Two Johns?

Is John the Theologian - of Isle of Patmos fame, who wrote Revelation, one and the same person as John the Evangelist, John the gospel writer, or are these two different Johns?

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They could be the same

There are a lot of Johns in the New Testament: John one of the twelve disciples, John the Baptist (known only as "John" in the Gospel of John), John Mark, the author of 1-3 John.  The first to identify the John of Rev. 1.4 with the apostle John was Justin Martyr in 140 A.D.  Tertullian in 180 A.D. was the first to place John the apostle in Asia Minor, putting him on the island of Patmos (as in Rev. 1.9). 

There are themes in Revelation that are shared with the Gospel of John, such as water, Jesus as the lamb, life.  The writing is different, however.  The Gospel of John is a simple Greek.  Revelation has a somewhat crude Greek; could that be because of its different content or the aging of the John the apostle? 

The author of Revelation could be John or a John closely working with him.  Papias in 120 A.D. speaks of John the disciple of Christ and in the same list mentions a John the elder.  The ancient church historian, Eusebius (early 4th c. A.D.),  took John the elder as the author of the Revelation of John. 

Revelation could be by John the apostle, the author of the Gospel of John.  It is not a close fit, but there is nothing decisive against it.

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Author: Stephen Charles Mott
John was a common name

Among early Christians, "John" was a favorite name, especially since one of Jesus' disciples was named John.  So it is not surprising to find in the New Testament not only a Gospel but also the book of Revelation and three Letters, all written by someone named "John."  But they are not all the same person.

    John the author of Revelation was exiled to the island of Patmos by the Roman Emperor Domitian, whose reign--ending in a reign of terror--lasted from 81 to 96 A.D.  From there he wrote to the churches of Asia Minor, warning them among other things to resist the cult of Nero redivivus (the Emperor Nero "brought back to life"), to which the number 666 refers.

    The Gospel of John is very different indeed from the book of Revelation: John the Evangelist's vocabulary, his style, his themes, his theological ideas are all very different from those of Revelation. So there is no doubt that he was a different man with the same name.

     In fact the author of the Gospel of John was writing about 100 A.D. for a congregation who felt that information about the earthly career of Jesus (as we have it in the first three Gospels) was all very well and good, but who very much needed to know what the risen Jesus Christ meant for them here and now, in their present difficult situation.  That is why John the Evangelist takes many of the stories from the first three Gospels and reworks them to show their present meaning and importance for his own congregation--and for us today.

Two different Johns

These are two different "Johns."  That is, the book of Revelation was almost certainly written by someone other than the author of the Gospel according to John.
The author of Revelation identifies himself as a man named John (Rev 1:1, 4, 9; 22:8), and so he has often been called "John of Patmos" or "John the Seer."  But the distinctive style and theology of Revelation (and also, perhaps, its probable date of authorship) strongly suggests that its author did not write any other books in the New Testament.  Notice, too, that the author never suggests that he knew Jesus or was among the original twelve apostles.
The author of the Gospel according to John is never identified; that document is anonymous.  Traditions in the early church linked this book to the Apostle John, one of the sons of Zebedee, and considered him to be "the disciple whom Jesus loved," as this character is frequently named in the Gospel.  We cannot tell who wrote John's Gospel, and it is unclear which disciple is the one singled out as "beloved."  Nevertheless, the unknown author is often referred to as "John the Evangelist."
Not everyone in the ancient church went along with the idea that John's Gospel and the book of Revelation were written by the same person, even though that idea (which was first expressed in the late second century) gained currency and became assumed for a long time in Christian tradition.  It is interesting to note that this association may have given Revelation greater credibility in some quarters, for many in the ancient church found the theology of this book objectionable.  (We see a similar thing happening when some in the early church ascribed the Letter to the Hebrews to the Apostle Paul, as a means of vouching for that book and its theology.)

Author: Matthew L. Skinner




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