Evidence John, Son of Zebedee, Wrote the Gospel of John

Some have made claims the gospel of John was authored by another minor apostle or someone other than John, the son of Zebedee and brother of James. John often accompanied Peter and was considered one of the more prominent apostles (with Peter and James, his brother), having been chosen just after Jesus chose his first (Peter) according to Luke’s orderly account. He was Peter’s fishing partner. Peter, John, and James were the only apostles who witnessed Jesus’ transfiguration and they were the first to be named when references to the twelve were made.[1]

John seemed to have a special relationship with the Sanhedrin. In his Gospel, he uniquely reported a meeting of the Pharisees to address Jesus’ miracle of raising Lazarus from the dead.[2] He reported the words of Caiaphas, who was the high priest at the time. “You know nothing at all! You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.”[3] Caiaphas prophesied that Jesus would “die for the Jewish nation, and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one. So from that day on they plotted to take his life.”[4] They also plotted to kill Lazarus since many Jews had started to follow Jesus based on the miracle.

During Jesus’ trial, we learn more. John uniquely made mention of Peter and “another disciple” at Jesus’ trial. “Because this disciple was known to the high priest, he went with Jesus into the high priest’s courtyard, but Peter had to wait outside at the door.”[5] John reported many details surrounding Jesus’ trial such as the specific questions or comments posed by those who mocked and crucified Him.

Jesus’ Beloved Disciple

During the Last Supper, when Jesus predicted the apostle who would betray Him, “the disciple whom Jesus loved was reclining next to him.”[6]  Peter motioned to this disciple to ask Jesus which one He meant. In the other three Gospels, the authors didn’t specify this interaction, yet noted the disciples asked Jesus to identify His betrayer.

Who is this beloved disciple? He is again solely referenced as standing at the foot of the cross during Jesus’ crucifixion. Jesus’ other male disciples were in hiding at the time. John is the only Gospel to note the words on the cross “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews” were written in Aramaic, Latin, and Greek.

Blood and Living Water

Furthermore, John uniquely highlighted the way the Roman soldier pierced Jesus’ side and the immediate outpouring of blood and water.

“The man who saw it has given testimony, and his testimony is true. He knows that he tells the truth, and he testifies so that you also may believe.”[7]

As Brant Pitre has pointed out, the piercing in Jesus’ side corresponds to Adam and the time when the Lord opened Adam’s side to bring about Eve.[8] The blood of the Lamb is also referenced in Exodus and Revelation as a sacrifice for sins, while living waters are referenced throughout the Old and New Testaments.

“The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect, and you may take them from the sheep or the goats. Take care of them until the fourteenth day of the month, when all the members of the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight. Then they are to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the doorframes of the houses where they eat the lambs.”[9]

As a year old, the lamb would have been considered of prime adult age. Luke tells us that Jesus was around 30 years old when He began His ministry, which is a prime age for adults. In Jewish customs, priests could not begin their ministries until they reached the age of 30.[10]

“For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light.”[11]

“On that day a fountain will be opened to the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and impurity.”[12]

“On that day living water will flow out from Jerusalem, half of it east to the Dead Sea and half of it west to the Mediterranean Sea, in summer and in winter.

The Lord will be king over the whole earth. On that day there will be one Lord, and his name the only name.”[13]

“Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”[14]

“These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”[15]

Following Jesus’ crucifixion on Sunday, the apostle John uniquely reported that he outran Peter in their race to Jesus’ empty tomb.[16]

During the 40-day period of Jesus’ resurrection appearances, John reported an interaction he, Peter, and Jesus had. “Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, ‘Lord, who is going to betray you?’).”[17]  Jesus predicted that Peter would one day be led to a place he wouldn’t want to go. When Peter asked about the fate of Jesus’ beloved disciple, Jesus indicated that he shouldn’t be concerned. Church traditions suggest John was the only apostle not to be martyred, having been exiled to Patmos.

Do we have further evidence of John’s occupation as a fisherman? Yes. In John 21, John uniquely shares the post-resurrection miraculous catch of fish and specifies the precise number caught: 153. The disciples present at this event were Peter, Thomas, Nathanael, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples. “The disciple whom Jesus loved” was the first to recognize Jesus, telling Peter “It is the Lord.”

Finally, he ended the book of John with the following verse (22:24): “This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down. We know that his testimony is true.” Eyewitnesses are the ones who testify to events and he made it clear he testified and documented the events as a disciple of Jesus.

The early church fathers and Christians, such as Eusebius, Ignatius of Antioch, Irenaeus of Lyons, Justin Martyr, Origen of Alexandria, Clement of Alexandria, Ptolemy, and Tertullian, supported the Gospels’ named authors. We have exactly zero ancient sources who attribute the four Gospels than to anyone other than the four named authors.

Let the ancients speak!

[1] Acts 1:13

[2] John 11:45-57

[3] John 11:50

[4] John 11:51-53

[5] John 18:15-16

[6] John 13:23

[7] John 19:35

[8] Genesis 2:21-23

[9] Exodus 12:5-7

[10] Mike Winger: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tbwylmj26SU

[11] Psalm 36:9

[12] Zechariah 13:1

[13] Zechariah 14:8-9

[14] John 4:14

[15] Revelation 7:14

[16] John 20:3,8

[17] John 21:20-22

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