In this regular feature, Dave and Tom respond to questions from listeners and readers of The Berean Call. Here’s this week’s question:
“Dear Dave and Tom, I noticed that as you are going through the gospel segment of your program you say that it’s John’s gospel. I recently read a book that argues that there is no verse in that particular gospel which says that John wrote it. Moreover, the book makes a case for the author being Lazarus, the one whom Jesus raised from the dead. What do you think? Also, what verse in Scripture can you give in support of the teaching that John is the disciple whom Jesus loved?”
Tom: Dave, there are other books—earlier in the program we were talking about the Book of Hebrews, and you said you believed that it was Paul but you weren’t going to make a big deal of it, right? So, what about this?
Dave: Well, I think I could certainly demonstrate that it wasn’t Lazarus.
Tom: Well, let’s start with that. What verse would indicate who wrote the Gospel of John?
Dave: Well, what this man is saying is that because in John 11, they send word to Him: “There was a certain man who was sick…” and “Lazarus of Bethany.” It does not say he was a disciple, number 1; never says Lazarus was a disciple—you will never find that in the Bible. And then, the sisters say, “He whom thou lovest is sick.”
Tom: Yeah, let me quote that. This is John:11:3: “Therefore his sisters sent unto Him saying, Lord, behold, he whom you love is sick.”
Dave: Okay, I think we can dispense with the idea that Lazarus…he’s never called a disciple; he lives in Bethany. The only distinction we have of Lazarus is that he’s the brother of Mary and Martha, and Jesus raised him from the dead. Now, obviously he is not present at the last supper, and at the last supper we have “the disciple whom Jesus loved” leaning on Jesus’ bosom, and Peter asks Him, “Who is it?” and Jesus says, “It’s the one that when I dip the sop and I give it to him,” and so forth. We never have any indication that Lazarus was a disciple, but yet it says, “The disciple whom Jesus loved wrote these things.” Lazarus is not one of the twelve disciples, not one of the twelve apostles, he’s not named among the twelve, he is not present—well, he may have been, but he certainly isn’t named. If you go to Matthew 10, we have the listing of the disciples—he’s not among them. If you go to Acts 1, we have the disciples saying that “among those who have continued with us, who have been witnesses of all these things, we need someone to take the place of Judas.” Well, it certainly isn’t Lazarus—there is no indication of that.
When you have the disciples—well, let’s go to John 21, and it says, there’s Peter, “After these things, Jesus showed himself again to the disciples at the sea of Tiberias; and on this wise showed he himself. There were together Simon Peter, Thomas called Didymus, and Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, and the sons of Zebedee, and two other of his disciples.” Lazarus was never called a disciple, so he’s certainly not one of them, and we know that John was there and this…
Tom: But not named.
Dave: But not named. Now it would fit that out of modesty you say, “Well, the disciple whom Jesus loved…” he’s telling that, then he’s not going to name himself. We have a disciple who was present at the last supper. We have a disciple who was present at the sea of Tiberias when Jesus showed Himself again. I don’t think it could be anyone but John. But Lazarus—the guy lives in Bethany! We don’t even know that he is a fisherman, that he even likes to fish—he’s not associated with the disciples. But this is the disciple whom Jesus loved—a very special disciple—who is a witness of all these things. And to pick up the idea that this rather obscure man, had it not been for the resurrection—and Jesus did that for the sake of his sisters, not for Lazarus’ sake—I mean, the sisters get all the attention. Lazarus was one of those that sat at the table with Him, we read, when they made Him a supper. Tom, to pull this idea out there—and no scholar, none of the evidence indicates this.
Tom: Dave, one last thing. The unnamed disciple who was known to the high priest could not be John, according to Acts:4:13: “Now when they say the boldness of Peter and John, [they were brought before the high priest and so on and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled.” In other words, this unnamed disciple was known to the high priest. John and Peter, it doesn’t seem here, are known to the high priest.
Dave: No, it has nothing to do with whether he was known to the high priest or whether he wasn’t know to the high priest. He could have been known to the high priest, and we believe that John was, but the thing that shocks them now is the boldness. There was a transformation, and so that would even fit with knowing John. You didn’t know John as a preacher—as someone who had the courage to do this. You knew him as a fisherman. Maybe there was some mutual friend, I don’t know, and it certainly doesn’t say he was someone of importance in the eyes of the high priest.
Tom: Dave, in closing to this, we don’t know absolutely who wrote the Book of Hebrews. How critical is it? With the Book of John, we’ve always said we’re going to get into it, I’ll say the Gospel according to John. Is that a problem?
Dave: It doesn’t really matter. For example, you have things recorded, detailed conversations of Jesus. I don’t think John had that kind of a memory that he could remember everything. The Bible says, “When He, the Spirit of Truth, is come, He will lead you into all the truth, and He will bring to your mind….” So, the Bible is inspired of the Holy Spirit. Through whom, is really secondary.