John, the Eyewitness Gospel

Gospel of John, disputed by few religious critics an eyewitness account, was written independently of the three Synoptic Gospels.[1]As with the other three Gospels, the author does not specifically identify himself. One reason why is the Jewish literary protocol of that era not to pen a name to literary works.[2]

Oldest of the fragments of the Gospel of John are dated to 125 AD, possibly from the original manuscript text.[3] The Gospel account is believed to have been written when John was in his 90s, a few short years before he died in approximately 100 AD.[4]

Some assert that the Disciple John, aka Apostle John, was not the actual author, rather someone else wrote it for him.[5] If indeed that is the case, advanced age may have required someone else to write on his behalf. Nonetheless, written or dictated, the account reflects intimate knowledge of someone who was there.

Writing “Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book;” consequently, there should be no such expectation.[6] Still, some critics use John’s omission of events otherwise referenced in the three Synoptic Gospels as evidence to challenge the credibility of his Gospel.[7]

Identifying himself as a Disciple, the list of possibilities for authorship is limited to eleven Disciples. Investigating the accounts of Matthew, Mark and Luke provides important insights. Narrowing the possibilities to the inner circle of Jesus – Peter, James and John – they were the only three Disciples chosen by Jesus to be with him during the Transfiguration and his final prayer on the Mount of Olives.[8]

James was executed decades before John’s Gospel was written excluding him as a possibility.[9] Peter is ruled out when he is identified as the one who motioned to the Disciple author leaning on the chest of Jesus to ask for more details about who would be the betrayer among them. Investigation thus reveals John is the Disciple author of the Gospel.[10]

Characteristics of an eyewitness statement provides a second validation to John as an eyewitness author of the Gospel. A credible eyewitness statement, as opposed to an investigative report, is expected to begin when the witness became engaged; typically written chronologically as memory recall dictates; makes references to specific dates and times, locations and names; and may include quotes.[11]

Events in the Gospel begin with John the Baptist shortly before John was called by Jesus to become a Disciple. After setting a pretext scenario, the Resurrection morning events begin at the point when Mary Magdalene and other women burst into the room telling John and Peter what they had seen and heard at the empty tomb. The Gospel ends with a detailed encounter and breakfast with the resurrected Jesus on Sea of Tiberias shore.

Instead of writing about himself, John provided an account of how Andrew, Peter, Philip and Nathaniel became Disciples.[12] Chronologically written, the Gospel marks the sequence of events using the Feasts in Jerusalem, important to a Jewish audience.[13] Compared to the parallel Jewish writing styl e of Matthew, Mark and Luke, obviously there are going to be chronological timeline differences.[14]

Beginning the ministry of Jesus, John writes “the Passover of the Jews was near.”[15] Next marking the midpoint, “Now the Passover, the festival of the Jews, was near.”[16] The Gospel account moves into the final phase with “Now it was the Preparation Day of the Passover.”[17] Times of day, in some instances the very hour, are pinpointed in John’s account.[18]

Locations are so frequent in such detail, it is easy to map the journey of Jesus throughout his ministry. Obscure locations are named, “Aenon near Salim and a “Samaritan town called Sychar” as well as places near Jerusalem, “the Kidron Valley,” the “Mount of Olives” and .[19] Precise locations within Jerusalem are identified, the “Sheep Gate a pool called Bethzatha in Aramaic,” “The Stone Pavement” (Gabbatha in Aramaic) and “the Roman governor’s residence” of Pilate.[20]

“Cana in Galilee” is named three times, first where Jesus turned the water to wine and is identified as the hometown of Disciple Nathanael.[21] Bethany is cited as the hometown of the siblings Mary, Martha and Lazarus as well as a place where John baptized.[22]

Personal names are many, the first offering yet another validation to the identify of the Gospel’s author because John is never called, “John the Baptist” – there was only need to identify one “John.”[23] Some Disciples were identified as Andrew, Simon Peter, Philip, Nathanael, Thomas and ”Judas (not Judas Iscariot).[24] Named also are two Pharisee members of the ruling Jewish council Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea; adversaries Caiaphas, Annas, and Pilate;” and other followers of Jesus, Mary the wife of Clopas, Mary Magdalene and the siblings Mary, Martha and Lazarus.[25]

Quotes appear throughout the account; Nicodemus said, “you are a teacher who has come from God.”[26] Martha said to Jesus about her brother, Lazarus, “I know that whatever you ask from God, God will grant you.”[27] Mary Madelene’s exclamation to Peter and John, “They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”[28]

Doubting Disciple Thomas said, “Unless I see the wounds from the nails in his hands, and put my finger into the wounds from the nails, and put my hand into his side, I will never believe it!” Days later his excited utterance is quoted upon seeing and touching the resurrected Jesus, “My Lord and my God!”[29] Disciple Peter said “I will lay down my life for you!”[30] The author himself writes of his encounter with the resurrected Jesus at the Sea of Galilee, “It is the Lord!”[31]

Providing specific details strongly suggest the author observed these things himself. Miraculously changing the water to wine, not just a small jug of water, rather “six stone waterpots…containing twenty or thirty gallons each.”[32] “Mary took a pound of very costly oil of spikenard” and anointed the feet of Jesus.[33] Critics asked, “Why was this fragrant oil not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?”[34]

After Judas exited the Passover meal, the Last Supper, four chapters describe teaching and admonitions of Jesus that are unique. Jesus foretells of Peter denying him three times before the cock crows that next morning; the coming of the Holy Spirit; the vine and the branches, and prayers for his Disciples and believers.[35]

On the Mount of Olives, “Simon Peter then, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s slave, and cut off his right ear; and the slave’s name was Malchus.” Not just an ear, it was the right ear of a slave named Malchus.[36]

Describing the crucifixion, “bearing His cross, went out to a place called the Place of a Skull, which is called in Hebrew, Golgotha, where they crucified Him, and two others with Him, one on either side, and Jesus in the center.”[37] Crucifixion witnesses were identified as the mother of Jesus (Mary), her sister (Salome, mother of John), Mary the wife of Clopas, Mary Magdalene and the Disciple author himself to whom Jesus spoke, “Behold your mother!”[38]

An indication of death, according to medical experts, “one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out.”[39] After the crucifixion, “Now in the place where He was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid.”[40]

Words of an eyewitness to the final three years of Jesus of Nazareth, John’s wrote:

“…he who has seen has testified, and his testimony is true; and he knows that he is telling the truth, so that you may believe.”[41]



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[1] “Gospel of John.” Encyclopedia of biblical Christianity.  n.d.  <>  “The Book of John.” Quartz Hill School of Theology. n.d.  <>  Smith, Barry D. “The Gospel of John.” Crandall University. n.d. <> “Crucifixion.” Jewish Encyclopedia. 2011. <>
[2] Hoffe , Peter Charles.  “Plagiarism.” University of Massachusetts  Amherst. 2013. <>
[3] Rylands, John. “P52: A Fragment of the Gospel of John (a.k.a. John Rylands P457).” Trans. K. C. Hanson. 2004. <>
[4] “St. John the Apostle.” Catholic News Agency. n.d. <>   “John the Apostle.” TheFamousPeople. n.d. <> “Gospel of John.”
[5] Smith, Barry D. “The Gospel of John.” “The Book of John.” Quartz Hill School of Theology. “Gospel of John.” “Gospel of John Commentary: Who Wrote the Gospel of John and How Historical Is It?” Biblical Archeology Society. 2019.>
[6] John 20:30. NASB, NKJV.
[7] Smith, B. D. “The Gospel of John.” F. 5.3.
[8] Matthew 17:1; 26:36; Mark 1:29; 5:37; 9:2; 14:33; Luke 8:51; 9:28; 22:8; John 13:23-25.
[9] Acts. 2:12. “St. James.” Encyclopædia Britannica. 2020. <>
[10] John 13:23-25.
[11] Sapir Avinoam.  LSI Laboratory for Scientific Interrogation. <>   
[12] John 1:40-51.  CR Matthew 4:12-22; Mark 1:19-20; Luke 5:9-11.
[13] Fonck, Leopold. “Gospel of St. John.” The Catholic Encyclopedia.Vol. 8. 1910. New Advent. 2014.  <>  “The Book of John.” Quartz Hill School of Theology.  Smith, Barry D. “The Gospel of John.”
[14] Smith, Ben C. “Gospel manuscripts – The manuscripts extant for the four canonical gospels.” 2018. <> “Synoptic Gospels.”  Gloag, Paton J. Introduction to the Synoptic Gospels. pp 5, 9, 23-38. 1895. <> “The Book of Matthew.” Quartz Hill School of Theology. Mareghni, Pamela.  “Different Approaches to Literary Criticism.” 2014. <>  “Gospel of John.”
[15] John 2:13. NASB, NRSV.  CR John 4:45.
[16] John 6:4. NASB, NRSV. 
[17] John 19:14. NASB, NKJV.
[18] John 1:39; 6:16, 17; 19:14, 31, 42: 20:1, 19.
[19] John 3:23; 4:5. 8:1; 18:1. NET.
[20] John 5:2; 18:28; 19:13. NET.
[21] John 4:43; 5:2.
[22] John 1:28; 11:1, 17, 18; 12:1, 9.
[23] John 1:19.
[24] John 1:40, 42-45; 6:8; 11:14; 14:22; 20:24; 21:2.
[25] John 3:1; 11:1, 49; 18:10, 13-14, 28, 33, 38; 19:25, 38; 20:1.
[26] John 3:1.
[27] John 11:21.
[28] John 20:22.
[29] John 20:25, 28. NET.
[30] John 13:37.
[31] John 21:7.
[32] John 2:6. NASB.
[33] John 12:3. NKJV.
[34] John 12:5. NKJV.
[35] John 13:38; 14:26; 15; 16; 17.
[36] John 18:10. NASB.
[37] John 19:16-18. NJKV.
[38] John 19:27. NKJV.  CR Matthew 27:36.
[39] John 19:34. NASB, NKJV. “A doctor on why “blood and water” gushed from Jesus’ heart.” 2019. <>  Treloar, Adrian. “The Medicine of the Crucifixion.” Catholic Medical Quarterly. 2011. <>
[40] John 19:41. NASB, NKJV.
[41] John 19:35. NKJV.



Pharisees and Jewish Leadership – Evocations from Jesus

Pharisees and the Jewish leadership were the dogged antagonists of Jesus of Nazareth – what did their provocations elicit from Jesus about being the Son of God, the prophesied Messiah?

Key to understanding the dynamics is knowing the profile of the Pharisees and the Jewish leadership. Two famous Jewish historical figures were Pharisees who provided insider knowledge.

Flavius Josephus was as a Sanhedrin-appointed Pharisee General before he was captured by the Romans and became an official Jewish historian for Rome.[1] Saul, before his conversion to the Apostle Paul, was also a Pharisee who actively worked for the Sanhedrin.[2]

Three main religious factions played an influencing  role in Jerusalem – the Pharisees, Sadducees and Essenes – all with common ground on the written Law of Moses.[3]A very closed sect, Essenes kept to themselves whereas the Sadducees strongly disagreed with the Pharisees:[4]

“…[Pharisees] have delivered to the people a great many observances by succession from their fathers which are not written in the laws of Moses; and for that reason it is that the Sadducees reject them”[5]Antiquities of the Jews

Jewish leadership was comprised of the high priests, Pharisees and Sadducees often with membership in the Sanhedrin (Sanhedrim), a supreme court of 71 judges established under Moses.[6] The Sanhedrin progressively gained  political power during its final years under the Roman Empire.

For the Pharisees, power and influence increased significantly under Jewish Queen Alexandra a generation before King Herod.[7] On his death bed, King Alexander advised Queen Alexandra to grant some of her powers to the Pharisees to gain their favor in the kingdom. [8]

Queen Alexandra granted the Pharisees “all things into their power, both to the dead body, and as to the affairs of the kingdom…”[9] In return, the Pharisees threw their support behind Queen Alexandra as ruler…but it came with a price:

“Now Alexandra hearkened to them to an extraordinary degree….while she governed other people, and the Pharisees governed her.” – Wars of the Jews [10]

Pharisees had their own contingent of officers with full arrest powers.[11] Once they were sent to arrest Jesus simply because the crowd was murmuring about things he was teaching.[12] Part of the posse that arrested Jesus on Mt. Gethsemane were officers of the Pharisees.[13] Saul admitted zealously arresting Christian before his own conversion.[14]

Josephus described the Pharisees as legal experts “esteemed most skillful in the exact explication of their law.”[15] And so it was that the Pharisees “valued themselves highly upon the exact skill they had in the law of their fathers, and made men believe they were highly favored by God.”[16]

Gospel accounts of the Pharisees indicate Jesus of Nazareth had a very similar view as Josephus – Jesus acknowledged the religious authority of the Pharisees yet despised their hypocritical behavior.[17] References to the Pharisees in the Gospels are 10-fold greater than the Sadducees.[18]

Confronting Jesus numerous times, the Pharisees and Jewish leadership  wanted to know by what authority he was forgiving sins and performing miracles. Responses from Jesus came in the form of parables, riddles or not answered at all. On a few dramatic occasions shortly before he was captured and crucified did Jesus answer them directly…

October, the Feast of the Tabernacles celebration, now known as Sukkot, is observed in Jerusalem.[19] Six months before Jesus would be crucified, the Disciples of Jesus attended the week-long festival without him.[20] Midweek Jesus secretly slipped into the city and taught at the Temple.

Officers reported Jesus to the Pharisees and Jewish leadership prompting them to find him.[21] When they heard Jesus say “I am the light of the world,” the Pharisees objected pressing him further when Jesus said:[22]

JN 8:24 “…for unless you believe that I AM, you’ll die in your sins.” (ISV)

Turning to his Judean believers, Jesus explained further and the dialog turned to Abraham. When Jesus spoke as though he knew Abraham, it led to this exchange:

JN 8:57-58 “‘You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?’ Jesus said to them, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.’” (NKJV)

Blasphemy, according to the Law of Moses, was to be punished by stoning.[23] “They picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out from the temple area.”[24]

December before Jesus would be crucified, he attended the Feast of Dedication in Jerusalem, today known as Hanukkah.[25] Under Solomon’s Portico at the Temple, the Jewish leaders confronted Jesus asking, “How long will you keep us in suspense?  If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.”[26] They got a succinct answer:

JN 10:30 “The Father and I are one.” (NET)

Again, the reaction was severe – Jewish authorities picked up stones to kill Jesus and he asked them why – “I have shown you many good deeds from the Father. For which one of them are you going to stone me?”[27] Their response, “We are not going to stone you for a good deed but for blasphemy, because you, a man, are claiming to be God.”[28]

Even if they did not believe his words, Jesus suggested they should instead consider the “good deeds” he had performed; miracles that could only be accomplished with the power of his Father – God:[29]

JN 10:36-38 “…do you say about the one whom the Father set apart and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’? If I do not perform the deeds of my Father, do not believe me. But if I do them, even if you do not believe me, believe the deeds, so that you may come to know and understand that I am in the Father and the Father is in me.” (NET)

An attempt was then made to seize Jesus rather than to stone him. The reason for their change in reaction may have been more for political self-interests and less for religious reasons. The Pharisees were afraid of the people because they viewed him as a prophet and yet he threatened their controlling influence over the people.[30]

Just hours before he was to be crucified came the most dramatic moment involving the high priest himself. During his nighttime Sanhedrin trial at the Temple, undoubtedly knowing it would cost him his life, Jesus testified under oath that he is ego eimi, Greek for “I AM”.[31]

MK 14:62 Jesus said, “I AM, and ‘you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power’ and ‘coming with the clouds of heaven.'” (ISV)

Jewish leadership and Pharisees of the Sanhedrin bore witness to the fact that Jesus testified he is “I AM.” Caiaphas immediately exclaimed, “‘He has blasphemed! Why do we still need witnesses? Listen! You yourselves have just heard the blasphemy! What is your verdict?’ They replied, ‘He deserves to die!’”[32]

On three occasions, Jesus specifically identified himself as equal to God, the Son of God, and each time the Pharisees and Jewish leadership who heard it wanted to kill him. There can be no question Jesus said it; the question is, was he right? Is Jesus truly the Son of God, the Messiah?


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[1] Josephus, Flavius. The Life of Josephus. 12. <>
[2] Acts 8:1-3; 9:1-23. “Paul the Apostle.” Denova, Rebecca. Ancient History Encyclopedia. 2013. <,was%20the%20Law%20of%20Moses> “St. Paul the Apostle.” Encyclopædia Britannica. 2020. <>
[3] Antiquities. Book XIII, Chapter V.9.  The Life of Flavius Josephus. I.2. “Scrolls from the Dead Sea.” Library of Congress. n.d. <>
[4] Whitson, William. The Complete Works of Josephus. Antiquity of the Jews, Book XIII, Chapter X.4 foot note *. Josephus. Wars. Book II, Chapter VIII.7-11.
[5] Josephus, Flavius. Antiquity of the Jews. Book XIII, Chapter XI.6. <>
[6] “Sanhedrin.” Jewish Encyclopedia. 2011. <>  “Sanhedrin.” Encyclopædia Britannica. 2020. <> “Sanhedrin.” Jewish Virtual Library. 2020. <>
[7] Whitson, William. The Complete Works of Josephus. Antiquity of the Jews, Book VI, Chapter IV.3 foot note †;   Book XIV, Chapter IX.4, footnote †; Dissertation I.V; Book XIII, Chapter XVI foot note †. <>  Josephus. Antiquity. Book IV, Chapter VII.14; Book XIV, Chapter IX.4. Josephus. The Life of Josephus. 12.  Josephus, Flavius. Wars of the Jews. Book II, Chapter XV.6. <> “Salome Alexandra.” New World Encyclopedia. 2019.
[8] Josephus. Antiquity. Book XIII, Chapter XV.5, XVI.1.
[9] Josephus. Antiquities. Book XIII, Chapter XVI.1.
[10] Josephus. Wars. Book I, Chapter V.2.
[11] John 1:24; 7:32, 45; 11:57; 18:3, 12.
[12] John 7:32.
[13] John 18:1-12.
[14] Acts 8:1-3; 9:1-23.
[15] Josephus. Wars. Book II, Chapter VIII.14.  Josephus. Antiquities. Book XIII, Chapter XI.6.
[16] Josephus. Antiquities. Book XVII, Chapter II.4.
[17] Matthew 3:7, 16:6, 12, 23:1-13, 15, 25, 27, 29, 33; Mark 12:38-40; Luke 11:43, 12:1, 18:11, 20:45-47.
[18] 93 Gospel mentions of Pharisees, 9 Gospel mentions of Sadducees or which 6 also included the Pharisees.
[19] “Sukkoth.” Encyclopædia Britannica. 2020. <>  “The Meaning of the Feast of Tabernacles.” One For Israel. 2020. <>
[20] John 7:2.
[21] John 7:1-9, 14, 32, 45; 8:12.  CR John 1:24; 11:57; 18:3, 12.
[22] John 8:12.
[23] Leviticus 24:16.
[24] John 8:59.
[25] John 10:22. “Hanukkah.” Encyclopædia Britannica. 2020. <> “Hanukkah.” 2020. <>
[26] John 10:24. NET.
[27] John 10:31-32. NET. John 10:24. Footnote 1. <>  CR John 10:31. International Standard Version, New Heart English Bible. <>
[28] John 10:33. NET.
[29] John 9:16. CR John 10:40-41
[30] Matthew 19:2, 21:46, 26:4-5; Mark 11:18, 14:1-2; Luke 12:1, 21:38; John 11:47-48; 12:18-19.  Josephus. Antiquities. Book XIII, Chapter XI.5, Chapter XI.5-6, Book XVII, Chapter II.4.
[31] Matthew 26:63-64.
[32] Matthew 26:65-66. ISV. CR Mark 14:63-64.