The paper 'The Gospel of John' is a good example of a research paper on religion and theology.
There are five works attributed to John mainly the Gospel of John, 1, 2, 3 John, and Revelation; though there has been debate surrounding their authorship. This stems mainly from fundamental questions that scholars raise, that even now they seem to disagree on each, citing their reasons. The close connection of John to the writings is an interesting phenomenon given the heat the debate raises with those claiming John as the author of all the books while others poke holes into the claims. This is mainly through the development in the field of Theology and History (Rensberger 2). It is against such a foundation that this research paper is based and it will tackle the Gospel of John, the Epistles and the book of Revelation respectively and finally a conclusion as well.
The Gospel of John
John is the fourth Gospel, and it was written to prove conclusively that Jesus Christ of God and that all individuals who believe in him will have eternal life. It was meant for new Christians and searching non-Christians. It was probably written between A.D. 85 and 90. The authorship of John is highly disputed among different scholars. This is mainly due to the content and style of writing as attested by Brown in The Gospel and Epistles of John: A Concise Commentary. Some scholars attribute the Gospel of John writing to John the Apostle as is evidenced by his accounts in the Bible that records him as a witness who wrote down what he personally witnessed (Brown 9). Others claim that it was not the apostle, since writers back then in the second century were more concerned with the authority behind the writing other than the physical person, therefore, casting doubts on the authorship of the apostle. This was perhaps done to give authenticity or authority to any work written. The controversy is added by those casting doubt on the prospect of any of the apostles having written any of the gospels. They allude to the fact that they could have been written by people who collected and compiled narrations from others present in Jesus’ life (Brown 9). The inclusion of more elaborate details about the Jewish cultural practices that permeate beyond Jesus’ time; that is evident in the Gospel of John that lacks in other Gospels attest to the fact that it is more probable that it was not the apostle John who wrote the book. Another perspective suggests that the teachings of the apostle could have been expanded over the years to include reflections and the experiences of his community. Perhaps the last version to the author of the Gospel of John points to the fact that the book was a total sum-up of the beloved disciple’s narration as well as the evangelist’s account that underwent further editorial work to have the final book (Brown, 11). This is evident through the repetition of accounts and also different conclusions in some of the endings in a few parts of the book.
It is evident therefore throughout the book that it was not John who authored the Gospel of John rather a compilation of different accounts that are put together by an individual to bring about the existence of one final book called the Gospel of John.
Epistles are basically letters and we have several of them in the Bible. We have three of them namely; 1 John, 2 John, and 3 John in the Bible that are attributed to John. The three letters just like the Gospel of John are also disputed in terms of their authorship. There seem on one hand those who suggest that the epistles were written by John the apostle and others who cast doubt on that fact. Those associating the authorship of the epistles to the apostle whom they also claim authorship to the Gospel of John do so due to the resemblance in the literary style, way of thinking and speaking about Jesus Christ, and issues of the Christian life. This observation, therefore, can lead to the conclusion that it is indeed true that they were probably written by the same author or could have come from a similar place and time. It is also possible that they could all have come from the same Christian community and were addressed to the same circumstances (Rensberger 2).
On the contrary, some people dispute the authorship as belonging to John the apostle quoting a few things. First, no actual name appears on the epistles as such in any of the writings meaning that no absolute claim can be proved about John the apostle. 1 John talks of “we” while 2 John and 3 John talk of the “the elder”. Apparently “the elder” is not given any name, therefore, making it impossible to lay an outright claim about the authorship as belonging to John. In fact, doubt is cast on the possibility of one person writing the three epistles given that the title “the elder” misses out in 1 John though present in 2 John and 3 John. Though this observation can be made, evidence shows that there is no difference between the long and short letters. On account of all this, it safe therefore to conclude that the three epistles were written by the same person, but, different from the author of the Gospel of John (Rensberger 3).
Revelation or Apocalypse
The authorship of Revelation raises a lot of debate just like the other four books attributed to John. Identifying the John behind this work is a daunting and in the end impossible task (Blount, 5). It is possible as Blount suggests in his book Revelation: A Commentary that the author of Revelation was possibly called John but as to which John we may not authoritatively lay claim on but it is possible that was not his real name too. Some scholars credit the book to John the Apostle while others point to a different person but who was called John. Early scholars attributed the book to John the apostle (Mounce 9). Justin Marty having lived at Ephesus claims that John the Apostle is the writer of Revelation an assertion too held by Clement of Alexandria.
Later scholars have cast their doubts on this claim and have gone ahead to prove that indeed he was not the author of the book. Those arguing that he was not the author of the book claim that Revelation is a composite work emanating from the circle of John and his disciples. They also point to the fact that the author does not call himself an apostle but John, a servant of God, a brother of his readers and a prophet. They also subscribe to the thought that the apostle suffered early martyrdom and there is no way he could have written the book. In addition, they claim that this John knew little of the historical Jesus (Mounce 12).
All in all, is quite difficult to say with a sense of finality that indeed John the Apostle was the sole writer of the book of Revelation. This is because of the coincidences and differences that exist making it even harder to come to a definite conclusion about who the real author was. It is also of essence to note that the author of Revelation could in no way the same as the author of the epistle and the Gospel of John because of the marked differences in style of writing and point of view (Tragelles 25).
John’s community can also be referred to as the Johannine community. This is the group of people that made up that community that John lived in. After the resurrection of Christ, the apostles fled to different parts due to persecution. It is said that John settled in Ephesus and this community that he lived gave rise to the Gospel of John. The community was made up of Christians that John led and guided. Other people say that there were some differences between the church and the synagogue concerning some practices which lead a few scholars to argue that John was expelled from the synagogue and went to live with other people while others claim they were basically against the practices they perceived wrong therefore living on their own (Gundry 106). This assertion is seconded by Brown in The Community of the Beloved Disciple.
It will not be thrilling to see the debate rage on for years to come about who was the author of the book of Revelation. From what has been demonstrated, the advancement in various fields and new discoveries being made it will be enjoyable to see what direction this debate will take because some may come up with theories to support the fact that John was the actual author of the book or others will shed more light about who the real author was.
Blount, Brian K. Revelation: a commentary. Louisville, Ky.: Westminster John Knox Press,
Brown, Raymond Edward. The community of the Beloved Disciple. New York: Paulist Press,
Brown, Raymond Edward. The Gospel and Epistles of John: a concise commentary. Taipei,
Taiwan: Kwangchi Cultural Group, 2010. Print.
Gundry, Robert Horton. Jesus the Word according to John the sectarian: a paleofundamentalist
manifesto for contemporary evangelicalism, especially its elites, in North America. Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans Pub., 2002. Print.
Mounce, Robert H.. The Book of Revelation. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1977. Print.
Rensberger, David K.. 1 John, 2 John, 3 John. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1997. Print.
Tregelles, Samuel Prideaux. The book of Revelation. London: Samuel Bagster, 1849. Print.