Writings about the Apostle John’s writings

Fragment from the Gospel Written by John (Ryland’s Papyrus c. 125 A.D.)


The Apostle John wrote what is known as the fourth gospel as well as three letters and the Book of Revelation. Some realize this, though some do not wish to believe this:

The Huffington Post and other publications have explored two new books relating to the person of Jesus Christ and the Gospel of John. Both books dismiss the possibility that the Apostle John actually wrote the Fourth Gospel or that Jesus of Nazareth is accurately portrayed in its contents. These are not innovative assertions. Both new books follow old lines of scholarship and skepticism that reject the divine claims of Christ, the historicity of his miracles, and the active theism that permeates the New Testament record. But many others scholars — the ones less often interviewed in the media — hold a valid countering view: Both internally and externally there is strong evidence the Apostle John was behind the writing of the Fourth Gospel and that he composed his account with the accuracy of an eyewitness and the pen of a brilliant thinker.
Though the first two centuries of Christianity were years of persecution and dispersion, wreaking havoc on record keeping, we have clear indications the early Christians were confident of the Johannine authorship of the Fourth Gospel. For example, John had a disciple named Polycarp (AD 69-155), a young man who heard the apostle’s sermons in Ephesus, absorbed his teaching and became a bishop and martyr in nearby Smyrna. Polycarp had a follower named Irenaeus (AD 130-200), who became Bishop of Lyons and who wrote: “John, the disciple of the Lord, who also leaned on him, himself also published the Gospel in Ephesus, when he was living in Asia.” Thus we have a direct chain of early evidence and personal testimony linking John to Polycarp to Irenaeus and avowing John’s authorship of the Fourth Gospel.
We additionally have the writings of Theophilus of Antioch, who died in AD 181. Quoting word-for-word from John 1:1, Theophilus said: “And hence the holy writings teach us, and all the spirit-bearing men, one of whom, John, says, ‘In the beginning was the Word.'”
Then there’s the Muratorian Fragment, an early list of New Testament books giving short accounts of the origin and contents of the canonical books. According to this document, the author of the Fourth Gospel was the apostle John.
Clement of Alexandria (AD 150-215), an educator in Egypt, made a similar assertion: “But that John, last of all, conscious that the outward facts had been set forth in the [first three] Gospels, was urged on by his disciples, and divinely moved by the Spirit, composed a spiritual Gospel.” In other words, after the other three Gospels appeared, John was urged by friends to write an account explaining the theological and spiritual aspects of the person of Christ.
Moreover we have the record of Eusebius of Caesarea (AD 260-340), the “Father of Church History,” who had access to early documents some of which are now lost to us, and who lived in Palestine where the Gospel events took place. He wrote that after the outbreak of persecution in Jerusalem the apostles were scattered across the world, and John went to modern-day Turkey and lived in the city of Ephesus. According to Eusebius, there was no debate about the authorship of the Fourth Gospel. Eusebius said: “Now let me indicate the undisputed writings of this apostle (John). His Gospel, read by all the churches under heaven, must be recognized first of all.” According to Eusebuis, John lived in Ephesus, read the synoptic Gospels, welcomed them and affirmed their accuracy; but wanting to make some additional points, he composed his account.
Even in Roman times amid growing pains and persecution, we have testimony from Europe (Lyons), the Middle East (Caesarea), Africa (Alexandria), and Asia (Antioch), all attesting to the authorship of the Fourth Gospel. Biblical scholar William Hendrickson said: “Tertullian, Clement of Alexandria, Irenaeus, and Theophilus show us that in the last quarter of the second century the Fourth Gospel was known and read throughout Christendom: in Africa, Asia Minor, Italy, Gaul, and Syria, and that it was ascribed to the well-known John.”
We also have an interesting discovery now exhibited at the John Rylands Library in Manchester, England, called the Ryland Fragment. It was excavated about a hundred years ago, just as scholars were convinced the Fourth Gospel couldn’t have been written in the first century, its philosophy and theology being so developed. This small scrap of papyrus was found in Egypt and dated to the time of Hadrian, perhaps about AD 125. It contained lines from John 18, which demonstrates the Gospel of John was in wide circulation with copies being read in Egypt on papyri within a few years of John’s death. Since John is widely accepted as the last of the four Gospels, this discovery supports the conclusion all four Gospels were first century documents that spread across the Roman world within a generation.
If any other ancient text were affirmed by this kind of evidence, its authorship would be virtually unquestioned. What if these early witnesses had better understanding of the authorship of the Fourth Gospel than today’s well-meaning writers whose agendas are sometimes influenced by anti-supernatural presuppositions? I have no hesitation accepting the view that the Apostle John wrote this book, and in fact, I can’t imagine anyone else who could have done it. Admittedly, Christianity doesn’t stand or fall on the precise identity of the author of the Fourth Gospel — the author identifies himself only as “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” But it does stand or fall on the identity of Jesus Christ, and on whether he was a legend, a liar, a lunatic, or the person John presents him to be — the Lord of all.
Letting John be John and Jesus be Jesus is a solution that leaves me intellectually satisfied and spiritual enriched. As John said near the end of his Gospel: “Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”

Here is some of what Theophilus of Antioch reported about John and his writings:

And hence the holy writings teach us, and all the spirit-bearing [inspired] men, one of whom, John, says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God,” showing that at first God was alone, and the Word in Him. Then he says, “The Word was God; all things came into existence through Him; and apart from Him not one thing came into existence.” The Word, then, being God, and being naturally produced from God, whenever the Father of the universe wills, He sends Him to any place; and He, coming, is both heard and seen, being sent by Him, and is found in a place (Theophilus of Antioch. To Autolycus, Book II, Chapter XII. Translated by Marcus Dods, A.M. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 2. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885. Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight).

Eusebius reported that in the late second century Polycrates of Ephesus wrote the Bishop of Rome Victor stating:

We observe the exact day; neither adding, nor taking away. For in Asia also great lights have fallen asleep, which shall rise again on the day of the Lord’s coming, when he shall come with glory from heaven, and shall seek out all the saints. Among these are Philip, one of the twelve apostles, who fell asleep in Hierapolis; and his two aged virgin daughters, and another daughter, who lived in the Holy Spirit and now rests at Ephesus; and, moreover, John, who was both a witness and a teacher, who reclined upon the bosom of the Lord, and, being a priest, wore the sacerdotal plate. He fell asleep at Ephesus. And Polycarp in Smyrna, who was a bishop and martyr; and Thraseas, bishop and martyr from Eumenia, who fell asleep in Smyrna. Why need I mention the bishop and martyr Sagaris who fell asleep in Laodicea, or the blessed Papirius, or Melito, the Eunuch who lived altogether in the Holy Spirit, and who lies in Sardis, awaiting the episcopate from heaven, when he shall rise from the dead ? All these observed the fourteenth day of the passover according to the Gospel, deviating in no respect, but following the rule of faith. And I also, Polycrates, the least of you all, do according to the tradition of my relatives, some of whom I have closely followed. For seven of my relatives were bishops; and I am the eighth. And my relatives always observed the day when the people put away the leaven. I, therefore, brethren, who have lived sixty-five years in the Lord, and have met with the brethren throughout the world, and have gone through every Holy Scripture, am not affrighted by terrifying words. For those greater than I have said ‘ We ought to obey God rather than man’…I could mention the bishops who were present, whom I summoned at your desire; whose names, should I write them, would constitute a great multitude. And they, beholding my littleness, gave their consent to the letter, knowing that I did not bear my gray hairs in vain, but had always governed my life by the Lord Jesus” (Eusebius. Church History. Book V, Chapter 25).

There is also another document that was discovered a few decades ago that ties the Apostle John in with Polycarp of Smyrna. It is known as the Harris Fragments. Here is some of what it says:

Polycarp…He was… {an} old man, being one hundred and f[our] of age. He continued to walk [i]n the canons which he had learned from his youth from John the a[p]ostle.(Weidman, Frederick W. Polycarp and John: The Harris Fragments and Their Challenge to Literary Traditions. University of Notre Dame Press, Notre Dame (IL), 1999, pp. 43,44).

The canons that Polycarp learned from the Apostle John would have included knowledge of the Apostle John’s writings. John and his followers like Polycarp had the complete Bible.

John, his writings, and his teachings were known. The world would be a better place if more people followed them.

Some items of possibly related interest may include:

The Apostle John He wrote a lot that people should study. John was an original apostle, early Christian leader, and the last of the original apostles to die. Here is a link to a related sermon titled Apostle John: The Disciple that Jesus Loved. John is the final original apostle that we in the Continuing Church of God trace our ecclesiastical succession through.
JOHN Here are links to a seven-part sermon series covering the entire ‘Gospel of John’: John 1-3: Anti-unitarian, Wine, Being Born Again, & Heaven, John 4-6: Jesus and the Samaritan Woman, Miracles and the Bread of Life, John 10-12: Sheep, Hirelings, Lazarus/Soul Sleep and ‘Palm Day’, John 13-15: Footwashing and the Words of Jesus, John 16-18: Truth, Trinity, and Pontius Pilate, and John 19-21: Do not only try, do what God wants.
The Old Testament Canon This article shows from Catholic accepted writings, that the Old Testament used by non-Roman Catholics and non-Orthodox churches is the correct version.
The New Testament Canon – From the Bible and History This article, shows from the Bible and supporting historical sources, why the early Church knew which books were part of the Bible and which ones were not.
Read the Bible Christians should read and study the Bible. This article gives some rationale for regular bible reading. Here is a link in Mandarin Chinese: 读圣经
Bible: Superstition or Authority? Should you rely on the Bible? Is it reliable? Herbert W. Armstrong wrote this as a booklet on this important subject.
Is Matthew 28:19 in the Bible? Some have claimed that Matthew 28:19 has added words as part of a trinitarian plot. Is that true?
What is the Appropriate Form of Biblical Interpretation? Should the Bible be literally understood? What do the writings of the Bible, Origen, Herbert W. Armstrong, and Augustine show?
Continuing History of the Church of God This pdf booklet is a historical overview of the true Church of God and some of its main opponents from Acts 2 to the 21st century. Related sermon links include Continuing History of the Church of God: c. 31 to c. 300 A.D. and Continuing History of the Church of God: 4th-16th Centuries. The booklet is available in Spanish: Continuación de la Historia de la Iglesia de Dios, German: Kontinuierliche Geschichte der Kirche Gottes, and Ekegusii Omogano Bw’ekanisa Ya Nyasae Egendererete.

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