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The Gospel According to Who? - Part 4

Updated on June 21, 2014

Reviewing Part 3

In Part 3 we saw that if we give the Apostle John the title of the disciple whom Jesus loved, Scripture actually contradicts itself. For instance, we see in the Fourth Gospel (John) 18:15, and 16 that the disciple whom Jesus loved was known by the high priest. However if we go to Acts 4:1-3 we see that the High Priest perceived John to be unlearned and ignorant. If he were previously known, this characteristic no doubt would have been previously observed.

The Fourth Gospel 20:8 tells us that the other disciple was the first to believe, but yet in Mark 16:14 Jesus chides the eleven (One of them would have been John) for their unbelief.

In the Fourth Gospel 21:2, we have the other disciple and the sons of Zebedee (James and John) listed separately. There is much we could look at, but let us move on to the next logical step. If John did not write the Gospel, then who did? Can we know?



The Apostle John generally is given credit for writing the fourth gospel that bares his name. I have always been taught that John was indeed the author of the book, but after examining the Scriptural evidence there is no doubt in my mind that the Apostle John did not write the Fourth Gospel. If not John, then who?

Before we go there, let me remind you that many things that find their way into biblical teaching are not biblical teaching at all, but rather traditions of men. We are told in Colossians 2:8, "Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men . . . ."

Consider the following Scripture: "Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him” (Proverbs 30:5); “Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar” (Proverbs 30:6); “There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” (Proverbs. 16:25); “It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man. It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in princes” (Psalm 118:8-9).

If the path of Scripture leads in a direction other than what man generally teaches, we must be true to the Scripture and follow the path anyway. Where it leads is truth even if it is a road we have never taken before.

So if John is not the author of the Fourth Gospel, we must decide who is. Does the Bible give us any clues?

I believe it is easier to prove from Scripture that John is not the author than to prove who is. I do however believe the Bible gives us some heavy circumstantial evidence.

What we do know is that the writer is a man. Forget the DiVinci Code and all the Mary Magdalene stuff. She is not the author. John 21:20 and 21 gives us this information - "Then Peter, turning about, seeth the disciple whom Jesus loved following; which also leaned on his breast at supper, and said, Lord, which is he that betrayeth thee? Peter seeing him saith to Jesus, Lord, and what shall this man do?"


The Last Supper

What would you think if i said that the disciple whom Jesus loved was not one of the 12 Apostles? "Well", you say, "he was the one that leaned on Jesus' shoulder at the Last Supper. He most certainly was one of the 12." Watch out for tradition again. Show me a single verse that says only the 12 attended the Last Supper.

Mark 14:18-20 tells us this - "And as they sat and did eat, Jesus said, Verily I say unto you, One of you which eateth with me shall betray me. And they began to be sorrowful, and to say unto him one by one, Is it I? and another said, Is it I? And he answered and said unto them, It is one of the twelve, that dippeth with me in the dish."

Jesus foretells his betrayal, and the question arises, who is it that will betray Him? Jesus answers by telling those present that it is one of the 12. Obviously, if only the 12 were present that answer would be redundant as he already said in verse 18, "One of you . . . shall betray me." In verse 20, Jesus narrows it down to one of the 12.

In verse 19, the 12, one by one, begin to ask, Is it I? This of course, would include John. Each of the 12 apostles were found questioning their own character. Yet we read in the Fourth Gospel 13:23-25 that Peter asks the disciple whom Jesus loved to ask the Lord who it is that will betray Him. Why didn't Peter ask Jesus himself? I believe it was because there was something different about the other disciple..Both Peter and John were questioning if they themselves could be the betrayer. The other disciple did not have that weight, and he easily asked the Lord on behalf of Peter. Whether it played out exactly that way or not is not the issue. What does matter is that when the other disciple or the disciple whom Jesus loved is mentioned, it would appear that he was just that, a disciple, not necessarily an apostle.

Other Thoughts About The Other Disciple

The other disciple waited at the cross of Jesus. It was to this disciple that Jesus gave the care of his mother (Fourth Gospel 19:25-27). Jesus says to Mary His mother, " . . . Behold thy son! and to the other disciple " . . .Behold thy mother!" Some would say because of this statement that James is the author, a son of Mary. The problem is that this gospel was written after James suffered martyrdom for the cause of Christ.

While the other disciples fell asleep in the garden and later fled, the other disciple remained with Jesus through the night except for one brief moment, and continued with Him until he was dismissed at the cross.

It was the other disciple whom Peter was jealous of in the Fourth Gospel 21:20-22.

Who Is It?

I believe the clue to identifying the disciple whom Jesus loved can be found in the Fourth Gospel chapter 11 and following.

When we come to chapter 11, we meet the man Lazarus for the first time. His name is mentioned only 11 times in Scripture - six in chapter 11; five in chapter 12. There is no mention of him before 11:1 and he is never mentioned again after 12:17. Beginning in chapter 13:23 the author begins to use the term, the disciple whom Jesus loved or the other disciple. One beloved friend seems to disappear, and another appears - or could it be that they are one in the same.


Lazarus played an important part in Jesus' ministry, much more than most people realize.

"John" 11:14 tells us, "Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead." Then again we are told in verse 44, "And he that was dead came forth . . . ." Clearly Lazarus was dead. As a matter of fact we are told that after four days his decomposing body "stinketh". The resurrection of Lazarus certainly was a powerful show of love.

Jesus' love is consistent. He cannot love you any more than He does right now. He cannot love you any less than He does right now. He loves you as much as he loved Adolph Hitler. His love is unchanging because He is unchanging. Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and will be forever. There were also others that Jesus raised from the dead, but we cannot deny that the resurrection of Lazarus was a powerful display of God's love. He was a disciple whom Jesus loved.

After his resurrection, Lazarus had an experience to look back on that few others had. God's power became more than just head knowledge through his resurrection. Could it be that was at least part of the reason that the disciple who Jesus loved had no fear or concern for his own life as Peter did at the trial of Jesus (Fourth Gospel 18:15-17). He had been there - done that.

We know that at that same trial the disciple whom Jesus loved was known to the high priest. Why might he have been known? Lazarus was a celebrity of sorts. "John" 12:9:10 reveal this - "Much people of the Jews therefore knew that he was there: and they came not for Jesus' sake only, but that they might see Lazarus also, whom he had raised from the dead. But the chief priests consulted that they might put Lazarus also to death; Because that by reason of him many of the Jews went away, and believed on Jesus."

Lazarus was on the Jews hit list, too, Why? Because he was responsible for the conversion of many Jews and highlighting the ministry of Jesus, their main enemy. In the context of the raising of Lazarus, chapter 11:45 says, "Then many of the Jews which came to Mary, and had seen the things which Jesus did, believed on him."

This was not just another disciple, but one who was well known and acquainted with Jewish leadership. We may overlook it, but Lazarus played an important part of Jesus' Triumphal entry. In the context of Jesus coming into Jerusalem riding a donkey (Fourth Gospel 12:12-15) we read, "The people therefore that was with him when he called Lazarus out of his grave, and raised him from the dead, bare record. For this cause the people also met him, for that they heard that he had done this miracle" (verses 17, 18). The group who gathered on that first Palm Sunday was there largely due to Lazarus. His resurrection, in large part was what brought the people together. This infuriated the religious leadership.

Does that prove without question that Lazarus is the author? No. But I do believe he is a strong candidate for the position. Why did Peter ask Jesus about the future of the other disciple in the Fourth Gospel 21:21, 22? "Then Peter, turning about, seeth the disciple whom Jesus loved following; which also leaned on his breast at supper, and said, Lord, which is he that betrayeth thee? Peter seeing him saith to Jesus, Lord, and what shall this man do?" Why did he focus on this disciple? There were five others there also. Could it be that he was of concern because he had already faced death?

Have you been convinced the Apostle John did not write the Fourth Gospel?

See results

The Law of First Mention

So who is the disciple whom Jesus loved? Within the Bible we have what is known as the law of first mention. The first time someone or something is mentioned in Scripture usually gives us insight as to how he/she/it will be seen throughout the rest of the Bible. The law of first mention is applied to Lazarus in "John" 11:1 and 3 which says, "Now a certain man was sick, named Lazarus, of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha . . . Therefore his sisters sent unto him, saying, Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick." It would seem that the law of first mention is responsible for the naming of Lazarus as the disciple whom Jesus loved. We probably cannot say for sure that this disciple is Lazarus, but it would certainly appear that way.

There is so much more we could look at, and I fully realize my shortcomings in sometimes explaining the details of what I mean. With that in mind, I want to encourage you to go to the link below and read through the free e-book, The Disciple Whom Jesus Loved by J. Phillips. There you will find much more evidence to answer the question, The Gospel of Who?


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    • lifegate profile imageAUTHOR

      William Kovacic 

      4 years ago from Pleasant Gap, PA

      That day will be here before we know it! Hang in there!

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 

      4 years ago from The Beautiful South

      Yes I believe that was the reasons you gave in another hub somewhere and it could well be true but I think even though He knew He would bring him back He still wept for Him and it wouldn't be unbiblical since Lazarus was not going to heaven. lol

      Well it will be wonderful one day having all these mysteries answered so we no longer have to wonder.

    • lifegate profile imageAUTHOR

      William Kovacic 

      4 years ago from Pleasant Gap, PA

      No Jackie, I don't think we can know with 100% certainty. I do believe Lazarus fits the best though. I'm not sure where I said Jesus didn't weep for Lazarus. He certainly was human as well as God, and had human emotions. I do think however that He knew what He would do (raise Lazarus from the dead) so I don't necessarily think He was weeping because of a loss of life. I think He was weeping more for the people that didn't believe. Thanks for the share and for stopping by and commenting.

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 

      4 years ago from The Beautiful South

      So we can never really know? I think it well could be Lazarus; I know the scripture that said Jesus wept, concerning Lazarus' death you did not believe it was for Lazarus but I do think so. Yes He was God but He was man too and as He prayed in the garden for the cup to be passed from Him (but God's Will be done) we see the human side. I have always believed He loved Lazarus and wept for Him. Of course Lazarus would feel so indepted to Him to bring him back from death. Great thing about bible study and even greater about America (so far) is we can say what we think without fear.

      Great series. ^ and shared with my followers.

    • lifegate profile imageAUTHOR

      William Kovacic 

      4 years ago from Pleasant Gap, PA

      Hi Tammy,

      Glad you were able to stop by. I don't know if we can say for sure Lazarus is the author, but he has my vote. Thanks for yours! Glad to have this series done, and now it's on to something else. Thanks for the visit.

    • Tamarajo profile image


      4 years ago

      Wow Bill, had me on the edge of my seat with this one! Your conclusion "he whom thou lovest" is what drove it home for me. The law of first mention is the key that usually unlocks the door to further revelation in scripture. I just Love how He made His Word with all kinds of checks and balances.

      His resurrection life powered by the Holy Spirit is everywhere present in this Gospel as well as centrally concludes with it. What a more fitting author than Lazarus Himself to write it.

      I really like when we can break through these traditional mindsets that are not scriptural but traditional. So many times we just follow along thoughtlessly not considering if it is true or makes any sense at all.

      Appreciated the Bereanness in this presentation! Voted up and 3

    • lifegate profile imageAUTHOR

      William Kovacic 

      4 years ago from Pleasant Gap, PA


      Just another thought - Your comment about the law of first mention would apply to Lazarus the first time he is mentioned in 11:1,3 where Mary says to Jesus, ". . . he whom thou lovest . . ." I also don't believe it is an immutable law, but rather a rule of thumb that works most of the time, but not every time.

    • lifegate profile imageAUTHOR

      William Kovacic 

      4 years ago from Pleasant Gap, PA

      Good morning graceinus ,

      It could have very well been Nicodemus. I think it is much harder to prove authorship, than it is to prove who is not the author. I tend to to think that the Fourth Gospel 11; 3 is the key. We are told Lazarus was loved by Jesus. That occurs only one other time when Jesus meets the rich, young ruler. We know he is not the author as he never followed Jesus. I suppose there are other possibilities as well. I just think Lazarus is the best fit. If you get a chance to look through the book I mentioned by J. Phillips, you might it interesting if not all conclusive. As always, thanks for taking the time to read.

    • lifegate profile imageAUTHOR

      William Kovacic 

      4 years ago from Pleasant Gap, PA

      Hi searchinsany ,

      Thanks for stopping by. Most "scholars" (and that word means very little to me) set the date at about 90 AD. Most "scholars" also name John as the disciple whom Jesus loved. They are wrong. Even if we take an earlier date -say 50 AD, James still would not have been available to write the book. Can I say that with certainty? No.

      Glad you were to stop by and I appreciate you adding to the conversation.

    • lifegate profile imageAUTHOR

      William Kovacic 

      4 years ago from Pleasant Gap, PA

      Hi MsDora,

      I think you'll enjoy the book. There is so much more information included in the book. It will probably answer most of your questions, but if there's any I can answer, I'll do my best. Thanks for following along.

    • lifegate profile imageAUTHOR

      William Kovacic 

      4 years ago from Pleasant Gap, PA

      Thank you Betsy Rogers.

    • profile image


      4 years ago from those of the Ekklesia

      Lifgate- What you are saying about Lazarus being the unknown disciple, ( the one Jesus loved) could also be said about Nicodemus. Nicodemus also fits with the case your trying to build here.

      If you look at John 7:50 (NKJV) it states: Nicodemus ( he who came to Jesus by night, being one of them) said, to them.

      (This could be an indication Nicodemus was a disciple in seceret.)

      In this verse which mentions Nicodemus, he was talking to the high preist regarding Jesus if you read the 4 verses before this one.

      Nicodemus also could have been the unknown disciple with Peter at Jesus trial. Which could easily explain why he was known by the high preist, and talked to the woman door keeper to let Peter inside. ( Please note that I am only guessing at this, there is NOTHING I've seen so far to confirm it, yet, at the same time it can not be ruled out)

      And in John 19: 38-40 explain how Joseph of Arimathea (who was a seceret disciple) asked for permission from Pilate to take Jesus body down from the cross. It goes on to explain in verse 40 that this (seceret disciple) Joseph and Nicodemus took Jesus body down from the cross and prepared it to be buried.

      You mentioned "The Law of First Mention" I do believe Nicodemus was FIRST mention in John 3:1 which was long before Lazarus was first mentioned. ( note, this " Law of first Mention" is new to me, I have not heard of it before and really it doesn't matter to me personally)

      I thought I would throw this in and see what you might be able to do with it. Please note, that my comment here does not mean I agree with this article or the three before it. But I did say I would look further myself and it continues.


    • searchinsany profile image

      Alexander Gibb 

      4 years ago from UK

      This series has kept my attention from start to finish, I have awaited each episode with bated breath!

      I have read about this topic previously from Pastor David Curtis who also holds your view. Personally, I am not fully convinced, but it certainly made interesting reading.

      Quote 'The problem is that this gospel was written after James suffered martyrdom for the cause of Christ.'

      I suggest your next project should be an investigation into when the Gospel was written. In episode 4 you stated it could not have been James because he was dead before it was written. Can you say that with certainty?

      The late date of all John's writings is hotly disputed. If John wrote his Gospel, Epistles, and The Revelation after AD 95, why did he never mention the fulfilment of Jesus' most amazing prophecy? The absence of any reference to the destruction of the temple, Jerusalem, and the dispersion of Old Covenant Israel has not only baffled commentators, it has cast doubt on the post-AD 95 date.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      4 years ago from The Caribbean

      Bill, I've made a new discovery about you: you know how to build suspense and I appreciate that. Your argument has been very logical, and I intend to read the book you suggested. I have some questions, but I'd like you to know that I enjoy these kinds of studies. Thank you for facilitating this one.

    • Betsy Rogers profile image

      Betsy Rogers 

      4 years ago from Raleigh, North Carolina

      just fyi, it's "according to whom" (not "who")... :)

    • lifegate profile imageAUTHOR

      William Kovacic 

      4 years ago from Pleasant Gap, PA

      To answer your first question - I'm not sure why, but it seems to be a myth that was perpetuated for centuries.

      2nd question - I also believe Mark is also under question. I think all we can do is when we become aware of something that doesn't seem to fit, we need to follow the evidence to wherever it leads. For sure there are probably a lot of things we may never discover that through tradition have become part of our belief system.. I know I for one don't have the time to go through each book like I did "John". But if I become aware of something I have the responsibility to see where it leads, especially if I'm to teach others.

      3rd question - I'm not sure what to make of all this except like I said, as we become aware of error, we become responsible to correct it.

      Last question - I'm not sure we still can't refer to it as "John". It;s just a name that's familiar to most people, although I have adopted calling it "The Fourth Gospel". That tells those who don't know the history as well as those who do what I'm referring to because it truly is the fourth gospel.

      If you get a chance, read the book that I mentioned in closing. It's a free e-book and has so much more convincing evidence. Just go to the link at the end of the page. As always, I appreciate your visit.

    • lambservant profile image

      Lori Colbo 

      4 years ago from Pacific Northwest

      Interesting. Why do you suppose this was missed by those who named the books of the Bible? The author of Matthew too is unknown. Should we scrutinize the book and find evidence he is not, what are we to make of all this.

      My last question is, if the author of the fourth gospel is not John, but another, other than wanting to accurately name the book, does it really make a huge difference? If so what?

      Nice work doing all this study and writing these hubs.


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