WHO WAS JOHN THE EVANGELIST?

I read nice little article on the Gospel of John this morning on the website of Biblical Archaeology Review (my favorite magazine, but I missed a month because of the move–drats!) that roots around at Johannine authorship.  John never self-identifies, but maintains literary distance by describing himself as the “disciple whom Jesus loved” or the “beloved disciple.”  The article is nice, but it doesn’t explore some of the nuances of John the person.  Here is my brief profile of this very influential theologian and historian.

1.  Before he followed Jesus, he was a follower of John the Baptist.

2.  His brother James died very early in the Christian movement, leaving him as the only “Son of Thunder” that remained.

3.  He had a pushy mom and apparently a well known father, for why else would his parentage be so well attested to.

4.  He was young when he started following Jesus.

5.  Somehow he had access to the high priest (John 18) so maybe he was related.

6.  As the only Gospel writer who was an eyewitness to Jesus’ entire ministry he holds a place of historical priority.

7.  Jerusalem, Jewish festivals, and Jewish symbolism meant more to John than to the other evangelists.  As such, he was a revolutionary with a traditionalist streak.  That indicates an affinity for the Essenes.

8.  He was probably related to Jesus, therefore he was related to John the Baptist.  Note, this means that Jesus was related to James and Zebedee and the pushy mother.

9.  John wrote the Fourth Gospel as well as 1 John.  I’m not so certain about 2nd and 3rd John.

Number 8 is the touchy one.  I once mentioned this in a sermon and was subsequently challenged by my deacons of its veracity.  Below is the biblical exegesis that I gave them in a piece called “There is Something About Mary” and it is a simple exegesis of the visitors to the Tomb and the people at the cross and who they must be and how they are related.  Pay careful attention to the end, where I include the numerical tag to note the person it is talking about.  All of this is very confusing because apparently every third woman in 1st Century Palestine was named Mary.

Mark 15:40
“Some women were watching from a distance.  Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome.”

Matthew 27:56
“Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee’s sons.”

John 19:25
“Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.”

If we can assume some type of eyewitness consistency, and there is no reason we can’t, then there is no reason why we cannot deduce the following about who visited the tomb.

1.  Mary the mother of Jesus was there.

2.  Mary Magdalene was there.

3.  Mary the mother of James and Joses was there.

4.  Mary the wife of Clopas (could be the mother of James and Joses-not necessarily but probably)

5.  Salome was there.

6.  The mother of Zebedee’s sons was there (who could be Salome).

7.  Jesus’ mother’s sister was there (who could be Salome)

Marking the Text:

1=Mary Magdalene,

2=Mary the mother of James and Joses and the wife of Clopas,

3=Salome the mother of Zebedee’s sons and the sister of Mary the mother of Jesus.

Now, let’s look at it again with the text tagged.

Mark 15:40
“Some women were watching from a distance.  Among them were Mary Magdalene (1), Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses (2), and Salome (3).”

Matthew 27:56
“Among them were Mary Magdalene (1), Mary the mother of James and Joses (2), and the mother of Zebedee’s sons. (3)”

John 19:25
“Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother (4), his mother’s sister (3), Mary the wife of Clopas (2), and Mary Magdalene. (1)”

There is a good bet that Jesus and John were related, which gives extra insight into the way Jesus talked to John at the cross about the care of Mary his mother, who was probably his aunt.