and therefore did not know when certain things happened. That also would explain all the John bragging that only happens in John’s gospel because a redactor would have put such things in the gospel if certain schismatics from John’s community were slighting his authority after he died and when the redactor was writing. So that only in John’s gospel is John promoted with these details and he would not have done this on his own but a redactor who was trying to counter the lies of schismatics would have put in…. John-promoting-details like John arriving at the tomb before Peter and John being a middleman between Peter and the woman at the high priest’s house and John laying in the bosom of Christ at the last supper…..all of which John would have left out but a redactor would have included if the redactor was trying to fend off schimatic lies about John and his having no authority.

  3. PS Brown’s shema would also explain why John never wrote about the Transfiguration….i.e….because he did not live long enough for the gospel to have been written completely by him.

  4. Jim,

    You do the same thing you accuse me of doing. You cited zero verses in support of your assertion. Instead, you want people to go visit your site, where presumably you try to make your case that John is not the beloved disciple. I can certainly understand why you would want to get readers of my post to do that.

    The fact is, while I haven’t dedicated an entire website to the subject, I did refer readers to a very fine tract on the subject which cites abundant biblical references for the Church’s 2,000-year teaching on this subject.

    The point of my post wasn’t to debate the issue with those who take a “sola Scriptura” approach to Christianity, but to assure and remind Catholics of our own rich liturgical tradition in this area, which in some places is undermined by a modernist, “post-traditional” approach to the subject.

  5. Hey Tom

    I think Leon is trying to elicit my nuance here. I hate to pile on here but I (for different reasons) didn’t find your faith fact on John very persuasive either—not that I’m totally against Johannine authorship—but as an impartial juror who is after the truth and not simply defending the traditional view, I would have fine tuned the case a bit.

    First, I don’t agree with the way you cite magisterial documents here. Pre 1950 the Church (with good reason) was very concerned that attacks on the traditional views of authorship would diminish the authority of the Biblical books in question. Now however many Bible believing scholars hold varied views that affirm the authority and the normative status of the books while holding to more modern theories of composition that make greater allowance for sources and later redaction. These points Benedict 16 made when as Ratzinger he addressed the PBC in 1993 in a speech which contrasted the approach of the magisterium pre 1950 to post 1950—the latter being much more appreciative of the role of critical scholarship; at any rate it was abundantly clear from that speech what virtually everyone had assumed before—that the pre 1950’s PBC responsa had pretty much fallen into desuetude. More to the point DV 18 and 19 left the question of gospel authorship ambiguous –of course they are of apostolic character but whether they derive from apostles or “apostolic men” or some combination of the two is an open question. So the main thrust of your argument that this was the official stance earlier and so must still be today is a bit misleading. Moreover, I don’t think the issue is really one of “historical reliability” as your citation of Benedict 15 would suppose but whether it is really necessary that John literally penned the whole fourth gospel. Moreover, if sources were nearer to certain events than John himself then their usage might actually strengthen its reliability.

    There are actually fairly strong arguments that can be launched against Johannine authorship of the fourth gospel as well as identification of John with the beloved disciple. Actually some problems occur when one insists both that John wrote it and that he is to be exclusively identified as “the disciple.” I don’t think it’s appropriate for the length of the post here to get into depth but I don’t think your arguments really answer the main objections to the traditional view that are usually put forth. For what it is worth, though, I think most of the other proposals cause far more problems than the traditional view—but no view is really a slam dunk. As a matter of fact when I recently taught a course on the fourth gospel I just defaulted to the traditional view—most people at the very beginning stage of their study simply need to know more about the text –what it is saying and how it applies today to preaching and catechesis. The question of John’s authorship of the fourth gospel is not really good fodder for introductory study or a parish homily. On the other hand if I were teaching an in depth study on John we certainly would get into that question somewhat. After all, several critical issues arise from nothing more than a very close reading of John in comparison with the synoptics. On disputed questions like this where the Church makes no dogmatic proclamation, I think it would be a healthier state of affairs if Catholics who want to study the Bible in depth were encouraged to engage these questions by a faithful yet serious study of the data—not simply reaffirming the past because it is the pious thing nor summarily rejecting it because it is trendy but making an informed judgment based on the evidence, always willing to reconsider matters as the ongoing pursuit of truth demands. There—how’s that for aspiring Biblical scholar nuance :)

  6. Nuance or nonsense? Making an informed decision is good but what fruit do you hope to gain by doubting the author of John’s gospel to be John?

    For me, it is enough to look at the nomenclature throughout that gospel to know that “the beloved disciple” is a unique term that refers to John. Sure Jesus calls Mary “woman” and “mother” but the writer does not refer to her this way. The “disciple whom Jesus loved” is the only person treated this way. And there is a good reason; it is an act of humility on the part of the author to speak about himself in the third person. The same disciple who in humility does not enter the tomb before Peter, who in humility remains by Jesus’ side along with Mary throughout the crucifixion, also in humility does not name himself. This humility is consistent throughout the gospel of John and finds no point of departure in authorship.

    Also, the weight and authority of tradition in this matter exceeds that of the modernistic view. Again I question what good will come of such doubts?

    Tim Bartel
    http://www.thisgoldenarrow.com
    }}}—OOO—>

  7. Tim, I wholeheartedly agree with you on this.

    Often on this blog I recommend to our readers the Ignatius Study Bibles, published by Ignatius Press and written by Scott Hahn and Curtis Mitch. These outstanding resources are available through http://www.emmausroad.org.

    The Ignatius Study Bible on the Gospel of John, p. 13, says that “the combined weight of textual and traditional evidence suggests that this [beloved] disciple is the Apostle John, one of the sons of Zebedee.” Hahn and Mitch then provide six soundly reasoned considerations that support this conclusion.

    My original point was more on the “lex orandi, lex credendi” level: to me, the fact that the Church’s liturgy explicitly connects St. John, son of Zebedee with the fourth Gospel and the “beloved disciple” should be a building block for personal meditation and theological research, and not an esoteric point to be reconsidered or even “debunked” by “modern scholars.”

  8. Lex orandi? OK the Church every Thursday before Easter celebrates Holy Thursday which in part commemorates the Last Supper and by extension the priesthood. This is based loosely on the chronology of the synoptics which suggest that the event happened the day before the crucufixion. Fair enough.

    However Scott and Curtis in their ingenious attempt to reconcile the chronology of the fourth gospel which places the crucifixion on Passover rather than the Last Supper argue–pretty convincingly–that Jesus himself kept a different calendar similar to the Qumran commmunity. The last Supper was a Passover he argues that was really celebrated on Tuesday before the Friday crucifixion.

    Do you have a problem that this interpretation contradicts the small t tradition of the Church that the Last Supper happened on Thursday? its’ given in the same book that you recommend !!!Given your lex orandi view stated above you ought to. It seems to me that this is good critical scholarship which is set to work solving a vexing problem–always trying to advance the Church’s understanding of the underlying historical event that the gospel story is based on.

    Much of the research into questions of authorship are not arcane and esoteric at all but necessary to learn all we can about the sacred text. It turns out that most of the attacks on the fourth gospel’s historical reliability have turned on the assumption that the son of Zebedee was the author. If that assumption is modified many of the historical problems go away–and one will take most seriously (as too few do) that the book of John is really written by an eyewitness. John the son of Zebedee could have been that eyewitness but I’m not sure he’s the most likely candidate, for reasons too lengthy to enmerate here. As for the tradition of attaching John’s name to the fourth gospel, I think it is likely pretty solid and should be given the strong benefit of the doubt–with the distinct possibility that there may have been more than one John–a John the elder ( author of the Johannine epistles)–who was known to the Church in Ephesus according to Polycrates a late second century bishop there who connected him with the priestly John in Acts 4:6, to Papias (probably even though Eusebius who records Papias thought it was the son of Zebedee) and possibly even Irenaeus whose treatment is pretty ambiguous remembering that the early Church like the NT writers played it fast and loose with titles like “apostle” and “disciple.” Its quite possible that later writers simply conflated the two John’s much as certain fathers did with Mary Magdalene and Mary of Bethany or Philip one of the twelve with Philip one of the seven acts 6;5. I could discuss more the issue if you want. These are simply possibilities the exploration of which aids But in broader terms i cannot understand why you would not think this a worthy topic of study. You seem to assume rather ungenerously that all who do such study are interested in “debunking” what you hold dear–such is certainly not the case with me, nor the vast majority I have come across. your assumptions about critical scholarship might have had some validity 50-100 years ago but they dont hold water today. Many scholars today spend most of their time debunking–debunking the errors of previous scholars. The only thing I’m intersted in debunking is unreflected and possibly erroneous assumptions either ancient or modern which are obstacles to the development of the Church’s understanding. In my mind, that’s doing what a faithful scholar is supposed to do–pursue the truth. The Church after all as Pope Leo once said has nothing to fear from the truth. Does that make sense?

  9. Pete,

    Just for kicks during one of my Scripture classes in seminary I wrote the “Litany of St. Q.” I’ll have to dig it up for you, but first add an invocation to “St. John the elder.” :)

    I do find the explanation regarding the Passover and Crucifixion in the Ignatius Study Bible interesting. I admit that I’m not a “Scripture scholar,” but the explanation Hahn and Mitch provide seems convincing to me. But that’s another discussion we can save till Holy Week (it will make for a nice change from discussing washing women’s feet!).

    By “lex orandi” I was referring to this fact: The Church has had and continues to have a feast day honoring St. John the Apostle, son of Zebedee. Not only that, it has a significant spot during the Christmas octave. The actual prayers, antiphons, reading selections, etc. for the day’s liturgy (Mass and Liturgy of the Hours) unequivocally connect St. John the Apostle, son of Zebedee, to the “beloved disciple” as well as to the author of the fourth Gospel. Then we get to the biblical, historical, theological, and liturgical bases for why this is so, but before even “going there” I think what the Church actually prays on St. John’s feast day must be taken as a starting point for sound Catholic scholarship that actively seeks to deepen our understanding of revealed truth.

    This is very different from the Holy Week example you give, because obviously the significance of “Holy Thursday” is the Last Supper, not the exact day of the week–though clearly it should be celebrated before (and in close proximity to) Good Friday and Easter Sunday. The liturgy itself seems to leave open the question as to the actual day on the which the Last Supper occurred.

    However, the feast of St. John, Apostle and Evangelist, is a bogus feast if he’s not an evangelist and the “beloved disciple.”

    I understand that difficulties not infrequently occur when it comes to harmonizing or at least synthesizing different texts, and I’m not advocating a blind faith that fails to acknowledge and investigate these matters. However, it seems to me that it should be a case of faith seeking understanding, and not the other way around.

    I certainly apologize if you felt attacked or criticized by my comments–that was not my intent. I wish you the best in your graduate studies. I also very much value your friendship and your edifying comments on this blog.

  10. I see that when I compared nuance with nonsense it was a strong way of inviting myself in the discussion. I am fond of auditory alliterations and I rather thought is was witty. I suppose I made the joke at your expense. Sorry, I really didn’t mean to insult you. :)

    RE:
    “I think it is likely pretty solid and should be given the strong benefit of the doubt–with the distinct possibility that…”

    You make an educated argument. It seems that you are trying to identify a box that we should think outside of (hope you don’t mind this overused cliché). I just don’t see what value there is in giving up a bird in the hand for the possibility of one in the bush so I am not convinced that it merits much time and effort. I sincerely hope that you find something that enriches your faith by this tact of scholarship.

    RE:
    “The only thing I’m intersted in debunking is unreflected and possibly erroneous assumptions either ancient or modern which are obstacles to the development of the Church’s understanding”

    I don’t think that considering John to be the author of John is in any way an obstacle to the development of the Church’s understanding. If anything it adds to the Church’s understanding.

  11. St Q.. I would love to see it. No I’m not offended by your rhetoric at all–I’m actually pretty hard to offend. But I do detect an undercurrent of hostility toward modern scholarship in your rhetoric as i do with many others–and my point is simply that aligning oneself against critical inquiry and encouraging others to do so is ultimately counter productive. I know that you would not describe your own position this way but when I constantly see the term scholar in quotes with the orthodoxy of positions being criticized that I know for a fact are taken by responsible mandatum theologians at places like Franciscan and Ave Maria, which are hardly hotbeds of dissent–I sense something is out of whack. I really wish that traditional-minded Catholics were a bit more interested in engaging the actual discussion rather than painting themselves into a corner and effectively dismissing the whole critical age as a storm to be weathered rather than a real opportunity for increased understadning.

    As for your idea of lex orandi, the the career of John the Evangelist isn’t revealed truth and the Church isnt claiming that it is. At best its a small t tradition. It really is an historical question amenable to examination of ancient sources. I dont know that i’ve ever heard anyone argue that the only sure way to investigate the past on religious questions is to examine how they’re depicted in twenty-first century liturgies. How the Church prays is essential to determine how she beleives but this wont work at all for historical questions that aren’t part of the deposit of faith.

    I mean, I hear what you are saying but i dont know that ecclesiastical exegesis–which seems to be what you are referring to actually comes before historical exegesis. I think in fact that it is the reverse. Its the scripture that is the rule of Christian religion DV 21 and the meaning of the Scripture is in the words of the inspired author DV 12. Its also implicit in the foundation upon the literal sense of the spiritual senses which are more proper to the prayer and life of the Church. I do think therefore that all small t traditions are susceptible to critique by the Biblical witness upon which they rest as well as responsible historical inquiry–and that is also my reading of Benedict and of Dei Verbum.

    As for the Holy Thursday of the Easter Triduum the Church surely has in her prayers “taught” that that was the night of the Last Supper. The belief is embodied in the sacramentary and the lectionary readings. It might actually have happened that way; but somehow i doubt the validity of the prayer itself really depends that much on it. And if Scott’s historical reconstuction proves to be right, the walls of the Church wont come down just as they wont if we find Papias’ Exposition and it proves conclusively that Irenaeus thought there were two John’s.

    Tell you what—if we live to see Holy Tuesday you’ll owe me a rack of KC ribs at the end of that years Lenten season :) Deal?

  12. One might argue that we could better state our position in the FAITH FACT (FF), i.e., noting that our position is more based on historical evidence than a definitive Church pronouncement on a matter of faith. I think that our position is accurate, but one might argue that it’s not, strictly speaking, Tradition. I think our response may give the impression that it has a greater Magisterial weight than it actually has, e.g., using the CCC cite we do for footnote 1. In stating that John is the Beloved Disciple, the PBC appears to be basing its pronouncement on historical evidence vs. its being a matter of faith, that is, a solidly historical “tradition” vs. its being part of sacred Tradition. Nevertheless, the PBC certainly affirms its historicity.

    In short, I think we’d be on surer ground arguing for it primarily on historical grounds, based on biblical and early Church evidence, with the PBC adding further weight with its pronouncement, again citing historical grounds.

    On balance, though, I think the FF is fine as it is. My main concern was with “Jim,” who simply asserted his position without substantive rebuttal, let alone refutation. But you and Mr. Bannon responded well to him. I hope he receives your responses.

    I think I can appreciate some of what Pete is trying to say, but I think it would have been more helpful had he led with his later statement: “For what it is worth, though, I think most of the other proposals cause far more problems than the traditional view—but no view is really a slam dunk.” Based on all of the evidence, though, I would disagree with Pete’s conclusion re: its certitude, specifically regarding the Church’s perspective in this regard. As the following official Church citation and other official Church citations provide, the Church certainly treats John as the author of the Gospel of John matter-of-factly, based on the historical evidence:

    http://www.vatican.va/news_services/liturgy/2007/via_crucis/en/station_12.html

    One might make an argument for the definitive nature of John as the Beloved Disciple based on “historical reasons” in light of Ad Tuendam Fidem, no. 3:

    http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/motu_proprio/documents/hf_jp-ii_motu-proprio_30061998_ad-tuendam-fidem_en.html

    Yet, I don’t think it’s clear that the Church has definitively proposed on this matter as a teaching on faith. It could do so, based on the Church’s understanding of sacred Scripture, but I don’t think the Church views it as a pressing matter, in contrast to the women priest issue (faith) and abortion, contraception and euthanasia (morals).

  13. Good points, guys. We’re certainly coming at this from different perspectives, and I’ve been focusing more on the Church’s liturgical tradition than textual criticism or the magisterial note of various Church documents that have touched on the subject. Surely Tom is right in the sense that the Church has more important things to do right now than to reiterate in solemn fashion her perennial understanding as to John’s status as the beloved disciple as a matter of doctrine.

    Since the liturgical readings, prayers, and antiphons used by the universal Church on the feast of St. John, Apostle and Evangelist, are not enough, I thought I would attach a few more recent papal quotes that I just located in a cursory search:

    “‘Do this in remembrance of me’ (Lk 22:19). In the ‘memorial’ of Calvary all that Christ accomplished by his passion and his death is present. Consequently all that Christ did with regard to his Mother for our sake is also present. To her he gave the beloved disciple and, in him, each of us: ‘Behold, your Son!’. To each of us he also says: ‘Behold your mother!’ (cf. Jn 19: 26-27).

    “Experiencing the memorial of Christ’s death in the Eucharist also means continually receiving this gift. It means accepting–like John–the one who is given to us anew as our Mother.”

    –Pope John Paul II, encyclical letter Ecclesia de Eucharistia

    “If John’s description of the event at Cana presents Mary’s caring motherhood at the beginning of Christ’s messianic activity, another passage from the same Gospel confirms this motherhood in the salvific economy of grace at its crowning moment, namely when Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross, his Paschal Mystery, is accomplished. John’s description is concise: ‘Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother: ‘Woman, behold, your son!’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother!’ And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home’ (Jn 19:25-27).

    “Undoubtedly, we find here an expression of the Son’s particular solicitude for his Mother, whom he is leaving in such great sorrow. And yet the “testament of Christ’s Cross” says more. Jesus highlights a new relationship between Mother and Son, the whole truth and reality of which he solemnly confirms. One can say that if Mary’s motherhood of the human race had already been outlined, now it is clearly stated and established. It emerges from the definitive accomplishment of the Redeemer’s Paschal Mystery. The Mother of Christ, who stands at the very center of this mystery–a mystery which embraces each individual and all humanity–is given as mother to every single individual and all mankind. The man at the foot of the Cross is John, “the disciple whom he loved.”

    –Pope John Paul II, encyclical letter Redemptoris Mater

    “The Gospel passage that has just been proclaimed helps us to understand another aspect of his human and religious personality. We might say that among the Apostles, he [JPII], the Successor of Peter, supremely imitated John the ‘beloved disciple,’ who stood under the Cross with Mary at the moment of the Redeemer’s abandonment and death.”

    –Pope Benedict XVI, homily on first anniversary of death of Servant of God Pope John Paul II

    “I wished to underline the immense love God has for us in the message on the occasion of Lent, published a few days ago, so that Christians of the whole community can pause spiritually during the time of Lent, together with Mary and John, the beloved disciple, before him who on the cross consummated for humanity the sacrifice of his life (cf. John 19:25).”

    –Pope Benedict XVI, homily of February 21, 2007

    None of these and countless other such references don’t address the biblical arguments, nor is the point of such statements to definitively define the resume of St. John. But I do think these quotes are illustrative of the constant faith and piety of the Church, reflected in her liturgy and devotional life, which the Popes and hopefully all Catholics take as a “given.”

  14. OK Leon,

    But it is also not the point of such statements to render out of bounds responsible inquiry into historical questions such as these–which are an important and indeed essential way to deepen the Church’s understanding of the text as we have it. And of course the Popes are going to reaffirm the pious tradition–they hardly have a choice in their official capacity. They are much too wise (especially ones like JPII and Benedict who are old enough to remember the Church before Vatican II !) to get embroiled in academic disputes without a very strong ecclesial purpose and decisive evidence to support them. As for Benedict–there’s almost no chance we could find out his view on this as a theologian–for in fact in his recent book Jesus of Nazareth–were one to track down the critical scholarship he presupposes you would find many views on this at least somewhat at odds with the traditonal one. That of course doesn’t mean anything about Benedicts actual view on the matter–yet he surely is aware of the difficulties and would by no means be opposed to critical research into the ancient sources and indeed the entertaining of other theories of authorship. In fact he has said time and again that as a theologian one must begin with the critical meaning of the Bible itself–here in this case as it pertains to the meaning of the term “beloved disciple.” The historical questions are thus inescapable. And this is why I would amend your principle of taking every pious tradition as a “given.” Were one to do that research into the truth would amount to no more than doing apologetics. Maybe as a lawyer advocate you are more at home in that role but you must remember that there are other opposing counsels on the other side(s). Someone though has to sit on the jury and sift through the evidence–and that’s more my role. This somewhat adversarial process is how the court finds the truth.

    Now in fact I attach a very strong presumption of innocence to the tradiiton–even though there are many opposing lawyers who have thought it guilty all along. But I still have a duty to weigh the evidence and seriously consider whether there is any truth at all in the opposing arguments. And I disagree with you in effect that my verdict as a Catholic ought to be a foregone conclusion regardless of my honest evaluation of the evidence presented–in other words I think one can be a Christian commited to revealed truth and still be free to wrestle with hard problems having to do with faith. Its not always easy but it can and must be done.

    I think actually your real issue seems to be the way in which critical theories are handled in the life of the Church and the pastoral issues attendant on that. That might be an interesting direction to take this conversation or on future posts–the degree and the manner that it is appropriate to expose ordinary Catholics to difficult issues that scholars wrestle with.

  15. One detects in previous comments the baneful influence of the historical-critical method which has been used to shred the historical facticity and reliability of the Gospels, especially the Gospel of John which has been subjected to so many preposterous theories and a discredited eisigesis. The best Catholic scholars have never held that the Apostle John literally penned the whole fourth Gospel; he could well have had a scribe pen it though the Gospel reveals his fundamental Johannine authorship and this from both internal and external evidence. The St. Jerome Biblical Commentary not uninfluenced by Modernist trends neverthless upholds the Apostle John as the author of the fourth Gospel, noting that “we have every reason to affirm that the author was who the Gospel itself and constant tradition claim to have been, John the Apostle, the son of Zebedee.”

    There is no good reason, moreover, why the “John the Elder” called by Papias was not the Apostle himself. If God is the Author of Scripture and guarantees the truth of the Gospel accounts, how could the Apostle John not be the author of the 4th Gospel when the writer himself claims to be one of the first Apostles (see 13:23 abd 21: 20-24)? There can be little doubt, from his pronounced avoidance of the name all through his Gospel, that he claims to be John the son of Zebedee?

    Incidentally, is it so certain that Mary Magdalene is not to be identified with Mary of Bethany and the penitent sinner?

  16. Concerning Pete’s response to Leon, I would argue that it’s generally smart (and pious) to be suspicious of scholars set on “shaking things up a bit” by discrediting 2,000-year-old traditions (“big T” or “little t”). It’s been a couple of years since I’ve studied this (fewer than 50-100 :-), but the “vast majority” of historical-critical scholars today are not benign, pro-Catholic writers innocently pursuing truth for the sake of God and Church. In fact, few of them can resist the temptation to include their agendas with their “interpretations” of Scripture. For example, almosts all of the books and articles I’ve read claiming Mary Magdalene, Mary of Bethany, and the penitent sinner are three different women also, at least implicitly, argue that women should be priests, or the Church is an oppressive, patriarchical institution, or women should have a greater role in the Church, or God IS a woman, etc. It seems to me that for the most part, scholars who don’t have a major personal disagreement with Church teaching spend their time further exploring traditions handed on over the centuries, while those who do have a problem prefer to make up their own.

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