The Gospel of John’s Jewish-Christian Source

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In an important study entitled The Gospel of Signs, Robert Fortna correctly identified a Jewish-Christian source embedded in the Fourth Gospel. This article is based upon the conclusions of Fortna's research and explores their significance. I will also point out additional evidence Fortna overlooked that clarifies the origins and intentions of the Jewish-Christian source embedded in the text of the Fourth Gospel.

The anonymous author of the Fourth Gospel also composed the Johannine Epistles.[1] According to church tradition, the author of the Fourth Gospel is identified as John, one of the twelve apostles whom Jesus appointed. The Fourth Gospel itself mentions Jesus’ beloved disciple who testifies to and explains the deeds of Jesus (John 21:24).[2] Church tradition identifies John, the disciple and apostle of Jesus, as the beloved disciple and regards him as the author of the gospel that now bears John’s name. Without in-depth study of who the beloved disciple is, we may yet ask whether the author of the Fourth Gospel sought to be identified as the beloved disciple, who is always referred to in the third person, or whether the beloved disciple was merely the source of the ideas and perspective articulated by the author of the Fourth Gospel. Did the anonymous author make reference to the beloved disciple to indicate the source of his authority, making the Fourth Gospel some kind of anonymous pseudepigrapha? Or is the reference to the beloved disciple an allusion to some other kind of source that was the basis of the Fourth Gospel?

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  • [1] Already among the early church fathers there were those who believed that the author of the Fourth Gospel wrote only the First Epistle of John. See Raymond E. Brown, The Epistles of John (Anchor Bible 30; Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1982), 9-13–JNT.
  • [2] Various scholars have questioned the authenticity of the final chapter of the Fourth Gospel, which summarizes the entire work, and this problem has not yet received a satisfying solution.

Comments 6

  1. John is an enigmatic book to most for one reason, people don’t recognize the work of the author as the work of Saul, the consummate scholar of the movement. This book is extremely Jewish in Theology, rhetorical in nature and is exacting in time from start to finish. John has came down unredacted so the timeline is complete, 1 1/2 year ministry. I dealt with all this in my translation of this gospel, “The Gospel of John, An actual Translation”. I find a typical Pharisaical arguing and no “polemics” against “Jews”. the Gospel of John has much to teach us when viewed from the correct viewpoint.

    1. JP Staff Writer

      For a different approach to the Gospel of John, similar to Flusser’s, see the excellent article by Peter J. Tomson, “The Gospel of John and the ‘Parting of the Ways'” in his Studies on Jews and Christians in the First and Second Centuries (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2019), 621-661.

  2. Pingback: When Were the Gospels Written? | Online

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  • David Flusser [1917-2000]

    David Flusser [1917-2000]

    Professor David Flusser died and was buried in Jerusalem on Friday, September 15, 2000, his 83rd birthday. A founding member of the Jerusalem School of Synoptic Research, Flusser was one of the world's leading Jewish authorities on Early Christianity. His pioneering research on Jesus and…
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