The Third John, and the Perpetuation of a False Doctrine!

The Third John, and the Perpetuation of a False Doctrine!

The New Testament is full of biblical figures having the same first name, like Mary, for instance. Mary Magdalen, Mary mother of James and Joseph and Mary the sister of Mary, the mother of Jesus.  Two Marys in the same family, who would have guessed!  It gets perplexing!  The same can be said of the name John.  The scholar Schonfield writing about the third John, as well as the deaths of John the son of Zebedee, and his brother James, wrote: We have 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 Jesus quoted by Mark confirm that both had suffered by the time the Gospel was written. When Paul wrote to the Galatians there were three eminent leaders in Jerusalem, James, Peter, and John. But the James of Paul was not the son of Zebedee, but the brother of Jesus, and we cannot therefore assume that John in this case was the son of Zebedee. The John who is associated with Peter in Acts could have been the son of Zebedee; but by the time of the Council of Jerusalem (c. 48-50*) he was ceased to be mentioned. The Beloved Disciple of the fourth Gospel was also associated with Peter, and his name appears to have been John.  But this disciple had a house in Jerusalem and was known to the high priest.  On the cross, Jesus entrusted his mother to his care.  It is brought out that he lived to a great age, so that it came to be believed that he would not die before Jesus returned from heaven to inaugurate his kingdom.  Of this John, it was reported that he had been a Jewish priest, and even that he had worn the high priest’s golden frontlet.  In his later years he resided in Asia Minor and was buried at Ephesus. The information comes from a reasonably reliable source, a letter from Polycrates bishop of Ephesus at the end of the second century addressed to Victor, bishop of Rome.

The real issue is only obscured by dragging in John, the son of Zebedee. What we need to know is whether the dynamic personality who flourished in Asia Minor at the beginning of the century; was the venerable Jewish priest who had been the Beloved Disciple of Jesus or some other man, the third John.

That there was a third John playing a very active part in Christian affairs at this time is no speculation. He was known as John the Elder (presbyter) and is mentioned in a well known passage found in the Exposition of the Dominical Oracles by Papias of Hierapolis, another Asian Christian, published about A. 140. [Hugh J. Schonfield (1968), Those Incredible Christians, Ch. 12, pp. 180/1, Hutchinson of London]. The (*) emphasizing the date is mine.

The time-honoured question is who wrote the Gospel of John, it certainly was not any of the Johns being mentioned above, the consensus of scholars say it was written by anonymous Greek scholars. But what of the Johns mentioned, well, most Christian factions, especially the more conservative, clump the Johns together into one, you can see this on any internet search.

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Jero Jones

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