REDATING THE NEW TESTAMENT. by J. A.T. Robinson SCM Press Ltd London.  First published 1976 by SCM Press Ltd 58 Bloomsbury Street, London Second impression 1977 © J. A. T. Robinson 1976. - Prepared for katapi by Paul Ingram 2006.

IX. The Gospel and Epistles of John

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SO finally among the books of the New Testament we turn to the rest of the Johannine literature. It is appropriate and relevant to put it this way because whatever the relationship between the Apocalypse and the gospel and epistles traditionally ascribed to St John there are implications to be drawn. Fortunately there is no need here to seek to establish in advance the authorship of all or indeed any of the books mentioned - or this chapter would have to be far longer than in any case it is. Indeed one of the facts about the remarkable scholarly consensus which we shall be noting on the dating of the Johannine literature is that it cuts across almost every possible division. Those who believe that all five books - the Revelation, the gospel and the three epistles - are by one man, and that man the apostle John, and those who hold to none of these, or to almost every possible permutation of them, find common ground in dating both the Revelation and the gospel and epistles in the years ±90-100.

Hort, as we have seen, with Lightfoot and Westcott, believed that it was possible to hold that the Apocalypse and the remaining books came from the same pen only if they were not written at the same time. The Apocalypse, they contended, came from the late 60s, while the gospel and epistles must be assigned to the last decade of the first century 'and even to the close of it'. [B. F. Westcott, John, xl; The Epistles of St John, 1883, xxxif. Westcott could not say which came first. Lightfoot, Biblical Essays, 198, held that the first epistle was intended to be circulated with the gospel, as an epilogue to it.]
They thus thought it possible to explain the great difference in their Greek styles, though this was not, as Hort insisted, a reason for the early dating of Revelation, which rested for him on independent grounds. [Op. cit., xl: 'It would be easier to believe the Apocalypse was written by an unknown John than that both books belong alike to St John's extreme old age. The supposition of an early date relieves us however from any such necessity, and the early date, as we have seen, is much the most probable on independent grounds.' But Armitage Robinson in his review of Hort's book, JTS 10, 1909, 8, had his doubts: 'I have long felt, and cannot get away from the feeling, that the adoption of the earlier date was primarily a result of apologetic controversy.' Yet it must also be remembered that Hort's lectures were first given in 1879, when this was the general view.]
Baur indeed argued for the early dating, and apostolicity, of the Apocalypse in the clear understanding that it had nothing whatever to do with the gospel, which he and his Tubingen disciples dated up to a hundred years later. If one thing has become clear in the century since Lightfoot, Westcott and Hort, it is that common authorship of the Apocalypse and the gospel cannot credibly be argued on the interval of time needed for John to master the Greek language. [Cf. Peake, Revelation, 57-63.]

The Greek of the Apocalypse is not that of a beginner whose grammar and vocabulary might improve and mature into those of the evangelist. It is the pidgin Greek of someone who appears to know exactly what he is about with his strange instrument and whose cast of mind and vocabulary is conspicuously different from, and more colourful than, that of the correct, simple but rather flat style of the gospel and the epistles. [For an exhaustive analysis of the stylistic differences, cf. Charles, "A Short Grammar of the Apocalypse', Revelation I, cxvii-clix.] Indeed what is astonishing is the number and the diversity of scholars who have clung to the tradition of common authorship - whoever that author may be. They include not only the more conservative Roman Catholics and English-speaking Evangelicals but such names as Harnack, Zahn, Lohmeyer, Preisker, Schlatter and Stauffer, and one is bound to weigh the final footnote which Beckwith appends to his long and balanced discussion of the issue:

The present commentator ventures to say that his earlier conviction of the impossibility of a unity of authorship has been much weakened by a study of the two books prolonged through many years.
[Apocalypse, 362. Similarly C. F. Nolloth, The Fourth Evangelist, 1925, ch.8, confesses that he still could not get away from seeing all the Johannine books as coming from the same mind over the same period.]

For all that one wonders, if it were not for the strong testimony to common authorship in the external tradition [The only breach in it is the powerful counter-argument of Dionysius of Alexandria (c. 247-65) quoted by Eusebius, HE 7.25, which anticipates most of the points made by modern critics. But this is not ancient testimony (he produces none except the hearsay evidence of two graves of men called John at Ephesus) but an early, and notable, application of critical principles.]
(which yet is no stronger than that for apostolic authorship, which many even of those who accept common authorship agree in rejecting), whether critics would ever have thought of ascribing such superficially (and not so superficially) diverse writings to the same hand. [It is to be observed that even at the points of overlap their vocabulary is subtly different - e.g. Rev. 'the Word of God': John 'the Word'; Rev. 'the Lamb': John 'the Lamb of God'; Rev.ἀρνίον: John ἀμνός; Rev. Ἰερουσαλήμ: John Ἱεροσόλυμα; Rev. ἒθνη, the heathen: John ἒθνος, the Jewish nation.] Nevertheless some association between them is ultimately undeniable. Even if they are not the product of the same 'school', [So e.g. J. Weiss, Bousset, Moffatt, Barrett, Brown. But it is certainly not fair, as some of these do, to regard the differences of style between the Apocalypse and the other Johannine writings and those within the latter group as comparable, as though they could all be put down to different disciples of the same master. The latter are differences of degree, the former of kind.]
the Apocalypse seems to presuppose at the very least some familiarity with Christianity in the Johannine idiom. Since the writer has evidently had an association with the congregations of the Ephesus area over an extended period (cf. Rev.2.4,19; 3.2; etc.), then, if the Apocalypse is to be dated between 68 and 70, this presupposes the presence of Johannine-type teaching in western Asia Minor at any rate in the early 60s, if not earlier. This, of course, carries no implications for the dating of the actual gospel or epistles of John, which could have been written a good deal later - or earlier. But it is a factor that must be taken into account in any overall hypothesis.
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Meanwhile it will be better to begin at the other end and ask what is the evidence, external and internal, for dating the gospel and epistles. And of these, whichever way round they turn out to have been written, the gospel is clearly the determinative document: the evidence to be derived from the epistles has to be brought in to test any hypothesis framed for the gospel rather than vice versa.

If then we start, as we did with the Apocalypse, with the external evidence for the date of the gospel, we come up against the fact that it is much vaguer, and less secure, than it is for the Apocalypse. This is paradoxical because, while Lightfoot, Westcott and Hort declined to accept what Hort admitted to be the powerful external evidence for the dating of the latter in the time of Domitian, they, with all the other conservative scholars who argued for apostolic authorship, accepted virtually without question the traditional picture of the fourth gospel as the product of the last years of a very old man. [Cf. Westcott, John, xxxvi. For a popular presentation of this picture, cf. J. Armitage Robinson, The Study of the Gospels, 1902, 151-7.]

Yet if we ask what is the origin and basis of this tradition, it is extraordinarily elusive. That the apostle John lived to a great age, into the reign of Trajan (98-117), [Irenaeus, Ado. haer. 2.22.5; 3.3.4; quoted Eusebius, HE 3.23.31. Jerome, De vir. ill. 9, places his death in 'the 68th year after our Lord's passion', i.e. c. 98.] and that he was the last evangelist to write [Irenaeus, Adv. haer. 3.1.1, Clement, apud Euseb. HE 6.14.7; and Eusebius himself, he 3.24.7.]
are both well attested in the tradition. But that he wrote as a very old man is an inference which only appears late and accompanied by other statements which show that it is clearly secondary and unreliable. The Muratorian Canon describing the origin of the gospel
[Text in K. Aland (ed.), Synopsis Quattuor Euangeliorum, Stuttgart 61969, 538, or in translation in C. K. Barrett, The Gospel according to St John, 1955, 96f.]
suggests no date, but it presupposes that John's 'fellow-disciples' including Andrew are still alive and with him, and thus argues against a very late period. The so-called Anti-Marcionite Prologue [Aland, op. cit., 533; Barrett, John, 96.]
records that 'the gospel of John was revealed and given to the churches by John while still in the body' (in some mss 'after writing the Apocalypse'). But it is improbable that this statement rests, as it claims, on the authority of Papias, since Eusebius quotes nothing from him on the fourth gospel and would surely have done so if he had had anything to say. It is even more improbable that, as the Prologue asserts, the gospel was 'dictated' to Papias, and quite impossible that Marcion (who taught in Asia Minor c. 130) was 'rejected' by John. Victorinus (died c. 304) also says that John wrote the gospel after the Apocalypse,
[Migne, PL 5.333; tr. Westcott, John, xxxvi. So too the Monarchian Prologue (Aland, op. cit., 538).]
but sees it as written against (among others) Valentinus, who taught in the middle of the second century. Epiphanius (c. 315-403) says explicitly [Haer.51.12. The Greek text is quoted by Zahn, INT III, 1971.; tr. Hort, Apocalypse, xviii. Zahn concedes that 'not one of the Church Fathers (Irenaeus, Clement, Origen, Eusebius) says that John wrote his Gospel after his return from Patmos and therefore after the completion of Revelation', but he regards this as confirmed by later tradition.] that John, refusing in his humility to write a gospel, was compelled by the Holy Spirit to do so in his old age, when he was over ninety, after his return from Patmos and after living 'many years' (ἱκανὰ ἒτη) in Asia. Yet, as we have seen, [P. 224 above.] Epiphanius combined this with the confused statements that John's banishment took place 'under the emperor Claudius' (!) and that he prophesied under that emperor 'before his death.' [Haer. 51.33.] Later, Georgius Hamartolus in the ninth century says in his Chronicle:
[Text in Lightfoot, AF, 519; tr., 531.]

After Domitian Nerva reigned one year, who recalled John from the island, and allowed him to dwell in Ephesus. He was at that time the sole survivor of the twelve Apostles, and after writing his Gospel received the honour of martyrdom.

He is of interest only because he claims to base the martyrdom of John on a statement of Papias; but this is notoriously doubtful. [It is unnecessary at this date to expose once again the weakness of the evidence for an early martyrdom of John; for it has ceased to be considered seriously as a factor in assessing the authorship or date of the Gospel. Cf. A. M. Hunter, 'Recent Trends in Johannine Studies', ExpT 71, 1959-60, 222: 'We agree with W. L. Knox that those who accept the early martyrdom of the Apostle show a quite monumental preference for the inferior evidence.']
With regard to the date of the gospel he is merely repeating earlier tradition. The same is true, finally, of another very late version of the Papias legend, [Catena Patr. Graec, in S. Joan. Prooem., first published by B. Corder, Antwerp 1690. Text in Lightfoot, AF, 524; tr., 535.]
which records that

last of these, John, surnamed the Son of Thunder, when he was now a very old man, as Irenaeus and Eusebius and a succession of trustworthy historians have handed down to us, about the time when terrible heresies had cropped up, dictated the gospel to his own disciple, the virtuous Papias of Hierapolis, to fill up what was lacking in those who before him had proclaimed the word to the nations throughout all the earth.

But it is certain that Irenaeus and Eusebius did not say that John dictated his gospel either to Papias or 'when he was now a very old man'.

I have cited this evidence in some detail, most of it worthless, to show how thin is the external testimony for dating (in contrast with authorship). Even the tradition that John wrote after the Synoptists (at whatever date) is based on the theory that his purpose was either to complement them by giving the 'spiritual' as opposed to the 'bodily' facts (Clement) or to supplement them by additional matter at the beginning of the ministry (Eusebius). But neither of these is any more than a guess unsubstantiated by critical study.

There is in fact an alternative tradition about the writing of the gospel which is equally legendary, but since I have not seen it quoted in any discussion of the question it is perhaps worth inserting as an interesting corrective. It occurs in the Syriac History of John, which we had occasion to mention earlier as placing the banishment of John under Nero. [Wright, II, 3-60 (see p. 224 above). It is to be distinguished from the Acts of John (Hennecke, NT Apoc. II, 188-259), whose only point of contact is with the account, in a separate Syriac manuscript, of John's death (Wright, 61-8; Hennecke, 256-8). There is no other mention of the History of John in Hennecke, nor is it included in any other collection of apocrypha known to me. Whereas the Greek Acts of John are docetic and rather dreary (and contain no account of the writing of the gospel) the Syriac History is thaumaturgical and much more entertaining. John gets employed as an assistant attendant at the public baths at Ephesus, the takings immediately go up, the procurator's son is discovered bathing in the nude with a harlot, struck dead in judgment, resuscitated, and finally 39,205 persons are baptized by John in a single night and day!]

This puts the arrival of John in Ephesus quite early, the city being the first to receive the gospel of Christ (after, apparently, Edessa in eastern Syria, evidently the home of this tradition as of those mentioned in Eusebius, HE 1.13). He came as a youth, and even after a long interval, when the other gospels had been written (in the canonical order), John hesitated to write lest they should say, 'He is a youth'. But he was prevailed upon to do so after some days' persuasion by Peter and Paul, who visited him in Ephesus before going on to see James in Jerusalem. It also says that John lived on to the age of one hundred and twenty, yet combines this tradition and that of his writing last with a date for the gospel prior to the deaths of Peter and Paul (who, it agrees, were slain by Nero) and indeed of James. This totally independent and eccentric chronological tradition, though worthless as history, is nevertheless remarkable - at whatever date it comes from. [R. H. Connolly, 'The Original Language of the Syriac Acts of John', JTS 8, 1907, 249-61, argues (against Wright) that it is an original Syriac composition and comes from the end of the fourth century or earlier.]
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The story of the dating of the fourth gospel in modern scholarship is an extraordinarily simple one. On the one hand, the conservatives have not had occasion (at any rate until very recently) [Cf. p. 308 below.] to shift their position and have consistently put the gospel in or about the last decade of the first century. [Even H. P. V. Nunn, who polemizes against every other aspect of modem criticism of the gospel, accepts without question that the gospel and epistles of John were written 'late in the first century or early in the second century' (The Authorship of the Fourth Gospel, Eton 1952, 117).]
On the other hand, the radical critics like Baur began by dating it anything up to 170
[The terminus ad quem was its first citation by name c. 180 by Theophilus of Antioch, Ad Autolyc. 2.22.]

and have since steadily come down. Thus, P. W. Schmiedel, who wrote the article on John, Son of Zebedee, in the Encyclopaedia Biblica, occupied a mediating position with a date between 132 and 140. [P. W. Schmiedel, TheJohannine Writings, ET, 1908, 200f.] The upper of these two dates represented the first at which he believed the gospel was quoted (and that still not by name), the lower the revolt of Bar-Cochba, to whom he saw an allusion in John 5.43: 'If another comes self-accredited you will welcome him.' There has been much discussion as to whether the gospel is quoted, or rather presupposed, in the language used by Ignatius and Justin Martyr. Certainly there are no direct citations, as there is (without acknowledgment) of I John 4.2f. in the epistle of Polycarp (7.1). Yet Johannine thought-forms unquestionably lie behind a number of passages, [Especially Ignatius, Magn. 7.1; 8.2; Philad. 7.1; Justin, Apol. 1.61; Dial. 63,88, 91. The parallels are set out in Barrett, John, 93f., whose presentation is always admirably accurate and fair even when (though not here) I find myself dissenting from his conclusions. For a fuller discussion, cf. J. N. Sanders, The Fourth Gospel in the Early Church, Cambridge 1943; C. Maurer, Ignatius van Antioch und das Johannes-evangelium, Zurich 1949; and especially F. M. Braun, Jean Ie Theologien, I: Jean Ie Theologien et son euangile dans I'eglise ancienne, Paris 1959.] and if the gospel itself had not been written by then one has to posit some other (unknown) form of the same tradition. It seems easier to believe that it is the document we know which is being presupposed. [Cf. R. E. Brown, The Gospel according to John (Anchor Bible), New York 1966-70, I, Ixxxi, who concludes: 'An objective evaluation would seem to indicate that the argument for the late dating of John because the Gospel was not used in the early second century has lost whatever probative force it may have had.'] But the issue has largely become academic from the point of view of dating the gospel. Thus, Bultmann, who asserts without hesitation (or argument) that 'without question Ignatius did not make use of it', agrees that it cannot be later than c. 120. [R. Bultmann, The Gospel of John, ET Oxford 1971, 12. The introduction to the ET from which these words and the dating are taken is by W. Schmithals.]
top The decisive factor has been the discovery in Egypt of a papyrus fragment (P52-- see above! ) of the gospel itself from the first half of the second century, [Cf. Brown, John I, Ixxi: 'The dating of this papyrus to 135-50 has been widely accepted; and the latest attempt to date the New Testament papyri by K. Aland, NTS 9, 1962-3,307, assigns to P52 a date at the "beginning of the second century".'] together with fragments of an unknown gospel from c.150, [Egerton Papyrus 2; edd. H. I. Bell and T. C. Skeat, Fragments of an Unknown Gospel, 1935.] which almost certainly draws on John. [So Dodd, 'A New Gospel' in NT Studies, 12-52; and Jeremias in Hennecke, NT Apoc. I, 95. It is significant that it appears to reflect the text of John's gospel but only synoptic-type tradition rather than quotations from the gospels themselves. By contrast exactly the opposite seems to be true of the 'Secret Gospel of Mark', which betrays clear knowledge of the text of Mark but (at most) echoes of the Johannine tradition. In fact, pace R. E. Brown, 'The Relation of the "Secret Gospel of Mark" to the Fourth Gospel', CBQ 36, 1974, 466-85,1 am not persuaded of literary dependence in either direction. I would see in the Secret Gospel an independent version of. the story of the raising of Lazarus, related to the gospel of John in the same kind of way in which I believe the parables in the Gospel of Thomas are related to those in the synoptic gospels. Its significance is that it supplies us with an independent (albeit in this instance much inferior) version of a miracle that has hitherto stood alone and has indeed often been regarded as an invention of John's to illustrate his theological theme.] As  Kummel summarizes the present situation, [INT, 246.]

If John was known in Egypt in the first quarter of the second century, the beginning of the second century is a terminus ad quern. On the other hand, John's knowledge of Luke is extremely probable, so it could not have been written before ca. 80-90. The assumption that John was written probably in the last decade of the first century is today almost universally accepted.

Before turning to the terminus a quo, it is interesting to observe how remarkably general is the consensus at this point. With marginal variation at each end (and even Bultmann goes down as far as 80 for the first composition), the span 90-100 is agreed by Catholic and Protestant, by conservative and radical, by those who defend apostolic authorship and those who reject it, by those who believe that John used the synoptists and those who do not. It includes virtually all those who have recently written commentaries on the gospel, [E.g. J. H. Bernard (ICG), 1928; G. H. C. Macgregor (Moffatt NTC), 1928; E. C. Hoskyns (ed. F. N. Davey), 1940; 21947; R. Bultmann (KEKNT 2), Gottingen 1941; ET Oxford 1971; A. Wikenhauser, Regensburg 1949; '1961; H. Strathmann, Gottingen 1951; W. F. Howard in The Interpreter's Bible, New York 1952; C. K. Barrett, 1955; R. H. Lightfoot (ed. C. F. Evans), Oxford 1956; A. Richardson, 1959; R. V. G. Tasker (Tyndale NTC), 1960; A. M. Hunter, Cambridge 1965; R. Schnackenburg, I, Freiburg 1965; ET London 1968; II, 1971; R. E. Brown (Anchor Bible), New York 1966-70; J. N. Sanders (ed. B. A. Mastin; Black's NTC), 1968; J. Marsh (Pelican NTC), Harmondsworth 1968; J. C. Fenton (New Clarendon Bible), Oxford 1970; B. Lindars (NCB), 1972.]
not to mention other interpreters. It is one of the relatively few points at which over a span of two generations Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible and The Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible agree, and the consensus includes now the redaction-critics. [Cf. Marxsen, INT, 259; Perrin, NTI, 229f.]
Indeed many commentators (e.g. Schnackenburg) scarcely bother to discuss the issue of dating, and the space it occupies in introductions, whether to the New Testament or to the gospel, compared with that of authorship is minimal. [An exception, from an earlier period, is H. Latimer Jackson, The Problem of the Fourth Gospel, Cambridge 1918, who devotes two chapters (2 and 6) to arriving at a similar conclusion (c. 100 (?90)-125). But this was before the discovery of the papyri.]
Kummel's two-sentence summary quoted above is typical: the question appears to be settled.

Yet it is typical also that he does not advance a single positive reason why this date, roughly corresponding to the end of the reign of Domitian, is the right one. It is reached purely by a process of elimination. Yet if it is appropriate to the Apocalypse, then one would have thought that almost by definition it would not fit the fourth gospel (traditionally from the same circle in the same area) - or indeed the Johannine epistles, which breathe no hint of public persecution. It is therefore at least worth asking, since the ceiling is now more or less fixed, whether the floor is really as secure as hitherto it has seemed to conservative and radical alike.

The reason for it given by Kummel is John's use of Luke. Similarly, Barrett writes with assurance:

A terminus post quem may easily be fixed. John knew Mark; he not only knew it but had thoroughly mastered its contents, and expected his readers also to be familiar with them. There is wide agreement that Mark was written either not long before, or soon after, ad 70. We must allow time for Mark to reach the place in which John was written and to be studied and absorbed. This brings us to a date certainly not earlier than ad 80; 90 would perhaps be a safer estimate.
[Op. cit., 108. It is interesting that Zahn, who argues strongly for apostolic authorship, makes an almost identical assessment, namely, that the presupposing of the synoptists by John brings the earliest date for the composition of the gospel down to 'the year 75, probably to some time between 80 and 90' (INT III, 335).]

Yet the confidence with which these statements can be made has diminished dramatically in the twenty years since Barrett wrote. For he is now in a minority of Johannine scholars in holding to what used to be the critical orthodoxy, [For a recent reaffirmation of C. K. Barrett's position, cf. 'John and the Synoptic Gospels', ExpT 85, 1973-4, 228-33. He rightly observes: 'If the traditional date of the gospel is correct one wonders where the evangelist can have lived if indeed he knew none of the earlier gospels' (233). But he does not think to question 'the traditional date'.] represented for instance by Streeter [FG.ch.14.], that John certainly used Mark, probably Luke and possibly Matthew. The work of P. Gardner-Smith [P. Gardner-Smith, St John and the Synoptic Gospels, Cambridge 1938.]
and Dodd [C. H. Dodd, Historical Tradition in the Fourth Gospel, Cambridge 1963.]
has convinced most recent scholars that, whatever the cross-fertilization between the traditions, John is not dependent upon the synoptists for his material and therefore does not for this reason have to be dated after them. But there is no need here to argue the case afresh, since it is not of itself decisive for dating purposes. Even if it could be shown that John could not have been written until after the publication of Mark, Luke or Matthew, we have already argued that there is no compelling reason to date these later than the early 60s. Equally, from the other side, those who have abandoned the argument for dependence still (as we have seen) wish to retain a dating towards the end of the century. This is true not only of the commentators listed above but of Dodd himself, who ascribes the gospel to an Ephesian elder writing between 90 and 100. He combines this view with the conviction that the tradition behind the gospels goes back a great deal further. [Similarly, T. W. Manson, 'Materials for a Life of Jesus: The Fourth Gospel', Studies in the Gospels and Epistles, 105-22.]
At all sorts of points, he maintains, it can be shown to be just as primitive as, if not more primitive than, comparable synoptic material and to reflect the religious, political and geographical conditions of Palestine and Jerusalem prior to the war of 66-70.

Since this is the position from which I myself began this investigation and which I have presupposed in previous publications on John, ['The New Look on the Fourth Gospel' in Twelve NT Studies, 94-106; 'The Destination and Purpose of St John's Gospel', ibid., 107-25; 'The Relation of the Prologue to the Gospel of St John', NTS 9, 1962-3, 120-9 (reprinted in The Authorship and Integrity of the NT, 61-72); 'The Place of the Fourth Gospel' in P. Gardner-Smith (ed.). The Roads Converge, 1963, 49-74.]
and since in one form or another it looks like becoming the new critical orthodoxy, I should like to devote some space to saying why it has come to appear to me unsatisfactory. For it is this dissatisfaction that led me, as I explained at the beginning, to reopen the question of the dating of the New Testament as a whole.

Published in his eightieth year, Dodd's great study Historical Tradition in the Fourth Gospel marked a watershed in Johannine studies. It converted what I had noted as one of several 'straws in the wind' blowing in much the same direction ['The New Look', 94.]into a strong presumption that the tradition behind the fourth evangelist is potentially as near to source as that behind any of the others. Yet the question remains, What was the evangelist's own relation to that tradition? Dodd has no doubt that it was an external and second-hand relation. He speaks of the tradition on which he 'depended' [HTFG, 59,431.], which he is 'following' [Ibid. 138,265,288.]or 'drawing on' [Ibid., 263, 387.], as material that 'came into his hands' [Ibid. 228; 'came down to him', 138; 'reached him', 180,217.]in the form of 'information received' [Ibid. 244,431.], which he then 'took over' [Ibid., 329.], 'made use of [Ibid., 243.]and 'worked upon' [Ibid. 244; 'put his mark on', 226; 'developed', 431.]to his own purposes. It is a curiously passive relationship - though twice it is suggested that the evangelist 'sought for information'. [Ibid. 24, 425.] But, however he acquired it, the presupposition is that he was 'incorporating material which, at a distance of place and time, he did not fully understand'. [Ibid. 94.]
And this distance is seen by Dodd as considerable. Indeed it is so great as to raise acutely the question of how the gulf was bridged and what was happening to the tradition in the interval. The evangelist himself and his gospel Dodd assigns to 'a Hellenistic environment' 'late in the first century'. [Ibid., 120, 243, 246.]
Though 'probably a speaker of Aramaic' [Ibid., 424.](though why, at such a remove of space and time, is not explained), his own interests were very different; and the argument is used more than once that he would have had no motive to invent the details he did. Dodd's concluding summary of John's account of the trial of Jesus is characteristic:

I doubt very much whether a writer whose work we must place late in the first century and in a Hellenistic environment, could have invented such a persuasive account of a trial conducted under conditions which had long passed away. It is pervaded with a lively sense for the situation as it was in the last half-century before the extinction of Judaean local autonomy. It is aware of the delicate relations between the native and the imperial authorities. It reflects a time when the dream of an independent Judaea under its own king had not yet sunk to the level of a chimaera, and when the messianic idea was not a theologumenon but impinged on practical politics, and the bare mention of a 'king of the Jews' stirred violent emotions; a time, moreover, when the constant preoccupation of the priestly holders of power under Rome was to damp down any first symptoms of such emotions. These conditions were present in Judaea before ad 70, and not later, and not elsewhere. This, I submit, is the true Sitz im Leben of the essential elements in the Johannine trial narrative. This narrative is far from being a second-hand rechauffe of the Synoptics. While there is evidence for some degree of elaboration by the author, the most probable conclusion is that in substance it represents an independent strain of tradition, which must have been formed in a period much nearer the events than the period when the Fourth Gospel was written, and in some respects seems to be better informed than the tradition behind the Synoptics, whose confused account it clarifies.
[Ibid., 120.]

Essentially the same point is made of his material on the topography of Jerusalem [Ibid. 180.], his awareness of the geographical and psychological divisions of Palestine before the Jewish war [Ibid., 243-6.], and his use of metaphors and arguments which would be 'barely intelligible' outside a purely Jewish context in the earliest period. [Ibid.,3III.;332f.;4I2f.]
One may well ask why it should have been to this remote and neglected quarry that the evangelist went for his information or why he should have chosen to take it as 'a starting point for his theological adventure' [Ibid. 312.] when his own interests and those of his public were confessedly so different. But what needs greatest explanation is the gap in the history of the material itself. For it bears all the marks of having been shaped in Jewish-Christian circles in Judaea, very much in touch with the synagogue, prior to the rebellion of 66 - and then to have suffered from an extended period of cultural isolation and arrested development until it was reused in Hellenistic circles of Asia Minor in the 60s.

At two points only does Dodd see traces of development external to Palestine. First, he thinks that the reference in John 4.53 to the officer in the royal service 'becoming a believer' with 'all his household' seems to reflect the experience of the Gentile mission as recorded in Acts. [Ibid., 193,426.] But this is very questionable. [I cannot detect, as Dodd argues, that the use of πιστεύειν in 4.53 differs from other examples of Johannine usage (e.g., to go no further, 4.4if.); and in the parallels in Acts (16.34; 18.8) the verb is not used absolutely, as here, but has 'God' or 'the Lord' as object.] The βασιλικός or king's man in Galilee is evidently a Herodian (not, as in the parallel synoptic tradition, a Roman centurion). Indeed the Gentiles (τὰ ἒθνη) are never mentioned in the gospel, [Cf. my 'Destination and Purpose', 109-12.]
and there is no other sign of contact with the Gentile mission as described in Acts or of the controversies it occasioned.

Secondly, Dodd supposes that

the 'Testimony of John', while it is well grounded in first-century Jewish belief and practice, and has only the slightest marks of the distinctively Johannine theology - and these readily separable - appears to reflect the situation such as that portrayed in Acts 18.24-19.7 for Ephesus, the probable home of this gospel. [HTFG, 426f.]

Even if this were so, the situation depicted dates from the period immediately before and after Paul arrived in Ephesus in 52. [Ibid., 300. Dodd dates it 55-7, but it must be earlier than that.] As Dodd says,

After that time the supply of such persons must have rapidly declined. I suggest that this gives a rough limit for the period to which we may assign the main development of the tradition here followed by the Fourth Evangelist. There can, I think, be no reasonable doubt that this tradition included very primitive material, but before it reached our evangelist it had undergone development in the environment indicated. [Ibid., 300.]

Even therefore if we assume that this Asiatic environment (and not merely a Palestinian one) moulded the interest of the Johannine tradition in Baptist-Christian relationships 'before it reached our evangelist', the influence is still remarkably early.

But when these two possible signs of external development have been noted, Dodd concludes:

It is the more remarkable how comparatively little the traditional narratives have been affected by late non-Palestinian influences, and how much has come through, even in the report of the teaching, in which we can recognize the authentic atmosphere of early Palestinian Christianity. [Ibid., 427.]

Yet this evidence of very early tradition in so late a document poses problems. Dodd gives several examples of bits of tradition that appear to have become 'frozen' in a very primitive state. Thus of the political background of the desert feeding vividly reflected in the attempt of the crowds to seize Jesus and make him king (6.15) he writes:

At the next stage it would disappear altogether, but the form of tradition which John followed had crystallized at just this stage, and our evangelist has preserved it as it reached him. [Ibid., 217.]

If it was locked away for half a century, how and where did it survive in this crystallized condition, with those 'almost forgotten elements in the background of the story which made it at the time so significant for the immediate followers of Jesus'? [Ibid., 222.]

Again, he writes of 7.23.,

If a child is circumcised on the Sabbath to avoid breaking the law of Moses, why are you indignant with me for giving health on the Sabbath to the whole of a man's body?',

which he says faithfully reflects contemporary rabbinic disputes:

The Sitz im Leben of such tradition must have been within a Jewish environment such as that of the primitive Church, and in all probability it belongs to an early period. Once the Church, by that time mainly Gentile, had ceased to have relations with the synagogue, such discussions would no longer be kept alive, and only isolated traces of them remain, embedded in the gospels.
[Ibid., 333.]

But again, we may ask, why and how this fossilized piece of Judaic tradition in a Hellenistic document of the late first century?

Finally, perhaps the most interesting and perplexing example of all is Dodd's suggestion that the predictions by Jesus of his going away and coming back in 14.3 and 16.16 antedate the development (already found in Mark) of such sayings into predictions of either resur-rection or parousia.

I suggest that John is here reaching back to a very early form of tradition indeed, and making it the point of departure for his profound theological interpretation; and further, that the oracular sayings which he reports have good claim to represent authentically, in substance if not verbally, what Jesus actually said to his disciples - a better claim than the more elaborate and detailed predictions which the Synoptics offer. [Ibid., 420. Cf. my Jesus and His Coming, 175 and ch.8 generally, where I suggested that if there were any authentic sayings of Jesus promising his own return they were probably something like those in John 14.3,18f,28; 16.16,22. I argued that the Johannine presentation of a continuing parousia beginning on Easter day represented a very primitive (as well as a very profound and mature) form of the tradition, before it had undergone the process of apocalypticization found in the early Paul and the later states of the synoptic material.]

Short of asserting ipsissima verba one could hardly make higher claims for any piece of gospel tradition. Yet again, how or why was this preserved apparently immune to subsequent influences or developments from the moment virtually when it left Jesus's lips till an Ephesian elder took it out of the deep freeze and 'incorporated' it two generations later?

If we ask by what route, or when, the evangelist received his material, Dodd is not very forthcoming. The most he will say is that it must have come 'directly or indirectly' from a circle of Jewish-Christian disciples in Judaea who were 'witnesses' to the tradition. [HTFG, 246f.]
Again, if we ask in what form the tradition was received, we are not taken much further:

That some parts of it may have been written down by way of aide-memoire is always possible, and such written sources may have intervened between strictly oral tradition and our Fourth Gospel. If so, I am not concerned with them. [Ibid., 424.]

But there is a gap here which strains credibility - and the more primitive the tradition incapsulated in the gospel, the greater the gulf. There are three possible ways out of this dilemma:

  1. One can deny that the tradition is as near to the events in space or time as is claimed.

  2. One can fill in the missing links and trace the continuities across the gulf.

  3. One can refuse to assume that the evangelist is as remote or isolated from his tradition as is asserted.

1. The first approach really consists in showing that Dodd and others have not made their case and reverting to a situation in which there is no serious gap because there is no serious historical tradition going back to primitive times. I do not believe that this can easily be done. There is no need here to repeat the mass of evidence which in recent years has led to a major revaluation of the historical tradition behind the fourth gospel, [It is conveniently summarized in popular form in A. M. Hunter's According to John, 1968. Cf. his bibliography, and E. Stauffer, 'Historische Elemente im vierten Evangelium' in E. H. Amberg and U. Klihn (edd.), Bekenntnis zur Kirche: Festgabe fur E. Sommerlath, Berlin 1960, 33-51.] reinforcing the conclusion, argued by conservative scholars all along, that it reflects intimate contact with a Palestinian world blotted off the map in ad 70. [From Lightfoot's lectures on 'The Authenticity and Genuineness of St John's Gospel' in Biblical Essays, 1-198, to L. Morris, Studies in the Fourth Gospel, 1969, especially 65-214. The external evidence is much stronger, I believe, than critics, e.g. like Barrett, John, 83-8, have allowed. Dodd, who thinks apostolic authorship improbable but not impossible (HTFG, 17), writes: 'His [Irenaeus'] evidence is formidable, even if it is not conclusive. Anyone who should take the view that in the absence of any cogent evidence to the contrary it is reasonable to accept Irenaeus' testimony is on strong ground. Of any external evidence to the contrary that could be called cogent I am not aware' (HTFG, 12).] Indeed I have lately become persuaded that, historically and theologically, it is our single most reliable guide to the exceedingly intricate (and historically unrepeatable) relationships between the 'spiritual' and the 'political' in the ministry, trial and death of Jesus. ['His Witness is True: A Test of the Johannine Claims' in Moule and Bammel, Jesus and the Politics of his Day.]

Even those who have no inclination to regard John as early draw attention not simply to pieces of historical detail embedded in later material (which could come from isolated sources) but to theological categories integral to the gospel which appear to be strangely primi-tive. Thus Cullmann writes: [O. Cullmann, The Christology of'the New Testament, ET 2I963, 38.]

Except for the Gospel of John and the first (Jewish-Christian) part of Acts, no New Testament writing considers Jesus the eschatological Prophet who prepares the way for God.
[For a full discussion of this category and its implications for an early dating of John, cf. F. L. Cribbs, 'A Reassessment of the Date of Origin and the Destination of the Gospel of John', JBL 89,1970, 44-6, and the literature there cited.]

F. Hahn [F. Hahn, The Titles of Jesus in Christology, ET 1969, 352.] too speaks of this 'antiquated Christology' in John which appeared at 'an early stage of the tradition' but was 'blurred and covered over by later Christological statements'. Referring to 'traditional material', not only in John 6.14f. (the prophet and king) but in 7.40-2 (the prophet and the messiah of David), 4.19 and 9.17 (a prophet), 4.25 (Μεσσίας) and 3.2 (a teacher sent from God), he says:

We have to reckon with a very early Christological tradition of the primitive church. In such pieces of tradition as Mark 6.1-5, 14-16 and 8.28 this has already completely faded.
[Ibid., 383.]

With regard also to the gospel's central category of 'sonship' Hahn writes:

The early view ... is still clearly preserved in the Gospel of John. The after-effect also shows itself here and there elsewhere in the New Testament.
[Ibid., 316; cf. Cullmann, op. cit., 302.]

I believe in fact and have argued [The Human Face of God, 186-90; 'The Use of the Fourth Gospel for Christology Today' in Lindars and Smalley, Christ and Spirit in the NT, 69-74.]
that we are nearer in this gospel to the original parabolic source of this father-son language and its Hebraic understanding in terms of character rather than status than in any other part of the New Testament.

As a further witness, the redaction critic J. L. Martyn, who sees John as anything but a source book for the Jesus of history, has to admit, not only that the attitudes which this evangelist records to 'the people of the land' (7.49; cf.9.34) 'stand proudly among the most accurate statements of Jewish thought in the whole New Testament', [J. L. Martyn, History and Theology in the Fourth Gospel, New York 1968, 93.] but that 5.27 appears in some respects to be the most 'traditional "Son of Man" saying in the whole of the New Testament'. [Ibid., 131.] For it is unique in retaining υἱὸς ἀνθρώπου without the articles, as in Dan.7.13; [Elsewhere even when there is direct allusion to this text it becomes 'the Son of Man' (Mark 13.26; 14.62; and pars; cf. Acts 7.56), except, interestingly enough, in the other 'Johannine' writing, Rev.1.13; 14.14.]
and in its καὶ ἐξουσίαν ἒδωκεν αὐτῶ it echoes the καὶ ἐδόθη αὐτῶ ἐξουσία of Dan.7.14.

That there is a connection of some sort to be drawn in John between genuine early tradition and late editing (and that the knot cannot merely be cut by denying the former) is after all the presupposition behind the problem that has most fascinated and perplexed recent interpreters and commentators, namely, the history of the Johannine tradition.
[Cf. especially B. Noack, Zur johanneischen Tradition, Copenhagen 1954; R. Gyllenberg, 'Die Anfange der johanneischen Tradition' in W. Eitester (ed.), Neutestamentliche Studien fur Rudolf' Bultmann (ZNW Beiheft 21), Berlin 1954, 144-7.] So without further argument we may pass to the second way in which the apparent gulf is to be bridged between the evidence for early source-material and the presumption of late composition.

2. As earlier we took as a sample the major contribution made by Dodd, so here we may select as a working model the impressive reconstruction of Brown. For in this he is representative, like Schnackenburg too [John, 100-4.], of those who desire to establish a link or links between an original apostolic tradition reaching back to the earliest times and what they take to be the necessity for a much later finished gospel.

Brown postulates five stages as a 'minimum' for the composition of the gospel: [John I, xxiv-ix, xcviii-cii.]

  1. A body of traditional material pertaining to the words and works of Jesus.

  2. The development of this material in 'Johannine' style and patterns through preaching and teaching, in oral and eventually written forms.

  3. The organization of (b) into a consecutive written gospel in Greek.

  4. A second edition by the same hand, expanding and adapting the material to meet new needs and groups of persons.

  5. A final redaction by another hand, though incorporating 'material stemming from the preaching days of the evangelist himself (and therefore at points not differing in style or vocabulary from the rest of the gospel).

This process is envisaged as occupying a considerable period of time. Stage (a) is dated between 40 and 60; stage (b), 'lasting perhaps several decades', and therefore overlapping (a), goes on till c. 75; stage (c), the first edition of the gospel, is set in c. 75-85; (d), its revision, occupies the late 80s and early 90s; (e), the final redaction, takes place c. 100. As far as authorship is concerned, (a) is held to go back to John, son of Zebedee; (b)-(d) are the work of his disciples and in particular of 'one principal disciple' (the evangelist); (e) is the work of yet another disciple (the redactor) after the evangelist's death.

The question of authorship is not directly here our concern, though we shall have to return to it. Brown's dating itself requires a span covering the literary lifetime of more than one man, but the differences of hand (confessedly minute) do not of themselves require a late date. Indeed at this point he is very cautious and admits that even the work of the final redactor cannot be isolated with confidence, since he introduced material that may not be 'any less ancient than material that found its way into the earlier additions'. The reasons for separating (a) from (b), and therewith for the introduction of the unknown evangelist (in contrast with 'the beloved disciple', who Brown argues to be John), [Ibid., xcii-xcviii.] are again not chronological. There is no gap, as in Dodd, between the evangelist and his source-material; for the disciple of the apostle is in close contact with him and belongs to his circle. Apart from the linguistic difficulty of believing that John, son of Zebedee, could himself have 'written these things', it is the later stages of composition, (c) and (d), that make it inconceivable for Brown that the finished form of the gospel could be the work of an eyewitness. Thus, he instances the final state of the story of the anointing in 12.1-7:

If modern criticism has any validity, then the anointing of Jesus' feet represents an amalgamation of diverse details from two independent stories, in one of which a woman anointed Jesus' head and in the other of which a sinful woman wept and her tears fell on his feet. ... The process responsible for such development can only with the greatest difficulty be attributed to an eyewitness.
[Ibid., c.]

But this judgment needs sifting. 'Modern criticism' has not shown this story to be an 'amalgamation' of two diverse stories, if by that is meant that it is dependent on the fusion of two other versions (viz. those of Mark and Luke) and is therefore secondary to them. Dodd and indeed Brown himself have shown that the case for such dependence has collapsed. [Dodd, HTFG, 162-73; Brown, John I, 449-54.] The Johannine version is from a literary point of view as independent and potentially near to source as the other two. [Cf. Brown, John I, 452, who argues that in comparison with Mark 'the account of the incident at Bethany that underlies the present Johannine narrative gives evidence in some points of being close to the earliest tradition about that incident'.] But this does not imply a claim that it describes 'exactly what happened', which, Brown asserts, an eyewitness 'presumably would remember', [John I, xcix.] or even that it is the most reliable version. John's account could well be a muddled reminiscence of the incident, or, as Brown supposes, of two separate incidents. In the course of teaching and preaching much assimilation, elaboration and adaptation can take place, even in the mind of an eyewitness. For, as Brown himself says, 'the conception of the apostolic eyewitness as an impartial recorder whose chief interest was the detailed accuracy of the memories he related is an anachronism' [Ibid., c.] - and in any case is far removed from the evident meaning of 'witness' in this gospel.
Dodd makes the point, [HTFG, 17.]in the course of his argument against apostolic authorship, that 'even if it were certain that the work was by a personal disciple, we could not proceed directly to the inference that his account is a transcript of the facts, or that he intended it to be such'; and he cites as an analogy Plato's account of the teaching of Socrates, whose personal disciple no one doubts he was.

This is not to argue that the fourth evangelist was the apostle John. It is simply to keep open the point that the sort of gradual process which Brown, like others, sees as lying behind the formation of the gospel does not of itself demand the interposition of a disciple at a further remove or a period of time exceeding the span of one generation. Indeed Brown himself sees the stages in the process as closely parallel to those which earlier we envisaged as lying behind the synoptists (where no one is contending for direct eyewitness), and in fact he bases his datings of the various stages of John almost entirely on this parallel. He takes 40 – 60 to be the formative period for the traditions behind all the gospels, and having accepted 75-85 as the date for Matthew and Luke he uses this for the first edition of John (with the second and third editions trailing on to the end of the century). Yet in the case of the synoptists we saw no necessity for prolonging the whole process (from the first preaching and teaching summaries, through the earliest proto-gospels, to the gospels as we now have them) beyond the early 60s. In the light of that chronology, is there good ground for more than doubling the time span in the case of the fourth gospel or should we not ask whether the pan passu development envisaged by Brown may not still hold?

3. This leads into the third way of resolving the dilemma posed by the apparent gap between the evangelist and his tradition - not simply by bridging it but by narrowing it. Why should the end-product be so late?

Beyond un-argued inferences from what he calls 'the usual' datings for the synoptists, there is one date cited by Brown which he believes gives 'a reasonably precise indication' for the terminus post quem of John's gospel. And with this we may begin. In company with many other commentators, he holds that its use of ἀποσυνάγωγος (9.42; 12.42; 16.2), and in particular the statement in 9.22 that 'the Jewish authorities had already agreed that anyone who acknowledged Jesus as Messiah should be banned from the synagogue', reflects the formal exclusion of Christians from Judaism with the introduction in c. 85-90 of the twelfth of the Eighteen Benedictions, against 'the Heretics'. But this is an inference whose precarious basis it is desirable to expose in some detail, since it is so frequently made.

The wording of the Benediction, which has suffered such modification that the original form cannot be established with certainty, is in any case far from precise and contains no specific reference to excommunication :

For the renegades let there be no hope, and may the arrogant kingdom soon be rooted out in our days, and the Nazarenes and the minim (heretics) perish as in a moment and be blotted out from the book of life and with the righteous may they not be inscribed. Blessed art thou, O Lord, who humblest the arrogant.

[Reconstruction and translation by J. Jocz, The Jewish People and Jesus Christ, 21954) 51-7; quoted Barrett, John, 300. Cf. H. Strack and P. Billerbeck, Kommentar mm Neuen Testament, Munich 1922-8, IV, 293-333 (and especially 329-33); Martyn, op. cit., 31-40,. 148-50.]

Its addition was intended as a test-formula, or shibboleth, [Cf. K. L. Carroll, 'The Fourth Gospel and the Exclusion of Christians from the Synagogues', BJRL 40, 1957-8, 19-32.]
which Christians who claimed to be Jews in every other respect could not recite. Since they would not withdraw from the community of Israel they had to be smoked out. It was directed against Hebrew Christians  [Jocz, op. cit., 52f., 57.] of an extreme Judaizing kind, for whom the fourth gospel would have been anathema. There is nothing to connect it with the situation in the kind of Greek-speaking city which Martyn makes the setting and starting-point of his highly imaginative reconstruction of the history of the fourth gospel. [Op. cit., 17-41. Commenting on this reconstruction W. H. Brownlee, 'Whence the Gospel according to John?' in J. H. Charlesworth (ed.), John and Qumran, 1972, 182f., holds that John 12.42 must describe an earlier situation such as called forth the Benediction: 'The evidence of the rabbinic malediction introduced in about ad 85 points rather to an earlier and not to a later date for the Fourth Gospel'.] Unless one begins with a late date for the gospel, there is no more reason for reading the events of 85-90 into 9.22 than for seeing a reference to Bar-Cochba in 5.43, which has long since become a curiosity of criticism. [Thus Carroll, BJRL 40, 191., asks: 'Why is it that John alone reports this development when the three earlier Gospels apparently know nothing of it? The answer to this question can be found in the late date at which the Fourth Gospel was produced and in the fact that the author, whoever he may have been, was a gentile'. Neither of these statements (the latter of which is entirely unlikely) is in any way derived from or based upon the evidence of the Benediction itself.]

A recent careful study by D. R. A. Hare regards the connection as entirely unproven. [D. R. A. Hare, The Theme of Jewish Persecution of Christians in the Gospel according to St Matthew, Cambridge 1967,48-56.] He makes the point that exclusion was already a regular discipline at Qumran, [Cf. 10.85.18; 6.24-7.25 ;8.16f.,22f.; CD 9.23; and Josephus. BJ 2.143, of the Essenes.] who used very similar language in anathematizing their heretics. Indeed the word describing the action in John 9.34f, ἐκβάλειν to throw out, is so common as to be used in similar circumstances of Jesus himself (Luke 4.29), Stephen (Acts 7.58), Paul (Acts 13.50), and of Christians by other Christians (III John 10). The warning of John 16.2, 'they will ban you from the synagogue' (though the term ἀποσυνάγωγος is unparalleled anywhere else), says no more than Luke 6.22: 'How blest are you when men hate you, when they outlaw (ἀφορίσωσιν) you and insult you, and ban (ἐκβάλωσιν) your very name as infamous'. [So Dodd, HTFG, 410, who makes the comment: 'The prospect of such exclusion was before Christians of Jewish origin early enough, at least, to have entered into the common tradition behind both Luke and John.'] It describes the kind of treatment recorded in Acts (13.45-50; 14.2-6,19; 17.5-9,13; 18.6f, 12-17) as meted out to Paul in the late 40s and early 50s and which in 50 Paul himself testifies in I Thess.2.14f. to have been true not only of his converts but, from still earlier personal experience (described in Acts 9.291. and 22.18?), of the Christians in Judaea:

You have fared like the congregations in Judaea, God's people in Christ Jesus. You have been treated by your countrymen as they are treated by the Jews, who killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets and drove us out (ἐκδιωξάντων). [It is significant that no reference to this passage is made in the lengthy discussion of the question by Martyn, nor for that matter by Barrett, Dodd or Brown.]

This last passage is also relevant against those who say that John's use of 'the Jews' represents a late and non-Jewish perspective. [For a recent estimate of this usage as part of the evidence that John betrays 'an intimate knowledge of Palestinian geography, history and religious thought', cf. Brownlee in Charlesworth, op. cit., 183.] For here it is being used of the very earliest period by Paul, a Hebrew of the Hebrews, of his fellow-countrymen with the same grim objectivity and apparent externality as in John. [Cf. II Cor.11.22-4, and the Jewish-Christian gospel of Matthew, 28.15.] Whether or not we say with Brown that it is 'almost unbelievable' that the agreement of John 9.22 reflects a situation in Jesus' lifetime, [John I, 380. Like Martyn, op. cit., 19, 31f., he thinks that it implies a formal agreement of the Council and refers it indirectly to the ordinance of the Synod of Jamnia. But the only other uses of συνεπιτίθημι in the NT (Luke 2.25; Acts 23.20) do not support this. When John wishes to indicate a formal decision of the authorities he makes it clear (11.47,53,57).]
there is no compelling reason to assign it to a situation that obtained only at the end of the first century. Indeed there seems to be no ground even for placing it (with Brown) among the material added to the gospel at a later stage. In any case, as Dodd points out, the sanction of excommunication from the synagogue is 'a menace which would have no terrors for any but Jewish Christians'. [htfg, 412.] It underlines the presumption found, I believe, throughout the gospel that those to whom it is addressed are, primarily at any rate, Jews rather than Gentiles.

Indeed, the entire absence from the gospel, to which we have already alluded, of any reference to 'the Gentiles' (or even to individual Gentiles, apart from Pilate and his soldiers) is as remarkable as it is unremarked. [Oddly I have not noticed a reference to it in the introduction to any of the commentaries (though I could easily have missed it). For the evidence again, cf. my 'Destination and Purpose', 109-I2.] This of course proves nothing as to date, but it stands in notable contrast to the assumption reflected throughout the synoptists, Acts and Paul that the rejection of the Jews is to be followed by the incoming of the Gentiles. It cannot be argued from this that there was at the time no Gentile mission, but it certainly pre-supposes a milieu where concentration on the presentation of Jesus as the truth and fullness of Israel was the all-absorbing task of Christian apologetic. Of no conceivable milieu was this true after 70 except in isolated pockets of Ebionite Christianity which still saw Christianity as tied to the Jewish manner of living (the 'Nazarenes' of the twelfth Benediction). And if anything can be said with certainty of the fourth gospel it is that John was no Judaizer or preacher of a narrow Jewish exclusivism. His Christ was the hope and light of the world, challenging and transcending all the legal and ritual limitations of Judaism, yet presented always in categories - of which the manna and the vine are typical - that would enable the Jew  to come to this truth as the fulfilment of everything for which Israel stood. [Cf. ibid., 109-12. To bear out what I said there, cf. Howard, IB VIII, 715, who, noting that the word in John 15.1 is that used in the LXX to translate Jer.2.21 (a true as opposed to a degenerate vine), writes: '"The true vine" means the genuine vine, i.e., the vine which corresponds perfectly to its name (Israel).']

So universally is it taken for granted that the fourth gospel reflects the situation obtaining between Jews and Christians after 70 that it may seem bold - or even naive - to question it. [Thus, in his latest treatment of the subject, The Gospel of John and Judaism, 1975, 40-58, C. K. Barrett simply takes over the traditional date of the gospel without further argument and proceeds to compare it with the Judaism of that period. For a statement of the contrary case, cf. Cribbs, JBL 89, especially 47-51.] The absence of reference to the Sadducees is frequently said to reflect their demise after 70: yet the chief priests and their party are certainly not absent, but still very much in the saddle. John never speaks of the scribes either - yet they certainly did not disappear after 70, but rather came to their own. In fact he appears remarkably well informed about the parties and divisions of Judaism before the Jewish war - [Cf. again my 'Destination and Purpose', 1171.] and repeated attempts to prove him ignorant or stupid tend to recoil upon those who make them. [Cf. Stauffer, 'Historische Elemente', 341.] While there are many things upon which in the absence of evidence it would be prudent to suspend judgment, there is nothing, as far as I know, which is plainly anachronistic or which positively requires a later perspective. Above all, there is nothing that suggests or presupposes that the temple is already destroyed or that Jerusalem is in ruins - signs of which calamity and of the difference in outlook it engendered are inescapably present in any Jewish or Christian literature that can with any certainty be dated in the period 70-100.
[Cf.ch.x below.]
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Of all the writings in the New Testament, with the exception perhaps of the epistle to the Hebrews and the book of Revelation, the gospel of John is that in which we might most expect an allusion (however indirect, subtle or symbolic) to the doom of Jerusalem, if it had in fact already been accomplished. For the focus of the gospel is on the rejection by metropolitan Judaism of the one who comes to his own people (1.11) as the Christ and King and Shepherd of Israel. This coming and this rejection must inevitably mean the judgment and the supersession of the old religion, represented by the law (1.17), the water-pots of purification (2.6), the localized worship of Gerizim and Jerusalem (4.21), the sabbath (5.10-18), the manna that perishes (6.311.), and much else. Above all it means the replacement of the temple by the person of Christ himself (2.21). Yet, for all the capacity of this evangelist for overtones and double meaning and irony, it is hard to find any reference which unquestionably reflects the events of 70. The saying about the destruction of the temple, which in this gospel (2.19) is not a threat by Jesus to destroy the temple (as the false witnesses at his trial in the synoptists asserted) but a statement (such as well could be the original of what was distorted) that 'if this temple be destroyed' he would rebuild it 'in a trice', is related to the events not of 70 but of 30. ['Destroy this temple and ...' is widely recognized as a Hebraism for the conditional clause. So C. H. Dodd, The Interpretation of the Fourth Gospel, Cambridge 1953, 302, who argues that the Johannine form of the saying is more primitive than the Markan. He is supported by Lindars, John, ad loc.] It is seen as a prophecy not of what the Romans would do in the rebellion but of what God would do in the resurrection.
The cleansing of the temple with which, uniquely, it is associated in John occurs not in the politically explosive context of the synoptists at the close of the ministry, where it foreshadows the end of the nation, but is focused entirely upon Jesus' all-consuming concern under the influence of the Baptist's preaching for the religious purity of Israel. [For an expansion of this, cf. my 'His Witness is True' in Moule and Bammel, op. cit.]

There is to be sure the explicit prophecy of Roman intervention placed on the lips of the Jewish leaders in 11.471.:

This man is performing many signs. If we leave him alone like this the whole populace will believe in him. Then the Romans will come and sweep away our temple and our nation.

Yet this is an unfulfilled prophecy. They did not leave him alone, and still the Romans came. Caiaphas indeed is represented in retrospect as prophesying truer than he knew - but this is not that the temple and nation would be swept away but that Jesus should die for the people
rather than
the whole nation be destroyed (11.49-52). It is in fact remarkable that there is nothing in John corresponding to the detailed prophecies of the siege and fall of Jerusalem. And this is true despite the fact that every other feature of the synoptic apocalypses (apart again from the preaching to the Gentiles) is represented in the Johannine last discourses: the injunction against alarm, the fore-warning against apostasy, the prediction of travail and persecution for the sake of the name, the need for witness, the promise of the Spirit as the disciples' advocate, the reference to 'that day', when, in an imminent coming, Christ will be seen and manifested, the elect will be gathered to him, and the world will be judged.
[For the detailed parallels, cf. my Jesus and His Coming, 172. I failed then to observe the significance of what is in the apocalypses but not in the last discourses.]

Arguments from silence can, of course, never be conclusive. There are however two further indications in John that Jerusalem and its temple are still standing.
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The first is in 2.20, when the Jews make the apparently unmotivated observation that Herod's temple has been a-building for forty-six years. [Cf. Brown, John, ad loc. Barrett's insistence that the aorist οἰκοδομήθη; must imply that the building had ceased (and that John mistakenly supposed that the temple was by then complete) ignores the exact parallel in Ezra 5.16, already cited by Bernard, John, ad loc., and earlier by C. H. Turner, HDB I, 405: ἀπὸ τότε ἓως τοῦ νῦν ὠκοδομήθη καὶ οὐκ ἐτελέσθη. From manuscript notes of my father's taken from another student I find that it was also cited by Lightfoot, whom little escaped, in his lectures of 1873, in a section on the history of the temple's building which he evidently added to the 1867-8 course on the 'Internal Evidence for the Authenticity and Genuineness of St John's Gospel' reprinted in Biblical Essays, i68.Johna.ao, he said, 'speaks volumes for the authenticity of the Gospel'.] This comports very accurately with the date at which, according to John's chronology, Jesus must be presumed to be speaking. [Cf. again my 'His Witness is True'.] The building was not finished till c. 63, shortly before it was destroyed. [Josephus, Ant. 20. 219.] Yet there is no presentiment of its destruction, as there is in the comparable comment on the temple buildings in Mark 13.2. But though the context would seem almost to cry out for such fore-boding, it may still be said that there is no reason why it had to be mentioned. In any case, the point in time is intended to reflect the perspective of Jesus, not of the evangelist - though the constant assumption is that this is not a distinction that John cares to observe or preserve.

But in the second passage the reference is quite clearly to the time of the evangelist. In 5.2 he introduces the story of the healing of the cripple with the words:

Now at the sheep-pool in Jerusalem there is a place with five colonnades. Its name in the language of the Jews is Bethesda.

This is one of John's topographical details that have been strikingly confirmed in recent study. [J. Jeremias, The Rediscovery of Bethesda, John 5.2, ET, Louisville 1966; 'The Copper Scroll from Qumran', ExpT 71, 1959-60, 228. Cf. more generally, W. F. Albright, The Archaeology of Palestine, Harmondsworth 1949, 244-8; 'Recent Discoveries in Palestine and the Gospel of John' in Davies and Daube, The Back-ground of the New Testament and its Eschatology, 153-71; R. D. Potter, 'Topography and Archaeology in the Fourth Gospel', Studio Evangelica I (TU 73), Berlin 1959, 329-37 (reprinted in The Gospels Reconsidered, Oxford 1960, 90-8); A.J. B. Higgins, The Historicity of the Fourth Gospel, 1960, 78-82; Hunter, According to John, 49-55; Brownlee in Charlesworth, John and Qumran, 167-74.] Not only does it reveal a close acquaintance with Jerusalem before 70, when the evidence of the five porches was to be buried beneath the rubble only recently to be revealed by the archaeologist's spade; but John says not 'was' but 'is'. Too much weight must not be put on this - though it is the only present tense in the context, and elsewhere (4.6; 11.18; 18.1; 19.41) he assimilates his topographical descriptions to the tense of the narrative. Of course too it is always open to the critic to attribute it to a source, which the evangelist has not bothered to correct - though such editorial introductions are usually regarded as the latest links. The natural inference, however, is that he is writing when the building he describes is still standing. [Cf. Bengel, Gnomon, ad loc.: 'Scripsit Joannes ante vastationem urbis.' So too Eckhardt, Der Tod Johannes, 57f., citing E. Schwartz and Schlatter to the same effect.]
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Let us then proceed to test out the hypothesis that the gospel of John reflects the situation before 70 because that is when it was written. And let us begin by looking at what is universally agreed to be the latest element in it, the epilogue of ch.21.

There can be no doubt that this chapter is an addendum or after-thought to the gospel as a whole, which reaches a rounded close at 20,31. It is unnecessary for our purpose to decide whether it was added by the same hand. Investigators are more or less evenly divided on this. [Cf. Brown, John II, 1080.] There are small variations in the style, [They are clearly set out by Barrett, John, 479f., who concludes that they 'are not in themselves sufficient to establish the belief that chapter 21 was written by a different author' - though he thinks it was.] though the similarities are so great [Cf. Lightfoot, Biblical Essays, 194f.] as to presuppose either deliberate imitation or a single author writing after a lapse of time or in different circumstances. It is clear in any case that 21.24, or at least the second half of it represents the endorsement of the Johannine community:

It is this same disciple who attests what here has been written. It is in fact he who wrote it, and we know that his testimony is true.

Again we need not stop to decide the question whether this is to be taken to mean what it appears to mean, namely, that this disciple wrote the gospel, or whether this conclusion may be avoided, either by taking γράφας to mean 'caused to write' [So Bernard and Brown, on the basis of 19.19, where Pilate presumably got someone else to write the titulus (though even this cannot be proved). Yet its use of a private individual to mean anything more indirect than the employment of a secretary (which would still make the disciple the author of the gospel as much as Paul is of Romans) cannot be demonstrated.]
ταῦτα to refer only to what has just been said or to the appendix as a whole, [So Dodd, 'Note on John 21.24', JTS n.s. 4, 1953, 212f. Yet this is an unnatural way of taking it; and it is difficult to avoid an echo of the ταῦτα γέγραπται of 20.31.] or by regarding the verse as a mistaken attribution added in good faith. [So Barrett and Lindars. There is of course no evidence for this except that they think it is mistaken.]
From the point of view of dating, the present participle μαρτυρῶν ('attests') suggests, until proved otherwise, that the disciple in question is still alive, and Zahn insisted strongly on this. [INT III, 239f] Nevertheless this has frequently been denied, on the basis of the preceding verses 18-23, whose interpretation is crucial.
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In this passage two sayings of the Lord are recorded, the first of which is referred to the death of Peter, the second to the death of the beloved disciple. The first runs:

When you were young you fastened your belt about you and walked where you chose; but when you are old you will stretch out your arms, and a stranger will bind you fast, and carry you where you have no wish to go.

In itself this is capable of wide interpretation. But the evangelist's comment,

He said this to indicate the manner of death by which Peter was to glorify God,

especially when taken in conjunction with his similar comments in 12.33 and 18.32 on the manner of Jesus' death and with the evidence that stretching out of the arms was itself a symbol of crucifixion,
[Cf. Bernard,
John,
ad loc.] leaves little doubt that he intended it to be seen as a specific reference to Peter's death by crucifixion; and the passage is so understood as early as Tertullian. [Scarp. 15: 'Tunc Petrus ab altero cingitur, cum cruci adstringatur.'] One may therefore agree with Brown, and the commentators generally, that the passage almost certainly presupposes the death of Peter. This puts it some time after 65, according to when we date that event. There then follow these words:

Peter looked round, and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following - the one who at supper had leaned back close to him to ask the question, 'Lord, who is it that will betray you?' When he caught sight of him, Peter asked, 'Lord, what will happen to him?' Jesus said, 'If it should be my will that he wait until I come, what is it to you? Follow me.' That saying of Jesus became current in the brotherhood, and was taken to mean that that disciple would not die. But in fact Jesus did not say that he would not die; he only said, 'If it should be my will that he wait until I come, what is it to you?'

From this Brown goes on to draw the deduction:

Seemingly at a considerable interval after Peter's death, a long-lived eyewitness of the ministry of Jesus passed away - n eyewitness who was intimately connected with the Fourth Gospel.
[John I, Ixxxv. The death of this eyewitness is to be distinguished from that of the evangelist (not for Brown the same man) who also apparently had died shortly before the epilogue was written (I, xxxix). Apart from the need to postulate another hand for ch.21, there would seem to be no evidence for this death either.]

But this is to read in a great deal. In the case of Peter the circumstantial detail gives good ground for believing that the saying of Jesus is being interpreted after the event. In the case of the beloved disciple all that is said is that Jesus' words were misunderstood to mean that that disciple would not die. This could certainly imply that his death had shown that that could not be their true interpretation and that a different explanation was therefore called for. Yet this is only an inference, and Brown admits that 'Westcott, Zahn, Tillmann, Bernard, Hoskyns and Schwank are among the many scholars who do not agree'. [John II, 1119. He could have added Lightfoot {Biblical Essays, 195f.). Nor was it the inference of the ancients, who are unanimous that the gospel was written and published by John 'himself (Irenaeus, Adv. haer. 3.1.1), 'in his own name' (Muratorian Canon), 'while still in the body' (Anti-Marcionite Prologue).]

But Brown also makes two other statements, namely, that the eye-witness was 'long-lived' and that the time of writing was separated 'seemingly at a considerable interval' from Peter's death. Neither of these has any support in the text. It is not the beloved disciple but Peter who is referred to as 'growing old' (γηράσης), and we have the testimony of Irenaeus [Adv. haer. 2.22.5: 'That the age of thirty years is the prime of a young man's ability, and that it reaches even to the fortieth year, everyone will allow; but after the fortieth and fiftieth year, it begins to verge towards elder age' (tr. Lightfoot, AF,554).]
that in the ancient world this was an appropriate description for anyone over forty or fifty: in fact Peter would presumably have been in or near his sixties when he died. With regard to the beloved disciple, it might today be a reasonable inference that if it was supposed of someone that he would never die it would indicate that he was hanging on interminably. But the perspective of the early Christians was very different: whether or not one would die depended on whether the parousia would supervene first. At the beginning all Christians expected not to die, and as far as we can tell Paul first entertained doubts on this subject for himself in the mid-50s. [In I Thess.4.I5-I7 he uses the phrase 'we who are left alive until the Lord comes' in distinction from 'the dead', and says again in I Cor.15.52, 'the dead will rise immortal, and we shall be changed'. But in II Cor.4.12 he writes that 'death is at work in us, and life in you' and in 5.1 contemplates the possibility that 'the earthly frame that houses us today' could well be 'demolished'. The events of 55-6, which made him despair even of life itself (II Cor.1.8), appear to have had a deceive effect. Cf. Dodd, 'The Mind of Paul: II', NT Studies, 109-18.] By the time of Philippians, which we dated in 58 but which cannot in any case be very much later, he is seriously debating (1.25) whether he would 'remain' (μένειν) - the very term used in John 21.2 2f. (cf. also I Cor.15.6) - though he is still convinced that he should. The debate has nothing to do with old age: Paul might by then have been in the latter forties or early fifties if he was a 'young man' (Acts 7.58) about the year 33. The same uncertainty about John (assuming, with Brown, that this is the intended identity of the disciple whom Jesus loved) need not presuppose a 'considerable interval' after Peter's death. [Cf. Brownlee in Charlesworth, op. cit., 194: 'In so far as 21.22 relates to believers generally, it could be very early. Cf. I Thess.4.13-18'.] On the contrary, all the evidence suggests that the latter 60s of the first century (not unnaturally in the light of what was happening both in Rome and Jerusalem) saw a quickening of the expectation that the end could not now be long delayed (I Peter 4.7) but that Christ would come very soon to his waiting church (Rev.1.7; 3.3; 22.7, 20), in fulfilment of the promise that that first, apostolic generation would live to see it all (Mark 9.1; 13.30; etc.). When therefore all the other 'pillars' (Gal.2.9) had been removed by death (James in 62, Peter and Paul in 65+) and John only 'remained', a supposed promise of Jesus that he would not die, but that the end would come first, must have fed fervid expectations of an imminent consummation. There is no reason to think that the correction of the error would have waited another thirty years. On the contrary, the association in our passage of this hope of 'staying on' with the parousia and the death of Peter strongly suggests that all three were closely linked. [Cf. Gaston, No Stone on Another, 458: 'There can be ... no question of a continual postponement of the parousia; it was expected at the end of the first generation, and then when it did not occur the church adapted with little difficulty to the longer perspective required by the Gentile mission. We can state here but by no means demonstrate our conviction that all of the New Testament writings which indicate a persecuted church with a heightened expectation of the nearness of the end: Mark, Rev., Hebs, I Peter, were written in the sixties of the first century' (note that Revelation is included). He thinks that John 21.23 and II Peter 3.3ff. are the only post-70 exceptions. But we have already seen reason to put the latter in the 60s.] It was damping false hopes of an apocalyptic intervention (from which consistently the John both of the gospel and of the epistles desires to detach the presence or coming of Christ), [Cf. not only John 14-16 but I John 2.18,221., 28-3.30; 4.1-3.] not correcting idle speculation based on longevity, which occasioned the need for an epilogue to the gospel - that and concern for the pastoral ministry of the church (21.15-17), another marked characteristic of the later 50s and 60s. [Cf. the Pastoral Epistles passim. For the stress in particular on tending the flock, cf. Acts 20.28f.; I Peter 5.2-4. Attempts to read into the stylistic (and textual) variations, ἀρνία, πρόβατα, προβάτια, latter-day ecclesiastical divisions, or even the age-groups of I John 2.13f., are entirely misguided (so Brown, John, ad loc.). There is nothing here to suggest or require a late date.] So provisionally we may date the epilogue shortly after the death of Peter in 65 +. This would mean that not only does it not reflect the destruction of Jerusalem but it could antedate the outbreak of the Jewish revolt, of which there are no more signs in John than I believe there are in the synoptists and Acts. Relations with Rome (represented in the person of Pilate) are still courteous and sycophantic to the point of irony (18.28-19.16).

Though it is not so clear nor so clean an addition, it can, I believe, be shown that the prologue is likewise a subsequent introduction, built like a porch into the original structure of the gospel. [For substantiation of what follows, cf. my 'Relation of the Prologue to the Gospel of St John', NTS 9, 120-9.] Its function, like that of the prologues to the first and the third gospels, is to provide the setting in which the theological history that forms the heart of the kerygma may be understood in its full cosmic context. Round what I believe to have been its original opening, 'There appeared a man named John sent from God' (1.6), closely parallel to the historical starting-points of the other gospels, [Cf. Mark 1.4; Luke 1.5; 3.2 (which could well have been the original Opening of Luke).]
has been built the hymn or meditation which we know as the prologue. [1.1-5,10-14,16-18, though vv.7-9 have doubtless also been recast in the light of it.] I see no reason to suppose that it was non-Christian in origin or to attribute it to another hand, though I believe it probable that, like the epilogue, it was added to the first edition of the gospel after an interval. How long that interval was can be estimated only after taking into account the evidence of the epistles, since the opening of the first epistle (I John 1.1-3) shows a number of obvious similarities with it and reads indeed as if it could be a first draft for it.

First, however, the prologue gives us occasion to ask, and indeed compels the question, whether its language and thought-forms, supremely among the Johannine writings, do not suggest or require a considerably later stage of development, and therefore date, than that with which we are now working. Arguments from development, even more than those from distribution or dependence, are, as we have already seen, extremely difficult to handle. How long should we allow for the kind of theological sophistication about the significance of Christ which the prologue unquestionably evinces? Is it thirty, forty, sixty, or a hundred years? It is impossible to quantify. One can only make comparisons; and here the relative fixity of the Pauline yardstick again is valuable. The nearest parallels for the pre-existence Christology of John's prologue are to be found in Philippians and Colossians (which we dated in 58), and also in Hebrews (67) and Revelation (68+). Simply from within the internal dynamics of Christian theology there appears to be no reason, as far as I can see, for demanding more time for the maturation of the Johannine idiom. The same upper limit as for the latter two books, permitting the best part of forty years' 'distancing' from the events, would appear sufficient. At any rate to require more time demands specific reasons or additional evidence which I cannot see are forthcoming.

But what about external criteria in the history of ideas in the surrounding world? The trouble here is that most of the influences or parallels suggested for the background of the Johannine thought-forms are themselves more difficult to date than the gospel. This is certainly true of the five main backgrounds surveyed by Dodd [Interpretation of the Fourth Gospel, 10-130.] - the Hermetic literature, Philonic Judaism, rabbinic Judaism, gnosticism and Mandaism. Of these only the evidence from Philo may be pinned down to a period which can constitute a probable background, as opposed to a possible environment, for the ideas of the fourth gospel. The material from the other milieux, whatever their influence, cannot be used for dating the gospel. Philo, even if he could be shown to be a direct source, died not later than c. 50, and cannot therefore argue for a late date. In fact it is coming to seem much more likely that Philo and John shared a common background in the Wisdom literature of the Old Testament, to which Philo gave a philosophic twist entirely absent from John. Brown [John I, Iviii.] accepts Braun's summary that 'if Philo had never existed, the Fourth Gospel would most probably have not been any different from what it is'.

The more recent evidence, which has come to light since Dodd wrote, from the Qumran scrolls and the gnostic library at Chenoboskion, has merely had the effect of undermining the grounds for putting John late. The Qumran material comes from the heart of southern Palestine before the Jewish war. [Amid the mass of literature on its relation to John, cf. Charlesworth, John and Qumran (with its lengthy bibliography), and for a popular summary, Hunter, According to John, 27-33. See also the earlier estimate of the thoroughly Jewish character of the gospel by Neill, Interpretation of the NT, 308-24.] Though certainly not suggesting or establishing any direct contact with or influence upon John, [There could be indirect contact through the disciples of John the Baptist, especially if the unnamed companion of Andrew in 1.35-40 is intended to be John son of Zebedee, as I believe is likely (so Zahn, strongly, INT III, 209-12, 224f.). Cf. my 'The Baptism of John and the Qumran Community' in Twelve NT Studies, 11-27; and Morris, 'The Dead Sea Scrolls and St John's Gospel', Studies in the Fourth Gospel, 321-58 (particularly 353f.); Brownlee in Charlesworth, op. cit., 174.]
it has killed any dogmatism that the fundamental Johannine categories must be Hellenistic and must be late. Equally study of the new gnostic material has served to demonstrate the gulf rather than the similarities between the fourth gospel and the second-century gnostic systems. [Brown's assessment at this and similar points is very judicious (John I, lii-lvi).] John's is at most what Reicke has, correctly I think, designated 'pre-gnostic' language, [B. Reicke, 'Traces of Gnosticism in the Dead Sea Scrolls?', NTS I, 1954-5) 137-41.]
and there is every reason to suppose that the kind of Judaism that formed a natural seed-bed for this way of thinking, with its speculative and mystical developments of the Old Testament and inter-testamental Wisdom themes,
[For the Wisdom literature as the best background for understanding John, cf. Brown, John I, cx-cxxv.]

went back well before 70. In fact the other evidence for this strain of gnosticizing Judaism in the New Testament - in Colossians, the Pastorals, Jude, II Peter and Rev.1-3 - all suggests that the late 50s and the 60s saw a burgeoning of it which was to create urgent new problems for the Christian church.
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I do not therefore believe that there is anything in the language even of the Johannine prologue which demands a date later than the 60s of the first century. But this may best be tested by turning aside at this point from the gospel to look at the evidence of the Johannine epistles, which, like the rest of the Johannine literature, have usually been regarded as belonging to a later generation.

Dodd dates them between 96 and 110, on the grounds that they are subsequent to the gospel and that 'the general tone of the epistles offers the strongest contrast to that of the Revelation, which shows us a Church enduring severe persecution and looking forward to yet worse'. [C. H. Dodd, The Johannine Epistles (MofFatt NTC), 1946, Ixvii-lxxi (Ixviii). R. Bultmann, Die drei Johannesbriefe (KEKNT 14), Gottingen 1967, 91., similarly argues that I John is later than John (and by a different hand) and II and III John subsequent to that. J. L. Houlden, The Johannine Epistles (Black's NTC), 1973, 1, also believes that the epistles were written later than the gospel by another hand and is content to say (without argument) that it is 'almost certain that all these writings date from the very end of the first century after Christ or the early decades of the second'.] Since Dodd puts the gospel, as we have seen, in the 90s and says that 'we may take it for granted that the Revelation belongs to the reign of Domitian', it follows that since 'these epistles were written in the same province of Asia' they must come from a good deal later - though he allows that a date before Domitian's persecution is 'not excluded'. This reasoning illustrates how relative are the arguments for much New Testament dating. And with writings apparently so timeless as the three brief Johannine letters this is inevitably true whatever one's chronological schema. But it suggests also that there are few solid obstacles to stand in the way of reopening the question.

In what follows I shall presuppose the setting of the epistles for which I argued in my article 'The Destination and Purpose of the Johannine Epistles', [Twelve NT Studies, 126-38.] though there I was still assuming a date at the end of the first century. The epistles were, I believe, written to reassure Jewish Christian congregations in Asia Minor, [For this aspect, cf. ibid., 130-3. Their essential Jewishness has been reinforced by close parallels with the language of Qumran (cf. especially Boismard, 'The Epistle of John and the Writings of Qumran' in Charlesworth, op. cit., 156-65). Not only is there still no reference to Gentiles in the church but in III John 6f. ἐθνικός is used in the typically Jewish contemptuous sense of 'the heathen', in the same contrast between the ἐκκλησία and the ἐθνικοί as in Matt.18.17: 'If he not listen even to the congregation, you must then treat him as you would a pagan.']
who were the product of the Johannine mission and in danger of being shaken from their faith and morals by false teachers of a gnosticizing tendency. In other words, the situation is remarkably parallel to that which we postulated for Jude and II Peter. Indeed we have observed earlier that Jude seems to stand to II Peter much as II John stands to I John. II John is a particular rather than a general pastoral letter, and its purpose may have been to give early warning of the new heresy ('If anyone comes to you', II John 10). In I John the false teachers, who are evidently peripatetic prophets (4.1-6), have clearly done their damage and have already persuaded some to leave (2.19).

The teaching indeed has much in common with that combated in Jude and II Peter. It evidently involves a denial of Jesus as the Christ and Son of God (2.22f.; 4.15; 5.1,5; cf. Jude 4; II Peter 2.1) and particularly of his coming in the flesh (4.2; II John 7). This docetic emphasis is new, and it leads both to doctrinal error - repudiation not only of the incarnation but of Jesus's coming 'with the blood' (5.6), i.e., probably, the reality of his sacrificial death (1.7; cf. 2.2; 4.io) - and to moral error. For if matter is unreal one can soon claim to be beyond morality - beyond sin (1.8-10), beyond law (2.3-5; 3.4) and beyond the material needs of the neighbour (1.9-11; 3.17; 4.20). It is this distortion of the teaching which his charges received, from a moral to a metaphysical dualism (with matter as indifferent or evil), that the writer sees as the root heresy, and this is characteristically gnostic. There is the familiar claim by the false teachers to give esoteric initiation and knowledge, which has to be countered by the Christian claim to the true knowledge and understanding (2.20f., 26f.; 5.20). We have already noted the similarity between the promise in II Peter 1.4 of coming to share in the very being of God and that in I John 3.2 of being like God because we shall see him as he is. The pretension of the heretics is evidently to be 'advanced' Christians (II John 9), going beyond both Judaism and the Christianity they have received. Yet there is no evidence here again of the developed gnostic systems of the second century. [I should be much less confident than I was in my article on the Johannine epistles (op. cit., 134-6) that I John 5.6 contains specific reference to the heresy of Cerinthus, that the divine Christ came upon the human Jesus at his baptism but left him before his crucifixion (Irenaeus, Adv. haer. 1.26.1). Cf. R. M. Grant, 'The Origin of the Fourth Gospel', JBL 69, 1950, especially 308-16: 'The precise relation of these statements to Cerinthus is so unclear that it seems difficult to believe that John had Cerinthus in mind' (315). Cerinthus' teaching, as represented by Eusebius (HE 3.28.1-5), of a carnal kingdom of Christ on earth, is very different, and whatever John's later opposition to this heretic (Irenaeus, Adv. haer. 3.3.4; cf. Eusebius, HE 3.28.6; 4.14.6), he is here best seen as attacking an adumbration of a more developed docetism, which is not yet as explicit as that combated by Ignatius (Smyrn. 1-3). So R. Schnackenburg, Die Johannesbriefe, Freiburg 2I963, 15-23; Kiimmel, INT, 441f.; Guthrie, NTI, 870f.] So far from teaching a myth of a heavenly redeemer or of multiplying intermediaries like the Colossian heretics, they appear to have proffered an unmediated God-mysticism, promising possession of the Father without the Son (2.23; 5.12; II John 9). The teaching is also connected, as in II Peter, with a false eschatology. It looks as if they too denied the Christian hope, repudiating the eschatalogical as well as the ethical dualism which marks the fourth gospel. So John is forced to insist upon it - while at the same time reinterpreting the truth distorted in its popular apocalyptic presentation:

My children, this is the last hour! You were told that Antichrist was to come, and now many antichrists have appeared; which proves to us that this is indeed the last hour (2.18).
Every spirit which does not thus acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is what is meant by 'Antichrist'; you have been told that he was to come, and here he is, in the world already! (4.3)

It is a different (more profound) way of turning the denial from that employed in II Peter. Yet John too is led into an uncharacteristic use of the same phrase 'his parousia' (2.28; cf. II Peter 3.4).

The other link between the Johannine epistles and II Peter and Jude [Oddly there is also a common reference to Cain (3.12; Jude 11) - the only Proper name in I John.]
is the notable absence of any reference to persecution - beyond the hatred that Christians must always expect from 'the world' (3.13). In this they stand in great contrast, as we have already noted, to the letters to the seven churches of Revelation (with which otherwise they have a number of similarities), and also to I Peter and Hebrews. These last three we dated between 65 and 68+, but Jude and II Peter we saw reason to put earlier, in 61-2. There would therefore seem to be much in favour of placing the Johannine epistles provisionally in this same period of the early 60s. II John was perhaps written shortly before I John. Ill John deals not with heresy but with the conflict over authority in the church's ministry, which also marks Jude and II Peter (and the Pastoral Epistles). There is no ground either from the use of 'the Elder' in v.1 or from the (very uncertain) position of Diotrephes in v.9, for assigning III John to the period of transition to the Ignatian monepiscopacy of the second century. [For the objections to Kasemann, 'Ketzer und Zeuge', ZTK 48, 292-311, who argues this, cf. Schnackenburg, Johannesbriefe, 229f.; Kummel, INT, 448f.; Guthrie, NTI, 897; and the literature there cited. Bultmann, Johannesbriefe, 95, though putting I John late, describes Kasemann's view that the Elder of III John was excommunicated by Diotrophes as 'phantastisch'.] We can only guess from their almost identical endings ('I have much to write to you, but I do not care to put it down in black and white. But I hope to visit you and talk with you face to face'; II John 12; cf. Ill John 131.) and other repetitions ['Whom I love in the truth' (II John 1; III John 1); 'Joy that your (my) children are living by the truth' (II John 4; III John 4).]
that II and III John come from very much the same occasion. Indeed it is not at all impossible that the 'letter to the congregation' referred to in III John 9 may actually be II John. [So Zahn, INT III, 378; G. G. Findlay, Fellowship in the Life Eternal, 1909, 8; McNeile-Williams, WT, 307. But the majority of scholars decide against this.] Their subjects are not the same (there is no claim that they are); but there is the common issue of Christian hospitality (II John 10f.; Ill John 8-10). If so, then we should set the epistles in the order II John, III John, I John, but in quick succession.
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If then tentatively we put the Johannine epistles in the early 60s and the epilogue in the latter 60s, with the prologue (perhaps) some-where between, this would fit well with the many points of contact between the epistles and the distinctive features of the prologue and epilogue when compared with the body of the gospel. We have already suggested that the opening of I John reads like a preliminary sketch for the Logos theology of the prologue. There are obvious similarities. In both 'that which was from the beginning' was 'the word of life', and 'the life was manifested' (I John 1.1f.; John 1.1,4,14). Yet in the first epistle there is still not the absolute or fully personal use of 'the Word' found in the gospel prologue, and the latter is far more carefully constructed and richly orchestrated. In the epilogue too we have observed the same concern for the pastoral ministry of the church that marks all the Johannine epistles, and the same reference to eschatological expectations in current circulation which are yet given no encouragement in their popular form. There is the same use of ἀδελφοί' to characterize the Christian brotherhood (John 21.23; I John 3.13f., 16; III John 3, 5, 10) and of παιδία in the address of Christians (John 21.5; I John 2.18). Then in the penultimate verse of the epilogue (21.24), the 'we know that his witness is true' echoes both the 'we' of I John and the 'you know that our witness is true' of III John 12.

Finally, there is another distinctive feature of the epistles which strangely is not noticed among the fifty 'peculiarities' of the first epistle listed by Holtzmann [Set out by A. E. Brooke, The Johannine Epistles (ICC), Edinburgh 1912, i-xv.] nor is it mentioned by Dodd [Johannine Epistles, xlvii-lvi.] among those differences from the gospel that lead him to posit a separate author for the epistles. [For the contrary position, cf. W. F. Howard, 'The Common Authorship of the Johannine Gospel and Epistles', JTS 48, 1947, 12-25; W. G. Wilson, 'An Examination of the Linguistic Evidence Adduced against the Unity of Authorship of the First Epistle of John and the Fourth Gospel', JTS 49, 1948, 147-56. In the light of this 'searching criticism', Williams, in McNeile-Williams, INT, 305, concludes that 'the verdict reached after careful linguistic analysis by R. H. Charles and a.E. Brooke that the fourth gospel and all three Johannine epistles were penned by the same person has not been overthrown'. I would agree.] Indeed it does not seem to have been observed by any commentary to which I have had access. [Though cf. M. de Jonge, 'The Use of the Word ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ in the Johannine Epistles' in Studies in John: Presented to Professor Dr J. N. Sevenster (Nov Test Suppl. 24), Leiden 1970,66-74.] In the gospel, except on two occasions, 'Christ' is not a proper name (as it already is for Paul) but always a title, the Christ or Messiah. [Burton, Galatians, 397, comments on the usage of the fourth Gospel in contrast with most of the rest of the New Testament but oddly omits all reference to the Johannine Epistles, as does Cribbs,JBL 89,42, who quotes him.] In the epistles on the contrary the situation is exactly reversed. On two occasions it is a title (I John 2.22; 5.1); once it is ambiguous (II John 9); but for the rest it is always part of the proper name 'Jesus Christ'. Now, of the two exceptions in the gospel, one occurs in the prologue (1.17), and the other looks suspiciously like a later addition:

After these words Jesus looked up to heaven and said: ... 'This is eternal life: to know thee who alone art truly God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent' (17.1-3).

To represent Jesus as talking to the Father about 'Jesus Christ' is the sort of crude anachronism that John conspicuously avoids. May it be that the clause 'and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent' is inserted (whether by the same hand or another) precisely to counteract the false interpretation which had been put by John's opponents on the first clause taken by itself, that eternal life was to be had by knowledge of the Father without the Son? Certainly I John 2.22-25 and 5.11f. could suggest this. If so, the proper name 'Jesus Christ' here, as in the prologue, will reflect the usage of the epistles and be subsequent to that of the body of the gospel.

In my article on the epistles I argued that they presuppose not only the gospel but an extended interval between the two. The Johannine epistles are intelligible only on the assumption that their readers, who have evidently been their writer's pastoral charge from 'the beginning' (2.7,24; 3.11; II John 6), have been nurtured in 'Johannine Christianity'. The fundamentals alike of faith and morals to which they are being recalled are clearly the kind of teaching embodied in the fourth gospel. [Westcott, Johannine Epistles, xli-xliii, clearly sets out the many parallels.] The ἐπαγγελία, which the writer also received from Christ himself, can be summed up, as throughout the gospel, in terms of 'eternal life' (2.25). This does not of course necessarily mean that they have had that gospel in writing. Common themes such as the 'new commandment' of I John 2.7 and John 13.34 or the description of Christianity as a state of having 'passed from death to life' in I John 3.14 and John 5.24 need imply no more than oral teaching. The same could apply to the apparent background of the argument in I John 5.9f. (about human testimony and the testimony that God has borne to his Son) in the words of Jesus in John 5.31-40. But in I John 3.8-15 there is a connected series of themes which also occur in John 8.40-7 (the difference between being 'born of God' and not; the sinner being a child of the devil, who has always been the same 'from the beginning'; and the only two occurrences of ἀνθρωποκτονός, murderer, in the New Testament). It is surely easier to believe that the writer is taking for granted a knowledge that these connections have already been made in material with which his readers are familiar. [The priority of the gospel to the epistles is argued on these grounds by Brooke, Johannine Epistles, xix-xxvii, and accepted by Dodd, Johannine Epistles, Iv. But he has difficulty in accommodating the prologue, which he does not recognize to be a later addition to the gospel in the light of the epistles.]

The priority of the gospel (without the prologue and epilogue) to the epistles must fall short of proof. Yet this is also the order which seems to be presupposed in the closely parallel statements of their respective purposes. Of the gospel it is said:

These [things] are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name (John 20.31).

Of the first epistle it is said:

I write this to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life (I John 5.13).

Even if the present subjunctive πιστεύητε in John 20.31 is pressed to mean 'go on believing' or 'hold the faith' (neb) rather than 'come to believe', it is clear that the purpose of the gospel is primarily furtherance of the faith (and I should be perfectly prepared to agree that it was for the use of Christians in the Jewish mission), while that of the epistles is reassurance of the faithful.
[Nine times in the first epistle the writer offers his readers tests, beginning with the words 'by this we know' or 'by this we may be sure' (2.3,5; 3.16,19,24; 4.2,6,13; 5.2), with which to assure themselves of the truth. For this emphasis, cf. R. Law, The Tests of Life: A Study of the First Epistle of St John, Edinburgh 1909.] They are a defence of the truth of the gospel against those who would distort its teaching. There is no need to assume that the gospel itself goes right back to 'the beginning' of the missionary activity to which the writer recalls his flock. Indeed this is always associated with what they 'heard'. Yet that its writing  
[The word γράφειν occurs more often in the gospel and epistles of John (and also in the Apocalypse) than in any other New Testament writer.]

was intended to serve as an instrument of evangelism and teaching there can, I think, be little doubt.

But since those early days much water has passed under the bridges. Considerable evangelistic labour had been put in: Take care, pleads the writer in II John 8, that you do not lose 'all that we worked for'. I John 2.12-14 presupposes an established Christian community with a full range of age-groups; II and III John a number of Christian centres, thick enough on the ground for travelling Christian missionaries to have no need to live off the heathen (II John 1, 13; III John 5-9). Heresy and schism alike have assumed dangerous proportions, and there is the same silver-age stress on sound doctrine, especially in II John 9f., that we meet in the Pastorals and again in Jude and II Peter. We shall hardly be wrong therefore in surmising that at least a decade has passed since 'the form of teaching to which they had been handed over', to use Paul's phrase (Rom. 6.17), had been in their possession. If then epistles do come from the early 60s we are back at any rate to the early 5os for some form of the gospel message.

But who and where were these Christians whom the writer calls his 'children' (I John 2.1), a form of address which appears to carry the same implication as when Paul uses it to his converts in Gal. 4.19, namely, that he had begotten them in the faith and been in a continuing, though not necessarily continuous, parental relationship to them ever since? We have been assuming that they are in Asia Minor, though there is no more certainty about this than that about the equally anonymous recipients of Jude and II Peter. But there is

  1. the strong (and unchallenged) external tradition associating the gospel and the pastoral care of John with Ephesus and Asia Minor;

  2. the fact that a Johannine type of Christianity is presupposed in the Apocalypse, which is indubitably associated with this area;

  3. the similarity with the kind of gnosticizing teaching which, from the evidence of Colossians, I and II Timothy and the letters to the seven churches in Revelation, has already led us to place Jude and II Peter there; and

  4. the fact that, admittedly much later, the first evidence for the use of I John comes from Smyrna (Ep. Polyc. 7).

So we may accept this location until proved otherwise.

Now the tradition says that Asia was 'allotted' to John at the dispersion of the apostles and disciples at the time of the Jewish war. [Eusebius.HE 3.1.1]
Yet Peter's preaching in Pontus, Galatia, Bithynia, Cappadocia and Asia mentioned in the same context must have occurred (if it occurred at all) earlier; and in any case the 'assignment' of Asia to John, if not purely legendary, like that of Scythia to Andrew [According to the Muratorian Canon Andrew is said to be with John at the time of the writing of his gospel. If there is anything at all in these traditions it could point to a period for the composition of the gospel prior to the dispersion. Cf. Brownlee in Charlesworth, John and Qumran, 189: 'Perhaps one should consider the Muratorian Canon as attesting the tradition that John at least began to write his Gospel before the dispersion of the apostles from Jerusalem.']
and Parthia to Thomas, would suggest previous association with the area. But the tradition is equally clear that John's missionary activity, like Peter's, did not start in Asia Minor but in Jerusalem and Samaria (Acts 3.1-4.31; 8.14-25). So too the epistles point back beyond the point which marked 'the beginning' for their readers to 'the beginning' of the events in which the writer, with his associates, claims to have had a very personal and tangible share (II John 5; cf. I John 1.1-3,5; 2.25) and indeed behind that to the ἀρχή in which eternally those events were grounded (I John 1.1; 2.131.; cf. John 1.1). His message would be worthless if it were not already rooted and shaped in Palestine. So at this point we are driven back again from the epistles to the evidence supplied by the gospel.

I argued in my earlier article, 'The Destination and Purpose of St John's Gospel', that in its present form the gospel was an appeal to the Greek-speaking diaspora Judaism of Asia Minor, the sort of persons whom Paul addresses there as 'men of Israel and those who worship God' (Acts 13.16), to accept as the Christ him whom 'the people of Jerusalem and their rulers' (13.27), 'the Jews' of this gospel, had refused to acknowledge. All through the gospel there is an outer circle, of those who do not belong to 'the nation' (τὸ ἒθνος; always for this writer metropolitan Judaism), namely, 'the scattered children of God' (΄11.51f.), those of 'his own' (1.11) at present in dispersion. These are 'the Greeks' of 12.20, i.e. Greek-speaking Jews, whose representatives are present to 'worship at the festival', and who are spoken of so disparagingly by the Jerusalem crowds in 7.35. [For defence of this interpretation, cf. my 'Destination and Purpose', 116-22. The Greek diaspora was especially despised compared with the Babylonian (cf. the quotations given by Lightfoot, Biblical Essays, 157).]
Similarly they are 'the other sheep of mine, not belonging to this fold' who will also 'listen to my voice' and come to form one flock under the one shepherd (10.16) - as in the classic prophecies of the restoration of Israel (Ezek.34; 37.21-8; Jer.23.1-8; 31.1-10). Chapter 17 too is a prayer 'not for these only', that is, for those already faithful to Jesus in Palestine, but for those who shall come to believe through their word (17.20), that is, for those who have not seen and yet find faith (20.29). The prayer 'may they all be one' is on Jesus' lips not (anachronistically) a prayer for broken Christendom but for scattered and disrupted Judaism, viewed as the true Israel of God. Throughout the gospel we can hear the anxiety of the evangelist and pastor that of those who have been 'given' (cf. Isa.8.18) none should be lost (6.39; 10.28f.; 17.12; 18.9). This theme is introduced first in 6.12f., where importance is attached to the care with which the fragments must be collected after the feeding. Filling as they do twelve baskets, they symbolize the fullness of Israel still to be gathered in after 'the Jews' (or Judaeans) have been satisfied.

Yet though this clearly indicates the missionary outreach of the gospel, it is significant - and this I did not observe earlier - that in every case except one the movement envisaged is not of going out but of coming in. The climax to the ministry of Jesus which sets in motion his glorification and the world's judgment (12.23,31) is when the Greek-speaking Jews who have 'come up' to Jerusalem ask to see Jesus (12.20f). This marks the beginning of the harvest (12.24), in which the reaper 'gathers' a crop for eternal life (4.36), and of the 'drawing' of all men to the Christ (12.32; cf. 6.44). The sheep are to be 'brought in' (10.16), the scattered fragments and children of God 'gathered together' (6.12f.; 11.52). The one exception is in 7.35, where the Jews ask: 'Where does he intend to go, that we should not be able to find him? Will he go to the Dispersion among the Greeks, and teach the Greeks?' Like other uncomprehending remarks in this gospel, and especially those a few verses later about Galilee and Bethlehem (7.40-42,52), this is both a total misunderstanding and the ironic truth. Of course Jesus will not go to the Greeks of the Dispersion (he is going to the Father) - yet they will find him (unlike the disbelieving Judaeans). Though the missionary motive of the evangelist is unquestionable, his perspective again is that characteristic of late Judaism (cf. Isa.60; etc.), that the world would 'come in' to Jerusalem, not that it should go out to the world.

If this is so, then we may have an important clue to the original milieu of the Johannine preaching and teaching. The gospel shows the marks of being both Palestinian and Greek - in contrast with the Qumran literature which is Palestinian and Hebrew. I am not convinced that this simple difference has been given sufficient weight. I believe there is much to be said for the hypothesis that the Johannine tradition first took its characteristic form in Jerusalem, precisely in contact with those circles of Greek-speaking Judaism who feature at the climactic point of the gospel. Particularly at the feasts, which occupy such a dominant place in the tradition, their numbers would be greatly swollen by 'Jews from the province of Asia' and others (Acts 21.27). But in the intervals there were those 'devout Jews from every nation under heaven' who lived permanently (κατοικοῦντες) in Jerusalem (Acts 2.5). [Cf. Brownlee in Charlesworth, op. cit., 184: 'Here was a witness who needed Greek as well as Aramaic. The Evangelist who preached so eloquently in Palestine may therefore have been concerned with Greek-speaking Jews who went to Jerusalem at festival time (12.20). Wherever else this Evangelist preached, the substance of his message seems to have been worked out in the living context of the varied population of the land of Israel, and there he proclaimed Jesus as the prophet-king and Saviour of Israel.' For the assimilation of Palestinian and diaspora Judaism at this period, cf. W. D. Davies, Paul and Rabbinic Judaism, 1948, 1-16. There is not the gulf that is usually supposed, for instance still by Morris, op. cit., 356: 'The more firmly it is demonstrated that the ideas and the language are basically Palestinian the more difficult it is to claim that the Gospel is essentially Hellenistic. It makes an appeal to Hellenists, but that is another matter.' But is it another matter, if the Hellenists were in Palestine?]
These were the Greek-speaking Jews or Hellenists, [That the Hellenists were a linguistic group and not Gentiles (as Cadbury argued, Beginnings V, 59-74) is now generally accepted. Cf. Moule, 'Once more, Who were the Hellenists?', ExpT-yo, 1958-9, 100-2; Fitzmyer, 'Jewish Christianity in the Light of the Qumran Scrolls' in L. E. Keck and J. L. Martyn (edd.). Studies in Luke-Acts: Essays ... in Honor of Paul Schubert, Nashville 1966, 237f.; and CBQ.32, 515; Sevenster, Do You Know Greek?, 28-38.]
with whom the bilingual Paul 'talked and debated' when he 'moved about freely in Jerusalem' after his conversion (9.28f.). They were also those who earlier had 'argued with Stephen' and belonged to the so-called 'Synagogue of the Freedmen, comprising Cyrenians and Alexandrians and people from Cilicia and Asia' (6.9).

Now there is a widespread impression that the Greek-speaking Jews were 'more liberal-minded' (17.11; neb) than the narrow Hebraists. But whatever may be the evidence for this outside Palestine (and Paul did not find much of it), those in Jerusalem were clearly determined to prove themselves more papal than the pope [The members of the Synagogue of the Freedmen could also have been compensating for a social as well as a geographical sense of inferiority.]
or certainly than Gamaliel! They hauled Stephen before the Council and ended by killing him (7.8-60), and twice they planned to murder Paul (9.29; 21.27-36). There is no reason to think that the 'Hellenists' were per se Hellenizers (i.e. Graecophiles) [Cullmann, 'A New Approach to the Interpretation of the Fourth Gospel', Exp T 71, 1959-60, 8-12, 39-43, argues that behind the noun lies the verb eU;w{eiv, which he says, 'does not mean to speak Greek but to live after the manner of the Greeks' (10). For this he is severely criticized by Sevenster, op. cit., 281.: 'Any larger Greek dictionary could have convinced Cullmann that this pronouncement m no way obtains without exception.' But he makes no attempt to meet this criticism in his latest presentation of the same case, The Johannine Circle, ET 1976,41.]
- any more than the 'Hebrews' with whom they are contrasted in Acts 6.1 were necessarily Judaizers. Some of them may have been, but the word itself implies no more than that they spoke Greek (as their first, if not their only, language). Nor is there any reason to suppose, with Cullmann, that they were as such heterodox or nonconformist Jews on the fringes of Judaism, sitting loose to the law and the temple cult. Again some may have been - but certainly not those who attacked Stephen so vehemently, who were evidently at the very opposite end of the ecclesiastical spectrum.

Again, it is necessary to distinguish clearly between the Jewish Hellenists with whom Paul disputed [It is notable that Paul's encounter with these Hellenists in Acts 9.29 is passed over altogether by Cullmann in his recent study.] and the Christian Hellenists round Stephen. Nor should we assume that all Christian Hellenists shared the theology of Stephen. In fact when Hengel
[Christologie und neutestamentliche Chronologic' in Baltensweiler and Reicke, Neues Testament und Geschichte, 59.]
refers to the bilingual 'Graeco-Palestinians' he cites men like Barnabas, John Mark and Silas/Silvanus; and when he asks 'whether the Gospel of Matthew might not come from such Greek-speaking Jewish-Christian circles in Palestine,' [Judaism and Hellenism 1,105.]
he certainly has not in mind the group round Stephen whose outlook was quite evidently different from that of the first gospel. He does not mention the gospel of John in this connection, but I believe the same applies.
Pace
Cullmann, I see no reason to think that the 'Johannine circle', any more than the author to the Hebrews, had any special connection with the disciples of Stephen. [Johannine Circle, 39-56. Trocme, Formation of Mark, 253-5, even makes them responsible for Mark 1-13!]
The theological emphasis that Jesus was the fulfilment and therefore the replacement of everything for which Israel stood, which is indeed so marked in John, is after all common to Paul (Rom. 10.4; etc.) and Matthew (12.6; etc.), not to mention the epistle to the Hebrews. Though in John worship is clearly not tied to the temple, it is very much 'from the Jews that salvation comes' (4.211.), and far from being fringe Judaism ('Randjudentum') to which the Johannine mission appealed, it is a Judaism centred firmly in Jerusalem and its festivals. Moreover, it is not Philip the evangelist and those round Stephen with whom the Johannine tradition has links - his contacts are rather with Luke and Paul (Acts 21.8) - but Philip the apostle and Andrew, Greek-speaking Galileans from the cosmopolitan city of Bethsaida-Julias (John 12.20-2). Finally, if the Johannine circle was connected with that of Stephen, why was John left free when the persecution occasioned by the death of Stephen dispersed the others (Acts 8.1,14-17)?

The debate of the Johannine group, with its contacts with the high-priestly household (John 18.15), seems rather to have been with the inner core of the Jerusalem leadership. The distinctive Johannine dialogue is with those who claim to be rulers and teachers of Israel (3.1,10) or with those repudiated by them (7.49; 9.22). Its mission to 'the circumcision' (cf. Gal. 2.9) included in its appeal members of the Sanhedrin and others of the ruling class. A few of these were evidently sympathetic (7.50f.; 12.42) but the great majority implacably hostile (7.26,48; 12.37-43). If then this is the kind of background against which the Johannine mission was conducted, it is hardly surprising that a note of acrimony creeps so frequently into the debates which constitute the hard core of its gospel tradition. Yet the Johannine preaching and teaching was also very much concerned for 'the Jews who believed' (8.31), and we may hear this concern coming through the last discourses and especially such a passage as:

I have told you all this to guard you against the breakdown of your faith. They will ban you from the synagogue; indeed, the time is coming when anyone who kills you will suppose that he is performing a religious duty. ... I have told you all this so that when the time comes for it to happen you may remember my warning (16.1-4).

There is really no reason to think that such a passage reflects any greater distance in place or time than the Jerusalem of the first two decades of the Christian church. Wherever later this gospel was to be taken, expanded and edited, here I believe is where it began. And it is here that we may place the formative stage of the tradition, corresponding to the early stages of the synoptic traditions. Indeed I detect a growing readiness to accept that the first draft of the gospel itself (what before we called the proto-gospel stage) may have been written in Palestine. [Cf. Brown, John I, Ixi: 'It is not impossible that the first edition of John was directed to the Palestinian scene and the subsequent edition(s) adapted for an audience living outside Palestine'; Charlesworth, 'A Critical Comparison of the Dualism in IQS 3.13-4.26 and the "Dualism" Contained in the Gospel of John' in Charlesworth (ed.), op. cit., 105: 'It is more probable at the present time that John was written, perhaps only in first draft, in Palestine.' Cf., earlier, W. F. Albright, 'Some Observations Favoring the Palestinian Origin of the Gospel of John', HTR 17, 1924, 189-95.]
In fact with this author, in contrast with the synoptists, and especially Luke, I doubt if much meaningful distinction can be drawn between his 'sources' and his own first composition - for, unlike Dodd, I am persuaded that he stood in an internal rather than an external relationship to his tradition. The unity of style has rendered unconvincing all attempts to analyse out written sources. [Cf. the remark of Pierson Parker, which I have quoted before, 'Two Editions of John', JBL 75, 1956, 304: 'It looks as though, if the author of the fourth Gospel used documentary sources, he wrote them all himself!]
I would agree with the comment of Brownlee [In Charlesworth, op. cit., 181.] on a recent attempt to do this:
[r.T. Fortna, The Gospel of Signs, 1970. The damaging criticisms of this in Lindars, Behind the Fourth Gospel, 1971, ch.2, would seem to me to apply to any theory, including his own, that presupposes that the evangelist used external sources.]

A more valid goal, it seems to me, is the recovery of a proto-Johannine narrative, which (since it is by the same author as much else) it will never be possible to separate completely from the other Johannine contributions.

Even this, however, is a highly arbitrary procedure, as another recent piece of writing shows [S. Temple, The Core of the Fourth Gospel, 1975.]
in its attempt to isolate an original (and very primitive) Aramaic core expanded later by another hand. Indeed I would question whether there is, as Brownlee argues, [Op. cit., 185-8.]following Burney and Torrey, any real evidence for saying that the Johannine tradition was originally written in Aramaic [For a survey of this issue, cf. Schuyler Brown, 'From Burney to Black: The Fourth Gospel and the Aramaic Question', CBQ 26 1964, 323-39; also Barrett, John and Judaism, ch. 2.]
and then translated by another hand, whether in Palestine or elsewhere. [Brownlee's supposition (op. cit., 189-91) that the gospel was composed in Alexandria (and even that the apostle John may have preached there) seems to me to fall down, like other versions of this hypothesis, on the fact that it is inconceivable that had there been any association of the fourth, like the second, gospel with Alexandria, Clement and Origen (who prized it above all) would have known and made nothing of it. The evidence for Ephesus is far stronger and, pace Brownlee, does not 'depend' on 'an alleged claim of Papias to have known the apostle himself during his residence at Ephesus'.]
Though the Aramaic 'accent' of the writer is constantly apparent, there would seem no compelling reason to suppose that the stories and discourses that make up the gospel were ever written in anything but Greek. Nicodemus with his Greek name may stand for the typical educated Jewish Hellenist, in debate with whom the gospel tradition originated. As Nigel Turner has pointed out, the pun in 3.3-8 on ἂνωθεν (over again, from above) works only in Greek, [Grammatical Insights into the NT, 182. He also draws attention to the play on αἲρει ... καθαίρει in 15.2.]
the language indeed in which, he maintains, Jesus himself could originally have conducted the discussion. Yet this is a Greek-speaking Palestinian milieu unaffected by the issues and conflicts which quickly arose within the church in a frontier-situation like that of Antioch. [I have indicated ('Destination and Purpose', 1.15f.) why I would differ from Dodd in his belief that the dialogue of John 8.35-58 presupposes the same Antiochene background as Galatians. John is not faced with the question whether one should live as a Jew or as a Gentile. Indeed, I see no solid evidence for the view that the Johannine tradition reached Ephesus from Jerusalem via Antioch and Syria (T. W. Manson, Studies in the Gospels, 118-21; Schnackenburg, John, 152). However Syria and Antioch are not simply to be equated. Cf. G. Quispel, 'Qumran, John and Jewish Christianity' in Charlesworth (ed.), op. cit., 138: 'Many other indications suggest that Syrian Christianity came from Palestine and not from Antioch, the centre of Gentile Christianity.' As long as this important distinction is maintained, one can be open to the possibility (though it is pretty tenuous) that the connections between John and the Odes of Solomon (cf. Charlesworth, 'Qumran, John and the Odes of Solomon' in Charlesworth (ed.), op. cit., 107-36) suggest 'northern Palestine and Syria for the provenance of the Odes and of at least one recension of John' (136). He believes that the two are contemporaneous (c. 100). Cullmann, op. cit., 98f., argues for Syria, and still more Transjordan, but discounts Ephesus. But this is because he dissociates the gospel from John son of Zebedee altogether. Yet the links between a Johannine-type Christianity and the Apocalypse still have to be explained.]
Nor is there any evidence of a charge against John such as Paul had later to face from the Jews in Jerusalem, of selling Judaism short in order to accommodate the Gentiles (Acts 21.271.). But by that stage it seems that John, like Peter, was no longer in Jerusalem (21.171.).
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At this point we can postpone no longer the question of who the writer of this gospel was. For, though the dating in no way depends on the hand or hands involved, an early date also renders many of the arguments for an indirect and extended chain of authorship much less plausible or necessary. Indeed Brownlee, though himself still supposing the gospel to have been translated and 'put together from the manuscripts left behind by the original evangelist', [Op. cit., 191.] says:

The Gospel according to John is in my view substantially the testimony of the apostle John.... If what one is looking for as apostolic is a fresh and independent witness, John has it - and not as fabrications of the imagination stemming from some later period of the Gospel tradition, but as the voice of a living witness from the cultural context of the early decades of Christianity in Palestine [Ibid., 184f.].

But rather than become involved in going over once again the well-worn case for attributing the gospel to John son of Zebedee, [One can still hardly improve on the marshalling of the external and internal evidence by Lightfoot, Biblical Essays, 1-122, and Westcott, John, v-xx. Their case is presented afresh in the light of subsequent criticism by Morris, Studies in the Fourth Gospel, a 15-80.]
we may begin at the other end by sketching the kind of author to whom the internal evidence points.

G. D. Kilpatrick has attempted this exercise in an article called 'What John Tells us about John'. [G. D. Kilpatrick, in Studies in John (seen. 162 above), 75-87.] This is his conclusion:

What have we learned about him? A poor man from a poor province he does not seem to have been a bookish person. In Greek terms he was uneducated with no contact with the Greek religious and philosophical literature of his day. This creates a problem: how does a man without these contacts have so many apparent similarities to a writer like Philo in his thought? As his material conditions as far as we can elicit them indicate a man of Palestinian origin it seems reasonable to look for the background of his presentation of the Gospel there. Our sources of information will be the LXX and related works, the literature of the Qumran and the Rabbinic texts especially the traditions of the Tannaim. On other counts we arc being forced to recognize that notions we have associated with Hellenistic Judaism were not unknown and not without influence in Palestinian Judaism in the first century AD.
[Ibid., 85f.]

Now whatever affinities John may have had with Philo, they were not literary. For Kilpatrick himself shows [Ibid., 77f.] that John's vocabulary is much nearer that of the LXX and Josephus than of Philo or the Hermetica. [Earlier he had written, 'The Religious Background on the Fourth Gospel' in F. L. Cross (ed.), Studies in the Fourth Gospel, 1957,43: 'We can discard the Hermetica along with the Mandaean texts and other evidences of Gnosticism. They constitute no significant part of the background of the Gospel, they do not provide the key to its interpretation.']
Indeed the vocabulary and style of the gospel point to a man whose first language was evidently Aramaic and who wrote correct though limited Greek, with Semitisms but not solecisms.
[For the linguistic evidence, cf. still Lightfoot, Biblical Essays, 16-21, 126-44. He argues that especially in the towns and in centres of commerce like the Lake of Galilee and Jerusalem 'the Palestinian Jew resembled a Welshman on the bordered, a Fleming in the neighbourhood of the half-French towns of Flanders, a Bohemian in Prague' (128) and that John's vocabulary and syntax are just what so one would expect of such a person writing in the language he did not normally speak. Schnackenburg, John, 105-11, surveys the evidence in the light of modern study and concludes that it leaves open the possibility, among others, that the author 'must have spoken Aramaic and some Hebrew in his youth, but was a Jew of the Diaspora, whether he was born there or moved there' (111).]

The evidence therefore for the person we are seeking, so far from ruling out a relatively poor and uneducated Palestinian, points suspiciously towards the kind of man that John, son of Zebedee, might have been. [For a forceful statement to the contrary, cf. Parker, 'John the Son of Zebedee and the Fourth Gospel', JBL 81, 1962, 35-43. But it is possible to dispute many of his points (as I do below), and the psychological gap between the picture of the son of Zebedee in the synoptists and the presumed author of the fourth gospel is certainly no greater than that between their different portraits of the same man Jesus. The omission from the fourth gospel of all mention of the apostle John unless he is the author is much more difficult to explain, as is its distinctive designation of the Baptist as 'John' without qualification or fear of confusion. Parker's own preference for John Mark as author ('John and John Mark', JBL 79, 1960, 97-110) seems to me to raise many more problems than it solves.]
There is in fact no reason to suppose that his family was particularly poor and uneducated. His mother Salome (cf. Mark 15.40 with Matt. 27.56) was among those who ministered to Jesus in Galilee (Mark 15.41), as Luke adds (8.3), 'out of their possessions'. In Zahn's words, [INT III, 187.]

As regards its prosperity and social position, the family of Zebedee is to be compared with that of Chuza (Luke 8.3), the financial officer of Herod, or even of Joseph of Arimathea,
[In the different traditions Salome, Joseph of Arimathea ('a man of means', Matt. 27.57) and Nicodemus are all associated with procuring the spices for the burial of Jesus (Mark 16.1; John 19.39), which, if John's quantities are in any way to be trusted, must have cost a considerable sum.] rather than that of Joseph and Mary (Luke2.24; Cf.2.7).

The often observed fact that Zebedee's household ran to 'hired servants' (Mark 1.20) suggests that his status may not have been incomparable with that of the father of the prodigal in the parable (Luke 15.11-32), who also had two sons as well as a number of hired servants and was evidently a man of moderate substance (15.12,221., 29). In more than one of John's parables the point of contrast is between the position in the household of servants and sons (8.35; 15.15), and the 'hireling' of 10.12 is the same word as is used for the hired servants in Mark 1 .20.

Again, the lack of education attributed to John and Peter by 'the Jewish rulers, elders and doctors of the law' in Acts 4.13 need indicate no more than that in their professional eyes these were 'untrained laymen' (neb), a view shared by the authorities both of Jesus (John 7.15; cf. 9.29) and of Paul (Acts 21.37f.). The astonishment was that despite this they showed themselves so articulate. Indeed John in particular must have had personal qualities that brought him rather rapidly to the fore. He starts as the younger of two brothers, who in Mark and Matthew is invariably mentioned second as 'James's brother John'. But from the beginning of Acts (1.13) he is given precedence (an order reflected back for example in Luke 8.51; 9.28), and the last mention of James is as 'the brother of John' (Acts 12.2). Both in Paul (Gal.2.9) and in Acts (1.13; 3.1; 8.14; etc.) he stands second only to Peter in the Jerusalem church.

But not merely in stature does he, and he alone within the circle of the twelve or among any known to us outside it, meet the requirements of the role we are seeking, but both his background and his subsequent sphere of work are singularly appropriate.

It is often said (e.g. by Dodd [htfg, 16, 245f.; cf. Parker, 'John the Son of Zebedee', JBL 81, 37,41f.]) that the fourth gospel shows an 'indifference' to the Galilean ministry which counts against its author being a Galilean. But this is surely an exaggeration. Purely statistically the word 'Galilee' actually occurs more often in John than in any other gospel. For all the additional Jerusalem material, it is clear that Galilee is still Jesus's base, where he 'remains' and from which he 'goes up' for the feasts (cf. especially 7.1-9); and the basic pattern of the story 'from Galilee to Jerusalem' (Acts 10.37; cf. Luke 23.5), with its watershed in Galilee (ch.6), is unaffected. Moreover, in an interesting way John confirms the otherwise unsupported statement by Matthew that 'leaving Nazareth he [Jesus] went and settled at Capernaum' (4.12), with its implication that during the period of the ministry Capernaum was Jesus' home-town (τὴν ἰδίαν πόλιν Matt. 9.1; cf. Mark 2.1, ἐν οἲκω 'at home') in contrast with his place of origin (τὴν πατρίδα αὐτοῦ Matt.13.54; cf. Luke 4.16). [There may be a comparable distinction, differently expressed, in the fourth gospel, where τῆ ἰδία πατρίδι (4.44) designates Judaea as his 'own land' (τὰ ἲδια),
to
which he came and where they did not receive him (1.11), in contrast to Galilee, the land
from
which he came (7.40-52) and where they did receive him (4.45). Cf. W.A. Meeks, 'Galilee and Judaea in the Fourth Gospel', JBL, 85, 1966, 165.]
For in a passage which reads like an entirely motiveless piece of travel diary [Cf. Dodd, HTFG, 235: 'This passage is completely out of relation to any other topographical data supplied, and does not in any way contribute to the development either of the narrative or of the thought of the gospel. ... [It] is not the product of any particular interest of the evangelist.']

John records that from Cana (where Jesus had arrived independently of his family) he went down to Capernaum in company with his mother, his brothers, and his disciples, but they [i.e., evidently, Jesus and his disciples] [For there is no suggestion that his family travelled round with him (cf. 3.22; 4.8-38;
did not stay there long (2.12).

The natural inference is that Capernaum was then his home, and that he was paying a short visit on the family with his new disciples. In fact, apart from Cana, Capernaum is the only Galilean town Jesus is specifically recorded in John as visiting, although as in the synoptists he still goes about in Galilee generally (4.45; 7.1). In 6.15, after the feeding of the five thousand, the disciples naturally start rowing back to Capernaum as if this were home, though in Mark Jesus orders them to Bethsaida (6.45) while they actually land up at Gennesaret (6.53). The following day, in John, the crowds also set out for Capernaum, evidently expecting to find Jesus there (6.24), [The extraordinarily circumstantial account of the itineraries in 6.15-24, though complicated, has the lucidity of a detective story. The mention of Tiberias, which had then recently been founded, is confined to John and is introduced for no apparent motive apart from factual accuracy. This does not read like the work of a man who had no knowledge of or interest in Galilee.]
which indeed they do (6.25), for the dialogue that follows takes place in its synagogue (6.59). Capernaum with its synagogue, which also features in the synoptists (Mark 1.21 [and 3.1; 5.21f.?]; Luke 7.5) and could perhaps be said to be the equivalent of Jesus' parish church, [A part of it may actually have survived beneath the ruins of the later synagogue. Cf. J. Finegan, The Archaeology of the New Testament, Princeton 1969, 51-4.]
is mentioned more frequently in John than in any of the other gospels. It is not insignificant therefore that John son of Zebedee himself probably lived in Capernaum as well. At any rate we are told that Peter's house was there (Mark 1.21,29), [Peter, like Philip and Andrew, originally came from Bethsaida (John 1.45; cf. 12.21), but there is no evidence (pace Lightfoot, Biblical Essays, 128) that John did too.]
which Jesus first enters with James and John, whom he had just found 'a little further on' from where Simon and Andrew were at work (1.19). And if, as Luke informs us in a passage independent of the Markan tradition, these pairs of brothers were in partnership (5.10), it looks as if Zebedee and sons also had their fishing business in Capernaum. I cite these connections, however inferential, because at any rate they do not show indifference to or ignorance of Galilean detail.

Yet it is in Samaria and above all in Jerusalem and its environs that the distinctive topographical interest of the fourth evangelist is centred. John is recorded as being associated later with the Samaritan mission not only in authorizing the work of others (Acts 8.14-17) but in evangelizing 'many Samaritan villages' (8.25). Cullmann has indeed derived the meaning of Jesus' words in John 4.38, 'others toiled and you have come in for the harvest of their toil', solely from this later setting. I should question this, [Cf, my article, 'The "Others" of John 4.38' in Twelve NT Studies, 61-6.]
but would not doubt that the church's Samaritan mission gives John the interest to devote such attention to Jesus' work in these parts (4.4-42), so that in this gospel he is even accused in insult of being a Samaritan (8.48). Moreover, there are a number of scholars who with greater or less probability have traced connections between the gospel of John and Samaritan theology. [Cf. J. Bowman, 'Samaritan Studies: I. The Fourth Gospel and the Samari-tans', BJRL 40, 1957-8, 298-327 (especially 298-308); W. A. Meeks, The Prophet-King: Moses Traditions and the Johannine Christology, Leiden 1967; G. W. Buchanan, The Samaritan Origin of the Gospel of John' in J. Neusner (ed.), Religions in Antiquity: Essays in Memory of E. R. Goodenough {Numen Supplementary Studies 14), Leiden 1968, 148-75; E. D. Freed, 'Samaritan Influence in the Gospel of John', CBQ 30, 1968, 580-7; and 'Did John write his Gospel partly to win Samaritan converts?', NovTest 12, 1970, 241-6; Brownlee in Charlesworth, op. cit., 179, 183; Cullmann, Johannine Circle, 46-51.]

But it is the Jerusalem connections and interests that have most to be explained. And here it seems to me that the evidence points strongly to the apostle John. [Nothing must be made to rest on the connections with the high priest of the unnamed 'other disciple' in 18.15f., though with Zahn, INT III, 190, 2151., I think it is more likely than not that he is intended to be identified with the beloved disciple (cf. 20.4), and this would certainly fit with the overall picture. So Lightfoot, Biblical Essays, 128. Cullmann, op. cit., 71f., also argues for the equation of the disciples of 1.35 and 18.15 with the beloved disciple - but of none of them with John.]
Not only is he based there from the beginning by Acts (1.13-8.25) and subsequently by Paul (Gal.2.1-10), but both Acts and Paul record him as being devoted to the Jewish rather than to the Gentile mission, which is precisely what we should deduce from the Johannine writings.

Indeed it seems to me that this last passage in Galatians may hold a neglected clue to the composition of the fourth gospel. Up to the time to which Paul is referring (on our dating 48) John had as far as we know lived and worked exclusively in Jerusalem and Samaria. For the best part of twenty years his dialogue and that of his circle had been with the Jews of the capital, and it is this engagement during this period that, we have argued, basically shaped his tradition. Yet subsequently the evidence points to the diaspora and particularly to Ephesus and Asia Minor as the sphere of the Johannine mission. How and when did this transition occur?

I had originally surmised that the change of location coincided with the great dispersion occasioned by the Jewish war.
'[Destination and Purpose', 125. Similarly Lightfoot, Biblical Essays, 51f., who describes it as 'a very probable conjecture'.]
Yet this is a pure assumption, though, as Eusebius says, these events may later have caused this area to be 'assigned' to him. I now believe that the clue to the transition is to be found in Gal. 2.6-9. There Paul says that the 'men of repute' at Jerusalem (i.e. James the Lord's brother, Peter and John) first

acknowledged that I had been entrusted with the Gospel for Gentiles as surely as Peter had been entrusted with the Gospel for Jews. For God whose action made Peter an apostle to the Jews, also made me an apostle to the Gentiles.

Thus far the reference is to the past and is limited to the two leaders who, as far as we know (Acts 10-11; 13-14), had by that time broken the confinement of the church's preaching to the Jews of Palestine.
top But now a new stage seems to open up, marked appropriately by a fresh paragraph in the neb:

Recognizing, then, the favour thus bestowed upon me, those reputed pillars of our society, James, Cephas, and John, accepted Barnabas and myself as partners, and shook hands upon it, agreeing that we should go to the Gentiles while they went to the Jews.

The resolution looks to the future and should, I believe, be read as a new concordat for missionary policy, for which the gathering for the Council provided the occasion and opportunity. Though the verb 'should go' has to be supplied, it is most naturally taken as a decision to go out from Jerusalem in a fresh wave of expansion, which now was to affect not simply Peter and Paul (with Barnabas) but James and John as well. Paul and Barnabas were to go to the ἒθνη, Peter, James and John to the διασπορά.

It may be a sheer coincidence, but it is in the writings attributed to these latter designated for mission among the Jews that the only three occurrences of the word διασπορά occur in the New Testament (James 1.1; I Peter 1.1 ;John 7.35). Now we know from I Corinthians that Peter must in all probability have been at Corinth not long afterwards in the early 50s, and perhaps subsequently in Rome. Of James' movements we know nothing, but there is, as we have seen, [Cf.p.137 above.] a possible pointer in the priority given to the Lord's brothers over Peter in I Cor.9.5 to the fact that he too was involved at this same time in missionary travelling.

What of John? Again, with Acts silent, we are working almost totally in the dark. But I suggest that the facts are best explained on the hypothesis that John too first started missionary work among Jewish congregations in Asia Minor at the beginning of the 50s - and was out of Jerusalem, like Peter, when Paul returned there in 57, only James and the local elders appearing to be in the city (Acts 21.18). One of the interests of the author of the fourth gospel is evidently the incorporation into Christianity of those (like himself- the unnamed disciple of John 1.35-40?) who started as followers of John the Baptist. I believe there is no basis for the view that it was written against groups who claimed John as Messiah (of whom we hear nothing till the late second century). [Cf. my 'Elijah, John and Jesus', Twelve NT Studies, 49-51, and Dodd, HTFG, 298: 'To base upon the evidence of the late and heretical Clementine romance is to build a house upon sand.']
But, as Dodd recognized, it would fit the sort of situation in Ephesus described in Acts 18.24-19.7 (though I suspect that the real basis of this interest goes back to earlier connections with Baptist groups in Judaea and Samaria). The 'disciples' who had known only the baptism of John were there, as we have seen, before Paul began his Ephesian ministry (probably in the late summer of 52). It is somewhere about that period that I would suggest John was independently in 'dialogue' with the synagogue (cf. Acts 18.4; 19.8) in the Ephesus region although, unlike Paul, he assuredly did not after three months 'separate' his disciples (the same word ἀφορίζειν used to describe the reverse process in Luke 6.22) to Gentile premises (19.9).

The obvious objection is that, if all this activity was going on in the same area at the same time, why do we not hear about it? Yet our sources are very limited. Acts has by then simply become a record of the Pauline mission, and is in any case exceptionally thin at this period even for that. It is worth remembering that neither in Acts nor in Paul should we have any notion of Peter's work in Corinth, [The incidental reference to Barnabas in I Cor.9.6 is equally characteristic.]
the congregation, after all, whose history we know far better than that of any other, were it not for the facts that

  1. he was married and

  2. he was seen by a faction there as a rival to Paul -

neither of which as far as we know applied to John. Of the churches in the Ephesus area (not excluding Ephesus itself) we gather practically nothing from the Pauline letters except Colossae, which, to judge from Rev.1-3, was not among the centres of Johannine Christianity. Similarly, there also were Petrine groups in the province of Asia (I Peter 1.1 -whoever was the author of this epistle); yet we have no idea how they originated. It would therefore go far beyond the evidence to conclude that John was not then working in Asia too. Indeed, if as we have argued, the Apocalypse comes from the latter 60s, then some form of Johannine presence had certainly been established for a considerable time before that, at any rate in Ephesus itself (Rev. 2.4f.). This would also fit with the deduction we drew from I-III John that by the early 60s the beginning of the Johannine mission in Asia Minor already lay a decade or more back.

So the pieces are starting to fall into place. When the gospel itself was first committed to writing we still cannot be sure. But I believe we shall not be far wrong in seeing the stages as closely parallel to those which we observed for the synoptists. Here we may agree with Brown, though on a different time-scale. For like him I believe the various gospel traditions developed more or less concurrently. While not presupposing the synoptic gospels, John certainly presupposes the common oral tradition. 'In fact', as Brownlee says,

one should conceive of this Johannine witness as born within a milieu where many people were intimately acquainted with the deeds and words of Jesus not mentioned in the Gospel (20.30f.). [Op. cit., 184.]

This of course would apply particularly to Palestine. Brownlee draws attention to the fact that in his speech at Caesarea Peter starts:

I need not tell you what happened lately over all the land of the Jews, starting from Galilee after the baptism proclaimed by John. You know about Jesus of Nazareth (Acts 10.37f.).

John is not using (or correcting) anyone else's account, but he is taking for granted the same facts and their assimilation in the common life of the church. He gives the impression that he is writing the tradition for the first time and is looking over his shoulder at no one. This seems to be an altogether more credible account of affairs than that which is presupposed by the traditional dating. As Nolloth expressed it, [Rise of the Christian Religion, 25.] who, though dating the synoptic gospels between 50 and 60, still put John c. 95:

Is it not a most perplexing thing that about the close of the first century, when all but one of the original witnesses of our Lord's life had passed away, a fresh account of him should suddenly be launched upon the Church, containing so much that, to men familiar with the existing tradition, appeared to give quite a different version of the facts?

If we envisage the various gospels coming into being more or less concurrently, and in the case of John largely independently, there is no objection to seeing, as Brown does, some limited cross-fertilization in either direction - between the Johannine and the other developing traditions, particularly the Markan and Lukan. Indeed the so-called 'Western non-interpolations' in Luke 24.12,36 and 40, whether original to the text of Luke or not, [K. Snodgrass, 'Western Non-Interpolations', JBL 91, 1972, 369-79, argues strongly that this tendentious category invented by Westcott and Hort should be "relegated to history' and, with Jeremias and Aland, that these and similar passages form part of the original text of Luke.] look to be influenced by the Johannine tradition, though there is no need to postulate dependence on the actual gospel of John, from which there are significant differences of detail. Yet, while the gospels were being formed concurrently, the span of development seems to have been somewhat more prolonged in John than with the synoptists, making John still the last gospel to be finished - though possibly also the first to be put down in a consecutive form. For the units of its tradition are not so much isolated pericopae as ordered wholes shaped by a single mind, originally no doubt, as Eusebius says, for preaching purposes. [Cf. Eusebius, HE 3.24.27: 'John, who all the time had used unwritten preaching, at last came to write.' It would also fit, for entirely independent reasons, with the dating in the legendary Syriac History of John (cf. pp. 258f. above).]

We might therefore hazard the following very rough and tentative timetable:

30-50

 

Formation of the Johannine tradition and proto-gospel in Jerusalem

50-55

 

First edition of our present gospel in Asia Minor

60-65

 

II, III and I John

65 +

 

The final form of the gospel, with prologue and epilogue.

Despite the solidarity of commentators cited earlier for a date late in the first century, there have always been isolated voices claiming John as a primitive gospel, or at least questioning whether it need be so late. [Thus Goguel, INT II, 530, quotes six quite forgotten names who put it before the fall of Jerusalem: Gebhardt, Deiff, Draeseke, Kuppers, Wilms and Wuttig, whom I mention honoris memoriae causa! From recent times, cf. V. Burch, The Structure and Message of St John's Gospel, 1928, 228 (original contents near in date to the crucifixion; final editing before 70); C. C. Torrey, Our Translated Gospels, 1937, x (no necessity for a date after 50); P. Gardner-Smith, St John and the Synoptic Gospels, Cambridge 1938, 93-6 (perhaps contemporary with Mark); A. T. Olmstead, Jesus in the Light of History, New York 1942, 159, 255 (shortly after the crucifixion); E. R. Goodenough, 'John a Primitive Gospel', JBL 64, 1945, 145-82 (from one of the Hellenistic synagogues of Jerusalem or by a Palestinian Jew in exile); C. C. Tarelli, 'Clement of Rome and the Fourth Gospel', JTS 48, 1947, 208f.(pre-70?); H. E. Edwards, The Disciple who Wrote these Things, 1953, 129f. (for Jewish-Christian refugees at Pella, c. 66); S. Mendner, 'Die Tempelreinigung', ZNW 47, 1956, in (75-80?); B. P. W. Stather Hunt, Some Johannine Problems, 1958, 105-17 (in Alexandria, just before 70); Hunter, 'Recent Trends in Johannine Studies', ExpT 71, 1959-60, 164-7, 219-22 (c. 80 or a decade earlier); Mitton, 'The Provenance of the Fourth Gospel', ExpT 71, 1959-60, 337-40 (early but no firm date); Eckhardt, Der Tod des Johannes, Berlin 1961, 88-90 (between 57 and 68); R. M. Grant, A Historical Introduction to the New Testament, 1963, 160 (around the time of the Jewish war of 66-70, or probably not long after it, for Jewish sectarians in Palestine or the dispersion); and The Formation of the New Testament, 1965, 159t. (not much later than 70, perhaps in Asia Minor); G. A. Turner, 'The Date and Purpose of the Gospel of John', Bulletin of the Evangelical Theological Society 6, 1963, 82-5 (prior to the Jewish revolt); G. A. Turner and J. R. Mantey, John, Grand Rapids 1964, 18 (possibly, if not probably, contemporary with the Pauline epistles); M. C. Tenney, New Testament Times, 1965, 321 (perhaps immediately after 70); W. Gericke, 'Zur Entstehung des Johannesevangelium', TLZ  90,1965, cols. 807-20 (c. 68); E. K. Lee, 'The Historicity of the Fourth Gospel', CQR 167, 1966, 292-302 (not necessarily after Mark); Albright, New Horizons in Biblical Research, 1966, 46 (late 70s or early 80s); Morris, 'The Date of the Fourth Gospel' in Studies in the Fourth Gospel, 1969, 283-92 (nothing that demands a date later than 70); and John, 1972, 30-5 (pre-70 date probable); Temple, The Core of the Fourth Gospel, 1975, viii (35-65, on the basis of a still earlier record c. 25-35); M. Barth, in an unpublished statement (cf. Temple, op. cit., 306) (pre-70, the earliest gospel).] But they have not till very recently been backed by any substantial arguments.
Now, despite the fact that even scholars like Brownlee still argue for a later final date, it looks as if we may stand on the point of a fresh break-through in what I called 'the new look on the fourth gospel'. Thus Charlesworth, though himself dating John c. 100, says:

F. L. Cribbs is certainly correct in urging us 'to make a reassessment of this gospel in the direction of an earlier dating and a possible origin for John against the general background of Palestinian Christianity'.
['Qumran, John and the Odes of Solomon', op. cit., 136.]

This article by Cribbs, 'A Reassessment of the Date of Origin and the Destination of the Gospel of John', [JBL 89,1970, 38-55.]
is in my judgment much the weightiest statement so far of the case for an early dating. He concludes that it was written 'by a cultured Christian Jew of Judaea during the late 50s or early 60s' - though still not by the apostle John. There would appear indeed to be a new convergence on a pre-70 dating between those who have given most study to the Jewish back-ground of the gospel and the newer conservative evangelicals. [Cf. Guthrie, NTI, 285: 'There are considerations in support of such a theory which have not received the attention which they deserve.']
It will be interesting to see if and when others join them.

Over the span of time that we have predicted for the creation of the Johannine corpus, and allowing for considerable intervals between the stages in the writing of the gospel and epistles [The Apocalypse is a different matter. I think it is probably better to attribute it to another John, a prophet in the same circle, whose identity later became lost in that of the great apostle. The first evidence for this identification, c. 155, in Justin (Apol. 1.28; Dial.81), allows after all for a tunnel-period of nearly ninety years following the last of the Johannine writings, in which much could happen. There is nothing in the Apocalypse itself to suggest apostolic claims. Indeed the authority of the prophet who says in the name of Christ, 'If you do not repent, I shall come to you' (Rev.2.5), and that of the apostle who says in his own name, 'If I come, I will bring up the things he is doing' (III John 3.10) are subtly different. For an apostle describing himself as an elder (II John 1; III John 1), cf. I Peter 1.1 and 5. 1.]
and for the effect of new issues and influences, I see no changes of style and substance which are not better put down to the development of one large mind than to a disciple or disciples slavishly imitating the voice of their master. Above all it seems to me that the creation ex nihilo, as the real evangelist, of what Brown calls a 'master preacher and theologian', [John I, xxxv.] a 'principal disciple ... marked with dramatic genius and profound theological insight', [Cf. Howard, IB VIII, 441: 'He stands out as a religious genius of the first order.'] who was yet 'not famous', [John I, ci.]raises far more problems than it solves. And to say casually, with Barrett, [John, 114.] that 'the evangelist, perhaps the greatest theologian in all the history of the Church, was now forgotten. His name was unknown' is to show an indifference to evidence (or rather to the lack of it) that makes one wonder how with others he can possibly appeal to the silence on the use of John in the second century as a powerful argument against apostolic authorship. Nor can it really help to bring in the shadowy figure of John the Elder [Eusebius, HE 3.39.4, quoting Papias. This well-known passage is given in full by Barrett, John, 89, whose interpretation of it however I believe to be highly questionable.]
who, even if he was separate from the apostle, [For a recent statement of the case to the contrary, cf. G. M. Lee, 'The Presbyter John: A Reconsideration' in E. A. Livingstone (ed.), Studia Evangelica VI (TU 112), Berlin 1973, 311-20. His strongest point, also made long ago by Zahn [INT II, 452), is that Eusebius himself, who disputes the identity of apostle and elder, implicitly acknowledges shortly afterwards in 3.39.7 that what Papias meant by 'the discourses of the elders' was 'the discourses of the apostles'. (Zahn's Presentation is not helped by the crucial slip, also in the original German [II, 222], , "^quoting the latter passage as τοὺς τῶν πρεσβυτέρων λόγους instead of τοὺς τῶν ἀποστόλων λόγους!) Cf. also G. S. Petrie, 'The Authorship of "The Gospel According to Matthew": A Reconstruction of the External Evidence', NTS 14, 1967-8, 15-24, who argues persuasively that ὁ πρεσβύτερος Ἰωάννης (not Ἰωάννης ὁ πρεσβύτερος) means, when the name is repeated with the article, 'the (aforementioned) ancient worthy John' (for πρεσβύτεροι as 'the men of old', cf. Heb. 11.2). He too is convinced that a second John is simply 'wished on' Papias by Eusebius, who in his own interest in finding a separate author for the Apocalypse wants to believe that Papias 'proves their statement to be true who have said that two persons in Asia have borne the same name, and that there were two tombs at Ephesus, each of which is still to this day said to be John's' (3.39.6). Of course Papias does nothing of the sort; but he could certainly have expressed himself more clearly!]
is nowhere stated to have been a disciple of John son of Zebedee, or (pace Eusebius) to have lived in Ephesus, or indeed to have written a word, though Eusebius guessed that he could have written the Apocalypse. With regard to the gospel, Armitage Robinson's comment is sufficient: 'That mole never made such a mountain.'
[
The Historical Character of St John's Gospel,
21929, 102.] I find it much easier to believe that the role of the disciples of John was basically confined to that of which we have direct evidence, namely their certificate in 21.24 that this disciple himself 'wrote these things', and that this certificate, given in his presence (παρτυρῶν), is true.

To sum up on the question of authorship, perhaps I can make the point by comparison and contrast. Brown, as we saw earlier, argues for the identity of the beloved disciple with John son of Zebedee but denies the identity of the beloved disciple with the evangelist. Cullmann [Johannine Circle, 74-85.] per contra argues for the identity of the beloved disciple with the evangelist but denies the identity of the beloved disciple with John. He believes he was an anonymous Judaean disciple, a former follower of the Baptist, in part an eye witness, but not one of the twelve. Why he should ever have been identified with John or how the gospel or 'the Johannine circle' ('for want of a better name'!) was so called remains a mystery. It is these self-created aporiai, or perplexities, in Johannine studies which seem to me so much more baffling than the breaks and discontinuities at which the critics balk. [Cf. Lindars, Behind the Fourth Gospel, 14-16.]
I believe that both men are right in what they assert and wrong in what they deny. Further I think they are both wrong in assuming that the evangelist is dead at the time of composition and therefore introducing yet another divide between him and the final redactor (or redactors). In fact ironically it is the lack of final redaction to which the evidence most powerfully points. The faulty connections and self-corrections do not of themselves argue a multiplicity of hands. They merely show that what was first written, perhaps very early, as homiletic and apologetic material for various occasions has still not at the end been knit into a seamless robe.

But whatever the actual authorship and the precise limits of other bands at work (on which there will remain scope for unending diversity and debate), I believe that John represents in date, as in theology, not only the omega but also the alpha of New Testament development. He bestrides the period like a colossus and marks out its span, the span that lies between two dramatic moments in Jerusalem which boldly we may date with unusual precision. The first was when, on 9 April 30, 'early on the Sunday morning, while it was still dark', one man' saw and believed' (John 20. 1-9). And the second was when, on 26 September 70, 'the dawn of the eighth day of the month Gorpiaeus broke upon Jerusalem in flames'. [Josephus, BJ 6.407.]
Over those forty years, I believe, all the books of the New Testament came to completion, and during most of that period, if we are right, the Johannine literature was in the process of maturation. It gradually took shape, in meditation and preaching, in evangelism and apologetic, in worship and instruction, and in that decisive translation into writing (John 20.31; I John 5.13) which fixed it, alone of the early Christian traditions, in the form of both gospel and epistles - as well as in those pastoral dealings for which 'pen and ink' (II John 12; III John 13) could be no substitute.

This does not mean that at this point the Johannine any more than any of the other streams of tradition ceased to flow or to grow. On the contrary, there is mounting evidence that for a considerable period, before the writings of the New Testament came to be cited as authoritative, the oral tradition and the 'living voice', of which Papias quotes John as a last survivor, [Apud Euseb. HE 3.39.4.]
continued to hold the field. But this raises the problem of the sub-apostolic age. If the New Testament was essentially complete by 70, was it succeeded simply by a literary desert? What of those decades, especially between 80 and 100, which scholars have seeded so freely with their second sowings of deutero-Pauline and other latter-day literature? Are they merely left vacant? One cannot redate the New Testament without giving some attention, however sketchily, to this shadowy period in which any secure landmarks are still more scarce.


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