Biblical Dating and How Christians Stretch History to Suit—Take John son of Zebedee!

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Biblical Dating and How Christians Stretch History to Suit—Take John son of Zebedee!

According to Polycarp (65-155 CE) the bishop of Smyrna, the said disciple of the apostle John was arrested and burnt on the stake on February 23, 155 CE. Polycarp was born 35 years after Jesus 1-year ministry and execution according to the synoptic gospels before his crucifixion dated around 30 CE. However, most Christians prefer to take the Gospel of John as a 3 + year ministry, putting Jesus date of birth c. 4 BCE or thereabout, with some questions needed answering on the Gospel of John?

What is odd is that the apostle, John son of Zebedee, met his end probably at the same time with his brother James in 43 CE.  At the hand of King Herod Agrippa I (11 BCE-44 CE).  So, one has to ask the questions which John was Polycarp a disciple too, and who was the author of the Gospel of John (95-100 CE) and the various books accredited to him? However, according to Ehrman and many other scholars, the author of the Gospel of John never claims or intimates that he was John, son of Zebedee and brother to James.  

What of the named canonical Gospels or should we say the “The Memoirs of the Apostles” like Justin Martyr’s First Apology c. 150 CE, as he knows nothing of the four named Gospels we know today.

First, Jesus died around the year 30 CE, with the Gospels written after that. The first convincing quotations of the Gospels (there are probable allusions earlier than this, but these are the most certain ones) come in the writings of Justin Martyr (100-165 CE), around the year 150. Justin does not name the Gospels as Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. But, Justin does call certain books “The Memoirs of the Apostles.” Justin quotes them explicitly, as his quotations line up with Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John (its, debated whether Justin quotes John, but two quotations certainly make it appear that he knows John). 

Death of John son of Zebedee

The historian and author Harding in his book when referring to John and quotes from Papias ancient works and also the works of 20th-century scholar Shonfield, Harding wrote:                                     

It is well established that James was later put to death by Herod Agrippa about 43AD (Acts 12:2). Shortly thereafter, Herod died in the seventh year of his reign over Judea having suffered for five days with severe pains in his stomach. [Flavius Josephus, “Jewish Antiquities,” 19.343-350] According to the author of Acts, Herod was struck down by an angel and eaten by worms (Acts 12:21).

What about John? Did he escape Herod’s wrath? Apparently not. “We have a testimony. That both the sons of Zebedee, John as well as James, had been executed in Palestine in the early days of Christianity. And the words of Jesus quoted by Mark confirm that both had suffered by the time the Gospels was written,” says Hugh Schonfield* (1901-1988) in his book Those Incredible Christians published in 1968. Other Bible scholars have said the same such as R.H. Charles.

We know that Papias of Hierapolis aka Papias wrote stating that John son of Zebedee had died in early Christianity. Yet, both Catholic and Eastern Orthodox say that Papias was like Polycarp a “hearer of John” and both sources state that Polycarp and Papias were companions. What they do not agree on is the dates for Papias, with more than 70 years difference within all the sources of when Papias died—after 100 CE and 170 CE. However, Papias could not have been a “hearer of John.” When he already had written the obituary of John about a century after his death.


The anonymous Greek author of the Gospel of John tried to resurrect John, the apostle and in doing so dug themself into a hole he could not get out off. Papias, says that both John and his brother James were executed by the Jews, in early Christianity (c. 43 CE). John’s death was well before Papias and Polycarp were even born. It appears that Polycarp was delusional in his writings which shows that he preferred suicide to that of life, as an acknowledgement of the Emperor would have set him free from a fiery death.

What do you say on any part or all of this post?

Keep safe!





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