New research points toward the likelihood that The Gospel of John is a forgery.
When it comes to the authorship of this story, Christian tradition attributes the Gospel to an apostle, known in the text as the disciple “whom Jesus loved” and identified by early church writers as the disciple John.
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Since the 1960s many scholars have argued that ‘John’ (it might have been a different disciple because the text doesn’t give a name) founded his own community and wrote the Gospel. Academics, who have recognized that the Johannine letters are thematically similar but stylistically distinct from the Gospel, don’t think that they were written by the author of the fourth Gospel but that they were nevertheless the product of the same “Johannine Community.” The picture painted here is one in which a community of followers of Jesus, led and founded by someone who knew Jesus personally, produced all of these texts. There are numerous academic books and articles out there that try to chart the history of this community, its literary output, its social structure, location, and origins.
A provocative and well-argued article published this week in the Journal for the Study of the New Testament threatens to turn this argument on its head. Hugo Mendez, an assistant professor of religious studies at UNC-Chapel Hill, argues that the so-called “Johannine community” never existed and that the Johannine literature are forgeries that claim to be written by a disciple even though they were not.
Well … who knows? More than anything else, this story reminds us how little we know about the ‘inerrant’ Bible, and the corresponding intellectual dishonesty of the entire theological enterprise.