contd. from previous post...
If the Apostle John really died somewhat earlier than the traditionally accepted dates, then either he wrote much earlier than we have been led to believe, or someone else wrote at least some of the books we now attribute to him.
After a bit more research, I found that there is indeed some evidence that may suggest that the Gospel of John was written earlier, perhaps before 70 C.E. There is, in fact, internal evidence in the Gospel of John to suggest that this is a possibility. In the account about the healing of the paralyzed man at the Pool of Bethzatha, it is recorded that the pool “is in Jerusalem” (John 5:2). I am not a Greek scholar, but it seems clear from examining other passages that there is a clear distinction between “is” and “was” and this sentence clearly indicates present tense. In other words, the pool existed in Jerusalem at the time of writing. It would not have made sense for the writer to have indicated this at the time of the event, because at that time the pool was not “in” Jerusalem but outside, beyond the then existing walls. The walls were extended by Herod Agrippa I during the reign of the emperor Claudius (41-54 C.E.). Agrippa died in 44 C.E., so the wall must have been extended some time between 41 and 44 C.E. bringing the pool within Jerusalem. It was destroyed along with the rest of the city in 70 C.E. and subsequently rebuilt in 130 C.E. by the emperor Hadrian. So the statement that the pool “is in Jerusalem” could only truthfully have been written either between about 41 and 70 C.E. or after 130 C.E. Had the account been written between 70 and 130 C.E., the writer would certainly have written about it in the past tense as it did not actually exist then. Intriguingly, the rebuilt structure of Hadrian’s time seems to have had five porticos whilst excavations have shown that the original had only three, which may suggest that this detail or perhaps even the whole account was added after 130 C.E. However, the language at least leaves open the possibility of an earlier time of writing.
Further evidence for an earlier date is found in the famous Muratorian Fragment. This fragmentary papyrus, often used to establish the early catalogue of the Christian Greek canonical writings, dates to about 170 C.E. Regarding the writing of the Gospel of John, it is reported that this was undertaken after discussion with the other disciples. The Apostle Andrew is mentioned by name. It is traditionally held that Andrew was martyred in Greece about 68 or 69 C.E. There is no suggestion anywhere, that Andrew, or any of the disciples other than John survived to the 90s C.E. Again, this would seem to point to an earlier date for the writing of the Gospel. My view on this now, from this seemingly confusing evidence, is that the original work may well have begun before 70 C.E. possibly by the Apostle John himself, but that this was subsequently added to and amended as the new “Christian” theology developed so that the book we now have is neither the original, nor of entirely apostolic origin.
In discussing the letters of the Apostle Paul, the writer of the Muratorian Fragment declares that Paul had followed the example of John in writing to seven congregations and refers the John as the “predecessor” of Paul. If Paul died during the Neronic persecution in the 60s C.E. long before the Apostle John wrote Revelation with its messages to the seven congregations, in what sense did the writer imagine that John was Paul’s “predecessor”?
The Watchtower publication All Scripture is Inspired of God and Beneficial appeals to the Muratorian Fragment (on pages 302-303) as evidence of the early establishment of the canon of the Greek scriptures. It quotes an English translation of almost the whole fragment. However, a few sections are omitted. One of these is the passage that refers to the discussion of the disciples about the writing of John’s Gospel and mentioning Andrew. Why was this omitted? I understand that the authorship and time of writing of the Gospel of John and Revelation were not the subjects under discussion in this particular paragraph, but why is this evidence not even mentioned in the sections of the book that do discuss these matters? It was very obviously available to the writers of the All Scripture book. Why is the above evidence for an earlier (or later) date for the Apostle John’s writings never even mentioned? These are not spurious or unknown sources. They are the very sources that we depend on for establishing the canonicity or otherwise of first century Christian Greek writings. If they are not considered reliable in establishing the relatively unimportant matters of authorship and time of writing, why should we depend on them for establishing the far more critical aspect of canonicity? If, in fact, we cannot trust them on canonicity, how do we know that what we now call “God’s Word” is complete and intact? On this subject, it is also notable that the writers of the All Scripture book chose to omit the sections of the Fragment that refer to other documents that later came to be considered non-canonical such as the Shepherd of Hermas and the Wisdom of Solomon, both of which along with the Apocalypse of Peter seem to have been considered canonical by the writer.
The answer to these questions is vitally important because it relates directly to our understanding and interpretation of Bible prophecies. If, in fact, the Apostle John really died before 70 C.E. that means either that he wrote his Gospel, three letters and the Revelation all before the destruction of Jerusalem or that some or all of these were written by someone else. If the former is the case, then there are no prophecies in the Bible written after 70 C.E. which lends weight to the so-called “preterist” interpretation of Revelation. In that case, there is no “last days” beginning in 1914 and the whole interpretation collapses. If the latter is true, it may well be that the letters and Revelation, as well as perhaps at least parts of the Gospel were actually written by someone else, and quite possibly during the early second century. One possible candidate is the other John referred to by Papias and about whose identity Irenaeus was evidently confused. Unlike the Apostle John, Papias knew this John personally and refers to him as “the Presbyter” or elder. Interestingly, the writer of the letters of John introduces himself as the “older man” or “presbyter”. Could this also be the John who was imprisoned on Patmos and received the Revelation? If so, these writings can claim no apostolic authorship or authority – a key factor in establishing canonicity (All Scripture, page 304, paragraph 25)...>>