Identity of John the Evangelist
Revision and Reinterpretation in Early Christian Sources
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Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield
Number of Pages: 204
Width: 15.4 cm
Height: 21.9 cm
This book examines the various Johannine narratives found in writings in the period from Papias (early second century) to Eusebius (early fourth century). Dean Furlong argues that the first major revision of the Johannine narrative was the identification of John the Evangelist with John the Apostle, the son of Zebedee, at the beginning of the third century. This in turn initiated a process of reinterpretation, as the previously-separate narratives of the two figures were variously spun into new configurations during the third and fourth centuries. This process culminated with Eusebius’s synthesis of the Johannine traditions, which came to form the basis of what is considered the “traditional” Johannine story. Furlong concludes that in the earliest narrative, found in Papias, John the Evangelist was identified, not with the Apostle, but with another disciple of Jesus known as John the Elder.
A great deal of information is found in this volume, and F. should be commended for his detailed engagement with a host of ancient sources... [He] provides a valuable service for advanced students and scholars, first by examining all of this information in one place and, second, by offering a compelling narrative that accounts for the emergence of these contradictory traditions in the early church. For those interested in getting to the bottom of these competing traditions, this volume is certainly worth consulting. * The Catholic Biblical Quarterly * This is an excellent examination of the historical sources regarding the John who wrote the Gospel, and the various traditions concerning his identity, his death, and his place amongst the Evangelists. This will no doubt become a standard reference point for many years to come. -- Fr John Behr, University of Aberdeen The frequent claim that the early church was unanimous in identifying the Fourth Evangelist as John the son of Zebedee obscures the complexity of the ancient sources. In this carefully-argued monograph, Dean Furlong presents a robust challenge to this claim. Like a skillful detective, Furlong interrogates the early witnesses, with a keen eye for detail, concluding that 'the traditional view' results from the conflation of independent traditions about the Zebedean John and Papias's John the Elder. His proposal provides compelling explanations for some of the puzzles in the Johannine traditions, such as Epiphanius's otherwise bewildering dating of John's exile and death to the reign of Claudius. Furlong's thesis deserves serious consideration as a valuable contribution both to authorship questions and to the early reception history of the Johannine corpus. -- Ian Boxall, The Catholic University of America In this clearly written and thoroughly researched volume, Dean Furlong argues that John the Elder, mentioned by Papias, was the author of the Fourth Gospel, rather than John the son of Zebedee. This study is a highly learned and detailed investigation of all the relevant evidence on this matter. It has the great merit of helping us to understand and take seriously all - and not just some - of the evidence about the authorship of John's Gospel from patristic sources. Anyone interested in the Fourth Gospel will greatly benefit from this highly significant study. -- Paul Trebilco, University of Otago