Over at The Two Cities, John Dunne has written an interesting little article on whether or not John wrote the fourth gospel (the one we now call “John”). He posits, based on just a few pieces of evidence, that it was perhaps (and he does emphasize the word perhaps) Lazarus who wrote the gospel. Perhaps Lazarus was overseen by John, but it was he himself who may have penned the non-synoptic gospel.
The question is an interesting one, certainly. I’m not ultimately sure what sort of weight it would have, except perhaps on the story of Lazarus himself, but these sorts of questions I think are rather fascinating. During my undergraduate years, I wrote a paper arguing that the Apostle Paul had the stigmata; that is, he had the marks of Christ literally on his body. This came from one use of the word in Greek, and a lack of clarity on what the thorn in Paul’s flesh really was. Unfortunately for my paper, there wasn’t much other evidence. In fact, an upperclassman wisely asked me if anyone in Church history had ever agreed with the position I suggested. If the answer was no (and to my knowledge, the answer is no or very close to no), then I needed to be extremely hesitant in bringing forth such a suggestion.
I started then to ask myself whether or not I should really ask these sorts of questions. Should I really inquire into things that totally buck against the traditional beliefs of the Church? Granted, as a rather staunch Protestant Evangelical, I am not adverse to pushing back against tradition. But it does strike me as unwise to discard the beliefs of all of the Church (or nearly all) because I read a passage slightly differently. Stepping into this territory can be dangerous, but the question now is whether we should even step there at all.
Questions, in and of themselves, are usually not bad. These are the sorts of questions that give me pause, but I think that they are still good issues to explore, and here’s why: these questions about our faith encourage us to think deeply about the things we take for granted (authorship of the fourth gospel, for instance). To quote the author of the post (he said this in response to one of my comments): “So in proper Hegelian fashion an antithesis emerges which leads to synthesis and a new thesis.” In this sense, even questions can lead to better arguments and stronger stances, while perhaps shifting views on the chance they are wrong.
There are no stupid questions, or so we’ve often been told. I’d say there are probably lots of stupid questions, but speculation about who wrote John’s gospel does not land among them.