The four gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are central to the Church.  We are looking at the traditions about John which we doubt really is written by somebody who personally knew Jesus.  It claims that it is.
Christians believe that Jesus Christ left his message in the care of the twelve apostles. If the four gospels of the New Testament which are the only accounts we have of the alleged life of Jesus are anonymous or cannot be linked firmly to the apostles they cannot be depended on as the word of God. The Church only accepted the gospels as authoritative on the basis that they were thought to be written or commissioned and sanctioned by the apostles. This basis was extremely weak. To listen to the gospels is not to listen to Christ. Scholarship broadly agrees that none of the gospellers wrote from Judea or Galilee or wrote for people in those regions (page 120, Everything You Know About God is Wrong, The Disinformation Guide to Religion, Edited by Russ Kick, The Disinformation Company, New York, 2007). That should disturb people most. The Church seems to want to keep the focus away from this and on the authorship to block the insight that if these books were really God's word God would have made sure they were written among people who witnessed the events and for these people.
There are a number of Bible books that are forgeries. Some people wrote letters as if they were written by Paul or Peter for example. The gospel of John is another. Christians say this is not forgery or deceit for they only wrote what these people would have written anyway. But can a person really write for somebody else? No. Also the ancient world was in unison that this practice was forgery and deceit so see page 172 of Why I Became an Atheist (John Loftus, Prometheus Books, New York, 2008). It is suggested that these writers thought the spirit of Paul or Peter or John was in them inspiring them so they were honest. But the Bible condemns such spiritualism for only God inspires. Also, there is no evidence that they thought that way. Also, the authors had a Jewish background and would have been repulsed at such necromancy. The Jewish religion was sternly opposed to communication with the dead. Passing off a writing as somebody else's work is more likely to be forgery than anything else. The odds are stacked against it being merely pseudonymous as the Christians prefer to call it.
There is no hard evidence that Matthew, Mark, Luke or John wrote or were the final editors of the gospels attributed to them. The hints that they could have done are just hints. And the hints are controversial and could point to any number of other people having been the author instead. The main evidence that they did not write the gospels is the hiding. Why didn't they name themselves?


Traditions going back only to the time of Irenaeus say that John the Apostle produced the anonymous gospel that now bears his name (Biblical Dictionary and Concordance, John, Gospel of), Irenaeus said that he got this information from Polycarp who was allegedly a disciple of John. Irenaeus stated that John wrote it in Ephesus when Trajan was Emperor which was from 98 to 117 AD.

In the first half of the second century, the bishop Papias, wrote that if he wanted to know what Jesus’ apostles, and he names John, taught he had to ask some presbyters to find out! Read Eusebius’ History of the Church (3:39). If there had been a gospel of John or one that was ever thought to have been from John this wouldn’t have been happening. A bishop would have to have had his books especially when that bishop was also a religious writer.

Papias said that John and James, his brother, were assassinated by Jews. We have to go to the writings of Philip of Side in the 400s for that quote (page 220, Putting Away Childish Things). This could only have taken place before the Jews were crushed in 70 AD for after that they were in enough trouble of their own to worry about hurting Christians. The Syrian list of Martyrs of 411 AD tells us that it had been believed for ages that the apostles John and his brother James had been martyred (page 221, Putting Away Childish Things).

The first person to claim that the fourth gospel was the apostle John’s work was Theophilus who was bishop of Antioch (page 129, The Canon of Scripture). This took place in 180 AD. This guy was an apologist. He evidently made this up because he cited no evidence from people who knew the author and did not attempt to explain why nobody else was saying it was John but him. So we have a late ascription by an unreliable source.

Many Gnostics admitted they believed they could make up whatever religious doctrines they liked as long as they believed the basics of Gnosticism. Religious fantasy was even surmised to be a sign of having attained gnosis or mystical anti-rational knowledge. It was not written by John the Apostle and the way it was accepted reluctantly and so slowly (page 128, The Canon of Scripture) among true Christians shows that. Also, the Gnostics fell madly and deeply in love with the gospel and they liked to keep their teachings secret so John was kept secret. It was not written by an apostle for apostles would not pass on a book to be kept by heretics.

A prologue to the gospel of John dating from the second century appears to claim that John dictated the gospel to another John (page 43, Why Believe?). Heaven only knows what the other character did with what he heard or if the first John even seen the final edition.
The Church depends on late ascriptions and unreliable traditions to be able to hold that the gospels can be linked with the apostles and be considered reliable vehicles of the message they had to transmit to people from Jesus.
Bible Dictionary and Concordance, New American Bible, 1970  
Early Christian Writings, Translated by Maxwell Staniforth, Penguin, London, 1987  
Everything You Know About God is Wrong, The Disinformation Guide to Religion, Edited by Russ Kick, The Disinformation Company, New York, 2007
Evidence that Demands a Verdict, Vol 1, Josh McDowell, Alpha, Scripture Press Foundation, Bucks, 1995  
Evil and the God of Love, John Hick, Fontana/Fount, Glasgow, 1979  
Handbook to the Controversy with Rome, Karl Von Hase, Vols 1& 2, The Religious Tract Society, London, 1906  
He Walked Among Us, Josh McDowell and Bill Wilson, Alpha, Cumbria, 2000  
Jesus – One Hundred Years Before Christ, Professor Alvar Ellegard, Century, London, 1999  
Jesus and the Four Gospels, John Drane, Lion, Herts, 1984  
Jesus the Evidence, Ian Wilson, Pan, London, 1985  
JR Harmer, The Apostolic Fathers, Grand Rapids, Michigan, Baker Book House, 1988 (from 1891 Edition published by Macmillan and Co. London)  
New Age Bible Versions, GA Riplinger, Bible & Literature Missionary Foundation, Tennessee, 1993
On the True Doctrine, Celsus, Translated by R Joseph Hoffmann, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1987  
The Apostolic Fathers, B Lightfoot and JR Harmer, Grand Rapids, Michigan, Baker Book House, 1988, from 1891 Edition published by Macmillan and Co. London  
The Bible Fact or Fantasy, John Drane, Lion, Oxford, 1989  
The Canon of Scripture, FF Bruce, Chapter House, Glasgow, 1988
The Early Church, Henry Chadwick Pelican, London, 1987  
The Encyclopaedia of Unbelief, Volume 1, Gordon Stein, Editor, Prometheus Books, New York, 1985  
The First Christian, Karen Armstrong, Pan Books, London, 1983
The Gnostic Gospels, Elaine Pagels, Penguin, London, 1990
The History of Christianity, Lions, Herts, 1982  
The History of the Church, Eusebius, Penguin, London, 1989  
The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail, Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh and Henry Lincoln, Corgi, London, 1982  
The Jesus Event, Martin R Tripole SJ, Alba House, New York, 1980
The Jesus Mysteries, Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy, Thorsons, London, 1999
The Jesus Papyrus, Carsten Peter Thiede and Matthew D’Ancona, Phoenix, London, 1997  
The Lion Concise Book of Christian Thought, Tony Lane, Lion Publishing, Herts, 1984  
The Nag Hammadi Library, Edited by J A Robinson, HarperCollins, San Francisco, 1990
The Newly Recovered Gospel of St Peter, J Rendle Harris, Hodder and Stoughton, London, 1893  
The Original Jesus, Tom Wright, Lion, Oxford, 1996
The Reconstruction of Belief, Charles Gore DD, John Murray, London, 1930  
The Secret Gospel, Morton Smith, Aquarian, Harper & Row, San Francisco, 1985  
The Strange Case of the Secret Gospel According to Mark by Shawn Eyer Alexandria: The Journal for the Western Cosmological Traditions, Volume 3, 1995  
The Unauthorised Version, Robin Lane Fox, Penguin, Middlesex, 1992
The “Historical” Jesus by Acharya S


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