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Pierson Parker’s Objections to the Traditional Authorship of John

A list of objections to the traditional authorship of the fourth New Testament Gospel was conveniently summarized by Pierson Parker, “John the son of Zebedee and the Fourth GospelJournal of Biblical Literature 81 (1962): 35-43. The list has a mixed quality, with some of the reasons compelling, others a little repetitive, and a few hardly defensible. I have listed his points below with the page numbers in brackets:

  1. The Gospel lacks interest in Jesus’ ministry in Galilee or in the Apostle John’s mother (pp. 36-37).
  2. There are only three incidents involving fishing (6:4f, 21:1f, 9f) and two are found in the secondary appendix, despite the fishing profession of Zebedee and his sons (37)
  3. The triumvirate of Peter, James, and John in the Synoptic Gospels only appear together in the appendix of John (p. 37).
  4. It is difficult to imagine how the emotional and wrathful “son of thunder” wrote such a tranquil Gospel (p. 37).
  5. Acts 4:13 describes Peter and John as illiterate and religiously unschooled. Whether it means to imply their total lack of literacy or just the fact that they were religious laypersons, neither characterization fits the evangelist’s fluency in Greek, historiographical conventions (e.g. the discourses), and scriptural and legal interpretations (pp. 37-39).
  6. It is difficult to imagine a bold person of action like John the son of Zebedee writing a contemplative Gospel (p. 39).
  7. In spite of the involvement of John the son of Zebedee in exorcism accounts (cf. Matt 9:32; 12:22; Mk 1:23, 32; 5:1; 7:24; 9:17; Luke 11:1; Mk 3:15; 6:13; 9:17, 38), the Gospel of John records no exorcisms (pp. 39-40).
  8. John the son of Zebedee accepted an apocalyptic eschatology (cf. Mk 10:35; 13:3), but the Gospel seems to mostly have a realized eschatology (p. 40).
  9. There is no rivalry against the beloved disciple, despite the fact that the sons of Zebedee made the other disciples jealous when they tried to get the seats of honor beside Jesus in the coming kingdom (cf. Mark 10:37) (p. 40).
  10. John the son of Zebedee was vengeful towards Samaritans (Luke 9:54; but see Acts 8:14-25), while John 4 is quite inclusive of Samaritans (p. 40).
  11. While Peter is the primary spokesperson in Acts over John, the beloved disciple takes precedence as the interpreter and leader over Peter (40-41).
  12. Other New Testament texts put John in second or third place behind Peter, while the beloved disciple is put ahead in a place of honor and as a disciple who receives special care (p. 41).
  13. The Gospel of John never names John the son of Zebedee (exception 21:4 where his first name is not given) (p. 41).
  14. The Gospel’s geographical knowledge is restricted to Samaria and to the south. Parker argues that the evangelist shows ignorance of Galilee when he calls the Sea of Galilee “Tiberius,” even though this was allegedly not used by the inhabitants (p. 41).
  15. The Gospel ignores Peter’s activity in Galilee (p. 42).
  16. It is unlikely that an uneducated Galilean fisherman was an acquaintance of the high priest in John 18:15 and John is treated like a stranger in Acts 4 (p. 43).
  17. Luke 24:12 is silent on anyone accompanying Peter, regardless of whether the text was original or a later interpolation, and this shows that it is unlikely that Peter’s companion would be an Apostle or he would have been remembered (p. 43).
  18. The Gospel of John is silent about any agony Jesus’ experienced in the Garden that would have been known to the Three of Peter, James and John (p. 43).
  19. The Gospel of John is silent on any preparations that the disciples made for the last supper (p. 43).
  20. The Gospel of John is silent on the resurrection of Jairus’s daughter that would have been known to the Three of Peter, James and John (p. 43).
  21. The Gospel of John is silent of Jesus’ transfiguration that would have been known to the Three of Peter, James and John (p. 44).

Parker thus concludes, “For John the son of Zebedee to have written this book, the personality which he brought before Jesus would have had to be not transformed, but blotted out” (p. 44). What do you think?

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