John 5:2 and the Date of the Fourth Gospel: A Response to a Christian Apologist

John 5:2 and the Date of the Fourth Gospel: A Response to a Christian Apologist

Originally Posted on the “Quran and Bible Blog

بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمٰنِ الرَّحِيْم

“This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down. We know that his testimony is true.”

– John 21:24

            This article is a response to a claim made by a Christian commenter on the “Quran and Bible Blog” regarding the approximate date when the Gospel of John, the fourth and last of the “canonical” gospels, was written.[1]  In short, the claim is that the gospel was written before 70 CE (i.e. before the temple was destroyed), and thus much closer to the time of Jesus (peace be upon him).  This claim is not new, but it would seem strange to most students of New Testament history.  In response to this claim, we will first provide the current scholarly views on the date the gospel was written.  In the second part, we will analyze the claim that the gospel can be reliably dated to before 70 CE and show that the reality is quite different.  Finally, after all is said and done, we will also briefly discuss the all-important issue of authorship.   

The Date of the Gospel of John in the Scholarly Literature

            Needless to say, the pre-70 CE theory is not widely accepted by both Christian and secular scholars.  Most scholars date it to the late 1st century CE, while some even date it to “around the turn of the second century”.[2]  Gary M. Burge states that:

“…we find a remarkable consensus of scholarly opinion that John was published somewhere between 80 and 100.”[3]

Similarly, Lamar Williamson suggests a date “near the end of the first century C.E.”[4]  This was echoed by the late D. Moody Smith Jr. in his commentary on the Gospel of John, while also considering the early second century as well.  According to Smith (emphasis in the original):

“[g]iven 110 as the latest possible date (terminus ante quem), we would then have a range of a couple of decades (90-110), within which John was likely written…”[5]

Another Christian scholar, the late Raymond Brown, believed the “final form” of the gospel was finished between 100-110 CE (and no later than 125), while the “main composition” was written around 90 CE.[6] 

            Indeed, most of the dates suggested by different scholars fall somewhere between the years 80-100, with different preferred ranges.  According to David Croteau (Liberty University), these include 80-85 (Carson, Köstenberger and others), 80-90 (Godet), 80-100 (Hendriksen), and 90-100 (Brown, Witherington and many others).[7]  For his own part, Croteau favors a date between 80-100 but “with the most likely time being toward the earlier side of that range”.[8]  Here is a graphical representation of the different dates given, according to Croteau’s list,[9] which shows the general consensus for a date sometime around the end of the first century (most favor a date between 90-100).  This also shows how difficult it is for scholars to come to any agreement on what the date actually was:

John - Graph 1

John - Graph 2

So it is clear that most scholars have preferred a date towards the end of the first century, and some prefer a date even into the early second century.[10]  In fact, more scholars favor a date after 100 CE than scholars who favor a pre-70 CE date.  So where does that leave the theory of the gospel being written before 70 CE?  One of the most vocal supporters of this theory is the contemporary NT scholar Daniel Wallace, who primarily rests his argument on the basis of one particular verse, John 5:2 (although it is certainly not the only reason).[11]

John 5:2 as Proof for a Pre-70 CE Date and Analysis

            John 5:2 states:

“Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda[a] and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades.” (NIV)

Wallace is particularly interested in the phrase “there is”, which in Greek is ἐστί (e-stē’).[12]  He argues that the author wrote in the present tense, which implies that the “Sheep Gate” of the temple (and thus the temple itself) was still standing in his day.  This matters because both the gate and the pool at Bethesda were supposed to have been destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE, along with the temple.  Thus, the argument goes, the gospel must have been written before the destruction of the temple and not after.

            While this argument may be plausible, there are still a few problems that cannot be explained.  First of all, just because the pool was in Jerusalem does not mean that it was destroyed along with the temple and its surrounding landmarks, or that it was destroyed and never rebuilt.  It is also possible that the author of the gospel could have simply been referring to the ruins of the pool.  Andreas Köstenberger, a Christian scholar, argues against using John 5:2 for dating the gospel to pre-70 CE on this basis.  He states that:

“…the reference could be to remains of the structure or the structure could have been rebuilt after being destroyed but prior to John’s writing…”[13]

This is also suggested by the text of the gospel itself, at least according to the New International Version translation.  Verse 3 is rendered as stating that people suffering from all manner of disabilities and illnesses “used to lie” in the pool, which implies that this was no longer the case in the author’s time:

“Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda[a] and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed.”[14]

Admittedly, other translations render the verse differently, which would not imply the past tense.  For example, the English Standard Version (ESV) renders the verse as:

“In these lay a multitude of invalids–blind, lame, and paralyzed.”

So we need to dig deeper.  As Köstenberger suggested, what if the author was really referring to the ruins of the pool, something people in his time would have been familiar with?  The ruins of the pool were well-known even to later Christians.  According to Titus Kennedy:

“Eusebius, writing in the fourth century, mentions the “sheep pool” not the sheep gate, and he identified it as a place of twin pools (Eusebius, Onomasticon). The Bordeaux Pilgrim in the early fourth century calls them twin pools but mentions no gate, while other writings of the fourth and fifth centuries also mention the site of the pool, demonstrating that the ruins of the pool were visited during the Late Roman and Byzantine periods (Itinerarium Burdigalense; Cyril of Jerusalem; Jerome).”[15]

So if the ruins were known for centuries after Jesus (peace be upon him), it seems plausible that the gospel was referring to those ruins as well.  In fact, it was well known to later Christians up until the 7th century (during the Arab conquest), when the precise location of the pool was lost, only to be rediscovered by archaeologists in the 19th century. 

            Moreover, some alternate versions of the text do indeed show that the author was writing in the past tense in the important second verse.  According to Benson’s Commentary (emphasis in the original):

“[t]he Syriac seems to have read, ην, there was, as it is rendered in that version in the past time. Cyril, Chrysostom, and Theophylact favour this reading, as also does Nonnus.”[16]

If this reading was correct,[17] then it follows that the author was indeed referring to the ruins of the pool, since he was implying that the pool was no longer used for such purposes, which could only have happened after the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans. 

            The other problem is that the text of John 5:2 doesn’t even mention the word “gate”.  The Greek text has been described as “rather obscure”,[18] which has resulted in most translations simply assuming that the author spoke of the “Sheep Gate”, even though other translations are also possible (such as “Sheep market”).  As the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) admits:

“[t]here is no noun with Sheep. “Gate” is supplied on the grounds that there must have been a gate in the NE wall of the temple area where animals for sacrifice were brought in…”[19]

According to D. Moody Smith, the obscurity may have been due to the simple matter of the author’s own uncertainty.  He explained that:

“…the roughness and difficulties arise from the fact that the narrative is here based on a more ancient tradition; perhaps the author himself was not fully conversant with the material he was using.”[20]

This may also explain the use of the phrase “there is in/at Jerusalem” in John 5:2.  It could merely have been a direct quote of the earlier source (see note #20) that the author was using and therefore not evidence that the entire gospel as it has reached us was actually written before the destruction of the temple in 70 CE.  Indeed, if the author was an eyewitness and new the landmarks of Jerusalem quite well, why is the description so vague?   

            Despite these issues, it is still worthwhile to study the Greek phrase that has created so many disagreements between scholars.  As previously stated, Daniel Wallace is supportive of the idea that the verse seems to be in the present tense, which indicates that the author was writing at a time when the temple and its various “gates” were still standing (i.e. before 70 CE).  But most other scholars are not convinced.  The reason is of course that there are other factors to consider when trying to date the gospel itself.  On the basis of these other factors, most scholars are simply not persuaded by one verse to date the entire gospel. 

            The Greek ἐστί ἐν (“there is in/at”) is in the present tense.[21]  But most scholars regard it as a “historical present tense”.  Jason Kerrigan quotes none other than Daniel Wallace himself (emphasis in the original) to explain that:

“[t]he historical present is used fairly frequently in narrative literature to describe a past event…The reason for the use of the historical present is usually to portray an event vividly, as though the reader were in the midst of the scene as it unfolds.  […] The historic present may be used to describe a past event, either for the sake of vividness or to highlight some aspect of the narrative.”[22]

So even though the Greek phrase is in the present tense, it does not necessarily mean that the author was literally writing in the present tense as if the temple and the pool at Bethesda were still standing in his time.  Köstenberger has argued that John 10:8 and 19:40 serve as examples, similar to 5:2, of historical presents of εἰμί (“to be” or “to exist”).[23]  Nevertheless, Thayer’s Greek Lexicon includes John 5:2 among other verses where εἰμί is translated as “to be found” or “there was” though it still defines the etymology of εἰμί as:

“[t]he first person singular present indicative…”[24]

But Wallace has objected to the association of John 5:2, 10:8 and 19:40 as examples of historical presents of εἰμί.[25]  Nevertheless, Köstenberger maintains that “it is certainly possible” to use “a past-referring use of the present tense of [εἰμί]”.[26]  Croteau also identifies John 5:2 as “probable for inclusion” among a list of historical presents in the Gospel of John.[27]  He also includes John 19:40 in this list, but not John 10:8.  Mavis Leung also identifies John 5:2 as a historical present, though he acknowledges that it does not “fit neatly” into the “three main verbal categories: speaking, seeing and moving”.[28]  However, he does identify it as one of three “past-referring indicative verbs”, the others being found in John 20:6 and 21:22.[29]  Of course, it should be borne in mind that there is considerable debate about what constitutes a historical present, as we can already clearly see.  Leung counts 165 examples in the Gospel of John, whereas other counts have varied from 162 to 166.[30]  For his part, Wallace counts 162 examples, not including 5:2 of course.[31]  So it does not seem like there will be a breakthrough regarding the date of the fourth gospel on the basis of this verse alone.  Thus, perhaps more attention should be paid to other pieces of evidence when trying to date the fourth gospel.     

            Much such “evidence” has been presented from both liberal and conservative scholars, with many Christians obviously trying to prove the earliest possible date.  But David Croteau, much to his credit since he is a Christian himself, shows more caution.  He rejects most of the arguments for a pre-70 date, and favors a date between 80-100.[32]  Though he lists several arguments for a post-70 date, there are a few which appear stronger than others.  These are listed here:

  1. Church fathers

            Ironically, Christian apologists tend to usually champion the record of the church fathers (Irenaeus, Justin Martyr etc.) as evidence of early Christian history, but in their zeal to assign the fourth gospel with as early a date as possible, some of them have decided to essentially ignore church tradition.  Though even some conservative scholars admit the “unreliability” of church tradition,[33] with regards to the fourth gospel, Croteau argues that “it is a relatively strong argument for dating the Gospel later rather than earlier”.[34]  D. Moody Smith pointed out that Irenaeus implied that “John the disciple” wrote the gospel “relatively late in the first century” during the reign of the Roman emperor Trajan,[35] which then favors a date almost near the end of the 1st century, since Trajan ruled from 98-117 CE.[36]  Also, as previously mentioned, Smith favored a date between 90-100.[37]          

  1. John 6:1 and the “Sea of Tiberias”

            This is perhaps one of the strongest arguments for a later date.  As Croteau explains, the city of Tiberias was founded by Herod Antipas on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee between 17-18 CE.[38]  The Compact Bible Dictionary puts the date of its founding around 20 CE,[39] and Smith puts it in the “early 20s CE”.[40]  Finally, Gary Burge put its founding in the year 26.[41]  Regardless of when it was founded, historians generally agree that the Sea of Galilee did not become widely known as the “Sea of Tiberias” until much later in the 1st-century,[42] and yet the fourth gospel uses the latter name in John 6:1 and 21:1.  Meanwhile, the Synoptic gospels exclusively refer to the “Sea of Galilee” and never the “Sea of Tiberias”.  This has led scholars to conclude that the fourth gospel must have been written much later, probably towards the end of the first century. 

            If the Gospel of John was written earlier (perhaps around the same time as the Synoptic gospels) or even a little later, we would not expect it to refer to the “Sea of Tiberias” instead of the “Sea of Galilee”.  It would be like if someone allegedly wrote a book about East Pakistan in 1947 (when Pakistan was founded) but referred to it as “Bangladesh”, which was the name it adopted in 1971 only after breaking away from West Pakistan.  One would have to conclude that the document was written much later than it was claimed.  The same conclusion would arise for the date of the fourth gospel (assuming if it was not redacted later) due to its reference to the Sea of “Tiberias” instead of the “Sea of Galilee”.                    

  1. John 20:28 and Domitian as Dominus et Deus

            The final piece of evidence to favor a late 1st-century date for the composition of the fourth gospel comes from John 20:28, in which Thomas referred to the resurrected Jesus as “My Lord and My God”.  Besides being one of the few verses in the entire New Testament where Jesus (peace be upon him) is clearly seen as divine (which puts the fourth gospel at odds with the Synoptics), this particular verse may be a good indicator for the date of the fourth gospel.  Scholars note that there just happened to be a conflict between Christians and the Roman Imperial Cult right around the end of the first century, and especially during the reign of Domitian who ruled the empire from 81-96 CE.[43]  According to the Roman historian Seutonius, Domitian required his subjects to refer to him as “Lord and God” (“Dominus et Deus”), whether in writing or direct conversation.[44]  So was John 20:28 an attack on Domitian’s imperial cult?  As Croteau explains, Domitian’s demands would not have begun until at least 81 CE, which:

“…likely accounts for why the Evangelist chose to include Thomas’s words…”[45]

Of course, there was nothing unusual in Domitian demanding that he be worshiped.  Previous emperors were also objects of worship.  As Professor Paul Trebilco states:

“…there is no evidence that Domitian demanded greater divine honours than his predecessors…”[46]

But by specifically demanding that he be referred to as “Lord and God” in written or verbal correspondence, Domitian was unique among the emperors.  Thus, it is possible that the author of the fourth gospel used Thomas’ reaction to the resurrected Jesus as a direct act of defiance against Domitian’s decree specifically or against the Roman imperial cult in general.[47] 

Conclusion

            Given these strong and compelling arguments, it seems prudent to stick with the current near-consensus regarding the date of the Gospel of John.  A date near the end of the 1st century indeed seems most likely.  We have seen that John 5:2 has other explanations, even if it was not meant to be in the historical present tense.  Moreover, other pieces of evidence strongly outweigh John 5:2 as far as determining the date. 

Addendum: A Brief Discussion of Authorship

            It was not the purpose of this article to discuss the issue of authorship, but it is an important issue.  Here, we will provide a brief overview.

            Church tradition maintains that the fourth gospel was written in Ephesus near the end of the 1st-century (a view which seems to align with the internal evidence, at least with regard to the time period),[48] but equally importantly, it maintains that the author was an eyewitness and disciple of Jesus (peace be upon him), whose name was John (the son of Zebedee).  But whereas the evidence for the date of composition seems to support church tradition, the evidence for authorship is flimsy at best.  In his commentary on the Gospel of John, the late D. Moody Smith explained that there are “as many reasons for doubting Johannine authorship as for embracing it”.[49] 

            First and foremost is the fact that the gospel does not state who the author is.  It is anonymous (more on this later).  Second, it is possible that the author was simply another “John” who later became confused with John the disciple.  It was claimed by Eusebius that Papias had claimed that the author was a certain “John the Elder”, who had known Jesus and heard him teach.[50]  Yet even this theory clearly suffers from the same problem as claiming that the author was John the son Zebedee.  It is all hearsay.  Smith refers to it as “at best a reasonable conjecture based on bits and pieces of evidence”.[51] 

            Another difficulty in assigning authorship to John is the claim that he wrote the gospel while residing in Ephesus.  Here, church tradition seems to have muddied the water.  While Irenaeus claimed the gospel was written in Ephesus, an earlier source, Ignatius of Antioch, did not mention that John resided at Ephesus at any time.  Smith observed that Ignatius “makes a great deal of the apostle Paul’s residence there, but, strangely, does not mention John”.[52]  To make matters worse, neither the New Testament nor any early 2nd-century Christian document puts John in Ephesus.[53]

            Finally, in an interesting analysis of chapter 20, Smith argued that the author intentionally remained anonymous.  Smith also surmised that if any of the disciples of Jesus qualified as the “beloved disciple”, it would have been Thomas, not John.[54]  Since chapter 21 seems to be a later addition,[55] and since Thomas is the last disciple mentioned at the end of chapter 20, it follows then he should qualify as the “beloved disciple”, at least in the “original” ending of the gospel.  Even if chapter 21 was the original ending, Smith, quoting David R. Beck (who believed 21:24-25 was the end of the gospel), notes that there is simply no specific disciple who is identified as the “beloved disciple”, so that “he remains anonymous, as the evangelist intended”.[56]  But if the author really was John the son of Zebedee or any other disciple, why did he go out of his way to remain anonymous?  If anything, it would bolster the credibility and authority of the gospel to directly name a specific disciple, but instead, the author deliberately decided to be anonymous.  It does not make much sense.  Therefore, in the absence of any conclusive evidence, the theory of Johannine authorship of the fourth gospel stands on thin ice.  Most likely, it was just a misattribution, as with the Synoptics.

And Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He) knows best!


[1] https://quranandbibleblog.wordpress.com/forum/comment-page-1/#comment-5826

The same commenter also claimed that the Gospel of Luke should be assigned a much earlier date, since Paul seemed to quote Luke 22:19 in 1 Corinthians 11:24.  But unlike his claim that the Gospel of John was written earlier vis a vis John 5:2, the former claim can be very easily refuted.  As I showed in my response to the Christian commenter, if we compare the full versions of Jesus’ speech at the last supper, then it seems that Paul was NOT quoting Luke at all, but another version of the same tradition.  Here is a side-by-side comparison of Paul and Luke:

Paul – “For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me (1 Corinthians 11:23-25)

 

Luke – “And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you (Luke 22:19-20)

If Paul was quoting Luke, why did he contradict him on the blood quote? Luke says “which is poured out for you” whereas Paul says “do this…in remembrance of me”. Clearly, Paul was NOT quoting Luke. He was quoting some other source, possibly an oral tradition. The latter is likely since Paul said “for I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you”. He did not say that he got it from a written source, such as Luke. 

[2] Burton Mack, Who Wrote the New Testament? The Making of the Christian Myth (San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1995), p. 206.

[3] Gary M. Burge, “John”, in The Baker Illustrated Bible Commentary, ed. Gary M. Burge and Andrew E. Hill (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2012), p. 1113.

However, he also suggests a possible earlier date, specifically before 70 CE, which he describes as “[t]he great watershed date”. 

[4] Lamar Williamson Jr., Preaching the Gospel of John: Proclaiming the Living Word (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2004), p. 1.

[5] D. Moody Smith Jr., John (Nashville, Tennessee: Abingdon Press, 1999), pp. 42-43.

As for the claim the “present form” of the gospel was “published earlier”, Smith says that it “is not impossible, but is unlikely” (Ibid., p. 43).

[6] Raymond E. Brown, The Gospel and Epistles of John: A Concise Commentary (Collegeville, Minnesota: The Liturgical Press, 1988), p. 12.

Interestingly, Brown also noted that none of the gospels were actually written by any “eyewitness” but rather were based on “oral traditions stemming from the companions of Jesus”, and that was supposedly the “beloved disciple” for what became known as the “Gospel of John” (pp. 9-10).

[7] David A. Croteau, “An Analysis of the Arguments for the Dating of the Fourth Gospel,” Liberty University Faculty Publications and Presentations, 118 (2003): 70, https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/58821862.pdf.

[8] Ibid., p. 64.

[9] Ibid., p. 70.

[10] A date as late as 170 was also posited by some scholars, especially in the early 20-century, but such a late date has been largely abandoned in recent times. 

[11] https://bible.org/article/john-52-and-date-fourth-gospel-again

See also Brian Vranicar, “A Pre-70 Date for John’s Gospel” (Diss., Rocky Mountain Seminary, 2017), pp. 31-33.

[12] https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G2076&t=KJV

[13] https://www.biblicalfoundations.org/john-52-and-the-date-of-johns-gospel-a-response-to-dan-wallace/

[14] John 5:2-3.

[15] https://www.hopechannel.com/au/read/the-pools-of-bethesda-and-siloam

[16] https://biblehub.com/commentaries/benson/john/5.htm

[17] As it happens, there is yet another variant in the text, which most translations have omitted since it is not found in most of the earlier manuscripts of the Gospel of John.  The variant (in italics below) is an addition to verse 3 and states:

“Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed—and they waited for the moving of the waters. From time to time an angel of the Lord would come down and stir up the waters. The first one into the pool after each such disturbance would be cured of whatever disease they had” (https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=john+5&version=NIV#fen-NIV-26215b).

[18] Smith Jr., op. cit., p. 131.

[19] http://www.usccb.org/bible/john/5#51005002-1

[20] Smith Jr., op. cit., p. 131.

It is now widely accepted by scholars that the Gospel of John was partially based on an earlier source.  Smith explains that:

“[q]uite possibly the author drew upon an earlier collection of miracle stories already joined to a passion narrative…” (Ibid., p. 32).

Interestingly, in this “Signs Gospel” is included the healing of the paralyzed man in John 5, as well as the description of the pool in Bethesda (or Beth-zatha).  See here for the reconstruction of the “Signs Gospel”: http://earlychristianwritings.com/text/signs.html

Writing elsewhere, D. Moody Smith explained that:

“[i]t is now rather widely agreed that the Fourth Evangelist drew upon a miracle tradition or written source(s) substantially independent of the Synoptics, whether or not he had any knowledge of one or more of those gospels. Since the epoch-making commentary of Rudolf Bultmann, the hypothesis of a semeia– (or miracle) source has gained rather wide acceptance” (http://earlychristianwritings.com/signs.html).

[21] Andreas J. Köstenberger, John (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2004), p. 177.

[22] Jason Kerrigan, The Salvation Bible Commentary: Parallel Commentary on Hundreds of Scriptures Commonly Misinterpreted in Our Modern Day (United States of America: Amazon Digital Services LLC, 2018). p. 275.

[23] https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?strongs=G1510&t=KJV

[24] Ibid.

[25] https://bible.org/article/john-52-and-date-fourth-gospel-again

[26] https://www.biblicalfoundations.org/john-52-and-the-date-of-johns-gospel-a-response-to-dan-wallace/

[27] Croteau, op. cit., p. 53.

See “Appendix 5” where Croteau includes John 5:2 as one of “the most likely candidates” for a historical present (p. 71).

[28] Mavis M. Leung, “The Narrative Function and Verbal Aspect of the Historical Present in the Fourth Gospel”, JETS 51, no. 2 (December 2008): 709, https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/4842/cabcd288b94fcbb0b504a3dfbb26cbbf1a12.pdf.

[29] Ibid.

[30] Ibid., p. 703, n. 2.

Interestingly, Leung does not include 10:8 or 19:40 in his list.  Regarding the latter, he states that it is “uncertain” if “the present indicative verb is a historical present” (Ibid., p. 709, n. 34).

[31] https://bible.org/article/john-52-and-date-fourth-gospel-again

[32] Croteau, op. cit., p. 64. 

See Appendix 1 for a list of arguments that Croteau considers weak, whether for a pre-70 or post-70 date (pp. 65-66).  See Appendix 2 for a list of the stronger arguments, most of which favor a post-70 and pre-100 date (p. 67).  Interestingly, he includes John 5:2 as among the “compelling evidence” for a pre-70 date (though as shown previously, he also favored including it among historical presents in the fourth gospel).  

[33] Croteau quotes Carson as saying that the “external evidence” of the church fathers “is itself ‘late,’ ‘secondary,’ and ‘unreliable” (Ibid., p. 54).

[34] Ibid.

[35] Smith Jr., op. cit., p. 41.

As for whether it was actually “John the disciple” who wrote the gospel, it is a separate issue which is not the topic of this article.  Nevertheless, we will very briefly discuss whether authorship of the fourth gospel can be reasonably assigned to “John the disciple” in the “Addendum”.

[36] Nigel Rodgers, The Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Roman Empire: Chronicling the Rise and Fall of the Most Important and Influential Civilization the World Has Even Known (China: Anness Publishing Ltd, 2017), p. 64.

[37] Smith Jr., op. cit., p. 43.

[38] Croteau, op. cit., p. 55.

[39] Ronald F. Youngblood, F.F. Bruce and R.K. Harrison, Compact Bible Dictionary (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2004), p. 613.

[40] Smith Jr., op. cit., p. 146.

[41] Burge, op. cit., p. 1127.

[42] Croteau, op. cit., p. 55.

[43] Rodgers, op. cit., p. 64.

[44] Croteau, op. cit., p. 55.

[45] Ibid.

[46] Paul Trebilco, The Early Christians in Ephesus from Paul to Ignatius (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2007), p. 343.

[47] However, there is another view among historians.  This alternative view posits that Domitian did not directly demand such honorific titles, but that it was used by his flatterers who were trying to gain favors from him.  As Brian Jones has explained:

“…terms used by flatterers such as Martial, Statius, Juventius, Celsus (or Pliny) to secure a favour from an autocrat hardly constitute proof that they were instructed or required to use them. […] Domitian was both intelligent and committed to the traditional religion. He obviously knew that he was not a God, and, whilst he did not ask or demand to be addressed as one, he did not actively discourage the few flatterers who did” (The Emperor Domitian (London: Routledge, 1992), p. 109).

Of course, even if this is true, it is also possible that he simply adopted these titles later as more and more “flatterers” referred to him as such.  And Jones also admits that Domitian did not “discourage” such titles.      

[48] Smith Jr., op. cit., p. 39.

[49] Ibid., p. 26.

[50] Ibid.

[51] Ibid., p. 27.

[52] Ibid., p. 40.

[53] Ibid.

[54] Ibid., p. 404.

[55] Ibid., p. 27.

[56] Ibid., p. 404.

 



Categories: Bible, Christianity, Gospels, Jerusalem, Jesus, New Testament scholarship, Scholars

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