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Did John Write the Fourth Gospel?

In my previous post I explained why the author of the book of Revelation, someone named John, was not claiming to be John the son of Zebedee and in fact probably was not John the son of Zebedee.   I also showed why this author was not the same one who produced the fourth Gospel, the Gospel of John.  Now I want to talk about the Gospel to show that it too was probably not written by John. The first thing to stress – it can’t be stressed enough – is that like the other Gospels of the New Testament, the Gospel of John (as I’ll continue to call it, for the sake of convenience, since that is, after all, the title that was later given to it) is completely anonymous.  The author does not tell us his name or identify himself in any way. I have already explained why people in the early church came to *think* the book was written by Jesus’ earthly disciple, John the son of Zebedee (see from a few [...]

2021-01-20T00:54:47-05:00August 2nd, 2016|Canonical Gospels, Public Forum|

How Many Christians Could Read?

How many Christians by near the end of the New Testament period – say, 100 CE – could read and write?   In his intriguing article “Christian Number and Its Implications,” Roman historian Keith Hopkins tries to come up with some ball park figures. As you may recall, he is assuming that there were Christian churches in about 100 communities in the world at the time (we have references to about 50 in our surviving texts, and he is supposing that maybe there were twice as many as we have any evidence for); and he agrees that if Christianity started out with about 1000 believers in the year 40 then with a growth rate of 3.4% per year, by the year 100 there would be just over 7000 Christians in the world. That would mean the 100 churches would have an average of 70 believers.  (Some of course would be larger – think, Rome – others would be much smaller; we’re talking averages here.  And if Rome did have, say 120 believers, they would be meeting [...]

2020-04-03T03:37:36-04:00May 24th, 2016|History of Christianity (100-300CE), Public Forum|

New Archaeological Discoveries and the Bible! Readers Mailbag April 16, 2016

Today I address two interesting questions on the weekly mailbag, one about the new archaeological discovery in Israel and the other on whether in my last book I violated my own advice about requiring only experts to write for popular audiences.  If you have a question you would like me to address, let me know!   QUESTION:  Does the latest information on the discovery of written texts from before the removal of the Israelite’s to Babylon indicating a wider level of literacy in 7th century BCE change your mind in any way about the illiteracy of the followers of Jesus?   RESPONSE: I’m not sure if everyone saw this intriguing news item in the NY Times (or elsewhere), but here it is: Let me say emphatically that I have no inside information about the find – I know only what I read in the papers, and it is fascinating indeed.   They have discovered a number of ostraca (pottery sherds) that have written on them, in ink, grocery/supply requests; they originate from Israel about the [...]

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