Reviews

The Identity of John the Evangelist: Revision and Reinterpretation in Early Christian Sources (Lanham: Lexington Books/Fortress Academic, 2020)

This is an excellent examination of the historical sources regarding the John who wrote the Gospel, and the various traditions concerning his identity, his death, and his place amongst the Evangelists. This will no doubt become a standard reference point for many years to come.

Fr John Behr, St Vladimir’s Seminary, New York, and Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam

The frequent claim that the early church was unanimous in identifying the Fourth Evangelist as John the son of Zebedee obscures the complexity of the ancient sources. In this carefully-argued monograph, Dean Furlong presents a robust challenge to this claim. Like a skillful detective, Furlong interrogates the early witnesses, with a keen eye for detail, concluding that ‘the traditional view’ results from the conflation of independent traditions about the Zebedean John and Papias’s John the Elder. His proposal provides compelling explanations for some of the puzzles in the Johannine traditions, such as Epiphanius’s otherwise bewildering dating of John’s exile and death to the reign of Claudius. Furlong’s thesis deserves serious consideration as a valuable contribution both to authorship questions and to the early reception history of the Johannine corpus.

Ian Boxall, The Catholic University of America

In this clearly written and thoroughly researched volume, Dean Furlong argues that John the Elder, mentioned by Papias, was the author of the Fourth Gospel, rather than John the son of Zebedee. This study is a highly learned and detailed investigation of all the relevant evidence on this matter. It has the great merit of helping us to understand and take seriously all – and not just some – of the evidence about the authorship of John’s Gospel from patristic sources. Anyone interested in the Fourth Gospel will greatly benefit from this highly significant study.

Paul Trebilco, University of Otago

… Dean Furlong … argues that the John of Papias and other early sources was somebody other than the son of Zebedee. I disagree with him, for reasons like the ones referred to in my response to Bauckham linked above. But he makes a better case than Bauckham does, and I agree with some of the other points Furlong makes (the strength of the evidence for the martyrdom of John the son of Zebedee, the fact that Papias attributed the fourth gospel’s authorship to his John the Elder, etc.). He provides a large amount of information on Johannine issues, and you don’t have to agree with him about everything to find his book useful in a lot of contexts. It’s a good resource to have, no matter what position you take on the identity of the author of the fourth gospel, who Papias’ elder was, when Revelation was written, and the other issues involved.

Jason Engwer, Triablogue