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Do not give God any credit for the good they do, they did it!

 

DATING THE GOSPEL OF JOHN

The New Testament’s four gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are the only real sources of information about the alleged life of the historical Jesus.  We need contemporary testimony of Jesus and there is nothing.  Why do we not have it when we have it for other faith figures such as Joseph Smith and Mary Baker Eddy.  Something written after Jesus left is not as good and does not ask for the same trust as something contemporary.  That is the principle and there is no way it can be wished away.

 

The gospels are also the only accounts of this life that Christians consider divinely inspired. The other gospels that were excluded from the New Testament were written too late to be of any value. Considering the fanaticism that marks most forms of Christianity, it is remarkable that their precious gospels show no indication of having existed in their present form at least until more than a century after Jesus died.

 

The gospels could have been written a year after Jesus died and Jesus might still not have existed. Selective choice of the readership by the engineers of the Church could have ensured that Jesus would be believed in. But the longer the gospels can be proved to have existed after Jesus died the more likely it is that Christianity is a fake. Had the gospel writers not been ashamed of how late they wrote they would have given us dates for then as now people did not like late accounts or accounts that could be late.

 

Evidence of reasonable publication matters more than the date something was written. It will matter if you want to argue that society could contradict a pile of historical lies when it gets a read at them. If the date is late and the publication is late then we are entitled to refuse to take the gospels as gospel truth.


The Gospel of John is probably the last gospel. Cranks say that it could have been written anytime from soon after Jesus’ death and the non-cranks say it was nearly until the end of the first century. The latest date is the safest bet as we shall soon see and that date takes us into the second century.

 

The way it is so different, in the sense of being mystical and magical, from the other gospels points to it being the last and so supersedes any evidence to the contrary. It is more hostile to Judaism than the rest and shows the influence of Greek philosophy so it was written after the Church broke away from Judaism which happened in a big way in 70AD. Irenaeus said that John wrote it in the nineties of the first century (Biblical Dictionary, John, Gospel of). He might be wrong about the author but right about the date. What the earliest person says comes first and he was the first to say it was a late gospel. Papias indicated that there was a gospel of John a few decades later.

 

The stress on God and the supernatural telling you that Jesus’ and his message are all for real in this gospel is an attempt to do away with historical evidence and forbids belief in the other gospels for they have a different attitude.

 

This gospeller did not have the other gospels before him at all. There is no evidence that he consulted the synoptic gospels (page 403, William Neil’s One Volume Bible Commentary). The similarities prove that he was not filling in where the others were silent. John did not put in the stuff unique to his gospel for purely theological reasons. Why would he say that the handkerchief over Jesus’ head was rolled up by itself in the tomb unless he was intending to be historical? If John is the last gospel then it is proof that they were kept secret for it has no awareness of them. John uses traditions that avoid any semblance to the traditions of Mark, Matthew and Luke. He didn't avoid them deliberately. What we see about John's stories and the stories of Mark, Matthew and Luke is that each side made up its own traditions.

 

John must be the last gospel for Luke claimed to have written all about Jesus and that we need to know so John’s tales must have been invented afterwards.

 

Luke would not have neglected the story of Lazarus being raised from the dead that we have in John. It is no answer to say that Luke thought the story of the resurrected son of the widow was enough for the Lazarus story is more astonishing for Lazarus was smelling in the tomb. He declared that he wanted to tell Theo everything meaning everything essential or major (Luke 1:1-4; Acts 1:1).

 

John’s Jesus tells the apostles that they are not slaves but friends (15:15). The principle in the other gospels that we must love only for God’s sake implies that we are slaves for we are not working for a reward but for God’s benefit is denied. We are certainly slaves if we love God this way on earth because we have no way of being sure that depression, grave sickness and death will not come and we only believe we will have blessings after death. Thus, John is putting itself outside the Mark, Matthew and Luke traditions and even their very foundations. This heretical gospel is implying that any other gospel is nonsense.

Jesus tells the crowd that the light – Jesus for he calls himself the light of the world - is among them for only a little while and told them to walk in it while they still have it for it will be dark when it is gone (John 12:35). But if the light speaks through a gospel this would not be unless that gospel will be written after they are all dead. John 14 promises that the apostles will always have the revelations of the light. So when they had light and didn’t leave any for the people we have a clear hint that the gospeller knew there were no gospels written or authorised by the apostles during their lifetimes. It also implies that

John the apostle never wrote the gospel. John might have died in 98 AD at the latest so the gospel could be later than that. The gospel envisions itself as a restoration of the lost light. Since the apostles claimed to be the foundation of the faith anybody claiming to restore is a heretic and so the John gospel is heretical and should not be in the Bible.

 

Some say all this dualism in the John gospel between light and darkness comes from the Qumran writings of the early first century and not from Hellenistic philosophy at the end of the first century and on that basis date the gospel earlier than the nineties (page 70, Reasons for Hope). But the writer could have used Qumran material any time after the material was known.

 

In John 9:4, Jesus tells his disciples when he wants to cure a blind man that he has to do miracles before night comes on. Then he says that while he is in the world he is the light of the world. Jesus is denying that there will be any miracles done when he physically leaves the world. The Acts of the Apostles and the epistles which record miracles are being pronounced to be unreliable and fraudulent. When the author thought of putting that in he must have intended to halt the claims of the apostles or their fans that they possessed miracle powers. He may contradict himself elsewhere but what he means here is clear enough. The night must stand for the absence of the physical presence of Jesus on earth for he said he was the light of the world as long as he was in the world.

 

John must have been a secret gospel if it had a go at the apostles and then it would have been loudly and scathingly denounced in the New Testament and in early tradition.

 

John says that the apostles reached an astonishing level of saintliness and belief (17:8, 10, 19). Since one sin makes all you do hypocrisy and Jesus told the apostles that they did not belong to the world, a figure for sin and materialism, it means that they must have been perfectly holy. Significantly, there are no tales in John about the apostles being weak cowards and all the rest. Only Thomas was accused of a reluctance to believe that Jesus rose but it was not described as detracting from his character. Peter and the beloved believed Jesus going missing from the tomb was the work of thieves or Jesus reviving because they did not understand or believe that scripture said he would rise from the dead (John 20:8,9). They were brave and loyal enough to do that. This implies that the story of cowardly and unreliable apostles was an invention. The way this story is not attacked directly shows that it was not being said about them.

 

John denies that Jesus predicted the crucifixion clearly before it happened for if he had we would be reading that they did not understand Jesus and not the scriptures for it sees Jesus as more important than the Old Testament. He does say that Jesus predicted his death but only in vague terms. He denies that Jesus ever spoke clearly about his crucifixion and death because the Old Testament scriptures are vague about it and they are. So that is why he is able to say the apostles didn’t understand that Jesus rose or was meant to. Matthew, Mark and Luke then lied when they said Jesus clearly predicted that he would die on the cross and rise again and the events surrounding these happenings.

 

As Robin Lane Fox says, in John 14:31, Jesus says let us get up and go out and then he rambles on for a long time before he goes out indicating that the rambling was an insertion (page 142, The Unauthorized Version).

 

John 5 describes a pool in Jerusalem that allegedly had the power to heal the first person lucky enough to be dipped in after an angel stirred the waters. This shows us that the people were gullible and superstitious including the gospeller who believed in this legend. Also, Jesus cured this man which casts doubt on whether a cure happened at all for the man was gullible. Jesus should have picked headstrong rational people if he wanted his miracles to be signs. It is bad enough when the gospels give no evidence that anybody Jesus cured was like that but here it is admitted that a gullible man was chosen for the alleged miracle. The main problem with this is that it is now known that this pool was sacred to the god of healing, Asclepius. Jesus cured the man and ran off leaving the pagan god to get the credit even though he did tell the man later. Perhaps the man was cured by somebody else and Jesus heard that some people thought it was him and he took the credit. The gospeller’s gullibility is so great that he does not give any proof that this could not have happened. John hides the fact that this was a pagan shrine and says an angel was doing the miracles which suggests a late date long after the destruction of Jerusalem.

 

Or maybe he was not John and did not know but still he had to have been writing after these things were relatively forgotten.


Jesus told the apostles that he gave them a new commandment to love one another as he loved them (John 13:34-36). This is different then from the Old Testament commandment, “Love your neighbour as yourself” for it was an old commandment. Jesus accepted the Old Testament command so it seems that he meant we have to love one another enough to die for one another like he died for others. The preceding sentence has Jesus saying he will only be around a little while so that was probably what he had in mind. The line after also says that Jesus will sacrifice himself to death and Peter says he will sacrifice himself too. The Law of Moses commanded people to die for others say in war. So why does Jesus say it’s a new commandment? Could it be that the gospel is obliquely saying that Jesus wants people to die UNNECESSARILY for others? That is the only explanation. If the apostles committed suicide by getting themselves martyred then we cannot rely on them at all. Jesus said that the whole world would know they are his disciples by their love and obedience to the new commandment. But the apostles lived obscure lives and died deaths that are masked in legend. This prophecy proved false. It was only in the second century that stories of this remarkable suicidal fanatical love of the apostles appeared which tell us plenty about when this ludicrous gospel was written.

 

The Book of Revelation which is attributed to John and which was entered into the canon of the Bible because it was thought to be genuinely from him is no help in working out how old John is or who wrote it for it is full of abrupt Greek and has copious grammatical errors (page 319, The Truth of Christianity) and so it is not John’s work. The Revelation cannot be the word of God when it strictly forbids anybody making any changes in it when it needs changing. Sometimes the book is in good grammar and other times it is appalling (page 319, ibid) which has led some to say that the bad grammar was just a put-on to imitate the hurried style of the Old Testament prophets. So, no matter what anybody throws up against the Christian scriptures they have an answer. The most plausible answer is that somebody rewrote a well-written book and made a hash of it. It is more plausible than saying somebody would deliberately write in bad grammar to make a symbolical point that nobody cares about.

 

The Ryland’s Papyrus, the oldest fragment of the New Testament in the world, is a tiny piece of scroll with part of John 18:31-33, 37. It is taken to date from 130 AD, at the oldest and could be from 160 AD (Challenging the Verdict, Earl Doherty), through the science of palaeography or the analysis of the writing. It was found in Egypt which is far from Ephesus where the gospel was apparently written. But tradition says that the author departed from Ephesus in 98 AD so he could have left it for Egypt. There is no evidence for the view that the gospel was so well circulated that the fragment became available. The gospeller would have sent his gospel to Egypt because it was receptive to new religious ideas. The piece might have come from just the second copy or even a talisman. Superstitious people carried portions of holy books with them. And these tended to stick to the handwriting on the original for magic is based on the idea that like produces like. Many people prefer to use old-fashioned styles so the writing is not conclusive proof about anything. The fragment was alone when found suggesting that it was a talisman. Thus it poses no threat to those who would date John to 142 AD.

 

The John Rylands Payprus is not easily dated from the handwriting for there are so few samples from the end of the first century that the Papyrus may actually be from 150 AD.  And we need more samples from its place of origin.  Its early date is pure guesswork.


The fragment does not prove that John existed in its complete and present form between 130 and 150 AD. Luke wrote that some of his gospel material came from the already existing books and undoubtedly some of it would have come from them word for word. John could have been produced the same way. This was about or over a hundred years after Jesus’ death so by that time it was possible to invent anything at all about him. Judaism was in chaos and not a threat.


The first quote from this gospel comes from the Gnostic heretic Basilides around 130 AD. Basilides however must have been sure that the gospel was corrupted for he claimed that Simon of Cyrene was crucified instead of Jesus and repudiated John’s Jesus’ acceptance of the Jewish Law by implication when he accused the God of the Jews of being a mere angel. But the original sources are merely fragments and the other sources disagree on what his doctrines were and tell lies about them (page 53, The Concise Dictionary of the Christian Church). Thus we dare not be sure that Basilides did quote John when nearly all his teaching was reported by hostile Christians who were liberal with accuracy. John never says that Jesus’ return from the dead was supernatural or inexplicable which shows the mark of the second century climate among Gnostics that said that it was a natural resurrection and not a real resurrection.

 

But anyway, Basilides quoted John 1:9 which speaks of the true light coming into the world to enlighten every person and John 2:4 where Jesus says his hour has not come yet (page 126, The Canon of Scripture). So Hippolytus says in his Refutation of All Heresies. Now there is no problem with the quotation from John 1 because it was a hymn in common use that John put at the start of his gospel. As for the other, it was only a saying and most of the sayings of Jesus were allowed to be distributed. Basilides proves nothing about the existence of the John gospel.


John was certainly written in the second century. We don’t know how much rewriting it got after its composition.